South of Italy

The Best way to see South of Italy is by Public Transportation; train, buses and boats.

I started my Italy Journey in Venice and got to Naples by Train. For the big city connections, I made all my reservations online at trainialia.com. But for the one day trips it is better to just get the ticket once at the train station. The Italian trains, frecciarossas, Red Arrows in English, are the best way to visit different cities in Italy. They are indeed as fast as an arrow.

Naples

I got to Naples by train then. Naples can seem chaotic compare to the other Italian cities like Florence; cars are double parked, everybody in honking and the streets are so narrow. But somehow, it is charming. By the train station stop eat Da Michele Pizzeria, you will have the best pizza in the world.

Da Michele Pizza
Da Michele Pizza

Naples Old Town, protected once by the walls is now a very busy charming historical center of the city full of souvenir shops, cafes and pizzerias. Make sure to have a pizza at Sorbillo, one of the most famous pizzeria in Italy. Have the local pastry called Sfogliatelle at Scaturchio café right in the heart of the historical center in front of one of the most prominent churches of Naples, San Domenico Maggiore. You can get lost in the small streets and just enjoy the different churches. If you walk towards Piazza Dante, you will pass by few bars by a square; that square gets very animated at night and it is a lively place to go after dinner and grab few drinks with locals and students. Continue your walk; you will pass by the booksellers streets. You can start seeing why Naples, despite being a big busy city, it kept its southern charm.

The other great neighborhood in Naples is the port area. Take the metro to Castel Nuovo. You can visit Castel Nuovo from where you can have a great view of the port. Stop at Piazza de Plebiscito to admire the architecture of that square with the colorful houses behind it that makes a great contrast. From there you can visit the Royal Palace. Walk down toward the port. In front of you the ocean with when the sky is clear Mt Vesuvius on the background, on the right Castel Dell’Ovo and behind, those narrow streets with, at every window, linen stretched for drying.

Last neighborhood in Naples worth going is Vomero. Take the funicular all the way up to Vomero. Skip Castel Sant’Elmo and continue your walk toward the view point. From there you will have Naples under your feet. You can now take the stairs, Scale della Pedamentina, down .The view from the above of Naples doesn’t get any better. On your way down, you will have to take Spaccanapoli the narrow straight street that literally splits Naples in 2 parts.

 

Pompeii

From Naples, there is a train every 30 minutes to Pompeii. Only one hour away from Naples, the ruins of Pompeii “provide a complete and vivid picture of society and daily life at a specific moment in the past that is without parallel anywhere in the world”. Despite the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 that destroyed a lot of the town, there are still a lot of remains of that ancient Roman civilization that show us how they used to live. As I walked  through the streets well structured, pass by the very first pedestrian crosswalks ,the houses, temples and  theaters , I could see how smart and sophisticated they were , how they were managing their city and how they gave importance to art, religion and politics. We did learn from that civilization and it is indeed important to preserve that past.

 

Amalfi Coast  

Only few hours away with train from Naples, the Amalfi Coast is formed by small villages that are clinging to the mountain. The bus ride between the villages through the very curvy road can be hard to handle for some people but the view is priceless.  The famous villages that you can go to with the SITA bus are Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello and Salerno. Each village will dazzle you with its colorful houses, breathtaking costal view and amazing food. ‘Costiera Amalfitana is an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape, with exceptional cultural and natural scenic values resulting from its dramatic topography and historical evolution.

The train from Naples will take you to Sorrento and from there you can take the bus to go to the other villages. Then take the train back to Naples at the last village, Salerno. My favorite village is Positano so if you only have a day , spend it mostly at Positano. The bus will drop you off on top of the village. Walk down to the village; enjoy the view of that city snugged to the mountain. Stop at the Il Capitano for lunch. No other restaurant will beat that view. At the village, you can enjoy some sun at the beach or shop at the small shops in the alleys.

At Sorrento , check out the unusual  Vallone dei Mulini an old sawmill that has been abandoned and surrounded by nature and sea now. At Amalfi, admire the Amalfi Cathedral, imposing in the middle of the square or the fountain that is also a nativity display scene.

 

Capri

Take the boat to Capri form Naples Port. It is only a 50 minutes ride. You can’t see everything in 1 day in Capri so you have to choose between seeing the Blue Grotto and have a tour of the island or go to Anacapri and Capri Village.

I’ve heard so much about the Grotta Azzurra that as soon as we got to Capri main port, Marina Grande I took the island tour that also takes you to the famous cave. There is always a wait to go inside of the cave but it’s worth it. You will get on a small boat and go inside of that cave where the water is unbelievably blue.  You will get to stay in that magical place for few minutes. Take time to admire that water, your rower might start singing some old Italians songs and make the moment even more dreamlike.

You will then make a tour of the island , passing by one of the oldest Lighthouse at Punta Carena. You will then stop at Grotta Verde, a sea cave where the water seems green.  You will pass under the natural arches and the Lover Arch.

You can take the funicular to go to Capri Village. It has a main square with all the restaurants and shops around it. Take the stairs down back to the port; you will have a great view of the island on your way down.

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Colorful Venetian Lagoon Tour

I booked my tour with Local Venice Tours and the tour as well as the guide were both great.

If you have a cramped schedule the half a day tour is the way to go to see the Venetian Lagoon islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello.

The tour starts by St Mark Square. The boat takes the San Marco Canal and passes along the island of San Giorgio Maggiore with its church of the same name from the 16th Century and the Arsenale, the former Venetian industry site from the 13th Century

Arsenale
Arsenale
San Giorgio Maggiore Island
San Giorgio Maggiore Island

Murano is famous for its glass manufacturing industry. Hence, we got to see a Glassmaking Master at work in a factory. It was impressive to see how one can in just a few minutes make an animal out of a liquid glass. We had the occasion to buy some work either jewelry or decoration for home at the factory after the demonstration. Or, we could go explore the island. Unfortunately, you won’t have enough time to explore fully the island. I wish I had another 30 minute.

Murano Glassmaker Master at work
Murano Glassmaker Master at work
Murano Glass Factory
Murano Glass Factory
Murano
Murano

We then went to Burano.

abandonned-island-by-burano
Abandoned Island By Burano

Burano is famous for its lace and its colorful fisherman houses. We had 30 minutes on the island.  It was magical to be able to walk along all those colorful houses. I just wanted to sit down and stare at them for hours. You start your walk at the main square Piazza Galuppi, where you can visit the church of S. Martino, and then walk along the canal to discover the picturesque bright island.

The tour ended with the 3rd island Torcello, the first center of civilization in the Estuary. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the cathedral and the Church of S. Fosca. Definitely the less impressive island.

I know the company also offers a Burano and Murano only tour and it is fine to skip Torcello and only take that 2 islands tour. The tour, as well as the guide, were great. I just wish I had more time to spend in Murano and Burano and enjoy those rainbow islands.

Venice like locals

Forget about the pricey gondolas and get ready to use the public vaporetto and walk around the island. The best way to see Venice is to get lost on those streets and you will discover beauty in every corner.

My travel App: Ulmon. It has all the sightseeing places saved and most of the restaurants and bars as well. It can be used offline which is very practical.

My booking site: Tripmasters.com . This is my 3rd time going through them to arrange my travel plans and I love the site. They have a great itinerary suggestion, hotels and all for a great price.

My Hotel : Hotel Canaletto beautiful traditional hotel situated between St Mark Square and Rialto Bridge.  I love to stay in traditional hotels where I feel like I’m in an authentic Venitian Palace. The rooms can also have a view on the Canal, perfect spot to just relax and enjoy a glass of wine. Great location, great service, great room and great price.

Day 1:

Start the day with a half a day tour of some Venetian Lagoon islands Murano, Burano, and Torcello. If you have time to spend a day in those islands, then take the vaporatto and go by yourself and fully enjoy Burano and Murano. If you have a cramped schedule the half a day tour is the way to go. The tour starts by St Mark Square. The boat takes the San Marco Canal and passes along the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and Arsenale to get to Murano. Murano is famous for its glass manufacturing industry. Hence, we got to see a Glassmaking master at work in a factory. It was impressive to see how one can in just a few minutes make an animal out of a liquid glass. After the demonstration, I went to explore the island but I have to say, there was not enough time to fully explore. We then went to Burano, famous for its lace and colorful fisherman houses. We had 30 minutes on the island.  It was magical to be able to walk along all those colorful houses. You start your walk at the main square Piazza Galuppi , where you can visit the church of S. Martino, and then walk along the canal to discover the picturesque bright island. The tour ended with the 3rd island Torcello, the first center of civilization in the estuary. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the cathedral and the Church of S. Fosca. I booked my tour with Local Venice Tours and the tour as well as the guide were both great. I just wish I had more time to spend in Murano and Burano.

Full Tour description https://leilaspassport.com/2016/10/12/murano-burano-and-torcello-tour/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

Torcello Santa Fosca Church
Torcello Santa Fosca Church
Burano S. Martino Church
Burano S. Martino Church
Murano Glassmaker Master at work
Murano Glassmaker Master at work

You will get back to St Mark Square by 2pm. Stay in the area to go to :

  • See the Bridge of Sighs

    Bridge of Sighs
    Bridge of Sighs
  • You will pass by the uncompleted church of the Pietà by Canaletto but unfortunately, it is in restoration and you can’t go inside for now.
  • The Famous St Mark Basilica – if you want to skip the line get your ticket online. If not make the line. The entrance is free. You can pay 5 euros and go on top of the basilica but it’s not worth it
    St Mark Basilica
    St Mark Basilica
    St Mark Basilica
    Inside St Mark Basilica

    St Mark Basilica
    St Mark Basilica
  • Admire the St Mark’s Clock Tower right next to it. You can go visit the tower and learn about the clock machinery by reserving in advance

    St Mark Basilica Clock Tower
    St Mark Basilica Clock Tower
  • Go on top of St Mark Campanile Bell Tower. That elevator ride is worth it. You will have a beautiful view of St Mark Square and Venice in general.
    St Mark Basilica from the Campanile Tower
    St Mark Basilica from the above
    Venice from the Campanile Tower
    Venice from the above
    Venice from the Campanile Tower
    Venice from the above
    Venice from the Campanile Tower
    Venice from the above

    St Mark Campanile Bell Tower
    St Mark Campanile Bell Tower
  • Visit the Dodge Palace or Palazzo Ducale.Again if you want to skip the line you can buy your tickets online. While visiting the palace you will pass inside the Bridge of Sighs and you will be able to see Venice from the inside.
    Dodge Palace Gold Stairs
    Dodge Palace Gold Stairs
    Dodge Palace
    Dodge Palace
    Dodge Palace
    Dodge Palace Architectural details – Gothic Architecture

    Inside Bridge of Sighs from Dodge Palace
    Inside Bridge of Sighs from Dodge Palace

Have a gelato at one of the best gelato places in Venice: La Mela Verde.

La Male Verde Vanilla Gelato
La Male Verde Vanilla Gelato

 

You can relax at one of the famous cafes on St Mark Square: Caffe Florian the oldest one where Goethe used to go to grab cappuccinos, Grancaffe Quadri where Proust used to go and have a cappuccino at Café Lavena. You can go to any of those places at night to have a good drink and enjoy their live music.

Caffe Florian
Caffe Florian

 

At night, you can also stop by Harry’s Bar, a very posh small bar between St Mark Square and Grand Canal

Day 2:

Get a 24h Vaporetto Ticket and ride along the Grand Canal. You will get to see all the Venetian style buildings and the beautiful city architecture.

Hop on Vaporetto No 2 and go to island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Situated  in front of St Mark Square. The Church of the same name built in the 16th Century, has a bell tower that gives you a great  view of Venice.

St Mark from San Giorgio Maggiore
St Mark from San Giorgio Maggiore
San Giorgio Maggiore Island
San Giorgio Maggiore Island
San Giorgio Maggiore Island
San Giorgio Maggiore Island
Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore
Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore
Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore
Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore

Along the ride you will pass by the Cannaregio Neighborhood also known as the Jewish neighborhood.

Venice Cannaregio Neighborhood
Cannaregio Neighborhood
Venice Cannaregio Neighborhood
Cannaregio Neighborhood
Venice Cannaregio Neighborhood
Cannaregio Neighborhood

You will see the front of Palazzo Balbi and Ca Rezzonico ( artist Canaletto)

You will be able to admire Ca D’oro, the 15th Century Gothic Palace and the Venice Casino, the world’s oldest casino built in 1638.

Casino Di Venezia
Casino Di Venezia
Ca D'Oro
Ca D’Oro

 

Day 3:

Don’t lock yourself in the museums and explore the Dorsoduro neighborhood by foot instead

Start your walk at Rialto Bridge. The Bridge is being restored but you can still enjoy one side of it. Have a Gelato at Gelateria Da Suso. Great way to start your walk around Venice.

Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge
Gelateria Da Suso
Gelateria Da Suso

Walk along the canal to get to San Toma Vaporatto Stop. From there you can walk towards Frari Church inside of which you can see art from Venetian artist Titian. Along the walk you can see the Ca Fasconi University and Scuola Grande di San Rocco Museum where all the arts in the building are from artist Tintoretto. The best Gelato in the area can be found at Gelateria Il Doge.

frari-church
Frari Church
scuola-grande-di-san-rocco-museum
Scuola Grande di San Rocco Museum
Gelateria Il Doge
Gelateria Il Doge

Around the same neighborhood, by Squero San Trovaso you can pass by a little construction site; it’s where they make the gondolas. Go to Gelateria Nico to get a Gelato and come back to watch them building the gondolas.

Gondola Construction Site by Squero San Trovaso
Gondola Construction Site by Squero San Trovaso
Gelati Nico
Gelati Nico

Walk towards the end of the island, Punta della Dogana, to go to Galleria dell Academia Museum and Peggy Guggenheim Museum. If you are not a museum person you should still go and see the Guggenheim garden. Gorgeous. Visit the Santa Maria della Salute Church and just relax by sitting on those stairs and admire the Grand Canal.

Cross the Accademia Bridge and go to La Fenice Theater. If you have time, go see a representation at night. If not, you can take a tour of the inside during the day. If they are having rehearsals some parts of the theater will be closed.

La Fenice Theatre
La Fenice Theatre

P.S: The Accademia Bridge is the perfect stop to catch the sunset.

Venice
Venice

Must go places for Happy Hour and Dinner:

They are a lot of amazing places by Rialto Bridge in San Polo neighborhood that is full of locals and younger crowd contrary to the expensive cafes on St Mark Square. Try the local drink Spritz and eat Chiccheti Tapas at :

  • Naranzaria with Canal View

    naranzaria
    Naranzaria
  • Al Merca – Must go for happy hour as all the locals and students come to the piazza for a drink.

    al-merca
    Al Merca
  • Cantina Do Mori

    cantina-do-mori
    Cantina Do Mori
  • Bancogiro with Canal View
  • Cantina do Spade
  • Da Fiore

The good thing is that all those bars are next to each other … a bar crawl in Venice anybody?