I have traveled to Italy more than a dozen times and visited many regions. But one region that had always been at the top of my list, yet I had not been to, was Campania. Located on the south-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, with the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west, Campania is the third most populous region in Italy and home to some of the most famous destinations, including the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius, and Naples. The name Campania is derived from Latin and translates into “fertile countryside”. It is a region rich in culture, ranging from its architecture and archeology to its gastronomy and I explored this wonderful region for six days. I welcome you to join me as I wander to Italy for exploring Campania.
Overlooking the Bay of Naples, Sorrento is a coastal town that is a popular tourist destination. The town sits atop cliffs that separate the town from the marinas. It was the perfect spot to begin exploring Campania.
Sorrento is a resort town and is a good place to make as a home base when exploring the region as it is easily accessible by boat, bus or car. The historic center is a charming town filled with narrow streets that are easy to get around on foot.
I found a modern boutique hotel, Palazzo Abagnale & Tritone, located in the center of town. The room was clean and renovated, the staff was friendly and helpful, and a lovely breakfast was offered each morning.
Where To Eat in Sorrento
Sorrento is known for its seafood and it is hard to not eat well here. But, if you are looking for a memorable and delicious dining experience, head to the 1-star Michelin restaurant Il Buco, located in the wine cellars of an old monastery.
Considered one of the best restaurants in Sorrento, Il Buco has been open for more than 20 years and has held its Michelin Star for 14 years. Chef and owner of Il Buco, Giuseppe “Peppe” Aversa, is a very friendly man who visits guests at the table. Il Buco offers a tasting menu featuring fresh fish along with a tasting menu focused more on the land. You can also order from the a la carte menu. I personally selected the “I Trust You” menu in which Chef Peppe created the menu for me.
Day Trips from Sorrento
With Sorrento as a home base, it is easy to plan day trips to give you more opportunities for exploring Campania. There is plenty of time to explore during the day and then to come back and relax in Sorrento each evening.
Exploring Pompeii, Herculaneium, and Vesuvius
Pompeii is the ancient Roman city that was buried under ash and pumice after the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The site has been preserved and you can explore the excavated ruins of streets and houses.
Down the road from Pompeii, there is the smaller town of Herculaneum that was also destroyed by Vesuvius but in a different way. Instead of ash and pumice, Herculaneum was destroyed by a pyroclastic flow, which is a dense collection of fragments and gases from a volcanic eruption. Pompeii is bigger and packed with tourists, whereas Herculaneum is smaller and less crowded. And, due to the difference in how the towns were destroyed, Herculaneum is better preserved with complete homes and mosaics.
It is worth seeing both towns, starting with Pompeii and followed by Herculaneum. But I also wanted to visit Mount Vesuvius, which looms above the towns.
Many companies offer tours of Pompeii and Vesuvius or Pompeii and Herculaneum, but I wanted to see all three in one day. The best way to do this is with a private driver and guide. I booked a tour with Top Excursion Sorrento with Giovanni Guidonne. A private driver picked me up at my hotel in a luxury air-conditioned car. We drove 40 minutes to Pompeii where I was met with a private guide who took me through the ruins.
I preferred my own guide as we were able to maneuver through the throngs of tourists and go at our own pace. We then drove 20 minutes to Herculaneum, where my private guide took me through the ruins, pointing out mosaics and other interesting historical facts.
My driver then took me to Mount Vesuvius and waited for me at the base while I climbed to the top of the volcano. The hike is strenuous as it is straight uphill for 30 minutes but worth it when you can look into the bowl of the volcano.
After hiking Vesuvius, my driver offered to stop by Tenuta Sorrentino, a winery on the southwest side of the volcano. Located 600 meters above sea level on 85 acres of volcanic sandy soils, Tenuta Sorrentino is owned by the Sorrentino family who has been there for three generations. They are growing the native grapes Caprettone, Falanghina, Pedirosso, and Aglianico for the historic Lacryma Christi DOC wine produced on the slope of Vesuvius and you can stop in for a tasting or for a meal.
Explore the Amalfi Coast
While exploring Campania, I recommend a few days to enjoy the Amalfi coast. It is great to book a hotel in one of the towns for a couple of days. But if you do not have a lot of time, there are two ways to explore the coast in one day, either by bus or by boat.
The bus takes the high road that winds along the coast but can also be quite congested, especially in the summer. I opted for a boat trip down the coast with Travel Etc. The boat is a relaxing and enjoyable way to experience the coast. The boat holds a maximum of a dozen people and we watched the coast pass by as we relaxed on the deck under the sun.
We made two stops, in Amalfi and Positano, where we had an hour or two to wander around and get a feel for the towns. We also made a couple of stops to swim in the Tyrrhenian Sea to complete a wonderful day trip.
Wine Tasting at Feudi di San Gregorio
While you are exploring Campania, I do recommend checking out the local wines. Hire a driver to take you one hour from Sorrento to Avellino where you will find Feudi di San Gregorio.
Surrounded by mountains, the winery was established in 1986 and was the 6th winery in the province at the time (today there are more than 100 wineries). Rebuilt in 2004, the winery is a beautiful modern structure with gardens to walk through, beautiful views, a restaurant and a large tasting room where you can taste wines made from Falanghina, Fiano, Greco and Aglianico grapes.
Tour through the barrel room 12-meters underground where more than 2000 barrels of different sizes are stored, as madrigal music plays overhead.
Day Trip to Capri
Located in the Bay of Naples, Capri is an island destination for the rich and famous. A ferry leaves from Sorrento, or Naples, every hour, making it an easy day trip. Once I arrived in the Capri marina, I booked a boat tour around the island, seeing the rugged landscape and visiting the green grotto.
We tried to visit the legendary blue grotto, but the wait was between two and four hours, so we decided it was not worth the time. I guess I will have to return in the future to try again. Once the boat tour was over, I took the tram from the marina to the town of Capri, followed by a local bus to Ana Capri, the town located above Capri.
In Ana Capri, there is a chairlift that goes to the top of the island for views of the rugged landscape from above. I spent the rest of the day wandering around the towns of Ana Capri and Capri.
While wandering, I noticed lots of handmade leather sandal stores, but I sought out the original store. Canfora, a third-generation family business, is where Jackie Kennedy Onassis shopped, and I splurged on a pair of custom-made sandals. To end my day, I enjoyed a gelato Gelateria Buonocore Capri, a place you can find by smelling the freshly made waffle cones. The line can be long, but it is worth it for the deliciously creamy artisanal gelato.
The Island of Ischia
Past Capri is the island of Ischia. Ferries head to this island from Sorrento, Naples, and Capri. I decided to spend a couple nights on this island, so I took my bags with me from Sorrento to Capri, where I stored them for the day in a luggage store in the marina that I found via a quick Google search.
After my day trip to Capri, I took the ferry to Ischia, a volcanic island in the Gulf of Naples known for its mineral-rich thermal waters. This is an island for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Where to Stay in Ischia
Hotel della Baia Negombo is located in San Montano Bay in Lacco Ameno. The hotel is a modern boutique hotel located across the road from the Negombo Thermal Baths. As a guest of the hotel, you have free access to the thermal water park which houses twelve different pools and baths ranging from 18 to 38 degrees Celsius (55 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit), as well as a 33-meter (108-foot) sea-water pool and a private beach. There is also a spa that offers a range of massages to complete a day of relaxation.
Where to Eat in Ischia
As a guest at Hotel della Baia Negombo, breakfast is included, and you can also select one or two meals each day. I selected one meal and enjoyed my lunch at the Trattoria Casa Colonica located inside the park and overlooking the beach.
For dinner, I splurged for a magical meal and went into town to dine at the two-star Michelin restaurant Dani Maison.
Many people may warn you that Naples is dangerous and dirty. But once outside the port, Naples is amazing. The largest city in Campania and third-largest city in Italy, the energy of Naples is palpable. You really cannot miss Naples while exploring Campania.
I decided to spend the last two nights of my journey to Campania in Naples in order to explore the city and eat nonstop. After searching on the internet, I booked a room at the Albergo Palazzo Decumani, located in the heart of Naples.
Naples is a generally walkable city with a few neighborhoods that are better accessed by bus or car. In one and a half days, I managed to walk more than 15 kilometers (9 miles) on my quest for food.
With only a little time in Naples, I did not know where to begin when it came to eating. Naples is known for its mozzarella di bufala, fresh ripe tomatoes, and pastries, such as the babà (a rum cake), sfogliatella, and zeppole. It also has great meats, seafood, vegetables, and pastas. In order to get a sense of the cuisine of Naples and taste all of the flavors, while also seeing the city, I enjoyed a walking food tour with Eating Europe.
Naples is also famous for its pizza, likely the most popular creation of all Neapolitan cuisine. In Naples, you can find pizza everywhere and cannot go wrong when looking for a pizza with its chewy dough, fresh tomato sauce, and fior di latte cheese. But I managed to eat five pizzas in my day-and-a-half and concluded that there are three must-eat-at pizza places in Naples: Sorbillo, 50 Kalo and L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, the restaurant made famous in Eat, Pray, Love. You will likely have to wait in line to each at any of these spots, but it is worth the wait.
Naples is also known for its fried pizza and I headed to the Sanita neighborhood to try one at Isabella de Cham. It was in this neighborhood that I found an eclectic wine bar called La Antica Cantina. Open since the 1920s, third-generation family member Francesco joined his father in 2014. Showcasing wines from Campania, as well as throughout Italy and France, wines are available on draft or by the bottle. After walking as much as I did, I took a break and enjoyed a glass of wine.
There is so much to see while exploring Campania and I feel that it can be covered in six days. The next time I go back, I think I will find myself on a beach somewhere along the Amalfi Coast.