You’ve made the big decision and come mid-September you’ll be holidaying on the beautiful Amalfi Coast - Brilliant! ........ Now where to next? Possibly you have plans in place already for your onward journey from the Amalfi Coast............ but if you’re still in the planning phase and looking for some inspiration we happen to have a few suggestions. Now I’ll admit right up front we are a little biased, we are BIG fans of Italy. So we’ll limit our suggestions to this amazing and diverse little country, and if you’re planning to head elsewhere we’ll let you seek advice from those best qualified to assist.
How to get from A to B?
When we conclude our week on the coast together your transfer will take you back to either Naples Central train station or the airport. From Naples you can access just about anywhere in Italy by rail. Train travel in Italy is efficient, comfortable and reasonable value for money if you book your travel well in advance (but no more than 3 months from time of travel - you may like to put a reminder in your calendar). We recommend opting for business class or premium seats for the extra room & comfort. I discovered a site definitely worth checking out if you’re planning on doing some train travel, this is this link - https://www.seat61.com/Italy-trains.htm. Here you will find straightforward advice on the different types of trains, booking on-line, handy tips etc.
Flying can be the cheaper and faster option if you need to cover a long distance, say Naples to Venice. Budget airlines like Easyjet are extremely good value, but again best deals are to be had by booking well in advance. Naples airport is small enough to be user friendly and last time we were there we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food on offer there........ I’ve never said that about airport food before!
Driving is another option of course. Frankly driving around Naples is pretty chaotic and probably not recommended. However if you’re taking a train and collecting a rental car out of Florence to enjoy some time in Tuscany for instance, it’s a great way to get around. GPS navigation is must - it’s completely beyond me how I drove all over Europe without this technology back in the day. The roads are good, and outside the big cities traffic is not a problem. The great thing about driving is you can get to some of the less touristy places, you have the freedom to explore on your own terms and you can access great accommodation options away from the towns ........ ever dreamt of staying in the rolling hills of Tuscany in your own villa ? Most of these are accessible only by car, so perhaps food for thought. On the other hand, if you’re limiting your destinations to only cities then forget driving.
So where to next?
Our 2017 group took off in a variety of directions following last year’s trip. 2 of our couples went to Sicily which apparently was a great choice. From Naples there are a number of options for getting to Sicily - overnight ferry from Naples, train all the way south through Calabria with connecting ferry, and of course flying....... it all depends on how much time you have to spare. Both couples opted for a group tour in Sicily - there are many of these on offer and for first-timers it’s probably the best way to get a taste of this large & diverse island.
Another of our couples took the train to Siena, a terracotta-hued hill town in Tuscany. The beauty of staying in a town like this, versus visiting for a day is being able to enjoy it after the day trippers disappear and appreciate the true flavour. Another option would be Lucca, quite a different Tuscan town, but no less charming. It’s possible to day trip to Florence easily from either destination, or vice versa of course if you prefer to base yourself in the Tuscan capital. If you’re after the hill town experience a little closer to Rome, then we can recommend Orvieto in Umbria. This enchanting town completely charmed us and it’s within easy reach of Rome - great for those of you with a shorter time frame, looking to minimise travel.
For the truely independent, self-drive Tuscan experience, travel to Florence by train then rent a car. This isn’t as daunting as it sounds, we’ve done it a few times and it really is a great way to experience the contrasts this beautiful region offers. We normally stay in the Chianti hills, about 20 min from Florence at a wonderful place steeped in history called Castello di Bibbione (www.castellodibibbione.com ) Check out Bibbione if this concept appeals to you, if only as a yardstick against which to compare other accommodation in the region. The Tuscan countryside is a lovely contrast to the Amalfi Coast and if you are thinking of approaching it in this way we’d recommend a minimum of 4 -5 days.
Perhaps you’d like to explore further north - Lake Como and Lake Garda are both superb destinations. Both Como & Garda offer something quite different to the Amalfi Coast while still keeping with the aquatic theme. Choose your base from a multitude of romantic lakeside villages, most are connected by ferry systems so it’s easy to explore. Stay put and immerse yourself in village life or venture further afield. Lake Garda is the larger of the 2 and has the added benefit of being within easy reach (by train) of Venice, Verona & the unique city of Bergamo to name but a few, for those of you who enjoy a little day tripping.
Don’t forget about Naples
Here I must digress a little. You may plan to spend a few days in wonderful Napoli before joining the group, or perhaps you’ve considered a stay post the Amalfi Coast. Either way, it’s definitely worth checking out this fascinating city. Most of our group last year incorporated time here into their itinerary and were not disappointed. Naples has an incredible history, friendly locals, fabulous food and so much to see. We suggest staying in the historic centre (“Centro Storico”) to fully appreciate the city’s charm and from here you can walk pretty much everywhere you’ll want to go. The ancient city of Pompeii is a short train ride away and is a must-do day out we think.
And Rome of course......
Most of you will be passing through Rome and you will no doubt be factoring in some time in the Eternal City. If you have not been to Rome before we suggest allowing a minimum of 4 days. There is just SO much to see, so again making your base in the historic centre means you’ll be able access most of the sights on foot. It’s impossible to see everything so don’t try - instead choose what you’re really interested in and leave time to actually enjoy this fantastic city ......& give yourself an excuse to return at a later date.
n all honesty the options just in Italy are far too many to mention, and here I’ve barely scratched the surface. It really comes down to what appeals to you and how much time you have. A rule of thumb that has served us well is try not to see too much - spend more time really enjoying 2 or 3 places rather than attempting to see 5 or 6....... but that’s just us and you may have a different view.
In regards to accommodation you may want to look beyond hotels. We have stayed in some brilliant apartments via AirBnB in Rome, Venice, Naples, Orvieto and elsewhere. The benefits are more space, great value, total privacy and the “live-like-a-local” experience. Choosing the right location is essential and reading the reviews is a must..... but this also applies to hotels I guess. Anyway I’m more than happy to provide advice if AirBnB is something you’ve not tried before and you’re keen to give it a go. Please also feel free to ask us about anywhere else in Italy that happens to be on your radar. We may not have first hand info about everywhere but will happily apply our research experience to the task if needed.
So enjoy the planning phase as it is an integral part of your travel experience ....... one way to extend your holiday.