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In May, my 15-year-old son has been asked to train with an Italian soccer club and play a tournament; his soccer club, based in Canada near Toronto, has an affiliation with clubs in Lazio and Perugia. This is my excuse -- as if I needed one -- to return to Italy for the first time in about six years, and this time, it will just be myself and my son.

My son is leaving a week before me with his team to train in Sora, which is in southern Lazio, before going to play in a weekend tournament in Pescara. I will be meeting him and his team in Pescara, where we will also be spending time with one of my wife's cousins, who lives in Pescara and who serves as a consultant to a nearby vineyard. We won't have a lot of free time in Pescara as many of the daytime hours will be spent at the tournament, and Saturday after the tournament, our cousin will be showing us around and either making or taking us out for dinner. It will be a reunion of sorts -- the first time I met this cousin, in 1998, he was the age my son is now and I went to see him play soccer.

Here is a rough plan for our trip: I am flying into Fiumicino (from Toronto) on Friday, May 25, renting a car at the airport, then driving to Pescara, which is about 2 or 2 1/2 hours away. After the tournament in Pescara ends, we will be driving to the Amalfi Coast, more specifically, Ravello, a drive of about 4 hours and one that will allow us to stop at Caserta and its palace, then continue so that we take a road through the mountains that has a dramatic descent towards Ravello and Amalfi. We are then staying two nights at a vacation rental in Ravello, then one night at a rental in Praiano that is situated so it faces the water and Positano. After the third night, we will go to Rome, a route for which there are a number of options, all of which include returning our rental car before we stay three days in Rome.

I have a number of questions:

(1) Broadly speaking, we have two options about where and when to return the rental car:

a. We could drive roughly three hours to Rome and return the car in the city at a location from which we can take public transportation or a taxi to get to our hotel or rental (I know we could also return the car at Fiumicino and take a train into Rome too, but it appears so far it is actually more costly dropping it off at the airport, and I am comfortable driving into Rome. I love to drive and have driven often in Italy, from the chaos of Naples to the alpine roads near the border with Switzerland. )

b. We could instead return the car in Salerno and then take a train to Rome. This would have several advantages: It would be easier to return before noon so we don't have to pay for an extra day; while I enjoy driving, I have driven that route before, so it wouldn't be new, and taking a train would be more relaxing. I have only begun to explore this option, so I am unsure yet about availability of trains, timing, costs, etc.

(2) I need to decide where to stay in Rome, where our plan is to enjoy some of the historic sites but at a pace that leaves us with ample free time to relax and explore. I have only been to Rome once before, and just for a couple of nights, and at that time, my wife and I stayed at Hotel Romae, which was near the train station, family-run and inexpensive, which met our needs at the time. This time, while I am not looking to spend a fortune, the budget is not such a concern, I'd like to stay in or near a central neighborhood such as Trevi, Pantheon or Navona, one that is walking distance to many major sites. I realize that there are many hundreds of options, including hotels and rental, and that many would be great, but if you could share specific recommendations about location, hotel or vacation rentals, that would be great.

(3) While we our spoiled at home with great food made by mother-in-law, who grew up a town in the most northwest part of Campania (a region that share more in common with Molise and Puglia than the Naples region), my son and I are excited about eating in Rome. I'd appreciate any recommendations for restaurants, gelaterias, salumerias, etc.

(4) When we are staying along the Amalfi Coast, we intend to explore Salerno and Amalfi and at least visit Positano, again, at a pace that allows us time to kick back and enjoy the views from our rentals. That said, there are many attractions nearby, including the the Greek temples at Paestum, Pompei and Capri. There is no way I want to go at a breakneck speed and am fine with leaving some attractions for another trip. That said, I'd love to go out on the water even if it's not to Capri to explore the coast from the water (I love being on the water). And I may want to incorporate one of the attractions into our plans. By the way, here are links to the two places we rented (there is free cancelation until one month before):

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/1406676...d=2&euid=4055cbd4-df41-d960-8460-f7d82abc7852

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/4797940...d=2&euid=9300c0d0-730a-6391-7ad6-7987a0b75a99

I would greatly appreciated any suggestions you have about our general itinerary, places to see, things to do, our options to go from the Amalfi Coast to Rome and places to eat or buy the makings of a great picnic, as well as practical advice about car rental, train travel and the use of public transportation.

Jonathan
 
I has some additional, more detailed questions after having reviewed some of the very helpful posts on this site:

(1) It appears that there are no trains the travel directly from Sorrento to Rome, that instead, there is a choice of two trains between Sorrento and Napoli, a commuter train (Circumvesuviana) that lacks AC, makes frequent stops and can be busy/lively (depending upon your perspective), and a more expensive train with AC and more direct access (CAMPANIA EXPRESS). Either way, we would need to take a train to Napoli first, the take express trains to Rome using one of two services, of which, folks seem to prefer the newer, private option. If this is correct, the only direct public transit between Sorrento and Rome is by bus. Do I have that right or no?

(2) Have any of used tried a Rome food tour with Katie Parla, and if so, which one(s)? What did you think? Have you used and recommended other tours services to explore the city generally and food in particular, and if so, which ones did you most enjoy?
 

Ian Sutton

1000+ Posts
Hi Jonathan
Apologies I can't help with the Rome food tour, and can barely help with the travel.

I do think that's right about the direct service being by bus only. Considering you'll be in Praiano, I'd be looking at the SITA bus to Naples train station, to connect with a fast train there (book in advance to snag good prices - making 1st class an easy choice). However the Salerno option is a good one to consider, as that gets you onto the mainline train route. It's the only option that allows you to bring Paestum into play.

Time-wise, I'd preach a little caution on plans. Ravello is a wonderful escape from it all. but isn't ideal to get anywhere else, as the route is winding and would be stressful to drive (you need to be prepared to reverse if there is a bus coming the other way, and on very steep slopes, at times quite narrow, this can freak people out who aren't used to it). My recommendation would be to park up, stroll around, and take in the views, letting them deliver effortless relaxation. Eat, sleep, walk and soak up the views. It's what Ravello does best.

For two days in Ravello I might be looking at:
- One modest to lengthy walk along the old mule paths that criss-cross the coast. If walking down to the coast (~ 1200 steps) it can be done quickly (maybe 30 mins), though once we did it too quickly. Factor in it taking double the time back uphill, or cheat and take the bus
- A stroll round the rambling and slightly unkempt Villa Cimbrone gardens, plus maybe a comparison to the more formal Villa Rufulo
- If the concert season is on, considering booking for one
- Cumpa Cosimo for one meal, but also check on whether the swanky hotels do good lunchtime deals - these used to be a bit of a bargain a few years ago, and their gardens have fine views
- Enjoying morning and late evening in the central square, especially the latter, where it's relaxing to hang out, have a coffee/wine/liqueur/beer/gelato and enjoy the easy tranquillity of relaxed people.

but no more than this. It is a place to recharge.

Ravello holds fond memories from 3 separate stays there. Tourism may be taking a slightly stronger grip if the Murano glass shop is anything to go by, but the views will remain breathtakingly special and I doubt Cumpa Cosimo on via Roma road/path will ever compromise its simple trattoria quality. Do find time to explore the paths, from the stroll across to Villa Cimbrone to longer ones. A favourite walk wasn't even in the Tippett guide, beloved of walkers in the area, but simply headed inland from Ravello, hugging the line of the valley. Virtually no steps (unlike the rest of the coast) and great natural woodland shelter from the sun on a hot day.

Praiano clearly offers and easy option for visiting Sorrento, though it's a shame you won't see Sorrento from the sea, which I feel shows it off at its best. There is the nearby emerald grotto if visiting caves by boat appeals.

Getting out on the water does indeed have appeal, he ferries are good enough, with plenty of options. In addition, we once hired a small-engined boat back in 1990 from the harbour in Amalfi. A nice option if you fancy an hour or two self-navigating. The only downside of this, is in May the water away from the beaches may still be somewhat cold, whereas in July, Aug, Sept it would be noticeably warmer such that it would be enjoyable to go swimming in the open sea via the boat.

I hope this helps

Regards
Ian
 
Hi Ian,

Thank you so much for your detailed and helpful reply. We will have a car while in Praiano, so rather than having to stick to a schedule to make the bus and train, we might instead drive to Rome, dropping off the car not too far from where we will stay. Another option would be to drive to return the car near the train station in Naples.

I appreciate the realistic description of the driving conditions. That said, I am very comfortable driving narrrow, congested and twisty roads; I once went on a drive in Molise that tool me on a dirt road so remote, I passed upon an abandoned town, then kept driving until the ruts and holes in the road got nearly as big as my rental car; I then had to back up to get out as the road was that narrow. If I decide not to do much driving, it will be for the other reason you mentioned: To enjoy the peace and beauty in and around Ravello and quiet conversation with my son. I really like many of your suggestions for Ravello. Frankly, I could a year of that sort of relaxation and quiet contemplation.

Do you recommend any resources, online or in books, that show some of the walks/hikes that you mentioned? I'll be sure to ask the hosts of the home we are renting. Is this the guide by Julian Tippett: Sorrento, Amalfi Coast & Capri: Car Tours and Walks (Sunflower Landscapes) Paperback – April 15, 2015; https://www.amazon.com/Sorrento-Ama...to,+Amalfi+Coast+&+Capri:+Car+Tours+and+Walks
I do love being on the sea - I grew up sailing with my dad - so would enjoy an outing, though in the hands of someone else since my sailing days as a youth wouldn't leave me prepared to sail on my own. I really think we'd enjoy the view of the coast from the sea and I just love being on open water.


So from Praiano, you prefer visiting Sorrento to visiting Positano?
 

Alpinista

100+ Posts
Will just make a comment about Caserta: The palace itself -- and the grounds in front of the palace -- are very shopworn and not well maintained. The appeal of the visit is taking a long stroll through the gardens and waterworks on the palace grounds. If your son is interested in WW II history, there is an interesting footnote to Paestum not being destroyed due to a communications problem that prevented a naval bombardment in advance of the landings that took place there. Depending on logistics, you might take a look at Ischia as an alternative to Capri -- far fewer people; no commercialism; lots of very interesting antiquities.
 

Ian Sutton

1000+ Posts
Hi Jonathan
Yes that's the book. It's pocket size width, but as tall as many other guide books. The route descriptions aren't perfect, but that would be an unfair quibble for a book that has really opened up these (still under-utilised) paths for many. I did read that there was now also an online version, but I've never gone looking for it. I always prefer something physical.

Sorrento or Positano? I'd personally choose Positano, but I'd choose Amalfi over both of them. This however is a personal decision and I've read differing views on these pages. Sorrento more lively, Positano very much steeper and with a landscape of pastel coloured buildings, Amalfi perhaps in-between but I've enjoyed it much more.

I don't recall seeing sail boats, but it wouldn't surprise me if there was something. If there is, then I reckon that would be a wonderful way to get out on the sea, with someone else skippering. Failing that the ferries are a useful resource and if you do, I'd recommend going from/coming back to Positano for those great views of the town.

If you do make it to Amalfi, there is a restaurant on the harbour, that looked like it ought to be a tourist trap, but was actually pretty good, and with decking putting you right amongst the boats. It's at the end of the promenade on the Praiano side of Amalfi.

Other resources?
Certainly worth looking up market days, as on the plus side it's a pleasant enough market in Ravello, but on the downside it uses the main car park, so difficult parking can become much harder. A web search for Mercato+Ravello should get you the day it's on.

Regards
Ian
 

Wayne Bevis

10+ Posts
Hello All - reading your posts and some very interesting and useful information my wife and I will take on board for our forthcoming trip to Italy. Just out of curiosity have any of you driven for some distance in Italy ie. down either coast etc and if so what was approximate price for a reasonably sized rental per day please. Also are the rental companies flexible where and when to drop off the rentals after use. Many thanks in advance :)
 

Ian Sutton

1000+ Posts
Hi Wayne
We don't often rent, not often enough to give a benchmark price. We have been lucky a couple of times, once getting exactly the same car we had at home (so we just had to adjust to the left hand vs. right hand driving, hut everything else was familiar). The other time, they were out of the car class we'd booked, so offered us a no extra charge sporty Lancia which was cool. It seems the middle bracket cars often get booked out more than the small/big cars.

You should get a better price for a longer rental. One way rentals are definitely possible, though expect a surcharge, which goes up a lot if that's in a different country. Again, others here have much more experience than me in such matters. Personally we like aiming to return the car to the same place we picked it up, to avoid surcharges, but also the familiarity of knowing exactly where to drop it off.

Some locations are positively problematic with a car - Venice for obvious reasons, but Cinque Terre, major cities, even Amalfi Coast are more difficult with a car than without. stay for a day or two and it's no problem to simply leave the car parked up, but any longer and it might be worth looking at dropping the car off and then re-hiring, though often it's simply cheaper to not use the car for those days.

I *think* a number of people here have been through 'Auto Europe'. Worth a search on this site for that as there have been a few discussions on doing this.

Regards
Ian
 

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