Of all the countries in Europe, Italy has a special place in my heart. The food, the culture, the charm, the passion, the scenery…I fall more in love with Italy every time I visit. My most recent adventure to the south coast allowed me to discover a completely new part of the mainland, as well as the unknown island of Ischia. With 4 nights, 5 days and 6 (rather choppy) ferry crossings, I visited Naples, Ishica, Sorrento, Positano and spectacular Amalfi. Read on to find out how I got there, where I stayed and what we got up to.
My Travel Buddy
Before we get started I want to tell you about my travel companion on this trip. You know the kind of best friend that you don’t see for 6 months, then when you meet up it’s like you’ve never been apart? The type of best friend that gives you a stitch from laughing so hard? This friend for me is Naomi a.k.a Nam, who I got to bring along on this trip. We love to eat, drink and act like lunatics (I like to think of us as the Eddie and Patsy of our generation). Getting to bring Nam along on this trip instantly made it so much more memorable, as I got to experience everything with someone I truly adore.
First Stop; Naples
Starting our journey at Gatwick Airport, we flew in to Naples and were greeted by a friendly driver from Imperatore Travel, the local tour operator that sorted all our transfers and ferry tickets. Naples was a transit point for us, and we headed straight to Naples Port to catch a ferry over to Ischia. The port is huge and there are various areas of the port for cargo, cruise ships and ferries, so it’s good to tell taxi drivers exactly which area you want (we were lucky our driver knew exactly where he was going).
The ferry area is very much like an airport in that you wait for your ferry at the right ‘gate’. After waiting for an hour or so, the evening light was drawing in and the sky lit up a dusky pink. We saw the ferry (otherwise known as the ‘hydrofoil’) pulling in to our gate with the famous Mount Vesuvius in the background. The ferry crossing from Naples to Ischia took just over an hour.
Discovering the Island of Ischia
The majority of our trip was spent on the Island of Ischia, where I was doing a 3 night press stay at a beautiful boutique hotel called Garden & Villas Resort (read the full review here). Before the opportunity arose to review this hotel, I had never even heard of the Island, let alone considered visiting. It was amazing to spend time discovering a place that I never knew existed until not long before.
Unlike its smaller, famous neighbour Capri, Ischia feels like a hidden gem and remained relatively undiscovered, especially to Brits. The majority of tourists on Ischia are savvy Italians who have seen Capri become overdeveloped, overcrowded and overpriced (followed by Germans). During our time in Ischia we visited the picture perfect fishing town of Sant Angelo, explored the backstreets of Forio, climbed up to the magnificent Castello Aragonese and wandered through the exotic Mortella Gardens. Keep an eye out for my Island Guide to Ischia, coming to the blog soon!
Sailing Through Sorrento
After 3 nights in Ischia it was time to head back to the mainland and make our way down the coastline to Amalfi, so we hopped on the same ferry back to get back to Naples. The road connecting Naples and Amalfi is long, winding and very unsafe. You can get a coach or a taxi along it, but it’s not advisable to tourists. The safest and most enjoyable way to reach Amalfi from Naples is by boat. Because we were travelling on a Sunday, we first had to catch a ferry from Naples to Sorrento, then from Sorrento to Amalfi, making it a journey of 3 ferries in total.
Because of the limited crossing times, we pretty much spend an entire day travelling. But the sun was shining, the company was great and I got to spend some much needed time editing photos on my ferry crossings. We landed in Sorrento just before lunchtime, so went in search of Wi-Fi and pizza in Sorrento Port before our final crossing.
The first thing that struck me about Sorrento was the spectacular backdrop of the hotels staggered along the cliff face, perfectly framing the glamorous port. The second thing that struck me was how much more touristy it felt compared to Ischia. There were touts standing by the menus of all the restaurants and pretty much everyone seemed to be American. To get to the centre of Sorrento you have to climb a steep cobbled road or take a lift, which goes up through the rock face. Because we were in transit and had big suitcases we didn’t have time to venture up to the town, but I’m glad I got to see it from below and spend a few hours in the port.
A Pitstop in Positano
Our third and final ferry crossing of the day was from Sorrento to Amalfi and unbeknownst to us, we saved the best til last. This ferry ride is so spectacular that it’s almost a tourist attraction in itself, and if you’re staying in Sorrento for more than a few days, I would definitely recommend taking the ferry for a day trip over to Amalfi and Positano.
The ferry goes from Sorrento to Amalfi via Positano, which was a massive bonus for us! Most of you will recognise Positano from photos. It’s one of the most iconic and picturesque towns on the Amalfi coast with rustic colourful buildings scattered across a Cliffside bay. The best way to see the town is of course by boat, and approaching Positano from a distance was breath-taking. I’m so glad I got to see this as part of our adventure, but we stayed on the boat to get to our final stop.
A further 20 minutes along the coastline and the ferry docked into Amalfi. Whilst the approach isn’t quite as spectacular as Positano, the port of Amalfi feels like something out of a glamorous 1920’s film set. This is La Dolce Vita at its finest.
Our final night in Italy was spent at what I promised Naomi would be the ‘showstopper’ of the whole trip, and it didn’t disappoint. Monastero Santa Rosa is a spectacular boutique hotel on the cliffside of the Amalfi coast, just 10 minutes’ drive from the town. As a converted monastery, it has a fascinating history and the guest rooms and suites have been converted from what were the old monk rooms. This is one of the most breath-taking hotels I have ever stayed in in my life. A full review of Monastero Santa Rosa will be live on the blog soon.
On our final night we were treated to a 4-course feast at the fine dining restaurant at Monastero Santa Rosa. Overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean sea, it was the perfect place to reflect on our 5-day adventure and laugh about all of the funny things that had happened to us.
Whether you’re planning on exploring Italy with a friend, boyfriend, or husband, this route is the perfect introduction to the Gulf of Naples and Amalfi. It combines hidden gems with iconic destinations and truly offers you a unique slice of Italy. If you’re not as tight for time as us, you could extend your stay and spend a few nights in Sorrento and Positano too.
People from all over the world dream of visiting Southern Italy and The Amalfi, and I feel so lucky to have seen it for myself. At times I felt totally in awe of where I was, and what I was doing and to experience it all with my best friend was the best thing ever. The excitement of adventure will never ware off for me and trips like this just make me want to discover even more of the world. I hope this post inspires you to see this part of the world too!
What did you think of my Italian adventure? Have you visited some of these places or are you planning a trip? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave me a comment in the box below. Jess x