Rick Steves’ Best of South Italy in 13 Days Tour, Day by Day
Our southern Italy tour features a region rich in contrasts, from cities to beaches and from rugged to glamorous — including Rome, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, Matera, Naples, and more. On this Italy vacation, your guide will take you from Rome across the boot to the wild beauty of the Gargano Peninsula and Adriatic Coast. You'll explore the untouristed Puglia and Basilicata regions, wander through must-see Greek and Roman ruins, marvel at the jaw-dropping vistas of Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, and embrace the untamed energy of Naples. Let's go…
Days 1 & 2: Welcome to Italy
We'll gather at our Rome hotel at 4 p.m. for a "Welcome to Italy" group meeting. Afterward, we'll take an evening stroll through the meandering streets of "village" Rome on our way to tonight's trattoria, where we'll get acquainted over dinner together.
The next morning we'll tour the world's oldest museum, the Capitoline. Here we'll learn about Rome's golden age through its most treasured sculptures, including the sublime Dying Gaul, the imposing Marcus Aurelius on horseback, and the emblematic She-Wolf suckling Rome's tiny founding brothers: Romulus and Remus. Then we'll take an eye-opening walk along the east bank of the Tiber, where we'll learn about the rich, yet often-overlooked, history of Rome's Jewish Ghetto. The rest of the day is yours to wander through the Roman Colosseum and Forum, enjoy the panoramic city view from atop the nearby Victor Emmanuel Monument, or make a modern-day pilgrimage to St. Peter's Basilica and Vatican City.
Days 3 & 4: Tivoli and the Gargano Peninsula
We'll leave Rome early today, stopping in the nearby hills to learn about the Roman Emperor Hadrian at the ruins of his monumental villa at Tivoli. An enthusiastic traveler and builder, his lasting legacy includes his great wall across Britain, the domed Pantheon, and his stylish beard. Then we'll drive up and over the Apennine spine of Italy and on to the shores of the Adriatic Sea. Our destination this evening is Vieste, on the tip of the rugged Gargano Peninsula, one of the most beautiful areas of southern Italy — and still unknown to American travelers. We'll share dinner tonight at our cliffside hotel.
The next day we'll head to Vieste's beaches, normally packed with Italians in mid-summer. But when we arrive, we'll find a peaceful contrast to the hustle and bustle of Rome. We'll take a boat cruise (weather permitting) along the craggy Gargano Coast, marveling at the picture-perfect coves, hidden grottos, and unusual rock formations that make this coastline unforgettable. We'll return to Vieste for a pasta-making demonstration and lunch, followed by plenty of time to wander through the town or simply luxuriate on the beach.
Days 5 & 6: Alberobello and Matera
Today we'll head off the tourist path, continuing through Puglia and into the Basilicata region, with a stop to learn about and sample some local wines, meats, and cheeses. In Alberobello, we'll explore cone-shaped, stone trulli houses that are still lived in today. Then we'll drive on to the town of Matera, which includes one of the world's most unique neighborhoods — the Sassi — completely made up of ancient stone and cave dwellings.
The next morning, with the help of a locally grown expert, we'll learn the stories of old and new Matera. We'll begin our day discovering the wonders of the 9,000-year-old Sassi. We'll go inside a sasso home to gain an appreciation for the cave-dwelling conditions endured by the residents until they were relocated 60 years ago. We'll continue our education with a visit to a rock-hewn church and a look at the new town. You'll have the rest of your day free to wander through the different layers of Matera. This evening, watch — or better yet, join — the ritual passeggiata of strolling locals in this authentic, untouristed part of Italy.
Days 7 & 8: Paestum and the Amalfi Coast
Early this morning we'll drive into the Campania region and tour an organic water buffalo farm that produces the prized local specialty, mozzarella di bufala. We'll go into the barns and learn how this tasty delicacy is made and enjoy a gourmet lunch together featuring (you guessed it) fresh buffalo mozzarella. After lunch, we'll continue on to Paestum to marvel at this site's awe-inspiring lineup of three ancient Greek temples — the best-preserved collection in Europe. Then we'll follow the cliff-clinging road that winds above the sea to our final destination: the Amalfi Coast.
The following day is all yours to enjoy the breathtaking Amalfi Coast. Take a local bus along the twisting roads and wild beauty of the Amalfi highway, hopping off to explore cliffside villages along the way or take advantage of the sea and take a public boat to the neighboring towns. Check out the sweeping views from Ravello, the candy-striped church in Amalfi town, and the narrow streets and posh shops of Positano, or let gravity pull you down to a beach to relax upon. Tonight is a great night to find a trattoria with a glorious sunset view.
Days 9 & 10: Preserved Pompeii, Serene Sorrento, and Captivating Capri
This morning we'll take a short drive to Sorrento. Along the way, we'll stop in unlucky Pompeii, where an ace local guide will give us a thoughtful look at everyday life, frozen in time two millennia ago. After free time to explore more of Pompeii on your own and enjoy lunch, we'll head to Sorrento, our cliff-hugging home set amongst the lemon groves. We'll drop our bags at the hotel, then take an orientation walk through town on our way to watch the creation of an Italian culinary masterpiece — gelato. The rest of your evening is free.
The next day is wide open for you to explore more of the Amalfi Coast. Take a boat ride to Capri, where you can then board a much smaller boat to the deservedly famous Blue Grotto. Or, spend all or part of the day enjoying Capri's remarkable views, winding lanes, fancy summer homes, and lovely gardens. Or, stay in Sorrento and wander through the shop-lined back streets, stopping to savor il dolce far niente — the sweetness of doing nothing. This evening we will meet for a home-hosted dinner with a local Sorrento family.
Days 11 & 12: Classy, Gritty Naples
After a morning drive, we'll have an easy introduction to Naples at the beautiful hilltop Museo Capodimonte, home to southern Italy's best collection of Renaissance paintings, including masterpieces by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, and El Greco. After lunch in the city that invented pizza, we'll be introduced to Naples' grittier side on a Vespa-dodging, laundry-flapping, slice-of-Neapolitan-life walking tour through the heart of this chaotic, memorable city.
We'll begin the next day with a visit to the serene Cappella Sansevero, home to amazingly lifelike sculptures that have to be seen to be believed. We'll continue touring the greatest treasures of Pompeii, brought to Naples' National Archeological Museum for safekeeping. We'll also be dazzled by the Farnese collection, including the largest single sculpture ever recovered from antiquity: the Farnese Bull. This larger-than-life riot of animal, human, and divine struggle was adored and painstakingly restored by Michelangelo. Armed with the confidence and Neapolitan street smarts you've learned from your guide, your afternoon is free for making your own discoveries. Tonight, we'll get together for a special dinner to share travel memories and toast new friends. Salute!
Day 13: Tour Over After Breakfast
Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. It's a breeze to reach Naples' airport by taxi, easily arranged through our hotel. Your guide will help you with any post-tour planning, leaving you well prepared for the road ahead. Grazie e ciao!
Learn more about Rick's Best of South Italy in 13 Days tour.