Eleven Days in Southern Italy

Torre Sant’Andrea, Province of Lecce

Right off the bat, eleven days is not enough to see Southern Italy.  Still we felt lucky to have explored Alberobello, the Amalfi Coast, Capri Island, Castelmezzano, Lecce, Matera, Naples, Pompei, Sorrento and other neighboring towns.  Southern Italy is delightful.  We were in Southern Italy during the third week of April and the weather was just perfect and even got warm on some days.  We only saw one other tourist in Castelmezzano, more locals (meaning Italians) than tourists in Lecce and the rest were just buzzing with non-Italian speaking people.  

Itinerary and Transportation

Our normal itinerary is that we rent a car, drive to the places we need to see.  We then return the rental car before spending the last day or two in the town or city where we arrive and leave from.  In this case, we flew from Palermo, Sicily to Naples.  Our itinerary was:

Days 1-2:  Amalfi and Positano via public transportation

Days 3-4:  Sorrento and Capri Island via public transportation

Day 5:  Pick up rental car and drive to Castelmezzano

Days 6-7:  Matera, Lecce and Puglia area, via rental car

Days 8-9:  Alberobello, Polignano a Mare and Ostuni via rental car

Days 10-11:  Return rental car in Naples, Pompeii via public transportation 

All Internet searches indicate that driving the Amalfi Coast highway can be challenging and hair-raising.  Though the challenge was hard to walk away from, eventually we decided to forgo driving a rental car to Amalfi for two main reasons.  First was parking and second was the stress of getting the rental car dented or scratched.  Plus we read that the places we wanted to see were accessible by public transportation.

From the Naples Airport, we shared an unmarked passenger taxi van to Napoli Centrale train station.  We paid 6 Euros each, 1 Euro more than the Alibus (local bus) that plies the short 7-8 minutes drive between the airport and train station.  Essentially we got suckered by the taxi drivers yelling that there was a bus driver strike for the next four hours.  While we were waiting at the Alibus station, a bus did not stop to pick us up so we thought it must be true.  But then later, as our taxi was about to leave, we saw another Alibus stop and pick up passengers at the bus stop.  Oh well, live and learn.

The town of Amalfi is right off the coast and lies between the cities of Salerno to the south and Sorrento to the north.  We could either take a train to Sorrento and take the bus to Amalfi or take a train to Salerno and take a ferry to Amalfi.  We opted for the ferry as it was Easter Sunday and our research showed that the bus schedule that day may not be reliable while the ferry was definitely running.  Surprisingly enough, the train ride to Salerno from Napoli Centrale train station had no intermediate stops so it took about 40 minutes to reach our intermediate destination.  Then it was a short walk from the train station to the ferry station where we had to wait for about 45 minutes.  The ferry to Amalfi was hardly full and took about 25 minutes.

View of the town of Amalfi from the ferry boat from Salerno

The town of Amalfi was buzzing with tourists without masks. It felt like the pandemic was over. As we walked the lone slightly uphill narrow street to our accommodation, I kept saying to myself that we made the right decision of not renting a car.  The only driveable street is too narrow, too crowded and just nowhere to park.

Piazza Duomo, Amalfi. The main street goes through this piazza

We went for a day trip the following day to Positano.  Our hotel host said that the bus that runs between Amalfi and Sorrento may not be running on the Monday after Easter Sunday.  Luckily it did.  Along the way, it was quite entertaining to watch the driver skillfully maneuver the narrow highway with its twists and turns that sometimes require oncoming traffic to back-up to make room for the bus to maneuver the turn.  I had to shake the driver’s hand and bow to him in admiration before we disembarked the bus when we reached Positano.

Positano is more picturesque than Amalfi as the town is built right off the side of the mountain.  So some of the streets in Positano present tourists with Instagram photo opportunities from a high vantage point as the buildings below are low enough to present a clear view.  Amalfi on the other hand is on a slight incline that no clear views are present so the only Instagram worthy picture can be taken from the pier looking at the town with the mountain in the background or from the ferry as it approaches Amalfi.

Positano is wonderful to explore.  It has many narrow connected walking paths lined with shops.  There were a lot more people too.  It also has a beach area where people can just chill.   After having our fill of exploring, we took the ferry back to Amalfi. We could have taken the bus coming from Sorrento going to Amalfi but there would been other people doing the same thing plus the unknow of how full the the bus would have been leaving Sorrento. So we opted for the sure thing and took the ferry.   This was our hotel host’s suggestion as she said that the bus coming from Sorrento may be hit and miss when it comes to seating availability.

View of Positano as we walked down the road from the bus stop

Having some more time to kill in Amalfi before dinner, we tried to get on the bus to the town of Ravello.  Even though there was a line while waiting for the Ravello bus, people swarmed the bus when it pulled in.  Unfortunately, we were not able to get on the bus as we did not think it was worth the stress of shoving and squeezing our way to get a seat.  So we just decided to hike up to the Torre dello Ziro we saw on Google Maps from the town square.  We followed Google Map’s direction but it fell short.  We ended up at a locked convent gate so we were unable to reach our destination.  Later, we talked to a local and found out that there is no  path to hike up to the tower from the town square.  Hey, at least we gave our calves, hamstrings and lungs a workout from all the stairs we had to climb. 

Sorrento and Capri

On our third day, we were on our way to Sorrento.  While waiting for the Sorrento bus, we learned from a German couple from Munich that they were doing a wonderful but challenging hike called “Path of the Gods”.  Oh well, maybe next time. 

The 11:30 AM bus was full.  Luckily, we were able to get a seat.  We reached Sorrento around 1:15 PM.  We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around the old part of town and stopped by the ferry terminal to look at our options on how to get to the island of Capri (there are three ferry companies that shuttle people to the island).  Sorrento’s old town is filled with shops and restaurants just like any other tourist town in Italy.  There were also quite a number of tourists.


The following day was a day trip to Capri Island.  The plan was to do the Arco Naturale hike, go to the town of Anacapri and see the church of St. Michele which has a tiled artwork floor.  We headed to the ferry terminal to catch the Caremar 7:45 AM ferry.  We got to the ticket office around 7:15 and there was already a long line, mostly day workers.  We thought we would not make the ferry but we did as it left around 8:05 AM (we should have bought the ticket the day before when we stopped).  

At Capri’s Marina Grande, we took the left street to follow the All Trail’s map to the Arco Naturale.  We climbed a lot of stairs to get to Capri’s town proper.  We later found out that there are buses from the marina to Capri and they were to the right of the marina.  There is also a funicular that carries people to Capri.  Both cost 2 Euros.

After taking a brief pause at Capri’s main square, off we went to Arco Naturale which is about 35 minutes according to the sign.  We took the clockwise path.  The path to Arco Natural from Capri center is mainly on narrow streets.  Only the last couple of hundred meters it veered away from houses.  The arc is close to the trail so it was difficult to take a picture of the entire thing.  Nonetheless, it was beautiful.

Arco Naturale, Capri

My wife  initially said that we were just going to trace our way back as All Trails showed a lot of elevation changes if we continue on to do the loop trail.  But she changed her mind when she saw the photo of what we would see on an interpretive sign.  We went down a series of stairs before the trail somewhat leveled.  Then we took a side trail that goes down to the restaurant Da Luigi.  The restaurant was closed but there were five renovation workers taking a lunch break so we did too.  Not a bad place to have lunch as we were close to the water and the rock formation with a cave.  The last stop on the loop was the Belvedere Tragara which offered an almost 180 degree view of the seascape below.  The trail then ended up in Capri’s town square.

View of Da Luigi restaurant (bottom right) from the trail between Arco Naturale and Belvedere Tragara

As we started our walk to Anacapri from the town square, we saw the bus station and purchased our tickets.  It’s a good thing that we decided to take the bus as the street to Anacapri is narrow and climbs even higher.  The buses were small but they ran frequently, like every 15 minutes so the wait was not that long.  

At Anacapri, the walk to St. Michele church was about 10 minutes.  The church has no pews but a narrow board walking path around its inside perimeter.  Its entire floor is artwork on tiles.  The church also has a viewing platform at its upper level for a better view of the artwork.  By that time it was already 3:30 PM so we just decided to head down to Capril town square.  But when we got to the bus stop, we noticed that there were two lines, one for Capri town square and the other to Marina Grande.  So we changed plans and fell in line to take the Marina Grande bus.  The Capri bus ran frequently but the Marina Grande did not.  There were three Capri buses that came before the Marina Grande passed by as it was full.  So the bus employee in charge of keeping the line in order called in for a bus as our line was getting long. 

The artwork tiled floor at Chiesa di San Michele, Anacapri

Finally at Marina Grande, we just took our time walking around as we had to kill two hours before the 6:45 PM ferry boat ride to Sorrento.


The plan was to take the train to Naples so we can pick up the rental car at the airport and drive to Castelmezzano.  Our rental car reservation was 2 PM so we just spent the morning catching up on our to-dos. The train is a commuter train with probably an even number of tourists (those lugging suitcases) and locals (those that do not).  Most of the seats were occupied when the train left.  It got pretty full  as it picked up passengers on its many stops to Naples.  It lightened up when it left the Pompeii station after some day-tripping tourists got off.

With rental car keys in hand, off we drove to Castelmezzano, about 2.5 hours away.  When we got to our accommodation, we were greeted by a lady named Lucia and an older gentleman named Michele (Mik-e-le).  Neither of them spoke English but we managed to communicate using my limited Italian and my wife’s Google Translate app.  Michele said that there was another party staying at their hotel.  They also have a restaurant which we ate at and were the only people dining.  One one four course menu item or 30 Euros pp.  It was the best Italian food that we have had.  First plate was meat style ravioli with ricotta cheese stuffing, second plate was pasta with bacon and third was pork with mushroom on a delicious sauce.  Dessert was a pineapple slice topped with chocolate.  Michele and his son were delighted when we let them know that we have never had food like what they prepared in any Italian restaurants in the USA.


Pietrapertosa and Matera

We spent the morning walking the streets of Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa before driving to Matera and Lecce. It was a joy to explore the two towns as it had hardly any traffic and we only saw two other tourists.  We bought a big round bread, cheese and Fanta from the local mercato in Castelmezzano and ate it brunch at the piazza by the church.  Then we drove to Pietrapertosa which is next town built on the side of a mountain.  We briefly walked its streets before heading off to see Matera.


Approaching Matera was like driving to any other city in Italy.  But after we parked and started walking around the old part of town, it immediately revealed its draw for the  tourists. The old part of the city is filled with old limestone quarried gray weathered houses and buildings.  It is shaped like an amphitheater like Bryce Canyon except you see stone buildings instead of hoodoos.  Off in the distance, there seem to be cave dwellings carved out of the mountain. Wish we had more time to see Matera (later we found out that the James Bond movie “No Time to Die” was filmed here).


The rest of the afternoon was spent driving over to Lecce, where we arrived around 7:30 PM.  


The following day we hit the road around 10:30 AM to see the following sights – Grotta della Poesia, Torre Sant Andrea, Baia dei Turchi, Punta Ristola Leuca and Spiaggia di Pescoluse.  Grotta della Poesia is only a 40 min drive from Lecce.  Its draw is a natural pool filled with seawater. Admission to Grotta was 3 Euros. Torre Sant Andrea has a natural arch carved by the ocean.  Baia dei Turchi is a beach where we spent an hour and had lunch.  We dipped our feet in its clear water but that was as deep as we went as the water was fairly cold, although there were some people swimming in it.  Punta Ristola is the southernmost tip of the Puglia peninsula.  Spiaggia di Pescoluse was supposed to be the Maldives of Puglia but the waves were huge such that it  did not look anything similar to the Google Maps pictures.  We had to skip three other stops as we did not have time to see them all.  It was 7PM by the time we returned to the apartment.

Grotta della Poesia, Roca Vecchia Archeological Site

We explored old town Lecce in the morning before driving over to Martina Franca where we booked our trullo accommodation.  Lecce is actually a nice town to explore by walking.  Its buildings are weather quarried beige/yellow sandstone.  The streets are clean as well.  Best part is the lack of tourists as we mainly heard Italian speaking people around us.  We only heard one group of Americans while we were exploring for four hours.

Basilica di Santa Croce, Lecce


The following day we were off to see the trulli in the town of Alberobello.  We got there early around 9AM and were able to get a parking spot at the second parking lot (the first parking lot is closest to the trulli).  There were trulli everywhere as soon as we walked past the first parking lot.  It did not take long before the place became crowded.

Alberobello and the coned roof structures called trullo

We saw about 13 points of interest shown on an Alberobello walking map that we purchased from a local store.  That took us pretty much the entire day before we drove to Polignano a Mare which is like Tropea where the buildings are built at the edge of the cliff.  We initially parked in an area where it clearly has a no parking sign but cars were parked anyway.  Feeling uneasy about it, we moved to an area where it did not have a no parking sign.  It was a good thing because when we came back, we saw two local policemen putting tickets on the windshields of violators. 

Polignano a Mare

Having a couple of hours left of daylight, we drove over to Ostuni to see the whitewashed buildings.  The main square was lively and there were lots of people. Too bad we did not have much time to explore Ostuni and Polignano a Mare.  We decided to drive back to Alberobello to grab dinner from the same place we grabbed lunch since their panini were so good.



Our drive back to Naples from Martina Franca took about 3.5 hours.  The toll was about 21 Euros from just outside Bari to Naples.  With the car dropped off by the airport, we took the Alibus to Garibaldi (also called Napoli Centrale) station.  Then we took the train to the Holiday Inn which is just one stop away (the hotel is actually walking distance from the train station).  

We walked from the Holiday Inn to the train station the following day. The plan was to explore the Pompeii ruins for the entire day. While waiting for the train at the Garibaldi station, a kind Italian told us which train to take as different trains use the same rail that stops at the station.  The key is to pay attention to the TV monitor above the platform.  Our train showed “Via Scavi” on the monitor.  Our train was slightly full when it left the station. 

We finally got to Pompeii Scavi around 11AM (the ride took almost an hour).  There were a lot of people on the train that were there to see the ruins.  We thought that the line for the tickets would be long but it wasn’t as some people bought their tickets online.  

The archeological park is huge.  It’s just like stepping back in time.  The building walls are still up but the roofs are gone. The stone streets even have the wheel ruts.  It is actually an impressive collection of ruins with three amphitheaters and a considerable number of pillars still standing.  My thoughts were that people should visit this park instead of paying admission to the ruins at Taormina and Siracusa.  We spent the rest of the day in the park and left around 5PM.  We did not even have time to visit the Antiquarium. 

Pompeii Teatro Grande


We barely scratched the surface of Southern Italy while exploring it for 11 days.  Heck, we did not even venture to the southern portion of South Italy except for spending a day in Tropea from another trip.  Certainly, there are more places to explore than what we mentioned here.  The Amalfi Coast is gorgeous as well as the island of Capri.  Castelmezzano is one of a kind and so is Matera.  Lecce and the other cities and towns in the Puglia area are equally impressive but less touristy.  In Puglia alone, most locals we talked to said we should visit the towns of Gallipoli, Monopoli and Otranto (maybe when we return to Italy).  Finally, Naples is busy but a short train ride away you easily spend an entire day exploring the Pompeii ruins.  We hope that you find this article helpful in planning your next adventure.

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