A couple years ago we shared a list of 15 travel safety pointers, and general Italy travel tips. It was very successful and many of you responded requesting more area-specific travel advice. So we decided to issue an addendum. Here’s our 12 Naples and Amalfi Coast travel tips for 2017.
Naples Travel Tips
- Don’t judge a book by its cover – The urban sprawl of Naples can feel tattered, anarchic and forsaken. But look beyond the grime and graffiti and you’ll see a city of breathtaking beauty, chock with dramatic skies, panoramas and art. You’ll discover its elegance, engage in spontaneous conversations with locals and be surprised at the city’s profound humanity.
- Visit the Royal Palace in Caserta – The former royal residence constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples in the town of Caserta is one of the largest palaces built in Europe during the 18th century. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that should not be overlooked.
- Don’t flaunt the bling – Petty crime has significantly diminished, but ostentatiously wearing gold and diamonds in Naples is asking for trouble.
- Go beyond the guidebook advice – Naples’ centro storico is a Unesco World Heritage Site, its archaeological treasures are among the world’s most impressive. Dating to the 2nd millennium BC, Naples in fact boasts centuries of magnificent art and architecture. Major landmarks include the city’s Cathedral, the lavish Palazzo Reale (with its own opera house, Teatro San Carlo) and the Castel dell’Ovo, an ancient castle built on a peninsula. But it would be folly to not visit the often undervalued Museo Archeologico, or take a guided walk in the Spanish Quarter. Dare a little and prepare to discover the unexpected.
- Go underground – Many are probably unaware that there are two cities of Naples: one above ground, the other right under your feet. Miles and miles of underground tunnels once used as everything from ancient Roman aqueducts to WWII air-raid shelters sit underneath your favorite pizzeria or 5-star hotel. Napoli Sotterranea is a definite Naples must see.
- Take the subway – There is no need for a car in Naples. The historic center is relatively small and can easily be explored on foot. Naples is also very well served by metro, buses and suburban trains, trams and funiculars. A number of central Naples’ subway stations have been fully renewed to include unique contemporary art installations.
Amalfi Coast & Sorrento Travel Tips
- Avoid the daytripper crowds – Despite more than half-a-century of mass tourism and wildfire exploitation, the Sorrento Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast still possess a few unexplored and approachable places not yet corrupted by impossibly high prices and artificially piped lemon-scents. Some remain authentically frozen in time. Seek lesser-known Amalfi Coast destinations, ones that retain some of the dreamlike quality Steinbeck marveled at when he first visited after World War II. I’ve listed a number of them on this article.
- Travel off season – July and August in this part of the world are hot, with cliffs exposed to scorching sun for most of the day. This translates to temperatures that hardly drop in the evening. For this reason, in summer the the sky is also always a little hazy. None of this happens in early spring and late fall. The air is crisp and the sky is crystal clear. Not to mention the water: deep azure, with patches of dark navy blue, ruffled by surface breezes. During off-season, there are less crowds visiting the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento, which means short to zero lines in restaurants and having a front row lounger on the beach (Italian beaches are open in May to October). There’s also an overall relaxed and welcoming vibe. The low season is also best for deals, when hotels, restaurants, service providers and shops apply lower rates. Less people also means less boat and car traffic and lower parking fees in highly sought areas like Capri and Positano. Winter is a different story: the majority of shops, hotels and restaurants close down from the beginning of November until Easter. The beach is empty, the boats are pulled ashore and from January to March a lot of the locals take their vacation abroad.
- Hike The Path of the Gods – This is a pathway that connects Nocelle to Agerola, hundreds of meters above Amalfi. The views are seriously jaw-dropping. Ask us about our guided hikes and picnics…
- Check the calendar – There are some holidays and events that only fall on certain days. It would be a sin to miss them! Take for example the Ravello Music Festival, held annually in summer in the breathtaking Villa Rufolo. Or the Ferragosto celebrations, during which religious processions honor the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Madonna dell’Assunta) on August 15th, and everyone eats traditional fried aubergine covered with chocolate admiring the fireworks at sea. Check our calendar of events in order to never miss another unique event on the Amalfi Coast again.
- Climb on board – You’ve booked your hotel in secluded Praiano, you’ve chosen the time of year carefully, you even mapped out all the quieter beach spots in order to avoid noisy tourists. Yet, the Amalfi Coast is a huge magnet for locals too. From June to September, the area will see a notable influx of people. The best way to have a swim away from the maddening crowds is taking a boat excursion. In this way you can enjoy swimming, exploring and visiting boat-only locations, minus the crowds.
- Crusing? Take a foodie shore excursion – It’s possible without going through the cruise liner, you know. Imagine an air-conditioned chauffeured limo or minivan meet you at your port of call and take you into Naples or Sorrento for a privately guided, fully narrated half– to full–day food-themed shore excursion, wine tasting or cooking class. It can happen! You’ll be back at the ship in time for departure, all hassle-free.
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.