Explore The South Of Italy With The Best Day Trips From Sorrento
Southern Italy’s seaside town of Sorrento is charming enough by itself, but it’s also a perfectly situated base for a ton of interesting day trips. The popular tourist destination is around an hour away from ancient ruins, bustling cities and stunning islands. No matter what you’re in the mood for, it’s likely just a jaunt away.
It would be easy to spend your whole holiday in Sorrento. Right by the Amalfi Coast, the town is decorated with plunging cliffs and beautiful water views, and is flush with tourist-friendly cafes and shops. Yet Sorrento is also great home base for those looking to venture a further afield, serving up some of Southern Italy’s best experiences without making you choose between them.
Here are some of the best Italian day trips from Sorrento.
You can’t stay right by the Amalfi Coast and not visit Pompeii. This ancient Roman city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy and famous archaeological sites in the world, with good reason. You’ll likely want to book a guide, as there’s a lot to see in this huge city.
Destroyed in 79AD by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii was buried under metres of volcanic ash which preserved the city more or less intact. When the buried organic matter decayed away it created moulds from the ash, allowing archaeologists to reconstruct what Pompeii looked like at the time of its destruction.
It’s a fascinating look at life in ancient Rome, and only a 40-minute drive from Sorrento. If you don’t want to rent a car, the ruins of Pompeii are around a half-hour train ride away, and only a short walk from Pompei Scavi-Villa dei Misteri station.
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For a less popular but equally impressive archaeological site, visit Pompeii’s neighbouring city Herculaneum. Like Pompeii, Herculaneum was also destroyed in Vesuvius’ eruption, however most of its inhabitants were able to evacuate. Rather than being buried in ash Herculaneum was buried by pyroclastic flow, which preserved organic matter instead of letting it rot away.
Though smaller than Pompeii, Herculaneum was also wealthier, a fact reflected in its more lavish and ornate architecture. The buildings in this city are comparatively larger, and are decorated with colourful mosaics, frescoes and marble cladding. If you prefer to take your time drinking in detail, or don’t want to spend all day exploring, Herculaneum may be the ancient Roman ruin for you.
It’s a 50-minute drive to get to Herculaneum from Sorrento, or alternatively you can catch a train to Ercolano Scavi station and walk. The train ride is around 45 minutes long, but the walk from the station to the ruins should take less than 10 minutes.
After you’ve explored the ruined cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, you can hike up the volcano that destroyed them. Mount Vesuvius stands over 1200m tall and is one of Europe’s most active volcanoes. The area around it was declared a national park in 1995, and now visitors are allowed to hike up a walking track to its summit.
The walk to the top of Mount Vesuvius takes around 20 minutes, and is relatively gentle though rocky. It’s a unique hike in that steam and sulphur rise from vents in the ground, shrouding the landscape in wafting mist. Once you reach the volcano’s rim, you’ll be able to see down into the volcano’s crater, and be treated to a view of the surrounding towns and cities.
It takes around one hour to drive from Sorrento to Mount Vesuvius. For public transport, you’ll have to take the train to Pompeii or Herculaneum first and then catch a bus from there.
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If exploring ancient ruins and hiking up volcanoes isn’t your thing, a day trip to the city of Naples may be more your speed.
The largest city in southern Italy, Naples is bustling with life and things to do, from the typical shopping and eating, to more unique tours of the city’s underground network of ancient tunnels and catacombs. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (the National Archaeological Museum of Naples) also has many artefacts from both Pompeii and Herculaneum, in case there isn’t room in your itinerary to visit the sites themselves.
No matter what you choose to do, you should definitely grab some pizza while in the city. Naples is where pizza was invented, and the city prides itself on staying atop the pizza game. Leaving the city without at least sampling what’s on offer would be almost criminal.
The drive to Naples takes around 50 minutes, while trains and buses will take take around an hour and 20 minutes. Catching a ferry is more expensive, and can take from 40 minutes to two hours depending on the route, but also offers much better views.
To enjoy the lifestyle of the rich and the famous, head to the isle of Capri. This gorgeous island is the getaway of choice for many celebrities, and it’s obvious why. Capri looks like something out of a ridiculously unrealistic rom-com, with white limestone cliffs plunging into deep blue waters. It’s also packed with luxury shopping and cafes.
Staying on Capri may not suit the budget of a mere commoner, but that’s no reason to skip this day trip, particularly if you’re going to see the Blue Grotto. The Blue Grotto, or Grotta Azzurra, is a natural sea cave lit by sunlight from beneath the water. It glows an impossibly deep blue, causing some ancient Romans to believe witches and supernatural creatures resided here.
A guide will take you into the Blue Grotto in a four-person rowboat. The entry is very small, so you have to lie flat as you pass through. The momentary claustrophobia will be worth it though. You aren’t allowed to swim, but nobody will believe you didn’t filter the hell out of your photos.
Getting to Capri from Sorrento requires you to take a 25-minute ferry from Marina Piccola port.
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The picturesque Positano is famous for its colourful pastel buildings, which climb up the mountainside overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. You could spend a whole day wandering Positano’s winding streets and filling your Instagram feed. There are some lovely boutique shops and cafes for you to pop into as well.
If you’re stumped on what to order, pick something with lemons. The Amalfi Coast is known for its fragrant Amalfi lemons, which are grown on terraces on the mountains. Amalfi lemons are elongated fruit with thick, soft skin, and they’re so sweet that you could eat one like an orange. Positano’s lemon souvenirs are everywhere, including lemon lollies, sorbets, soaps, and perfumes.
Positano is a 40-minute drive from Sorrento. If you prefer public transport, you can take a one-hour bus ride to Sorrento, or catch a ferry, which will take between 40 minutes to an hour and a half depending on the route.
(Lead image: Positano, Sander Crombach / Unsplash)