Travel writer, Phoebe Warneford-Thomson gives travel recommendations about visiting the stunning Bay of Naples, even on a tight budget
The Bay of Naples is a diverse stretch of coastline; curving from the vibrant and bustling city of Napoli, past the historic Pompeii, picturesque Sorrento, finishing with the idyllic isle of Capri.
The 15km-wide gulf hosts a vast excess of activities and sights of interest, without being overcrowded by tourists. Naples is very metropolitan, and by far the busiest of the sites along the bay, nonetheless it has still retained its rich culture of art, music, architecture, food and religion. Wandering amongst the Neapolitan architecture and exploring the museums and galleries would be a day well spent here. Must sees are the city’s cathedral, the Duomo di San Gennaro, the extravagant Royal Palace and the Castel Nuovo, a 13th century castle. Or you could simply park yourself in a restaurant and carb-load until you can’t walk back to your hostel (it would be criminal not to in the city that invented pizza).
The city is an animated and energetic place, however, a word of warning to the women; Naples may just be the ‘catcall’ capital of Italy, if not Europe. It is not uncommon to walk past a busy road and have three men each lean out the windows of their Fiats and shout “Ciao Bella” or some profanity in Italian within a single minute. It is annoying, but it’s better to be aware of it before you go, and to not pay them any attention.
The Lonely Planet guide describes Capri Town as “more like a film set than real-life”, which isn’t surprising since the beautiful island of Capri is host to bijou whitewashed stone architecture, narrow, car free streets, and where the mega-rich come to show off their yachts (Rolex are hosting their sailing week here in 2017). Although this doesn’t mean Capri has allowed any of its quaint, Italian small town charm to diminish. Alternatively, Sorrento has a down-to-earth vibe of more affordable prices and casual restaurants with stunning sea views.
Sorrento doesn’t have a ‘proper beach’ as the town is set upon a cliff face. If anything, this is a benefit; you can relax on sun loungers atop raised decks that stretch out into the sea, without having to deal with sand infesting your belongings for weeks after you return home. And the panoramic views across the bay atop the cliffs are not to be missed.
The Bay of Naples also boasts two major sites of historical and geographical interest, Mount Vesuvius and the ancient ruins of Pompeii. Excursions here during your trip are vital. Helpful advice here would be to take plenty of water, and sign up to an official tour; it is possible to tackle the large plot of Pompeii alone but the tourist map can be a little confusing and you’d miss a lot of the facts not provided in the guide.
With access to the lush, diverse culture Italy has to offer, spending money here is essential. However, you can be savvy with what you spend. Cash should be reserved for food, drink, day trips and the small ticket price you’ll pay for a sun lounger on a deck in Sorrento. In terms of eating out- while there are certainly many high-end options available throughout the bay- there are plenty of low-key alternatives, serving brilliant Italian food for a good price, so student accessibility here is by no means compromised.
With regards to where you can stay; there are cheap hostels to be found in Naples, but in Italy, you really do get for what you pay for. A basic price means a basic service. If you choose to scrimp and opt for a hostel here you’ll be saving your pennies, with most dorms being offered at around £12 per person per night. However, it may be worth boosting your budget by a small fraction and staying in tranquil Sorrento. There aren’t many hostels here, Seven Hostel being one of the few available. In June, dorms are offered from around £18 a night, but you’ll have to book early before these are filled up. Alternatively you could opt for a room in a hotel, but you should expect to pay double the price (although this may be a cost worth bearing).
Paying the additional price to stay in Sorrento will provide you with a comfortable base for your trip, as it is central to the places you’re likely to visit and will likely save you money on excursions this way. Sorrento is an ideal location for taking day trips to Capri, Pompeii, Vesuvius, and Naples, but perfect to return to in the late afternoon for a swim in the luxuriously warm sea and to go for an evening stroll through its charming streets after dinner.
A flight to Naples International Airport will mean four holidays in one- a city break, walking trips (if you’re brave enough to climb Mount Vesuvius in 40-degree heat), culture and relaxation. So there’s no dispute over the value of the trip. Flights from Birmingham to Naples in June should be expected to be around £160 if you book early. Ordinarily I’d encourage European destinations to be woven into an Interrail trip, but as Italy is not the cheapest country to travel, eat or stay in, the bay of Naples may be better off considered a single entity. However, it is well worth the visit all the same.
With regards to transport while you’re there, boats or buses are the most obvious modes of getting around. The fastest way of travelling from Sorrento to Naples is via the ferry, which lasts approximately 40 minutes. A return ticket will cost €22 per person, which isn’t bad for the cost of a day trip. There are also regular ferry connections from Sorrento to Capri for a similar price.
Should you choose to visit Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, package day trips to visit both sites are offered from £40, which will provide you with entry to the ruins, transport up the mountain, and a knowledgeable guide.
Overall, this destination holds a vast array of culture and history and an abundance of stunning views that will make you want to return year on year. The Bay of Naples should hold a significant position on every student’s bucket list.