11 days is enough time to plan a whirlwind tour of southern Italy's most beautiful locales and historic sights. You'll start in Naples, birthplace of pizza, before sojourning on the Amalfi coast with its terraced vineyards and lemon groves. After fun and sun on Capri, you'll head to another great island—Sicily—for an unforgettable self-driving tour of ancient cities, Greek ruins, and active volcanoes.

Highlights

  • Tour the ruins of Pompeii and hike up Mount Vesuvius
  • Escape to the island of Capri, playground for ancient Romans
  • Cool off by the Pretoria Fountain in Palermo
  • Tour Greek ruins in Syracuse's Neapolis Archaeological Park
  • Dine on fresh seafood in sophisticated Taormina

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Naples! Naples
Day 2 Naples to the Amalfi Coast - Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius Amalfi
Day 3 Capri and Anacapri Day Tour Amalfi
Day 4 Free Day on the Amalfi Coast Amalfi
Day 5 Fly From Naples to Palermo - Pick up Rental Car Palermo
Day 6 Palermo Street Food Tour Palermo
Day 7 Drive From Palermo to Taormina - Visit Cefalù Taormina
Day 8 Cooking Class in Taormina Taormina
Day 9 Drive From Taormina to Syracuse - Guided Mount Etna Hike Syracuse
Day 10 Explore Syracuse - Day Trip to Noto Syracuse
Day 11 Drive From Syracuse to Catania - Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Naples!

Backlit street in Quartieri Spagnoli
Backlit street in Quartieri Spagnoli

Welcome to Italy! You'll arrive at Naples Airport and transfer to your accommodation in the city center. Naples sits on a bay near the still-active Mount Vesuvius, which buried nearby Pompeii in 79 ACE. There's a lot to see and do here, so make the most of your time in Naples.

In the evening, you could go for a stroll along the Caracciolo e Lungomare di Napoli, a waterfront promenade, then head to the Quartieri Spagnoli, a lively commercial hub, for dinner at a trattoria. On the way stop at the Toledo Metro station, the Stazione della Metropolitana dell'Arte, to see beautiful mosaic inlays.

Day 2: Naples to the Amalfi Coast - Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius

Ancient street in Pompeii
Ancient street in Pompeii

In the morning you'll leave Naples and head south to the Amalfi Coast. However, you'll be stopping for a full-day group tour of the area's most notable attractions, Pompeii and nearby Mount Vesuvius.

It begins with a visit to the ruins of Pompeii, once a flourishing Roman coastal city that was famously buried under ash and volcanic debris after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 ACE. The ash, which killed many of Pompeii's residents, acted as an archaeological time capsule by preserving many of the city's original buildings completely intact. 

You'll stroll the remains of Pompeii's ancient streets, which are lined with well-preserved villas, shops, public buildings, and plazas. Afterward, you'll stop in a local workshop to see the production process for various regional handicrafts, such as cameos and coral jewelry. 

After a break for lunch, it will be time to visit Mount Vesuvius, which is designated as a UNESCO Biosphere World Reserve. It's a brisk 30-minute hike up a trail to the top, where you'll be rewarded with stunning views inside the crater as well as panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes and the Tyrrhenian Sea

After the excursion to Vesuvius, you'll continue on to the Amalfi Coast, where you'll check into your hotel and settle in for the evening.

Day 3: Capri and Anacapri Day Tour

Busy port on Capri
Busy port on Capri

Spend the day enjoying the sunshine and clear blue waters of Capri Island. Known locally as the "Pearl of the Mediterranean," the ancient Greeks called it the "Isle of Sirens." Capri sits on the south side of the Gulf of Naples and has been a popular vacation destination for millennia. The ancient Romans, in fact, built summer villas here for the Empire's VIPs.

In the morning, you'll head out for a scenic drive along the Sorrentine coast to the Port of Sorrento, where you'll catch a hydrofoil to Capri. From here you'll enjoy a guided walking tour of the island's attractions. Visit the Marina Grande and Marina Piccola harbors, walk along the Belvedere of Tragara (a villa-lined promenade with panoramic views), and explore the ruins of ancient Roman villas.

Then head up the hill to Anacapri see the Piazzetta and Augustus' Garden, and enjoy the best views of the Faraglioni Rocks. Should you choose, you can later return to the water and explore the Grotta Azzurra, the famous "Blue Grotto," which is located inside a hollowed sea cave. Afterward, perhaps spend the remainder of the afternoon soaking in the sunshine on the beach.

Day 4: Free Day on the Amalfi Coast

Enjoy your day on  the Amalfi Coast
Enjoy your day on the Amalfi Coast

Today you have free to explore and enjoy the leisurely coastal pace of life. Maybe go for a walk on the Lemon Path in the town of Minori or try your hand at windsurfing or kayaking near the shores of Praiano. You can see artisanal ceramics manufacturers in the town of Vietri, and go for a half-day hike on the Path of the Gods. Or simply laze on the beaches of Positano, Vettica Maggiore, and Centra

For dinner head to a family-run restaurant for the best Italian pizza paired with a glass of the perfect local wine.

Day 5: Fly From Naples to Palermo - Pick up Rental Car

View over Palmero at sunset
View over Palmero at sunset

Parting is such sweet sorrow, but it's time to leave the Amalfi Coast. Not to worry, because you'll be catching a flight from Naples to another Italian hotbed of culture and beauty: the island of Sicily. After a one-hour flight, you'll touch down in Palermo, on Sicily's northern coast, and pick up your rental car. You'll then drive 45 minutes into the city and to your hotel for check-in. 

You can discover Palermo right away on a self-guided walking tour. Sicily's regional capital boasts incredible and historic architecture spanning the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, and Norman eras. This commingling of cultures has also informed the culture, music, and cuisine of Palermo.  

The best place to begin your self-guided tour is Palermo's historic center. Its medieval streets are easy to navigate by foot, and there are many attractions and restaurants within walking distance. To get your bearings, take a passeggiata (stroll) along the narrow Via Maqueda, a pedestrianized thoroughfare that connects the north of the city to the south. A good place to start is the Fontana Pretoria, a Baroque fountain in the Piazza Pretoria.

Day 6: Palermo Street Food Tour

Street vendor sells pastries
Street vendor sells pastries

One great way to experience Palermo is on a street food tour. You'll snack your way through the city's historic streets while visiting back-alley markets, modest bakeries, old bars, and various food stalls while on the hunt for sweet and savory eats.

You'll meet your guide in the morning and meander over to the Vucciria and Capo markets. These two open-air markets are so abuzz with activity that they're reminiscent of Arab souks. You'll discover how Sicily’s unique culinary history informs its street food scene as vendors of local produce and seafood proffer their goods.

Throughout, you'll visit bakeries, cafés, and food stalls to try a variety of popular Sicilian street snacks: pani câ meusa (sesame-flavored bread stuffed with fried veal and spleen), panelle (chickpea fritters) and arancini (deep-fried balls of rice stuffed with meat, vegetables, and cheese). Wash it all down with sweet Sicilian wine before digging into a seasonal dessert like cannoli (deep-fried pastries filled with sweetened ricotta cheese), gelato, or a refreshing granita (a fruity semi-frozen treat).

Day 7: Drive From Palermo to Taormina - Visit Cefalù

The seaside town of Cefalù
The seaside town of Cefalù

Start early and drive one hour to Cefalù, a historic port town. You can begin a self-guided tour in the city center at the Lavatoio Medievale, a 16th-century washhouse that utilizes running water from the River Cefalino in its stone basins. Nearby is the Porta Pescara, a gate to Cefalù Beach that features great views of the coastline. Perhaps take a walk to the old harbor and stroll the seaside promenade; the city's Lungomare Beach is also a popular destination for visitors and locals. 

You should definitely visit the 17th-century Bastione di Capo Marchiafava, one of many old defensive fortresses located along the coast. The view from the top of the Bastione is a real treat. Right nearby is the Norman-Arabic Duomo Basilica Cattedrale (Cefalù Cathedral) which dates to the 12th century. And if there's time, climb the Rocca, the promontory above the city. A steep staircase winds through city walls before emerging onto a rocky outcrop with stunning views of the city and ocean. 

Continue your drive about three hours east to the seaside town of Taormina, where you'll check into your hotel. 

Day 8: Cooking Class in Taormina

A local market in Taormina
A local market in Taormina

You're in for a treat, as today you'll partake in a private cooking class. In the morning, you'll meet your chef instructor at a local market for a guided tour. You'll stop at fruit and vegetable vendors to pick up seasonal produce before heading to the fishmonger to choose the freshest catch of the day.

After the market tour, you'll retire to a professional kitchen for your hands-on cooking class. Over a couple of hours, you'll prepare a full Sicilian menu complete with a traditional dessert. Afterward, you'll sit down and enjoy lunch comprised of the foods you prepared in class. Of course, the meal will be paired with local wines. 

Day 9: Drive From Taormina to Syracuse - Guided Mount Etna Hike

Colorful landscape on the slopes of Mount Etna
Colorful landscape on the slopes of Mount Etna

In the morning you'll begin the 1.5-hour drive from Taormina south to Europe's largest active volcano, Mount Etna. You'll arrive at Rifugio Sapienza, Etna's southern access point, and prepare for a guided hike. After organizing your equipment, you'll ride a cable car up 9,500 feet (2,900 m) to Torre del Filosofo, the last accessible lookout point before the summit. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery that includes solidified lava flows, smoke fumaroles, and wide vistas that stretch out to the Mediterranean.

After Etna, you'll hop back in your rental car and continue driving two hours to your hotel on the island of Ortygia, the historical heart of Syracuse. Sometimes called Città Vecchia (Old City), Ortygia is an easily walkable area full of treasures waiting to be discovered. Perhaps begin with a walk around the island before ducking into the network of narrow and winding alleyways, passing churches and baroque palaces as you go. You can't go wrong here, as everything is a visual treat.

Day 10: Explore Syracuse - Day Trip to Noto

View over Noto and its cathedral
View over Noto and its cathedral

Take the day to immerse yourself in historic Syracuse, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Renowned for its rich Greek history, culture, architecture, as well as the birthplace of engineer and mathematician Archimedes, Syracuse was long regarded as one of the major powers in the Mediterranean. 

Spend the morning exploring the ancient ruins of the Neapolis Archaeological Park. Or lose yourself in Ortygia's winding streets, visiting tucked-away gems like the 19th-century Palazzo Impellizzeri, the Temple of Apollo in Piazza Pancali, or go underground to the San Giovanni Crypt and Catacombs, which date to the 6th century. Alternatively, for some relaxation, you can sunbathe next to turquoise waters at Arenella Beach, just 20 minutes south of Syracuse.

In the afternoon, you'll drive 45 minutes to Noto and explore this postcard-perfect baroque city. In a couple of hours, you can easily cover the town on foot. Stroll Corso Vittorio Emanuele and walk beneath Porta Reale (Royal Gate), taking in the embellished architecture at every turn, like the Chiesa di Santa Chiara, and end your walk at the spectacular 18th-century limestone Noto Cathedral. Optimize your Noto experience with a rewarding granita (frozen dessert) from the popular Caffè Sicilia.

Day 11: Drive From Syracuse to Catania - Depart

Via Etnea and Mount Etna
Via Etnea and Mount Etna

After breakfast, make the hour drive north to Catania. The second-largest city next to Palermo, Catania sits at the foot of Mount Etna and deserves a little exploration if there's time before dropping off your car rental and catching your departure flight. Depending on traffic, it typically takes 15 to 20 minutes to travel from Catania's center to the airport. Best to arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to your international departure (and with some extra time to drop off your rental car).

Map

Map of Naples, Amalfi Coast, & Sicily - 11 Days
Map of Naples, Amalfi Coast, & Sicily - 11 Days