Leaving Naples by boat || creative commons photo by Alexandra Svatikova
Naples is, I’d venture to say, one of the most difficult-to-like cities in Italy. It can be abrasive on multiple levels, and – although I adore it, and I think you can, too – I can’t really blame people for needing a break from the chaos of Naples. And that’s where day trips come in.
Some of Italy’s most popular attractions and destinations also happen to be great day trips from Naples, so whether you’re only using Naples as a base for exploring the area or you’re spicing up your Naples stay with a few excursions, there are some blockbuster options not far away.
The options I’ve included on the list below are broken down by how long it takes to get there and back, starting with the closest places. I’m also sticking with public transportation as your means of getting there, but of course if you’re keen on renting a car you can do that, too. (Though, honestly, I wouldn’t recommend driving in Naples unless you’re a seasoned veteran.) Keep in mind, too, that this is nowhere near a comprehensive list of day trips from Naples – it’s just a good place to get your brainstorming started.
Guided Tours In & From Naples
The places I’ve listed below are all do-able as DIY day trips, but if you’d rather just leave the planning to someone else here’s a selection of tours both in and from Naples.
Also, if you’d like a native Neapolitan tour guide who’s so passionate about her city (and surroundings) that I think she could make anyone love Naples – plus someone who will drive you around to all these places so you don’t need to figure out the bus or metro system – then drop my friend Marina a note. Tell her I sent you.
Quick Day Trips from Naples: 2 Hours or Less in Transit
Procida || creative commons photo by ho visto nina volare
- Pompeii – I don’t need to sell you on the idea of visiting Pompeii. All I need to do is tell you that this world famous (and huge) excavation site, sitting in the shadow of the volcano that buried it, is less than 45 minutes from Naples on the Circumvesuviana train.
- Herculaneum – Here’s where I need to do a little selling. Basically everyone has heard of Pompeii, but not nearly as many have heard of (or visit) Herculaneum (Ercolano in Italian). It was the ritzy beach town to Pompeii’s big city, and was also buried in the 79 C.E. eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. The excavated site is smaller, but it’s better preserved than Pompeii and typically far less crowded. It’s about 20 minutes from Naples on the Circumvesuviana train, and can be easily combined with a Pompeii visit.
- Caserta – The city of Caserta is home to a palace of the same name that is basically Italy’s Versailles. The Palace of Caserta was built in the 18th century (and yes, Versailles was the inspiration) and includes enormous gardens and water features. The city is about 40 minutes from Naples by train.
- Bay of Naples Islands – All it takes is a ferry ride to trade Naples’ grit for an island’s glitter. Pretty Capri (40 minutes away by boat) offers the Blue Grotto, ancient Roman ruins, and chic shopping. Little pastel-colored Procida (56 minutes away by boat) was the setting for much of “Il Postino.” Just remember to check return ferry schedules lest you get stranded on the island overnight. (Yeah, there are worse fates.)
- Capua – Not far from Caserta is the excavation site of Santa Maria Capua Vetere (near the modern city of Capua), which is home to the remains of what was once Italy’s second-largest ancient Roman amphitheater. You can also make a request to see the Mithraeum, a temple dedicated to Mithras and likely built (and frescoed) in the 2nd century B.C.E. Santa Maria Capua Vetere is 53 minutes from Naples by train, or you can visit on a side trip from Caserta via a bus that connects the two attractions.
- Salerno – The next stop to the south on the high-speed train network is Salerno, around 40 minutes away. The crypt of the 11th century cathedral contains the tomb of the apostle Saint Matthew, and the five-mile long promenade is ideal for a seaside stroll.
Medium Day Trips from Naples: 2-4 Hours in Transit
Greek temple at Paestum || creative commons photo by pululante
- Amalfi Coast – Along with Pompeii, the towns of the Amalfi Coast are some of Italy’s most popular destinations. (If you don’t already know why, do an online image search for “Positano” and get back to me.) The Amalfi Coast towns themselves don’t have train stations, but there’s regular bus service along the coast. Take the Circumvesuviana train from Naples to Sorrento (that’s about an hour and ten minutes), and then catch a bus to Positano (50 minutes), Amalfi (one hour 40 minutes), or any of the other gorgeous towns.
- Sorrento – While Sorrento isn’t technically part of the Amalfi Coast (it’s on the Sorrentine Peninsula, kind of between Naples and the Amalfi Coast), it’s similar in many ways. The fact that it’s easy to reach from Naples makes it even more appealing. There’s the old Circumvesuviana train that makes the trip in about one hour ten minutes, the new high-season-only Campania Express that connects the two cities in 50 minutes, or a selection of boats that make the crossing in about 40 minutes.
- Rome – Thanks to Italy’s high-speed trains, the big city of Rome is only one hour ten minutes from Naples. It’s impossible to cover Rome in a day, but if Rome isn’t otherwise on your itinerary then you can book a tour covering the city’s highlights in a long day trip. You’ll head back to Naples tired, but excited by the Italian capital.
- Paestum – In addition to all the ancient Roman ruins in and around Naples, there are some world-class ancient Greek ruins nearby, too. The excavation site at Paestum is about one hour 15 minutes from Naples by train, with arguably the best-preserved Greek ruins on mainland Italy. You can see a few temples, an amphitheater, and tombs with both frescoes and painted tombstones.
- Bay of Naples Islands – I mentioned a couple other islands off the coast of Naples above, but the largest – Ischia – takes a little longer to reach, so it’s relegated to this section. In about one hour 20 minutes, you can be on Ischia from Naples, exploring the pretty villas, gardens, beaches, and the 5th century Aragonese Castle.
- Phlegraean Fields – This is an area just to the west of Naples with some pretty spectacular sightseeing. There are ancient Roman and Greek ruins, lakes, hissing volcanic craters, underwater ruins, and oodles of mythology to learn about. Some of the towns within the Phlegraean Fields (Campi Flegrei in Italian) are Baiae, Cuma, Pozzuoli, and Solfatara. A complete tour of the area is probably easiest with a guide and will take all day, but you can also visit individual sights on your own, either by metro train or bus. For instance: Baiae is about 30 minutes from Naples by metro and Pozzuoli is only 20 minutes away by metro, while getting to Cuma requires a bus or metro to Pozzuoli followed by another bus to the Cumae exacavation.
- Mount Vesuvius – You can see the volcano that caused all the destruction at Pompeii and Herculaneum from just about anywhere in Naples, but you can also visit it up close. Take the Circumvesuviana train to either the Ercolano or Pompei stop, and then get one of the shuttle buses that pick up and drop off right outside the stations. Some say the better (more reliable) buses run from the Pompei stop, although the Ercolano stop is closer. A complete round-trip bus tour is typically 2-3 hours.
- Formia, Gaeta, & Sperlonga – For a beachy day trip in another region that’s got both ancient and more modern history, consider the Formia-Gaeta-Sperlonga loop. Formia is on the famous Appian Way, and it’s where the Roman philosopher Cicero is buried. Gaeta is home to interesting castles and churches. In Sperlonga you can visit a villa built for 1st century C.E. Roman Emperor Tiberius. All three towns also have beaches, and Formia and Gaeta are tied to World War II history, too. The train from Naples to Formia takes about 50 minutes, and the bus connects to Gaeta in 15 minutes and to Sperlonga in 30 minutes.
Longer Day Trips from Naples: 4+ Hours in Transit
Villa d’Este at Tivoli || creative commons photo by M.Maselli
- Florence – Florence is probably already on your Italy itinerary, but just in case it’s not you should know that Italy’s high-speed trains make the trip form Naples in about two hours 45 minutes. Yeah, it’s a long day, but plan it well (AKA buy tickets to the Uffizi and Accademia ahead of time so you’re not waiting in line, or book a guided tour) and it can be a pretty amazing long day.
- Tivoli – The UNESCO World Heritage Sites at Tivoli are really an easier day trip from Rome, but it’s something to consider at two hours 45 minutes by train from Naples, too. You can visit the excavation of the 2nd century C.E. Hadrian’s Villa as well as the 16th century Villa d’Este with its sumptuous gardens and water features.