Strike out by land or sea to discover other pleasures for the eyes and palate that await you in the surrounding region of Campania.
There is no stretch of coastline in the world as iconic as the Amalfi Coast. Backdrop to everything from romantic Golden Age Hollywood movies to provocative Dolce and Gabbana ads, this dramatically craggy coast dotted with colorful fishing villages-cum-resort towns attracts cosmopolitan celebrities, starry-eyed honeymooners, and everyone in between.
Once you have your fill of hedonistic indulgence on “La Costiera,” there is plenty to do just outside the coast, as well. Strike out by land or sea to discover other pleasures for the eyes and palate that await in the surrounding region of Campania. Even better? Each trip is close enough to be back at your waterfront table just in time for yet another sigh-worthy sunset. Read on for three great day trips near the Amalfi Coast.
Three full-day excursions from the Amalfi Coast
The Azure Isle: Capri
When the glitterati gather on Italy’s southern coast, they don’t stick to the mainland…and neither should you! Take a boat across the water to Capri, the island so idyllic that the emperor Tiberius used it as his retreat in the first century AD to escape the chaos of Rome. Two thousand years later, visitors still flock to this enchanting spot to enjoy the endless views of the Gulf of Naples and Amalfi Coast.
Sail along the picturesque coastline thick with hidden coves and sea grottoes, visit its historic gardens and villas, and rub elbows with the jet set who drop anchor here to hobnob in the chic Piazzetta square and shop the tony boutiques on Via Camerelle.
Capri by Land
Capri has had a number of resident and visiting luminaries over the centuries, many of whom built sumptuous villas and gardens that are now open to the public. Visit the remains of two of the 12 villas the Roman emperor Tiberius had on Capri: Villa Jovis and Villa Damecuta. And don’t miss the 19th century Villa San Michele, built by Swedish physician and writer Axel Munthe on one of the island’s most panoramic points.
In Capri town, the terraced Gardens of Augustus are a refreshing botanical oasis with dramatic views of Via Krupp that zigzags down the cliff face to Marina Piccola below. Just a few steps away, the 14th century Charterhouse of San Giacomo has a lovely intact complex and cloister perfect for a few minutes of respite from the bustle of the crowded town lanes.
Capri by Sea
The villas and gardens are worth a visit, but many spectacular sights on Capri can best be enjoyed from the water. The island’s most popular attraction is the Blue Grotto, a sea cavern lit by sunlight filtering in through an underwater fissure, giving the water an otherworldly azure glow. The three towering sea stacks of the Faraglioni off the coast are the symbol of Capri, and smaller boats can pass directly through the natural stone archway of the central stack to dock at the nearby beach for a swim or lunch with a view. Finally, the Punta Carena lighthouse is one of the largest in Italy, and the Faro beach below is the island’s best vantage point for watching the sun set over the crystalline waters of the Mediterranean to the west.
How to get there: There are ferries to Capri from Sorrento all year round, and also from Positano and Amalfi in the summer months. By far the best way to cross from the mainland, however, is by private boat tour or charter: combine a transfer with a sail around the island, a stop at the Blue Grotto, and free time docked at Marina Grande to explore Capri town on foot.
Campania in Your Glass
Few visitors on the Amalfi Coast venture inland, but the countryside in Campania is famous for excellent regional foods and wines. San Marzano and Piennolo tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and ricotta, Sorrentine lemons, Gragnano pasta, and Neapolitan pizza are all geographically protected and famous across the globe for their unmatched quality.
In addition to its local foods, the region also produces many excellent wines, most made with native, heirloom grapes with a history that stretches back centuries, if not millennia. The most famous whites include Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo, considered among the best in Italy; the bold red Taurasi, made with the area’s aglianico grapes, is so structured and decisively tannic that it is called the “Barolo of the south.”
Wine Tasting in Campania
To taste some of the most important wines from Campania at the source, head inland to the Feudi di San Gregorio winery located in Sorbo Serpico near Avellino. You can take in the rolling countryside of Campania during the drive where the tiny, rural hamlets and modest farmhouses form a stark contrast to the luxurious coast. Here, the agricultural economy has begun to thrive again only recently after a century marked by the Great Depression, a phylloxera outbreak, World War II, and a devastating earthquake in 1980. It was after this last natural disaster that Campania native Enzo Ercolino founded Feudi di San Gregorio with his wife and brothers in 1986, which has become the area’s flagship winery in just a few decades.
Historic Grapes, Contemporary Wines
Though the winery’s architecture is strikingly contemporary, Feudi di San Gregorio’s wines are rooted in Campania’s long history. Highlighting the region’s wealth of native varieties has always been a priority at Feudi, which produces modern-style whites and reds with heirloom grapes like aglianico, fiano, falanghina, and greco. You can taste their wines—including the excellent Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, Taurasi, and Irpinia Aglianico DOC “Serpico” —in the stunning cantina built in 2001 by the Japanese-Italian architectural team Hikaru Mori and Maurizio Zito. And, tour the 300 hectares of vineyards and manicured gardens, unwind in the soothingly minimalist tasting room, or savor updated Campanian cuisine in Feudi’s Michelin-starred Marennà restaurant, presided over by chef Paolo Barrale.
How to get there: Feudi di San Gregorio is located in an area called Irpinia, about an hour and a half inland from the Amalfi Coast, and is a lovely drive through the lush mountains of Campania. Consider hiring a private driver for the ride there and back, so you can concentrate on enjoying your tasting rather than having to navigate the roads of southern Italy.
A Stroll through History
The Italian coast south of Naples was a playground for the rich and famous long before it became the post-war symbol of glamour and style. In the first century A.D., there were several thriving seaside towns along the Mediterranean filled with elegant summer villas, baths, and, ahem, houses of pleasure for well-to-do Romans who lived most of the year in the empire’s teeming capital city.
Unfortunately, many were located at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano which erupted in 79 A.D. and buried an enormous swath of countryside and coastline in lava and ash, killing thousands but preserving the area under meters of debris. After decades of careful excavation, two unearthed cities are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and considered among the world’s most important archaeological treasures.
Italy’s most famous archaeological site is the excavated metropolis of Pompeii, where contemporary visitors can get a unique understanding of daily life in ancient Rome by walking the streets of the city center. The eruption of Vesuvius brought this bustling city to an abrupt standstill in just hours, leaving a fascinating tableau of a historic moment in time preserved in ash. Follow in the footsteps of its former residents along the original paved streets, and visit the sumptuously frescoed Villa of the Mysteries and House of the Vettii, stately temples of Apollo and Isis, sprawling thermal baths, and whimsical bordello, where services were advertised with bawdy illustrations above each bedroom door.
Often overshadowed by its famous neighbor, the nearby Roman city of Herculaneum is significantly smaller, but much better preserved than Pompeii. Though destroyed by the same eruption, Herculaneum was buried in a deeper layer of hotter ash, thus better protecting the site from the ravages of time, and excavations uncovered intact upper stories of buildings, wooden furnishings, and even food. Herculaneum was also a wealthier town than Pompeii, so its elegant houses and public buildings boast more lavish fresco, marble, and mosaic decoration, as can be seen in the luxurious Villa of the Papyri, large thermal baths, and—of course—local bordello.
How to get there: The local Circumvesuviana rail line stops at both archaeological sites, but be forewarned that this train has no air conditioning and gets very crowded in high season. A more comfortable way to explore both Pompeii and Herculaneum in a day is by joining a small group tour, which includes transportation by minivan and a professional guide.
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