Picture it: strolling along a fragrant flower-lined clifftop terrace above the blue Med, a light breeze ruffling your hair as the sun warms your face. You pause to admire the warm-toned buildings jumbled on the hillside around a picturesque fishing cove. In the far sweep of the bay, Naples rises out of the sea beneath the lush foliage and sleek silhouette of Mount Vesuvius. The island of Capri is barely visible in the distance.

Scenic Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri

Is this a dream? The Neapolitan Riviera and neighbouring Amalfi Coast are arguably the most beautiful areas of the entire Mediterranean coast, beloved by Roman emperors and modern road trippers alike. If you follow the Gulf of Naples south, away from its namesake city, the railway and road wind along plunging cliffs in the shadow of the volcano; a week here is the stuff of dreams.

Thankfully, there is less of the sort of modern development seen in the expensive French Riviera, so when you gaze up the coast it is easy to imagine how it must have looked to Emperor Augustus when he built his holiday palace in Sorrento.

After enjoying the laid-back piazzas, mossy gorges, fragrant limoncello and breath-taking views that Sorrento is famous for, hop on the ferry for a day or two in Capri. The tiny island was also popular with Emperors as well as more modern artists, writers and Hollywood stars. Visit the mystical Blue Grotto cave or take a funicular up steep hillsides to enjoy views of rock arches suspended over the glittering sea.

Ancient history

Pompeii’s well-preserved ruins bear witness to a violent past: when Mt. Vesuvius exploded in 79 AD, it killed upwards of 20,000 people and locked the thriving Roman town in a time capsule of stone. The area is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visitors can stroll the outdoor museum in the volcano’s shadow to get a taste of what life was like. From frescoes to homes, theatres, café-bars, shops and the stunning Temple of Jupiter, the site takes several hours to explore and is worth the time. Entry to the excavation area is 11 Euros (concessions available for children, the elderly, and EU students).

How to get there:

  • The Circumvesuviana railway runs along the coast, from Naples to Pompeii and Sorrento. The journey is spectacular, but the trains show their age.
  • Capri is connected to Naples, Sorrento, and Amalfi by ferry.
  • The car journey from Naples to Amalfi, along the Neapolitan Riviera and the Amalfi coast (SS 143 and 163), is regularly named amongst the world’s best drives.