- 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
|Day 1||Welcome to Naples!||Naples|
|Day 2||Naples City Tour||Naples|
|Day 3||Naples to the Amalfi Coast - Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius||Amalfi|
|Day 4||Capri and Anacapri Day Tour||Amalfi|
|Day 5||Free Day on the Amalfi Coast||Amalfi|
|Day 6||Fly From Naples to Palermo - Pick up Rental Car||Palermo|
|Day 7||Palermo Street Food Tour||Palermo|
|Day 8||Drive From Palermo to Taormina - Visit Cefalù||Taormina|
|Day 9||Cooking Class in Taormina||Taormina|
|Day 10||Drive From Taormina to Syracuse - Guided Mount Etna Hike||Syracuse|
|Day 11||Explore Syracuse - Day Trip to Noto||Syracuse|
|Day 12||Drive From Syracuse to Catania - Depart|
Day 1: Welcome to Naples!
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 City Tour
Naples has been continuously settled for millennia. The city is renowned for its art, architecture, food, and religious frescoes. Its historic city center enjoys UNESCO World Heritage designation, and Naples' many historic sights attract visitors worldwide. You'll visit these landmarks on a three-hour guided tour of the city.
Notable highlights include the 17th-century Palazzo Reale (home to a museum and two theaters), the centrally-located Piazza del Plebiscito, the Teatro di San Carlo (one of the Royal Palace's theaters), the beautiful Galleria Umberto (a massive 19th-century glass-roofed shopping mall), and the Basilica di San Francesco, which was built as a tribute to the emperor. The Castel Nuovo (a fortress protecting the port), 13th-century Duomo, Via Toledo shopping district, and historic Spaccanapoli Street are also popular destinations.
Naples is also famous as the birthplace of pizza, and the city's music culture has strongly influenced opera and folk music standards.
Day 3: Naples to the Amalfi Coast - Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius
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 4: Capri and Anacapri Day Tour
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 5: Free 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 6: Fly From Naples to Palermo - Pick up Rental Car
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 7: Palermo Street Food Tour
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 8: Drive From Palermo to Taormina - Visit 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 the drive about three hours east to the seaside town of Taormina, where you'll check into your hotel.
Day 9: Cooking Class 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 10: Drive From Taormina to Syracuse - Guided Mount Etna Hike
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 11: Explore Syracuse - Day Trip to Noto
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 12: Drive From Syracuse to Catania - Depart
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).