Choosing a base in southern Italy

Jul 8th, 2010, 05:08 PM
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Choosing a base in southern Italy

Which of these places would make the best or better bases to relax and discover the area? We probably wont want to keep on switching hotels so having 2 or 3 places to stay in for 2 weeks would help. From these places what are some recommended "day trips"?

1. Amalfi
2. Positano
3. Ravello
4. Sorrento

Thanks for the help!
jerseygrl is offline  
Jul 8th, 2010, 05:20 PM
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We would also like to add in Portofino to the itinerary. How many nights would anyone recommend staying there? Which area is best to start out in and what is the easiest way to travel to the next region??
jerseygrl is offline  
Jul 8th, 2010, 05:55 PM
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And what about Ischia?
jerseygrl is offline  
Jul 8th, 2010, 06:04 PM
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What time of year?

Portofino is at least 7 hours from Positano no matter how you travel. Do you want to lose a whole day of your two weeks to travel?

No Rome? No Florence?
Jean is offline  
Jul 8th, 2010, 06:21 PM
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Get a map--the places you have listed (except Portofino and Ischia) are very close together on the Amalfi Coast. Portofino is way out of the question as a day trip and Ischia is an island. How do you intend to travel on your daytrips?
macanimals is offline  
Jul 8th, 2010, 07:42 PM
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Jean, it would be either September or October...not this year obviously. Probably wouldnt want to lose a day, although would love to somehow fit Portofino into the itinerary. We have nothing set up yet..still trying to get ideas of where to go in these areas and what places are a must see. We would rather got to a more relaxing....beach...swim.....sightseeing area than do Rome and Florence. This is going to be our honeymoon and we just love being on the water.

Macanimals, Yes, I know they are close....I was wondering if one or more of the places are better to see than others? If so, then I would try to stay in Portofino a few days and then make our way down to the amalfi coast area. This is going to be a honeymoon for 2 weeks. We both have never been to Italy so dont know much about it....or best way to travel throughout it. Just looking for some help planning and any input.
jerseygrl is offline  
Jul 8th, 2010, 10:07 PM
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Relaxing... beach... swim... but not Rome or Florence. The places in Italy you're considering (except parts of Ischia) are not beachy in the way I think you're visualizing. If you want to spend the majority of your time lazing on a sandy beach, you might consider Greece.

But if it must be Italy, and these are the places you want to go, then you need to investigate where you can fly into and out of. IMO, the only way Portofino makes sense is if you can fly into or out of Pisa, Genova or perhaps Milan. The other flight should be into or out of Naples or perhaps Rome. You're still going to lose a day moving between the Amalfi Coast and Portofino. There's no way around that.

If Portofino is at the beginning of the trip, I'd stay no less than three nights. If it's at the end of the trip and depending on the time of your departing flight, you may want to move closer to the airport the night prior. If your departing flight is out of Rome, you'll want to spend your last night in Rome.

You should probably plan on September rather than October as a little insurance against poor weather. The weather could be glorious in October, or not.

Where to base yourselves in the Amalfi Coast area depends on what you plan to do/see while you're there. I suggest you read a guidebook on the AC or search the internet for sightseeing info on the area, and then list what appeals to you. (One popular destination you did not mention is the island of Capri.)

When you've figured out your flight options, made your wish list and determined your lodging budget, come back for recommendations.
Jean is offline  
Jul 8th, 2010, 11:16 PM
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Hi jerseygrl -

From my experience there are pros and cons to the various Amalfi towns...and also depends on whether you will have a car or rely on public transportion:

Sorrento: perfect spot if you want convenience of being able to launch to other sights in the Amalfi since it's in the center and has a variety of transportation options: The Cicumvesuviana - commuter light rail in the area runs between Naples and Sorrento and you how you would get to Herculaneum and Pompeii. Map:

Buses run from Sorrento down to Positano along the magnificent, if precarious, road built into the cliffs overlooking the gorgeous Amalfi. Gorgeous drive that I would rather leave to expert drivers of that route. Buses can be crowded though, even in October which means that you could end up standing up. It's worth taking the drive as it's stunning. Ferries are a good option too, but worth taking the coastal highway at least once.

Ferries also run from Sorrento which you can take to the Islands, the town of Amalfi, Positano, Naples, and more. As I recall, the ferries typically run through October.

However, the town of Sorrento itself is only "okay" for it's purpose. It has some lovely views, but I wouldn't stay there again. It's basically a town "ful"l of hotels, pottery shops, tourists, boring food (I'll certainly defer to others who may have had better food luck), and even the locals will only speak to you in English. I didn't even feel like I was in Italy - I've never been anywhere else like this in Italy - it's sort of a twilight zone spot that is really set up to be merely a spring board to visiting the Amalfi.

Positano: When I go back to the Amalfi, I will likely staty in Positano. I loved it. A beautiful, charming town cut into the cliffs. It's lovely, relaxing, and would be a perfect spot for a honeymoon. It's not that there aren't tourists there, it's just much more low key. And you can still easily access other parts of the Amalfi by bus and ferry. I think it has the best balance of charm and access. While it would work as a fine home base, it will be a schlep to get there. Depending where you're flying into, you could end-up doing train to commuter train to bus. I wouldn't drive. I would actually consider getting a transfer car service as a splurge and just build it into your travel budget - I don't actually think it's all that expensive in the whole scheme of things...and then you can just relax. For me the only downside would be that the logistics to Pompeii from Positano would be more time-consuming than Sorrento, but worth it to end-up back in Positano and not Sorrento.

Town of Amalfi: I thought it was a charming town to visit and it struck me as a place where locals actually live - which was pleasant and refreshing.

Ravello: I haven't been - and I understand it has gorgeous views, but I think it wouldn't give you beach access or easy access to other parts of the Amalfi. So in terms of using it has a homebase from which to do day trips, I don't think it would be very convenient.

Capri: I didn't care for it much. If you go, once you get up into the town, it's full of upscale shops. Better to grab one of the little buses and head out of the town. Others may be able to recommend better islands to visit.

Paestum: Consider this day trip. Greek ruins at the southern end of the Amalfi.

Pompeii: If you go...I didn't find the audio guide very useful - it's fairly confusing. If you want to really appreciate what you're seeing I would seriously consider a good tour. I took a 4 hour Context tour in Rome last fall of the Forum/Colosseum/Palatine and it was fantastic. Worth the price and the groups are small. See sample of tours around the Amalfi:
Some of these seem to be more pricey because they launch from Naples. Context generally seems to get good reviews on this board.

Other notes:

Info on Amalfi bus / ferries:

I always find Rick Steves books helpful for places I'm unfamiliar with as his logistics are usually very helpful to aid travelers in getting their bearings.

And on the Portofino issue - I would research it well on whether it will really meet your expectations for the cost of time, money, and logistics to get up/down the coast. It's not just like hopping on a train and relaxing down the coast for 7 hours. It's more likely that you'll take some slow milk train from Portofino to get you to a main railroad line that would get you down to Naples and then you have to change to another train & bus for Sorrento or car service. I'm betting that it's a lot longer than 7 hours. At this web page Rick has a map that you can enlarge that gives you a rough idea of cost and time:

Timing: I was in Amalfi in October (my usual travel month for Italy) and the weather was perfectly nice.

Kind of a brain dump - hope this is helpful.
venturegirl is offline  
Jul 9th, 2010, 02:27 AM
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Ischia is a wonderful island to visit and is easy to visit from Sorrento or from Naples. If you do decide to go, let me know and I will share some tips that I learned from my week-long visit last year. The island has many beautiful beaches and is also known for its thermal baths; it is charming to the maximum and there are far fewer tourists in early fall than you will see on the Amalfi coast. If you give me a price range, I can recommend some hotels, both in Amalfi and on the island of Ischia. Ischia has excellent bus service, so you can dispense with a rental car if you like.

We stayed at this hotel for part of our visit; it now ranks among my favorite hotel stays in Italy; rates are incredibly low for a 5-star property and they have a very reasonable half-board option; there is a wonderful heated pool and a private, non-sandy beach (for sandy beaches you need to travel to other areas of the island):

This is one hotel with spa that looks nice for honeymooners; they have good packages that bring the price down for multi-day stays:

This hotel is on a long, sandy beach; a friend stays here each year and loves it:
ekscrunchy is online now  
Jul 9th, 2010, 03:18 AM
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Portofino only makes sense if you are flying in or out of northern Italy, and don't mind spending a day traveling down to the Amalfi.

Also, you might consider Camogli or Santa Margherita Ligure (on either side of Portofino) to Portofino itself. It is half as expensive, with much more variety, far fewer cruise ship tourists, and the same beautiful views and waters.

September is better weather than October in the north.

Were it me, I would not try to combine the Portofino area with the Amafli. If you want another destination besides the Amalfi coast, pick seaside places or islands closer to Rome, or the Cilento area, or a jaunt to the Sicilian islands, or just spend more time in less touristy places than 1-4 on your list.
zeppole is offline  
Jul 9th, 2010, 05:27 AM
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Everyone, THANK YOU so much for all your info and input. I really appreciate it. I will do my research and once I have other questions and can get an itinerary together I will ask for help with that. Thanks again!!!
jerseygrl is offline  

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