Why The 2 Idiots recommend exploring the Amalfi Coast?
Every picture you have ever seen of the Amalfi Coast on Instagram is THAT– the coast looks just like the photos you have seen. It is so stunning and, for Natasha, the highlight of our tour of Southern Italy. For me, Pompeii blew me away – the archaeological site is the most preserved of any site I’ve ever seen and it feels like you are transported back in time and able to visualized what Italy was like centuries ago. When we visited Naples, it was through a Mediterranean cruise – the last stop of one of our favorite cruises we took with our son. Taking a tour that incorporates stops in Sorrento, Pompeii and a drive along windy cliff roads overlooking the sea will be a long day, but for us, a definite you should do when in port in Naples.
CREATING AN IDEAL ITINERARY
Naples, Italy, is located in Southern Italy. With a 12-hour port stop, you can explore Naples, Pompeii or even the Amalfi Coast by taking a tour. Normally, we don’t take tours and prefer to explore on our own, but this is a day when you really need to join a tour or arrange for a private tour and allow someone to show you the highlights of the Southern Italy coastline, with stops in Sorrento, Positano and the archaeological ruins of Pompeii. With Pompeii so close to the Naples port, many tours begin in Pompeii, but our tour (thankfully) took us in reverse order, meaning we were able to avoid the crowds, and we recommend you find a tour that does the same. Also, many tours skip Positano, which is such a shame; it’s gorgeous! Find a tour that makes a stop here, on the Amalfi Coast. (This is the tour we used and loved: Can’t Be Missed Tours.)
Our cruise stopped from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Naples. There is quite some distance between Naples and the Amalfi Coast, with winding roads that require your attention when driving. You’ll want to catch the amazing views instead of focusing on the road, so it would be easiest for your family to allow a tour group to handle your logistics. We typically like to get a later start, but with so much to pack in, our tour departed at 8:30, meaning we had to be up early and get off the boat by 8. Don’t waste time on the ship – definitely get an early start! (Read our advice on Traveling in a Bus With Your Child to be prepared for your day.)
– Piazza Taso for lunch
– Via San Ceserao markets
– Villa Communale
– Chiostro di San Francisco
Amalfi Coast and Positano
Pompeii (€16.50 per adult, children up to 18 yrs are free with ID)
– Pompeii Thermal Baths
– House of the Vettii
– Plaster Casts
Shopping in Sorrento
Arriving in Sorrento just as lunchtime is beginning, we made the mistake of touring the town before lunch, which means with only 2 hours here, we were hurried. Two hours goes by really quick, so we suggest starting with lunch and enjoying a Napoli-style pizza – you can each get your own whole pizza that will melt in your mouth and it’s so light you won’t even feel full when you eat the entire thing. Get lunch inPiazza Tasso, Sorrento’s main square lined with cafes with great views and people watching. We enjoyed lunch at Fauno Bar, a colorful and enjoyable lunch spot with kids. When you’re done with lunch, walk along Via San Cesareo in the heart of old town and enjoy the shops, filled with incredible handmade shoes and handcrafted items. The pedestrian lane is narrow, charming and filled with tourists, and if you have limited suitcase space, it may be difficult not to buy some of the wonderful Italian clothing and leathers – Natasha had to be restrained!
Before heading back to your bus, be sure to visit the Piazza is Villa Communale, a park with stunning views of Mount Vesuvius and the Med. It’s just a 10-minute walk and you’ll want to take in the scenic views and get some photos here. Built by a king in the late 1700s, the park provides a great place for your child to play before getting back on the bus for a very long ride, and features a quaint 14th-century former monastery, the Chiostro di San Francisco.
Cruising the Amalfi Coast
Before our trip, Natasha always envisioned visiting the Amalfi Coast in a convertible, wind in her hair as we took in the gorgeous coastline. That’s Instagram reality. Reality is a little different when you have a child. Thank goodness we took a tour so both of us could focus on the views. What an amazing drive. It reminded AJ of the California coastline with cliffside roads dropping off into the ocean, except here, it is steeper and higher.
You will be on the bus for a long period of time, so be sure you have anything and everything you need to keep your child entertained on the route, because we can tell you Aarav didn’t care about the amazing views at all :). You’ll make your way to picturesque Positano, right out of the images you have seen on Instagram with homes built into the cliffs and climbing up into the hills. Here, you’ll stop to take photos.
When you head back along the route to visit Pompeii, the tour will stop so you can sample limoncello, the famous lemon liqueur made specifically in Amalfi using Amalfi lemons, which are the size of cantaloupes hanging from trees scattered throughout the region.
Exploring Ancient Pompeii
Italians like to live on the edge and Mt. Vesuvius is still an active volcano with 350,000 people living around its shadow, even after the infamous eruption that has resulted in the now-archeological site you can explore when visiting the area. In 79 A.D., the thriving community of Pompeii was a sophisticated city filled with wealthy families connected to thriving Rome. The volcano erupted so abruptly, no one had time to get out and the entire city was covered in ash. It took centuries before excavation uncovered the hidden city, so much intact that when you walk the streets you can literally feel how it would have felt in 79 A.D. – buildings still have ornate tile floor patterns, walls are covered in frescoes, and, what many think of when they think of Pompeii, bodies were frozen in their positions. Imagine seeing homes preserved for nearly 2000 years – these streets were once filled not with tourists but living and breathing people who lived in these buildings and shopped in the markets.
It is absolutely amazing to walk through the ruins, especially the Forum, the main part of the city, where you can see the volcano on one side and the temples built to the gods on the other. As you explore, visit the House of the Vetti, once owned by a predominant family based on the number of frescoes on display – the wealthy would show off with frescoes on both the inside and outside of their homes. Other large ruins include the Baths, where men and woman would gather in the thermal waters in a social scene, and the amphitheater, still very intact. Of course, seeing the plaster casts is a somber experience: there are couples in an embrace, small children that will make you tear up, and people in fetal positions, knowing what was coming.
Pompeii is only about 20 minutes from Naples, so it will only be about 20-30 minutes back to your ship. Although the day will have been long, you’ll feel every moment was worth it.
- It’s going to be a long day with a long time on a bus. Carry everything you need to keep your child entertained, including toys, water, food, electronics. You will need them.
- The day will be super-hot, so be sure to have sunscreen, hat and plenty of water.
- Although guides will tell you not to stroller, bring one, especially in Pompeii. No matter what the tour guides say, it will be harder to walk around Pompeii without a stroller. Try our recommendations for a good stroller, which is lightweight and can fit into a bag so you can carry it easily.
- This is the one day we actually recommend joining a tour (yes, really!) or booking a private tour. But don’t book an excursionthrough the cruise ship, as it will cost more than local tours you can arrange before you arrive.
- Take the tour that visits Sorrento/Amalfi before Pompeii, as Pompeii is closest to the dock and cruise passengers make their way to the ruins first. Waiting until the afternoon means it will be less crowded, and you’ll be closer to the port when you’re tired from the long day.
- In Pompeii, please obey the signs and don’t touch the frescoes or the ruins. Touching will erode the ruins that should be preserved for future generations.
- The drive along the Amalfi Coast is long with winding roads. If anyone is prone to car sickness, bring nausea medicine.
- Italian pizza originated in Naples, so no matter where you have lunch during your trip, have pizza. Another must is limoncello, which is made specifically using Amalfi lemons (the size of cantaloupes). It’s meant to be sipped and served ice cold.