My boyfriend and I are planning a two- to three-week trip around southern Italy in August, leaving from London. We want to visit Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast and then head over to Sardinia. Can you suggest a suitable itinerary and the best modes of transportation for getting around the Amalfi Coast? I've heard hiring a car is a good option although I'm a little worried about parking. - Natalie
Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett and Lee Slater reply:
Start your south Italian adventure in Naples. There are flights direct from London, although a cheaper option can be to fly into Rome and then catch a Frecciarossa (fast train) to Naples, only two hours away. You could head straight to Pompeii or Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast (both less than an hour away by train), but we recommend a few days' exploring Naples first.
See the frescoes inside Chiesa del Gesu Nuovo, the majolica-tiled cloisters of Basilica di Santa Chiara, and the sculptures within the Cappella Sansevero.
Take the funicular up to Vomero and the Certosa di San Martino; visit the Museo Archeologico Nazionale; and head underground on a Napoli Sotterranea tour. Catch the evening sea breeze at Castel dell'Ovo before drinks and a bite to eat with the culture crowd at Penguin Cafe. The ruins at Pompeii are best visited on a day trip from Naples, Sorrento or Salerno.
With its scented lemon groves, flower-strewn cliffsides, bobbing fishing boats and tumbling sherbert-hued towns, Costiera Amalfitana still claims the crown as the prettiest coast in Italy. The stretch from Sorrento to Positano is the least developed and most beautiful; don't miss the 12km Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods), a spectacular, steep and rocky walking trail, from Positano to Praiano.
Five days on the coast will allow you to see most sights, and although a hire car will give you maximum flexibility the roads can be hellish in August. Less stressful options for getting around are the regular SITA bus service, and ferries.
Head back to Naples to catch the ferry to Cagliari, Sardinia's capital. Boats operated by Tirrenia sail on Tuesdays and Thursday; book well ahead at traghettiweb.it. Spend a couple of days wandering around the tree-fringed boulevards of this cultured and cosmopolitan city.
For the rest of your stay you could base yourself in the central Sardinian town of Oristano with its elegant shopping streets and ornate piazzas, or pretty and petite Alghero on the island's northwest coast. Hiring a car will enable you to explore Sardinia's landscape and attractions which include Gola Su Gorropu, Europe's Grand Canyon; the windswept beaches of the Costa Verde; the hidden coves of the Golfo di Orosei, lapped by brilliant aquamarine waters; and the forest of stalactites and stalagmites at the Grotto di Nettuno.
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