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Need help planning southern Italy 3+ week itinerary

Need help planning southern Italy 3+ week itinerary

Old Oct 11th, 2017, 09:54 PM
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Need help planning southern Italy 3+ week itinerary

Hi Everyone - I am trying to plan a 25 day trip to southern Italy Sept 2018 and could really use some help. After countless hours researching and reading, I am getting more confused because I am discovering more options that sound fantastic but unfortunately my time is limited.

Our Italy travels so far have covered the Ligurian coast (loved Sestri, Levanto, Santa Margherita Ligure), Venice, Florence (only 2 days), Rome (only 2 days) and Amalfi. We are in our mid 50's, prefer to be in a seaside town within walking distance of somewhere lovely to swim. Our perfect day is up early, explore a village or site in the morning with the afternoon spent swimming in the sea...followed by drinks and a great meal. We like an attractive town that is big enough to have a good selection of restaurants/cafes and evening activity but small enough to remain charming and friendly. We usually tack on a larger city visit to the beginning and/or end of our vacations.

For this trip we are flying into Naples and out of Rome. Other than Amalfi coast, this would be our first time to this area. Here is what I was thinking so far

7 nights: Positano - rent car in Salerno or Sorrento and drive south
5 nights: Cilento coast - Santa Maria di Castellabate and/or Maratea or ?
1 night: Matera
4 nights: Salento area: 1 base or multiple? Stay in Lecce or Otranto or S. Maria di Leuca or?
3 nights: Puglia: Stay in Monopoli or Polignano a Mare?
1 night: Puglia: Trani (train or fly Bari to Rome next morning)
3 nights: Rome
Fly home to Canada

Any recommendations for where to base in the Cilento coast and Puglia, number of nights to allocate and accommodation suggestions please?

Should we reduce/eliminate the Cilento coast and add more days to Puglia trip?

I have read a few reports suggesting that other places in Italy might warrant a closer look first if we haven't been there. We would like to be able to swim in the sea which is why we are headed south.

Alternatively, I have thought about these options:
A) Amalfi (7) Cilento area (5) Calabria (Tropea area?) (4) Taormina (5) fly to Rome (3)
B) Amalfi (7) Puglia (8) Florence/Tuscany (6)/train to Rome (3) - not sure of logistics how to get to Florence. To date we have only spent 2 days in Florence and zero in Tuscany.
C) Amalfi / hydrofoil to Aeolians/ ferry Messina?Taormina/fly to Florence/train to Rome
D) Amalfi/fly to Catania or Palermo and spend 2 weeks in Sicily/fly to Rome

Clearly I am having trouble deciding. Would love some help and recommendations from anyone who has been to Puglia, Cliento area, Calabria or Sicily.

Thanks so much!
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Old Oct 11th, 2017, 10:26 PM
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A few initial thoughts:

Alhough 1 night might be sufficient for Matera, since it sounds like you prefer a fairly relaxed pace, consider a 2nd night. I was very pleased with the Locanda di San Martino, which still gets great reviews:
http://www.locandadisanmartino.it/?lang=en

I thought Lecce absolutely delightful. and a great place for a few nights And I loved Trani, which doesn’t get much play on this forum. If you go, consider visiting its cathedral.

As for your alternates:

- Taormina is lovely, but SOOOooooo packed with cruise-ship passengers during the day as to be TRULY unpleasant IME.

- I’m a great fan of Florence for its art and architecture – but those don’t sound like your priorities.

- The Aeolians might fit your interests … I would encourage you to do some more research, and perhaps look for dayle’s trip report.

- IMO, 2 weeks is the minimum to cover the highlights of Sicily; more time would be better. (And before others attack me for that comment, I’m not saying one can’t enjoy a shorter visit.) I missed Catania, but adored Palermo – but must admit that I don’t think it fits very well with what you say about your interests. Palermo is dynamic and energetic and “gritty” and filled with glorious things to see and do; IMO, not unlike Naples. I could easily be wrong, but I think Catania has some of the same features. If you have an interest in Greek ruins, Roman mosaics, and either Norman/Arab/Byzantine or Baroque architecture, by all means, make Sicily your destination and consider adding some time. JMO.

Hope that helps!
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Old Oct 11th, 2017, 11:28 PM
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Your itinerary into Naples and out of Rome lends itself well to your initial plan. That said, if you think this may be your one big trip to Italy, I would probably choose differently. Puglia and the Salento are in my opinion more backroads trips than the usual big city destinations.

Certainly not without its charms though, Puglia is well known for its food culture, beaches in summer, the pretty rolling hills and white towns not unlike Greece. Matera is still one of my favourite places in Italy. Like kja says, you might want two days there.

Lecce was another favourite small city. Polignano I believe is smaller than Monopoli. We enjoyed our stay in Polignano, except we found the old town extremely pretty during the mid-day but very touristy at night. Still, the main part of town has a very lively passegiata and was fun to be a part of that.

We really enjoyed a few days in Naples. It’s a very interesting city.

I think I would find 5 nights in Maratea a bit boring; Santa Maria Castellabate is a bit closer to other interesting sights, eg Paestum, the Greek temples but can’t personally recommend it because we haven’t stayed there.

I thought Tropea looked amazing in the guidebooks, in real life not as great.

You don’t say whether you plan to have a rental car or are hoping to use public transportation??

Last but not least, Sicily is pretty amazing but is like another country with its variety of sights and towns. But the focus is entirely different: in my opinion it’s the history that makes Sicily so interesting.
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Old Oct 11th, 2017, 11:34 PM
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Interesting! I would not have imagined comparing Puglia to anywhere I visited in Greece, and I just spent a month there! But I saw little of Puglia, and even with a month, only parts of Greece....
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 01:36 AM
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Kja the white towns, Ostuni, Polignano, Otranto and others are much different from the colourful pastel buildings in other parts of Italy, and are frequently compared to Greek villages. The history of this part of Italy is somewhat similar to Sicily, with the Greeks and others influencing the culture here.
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 02:17 AM
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Here’s a nice little article about Puglia

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/de...ink-in-Puglia/
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 05:34 AM
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We visited Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria in the spring of 2017 and we found Matera to be a great base for visiting the area. We stayed there a week at the Hotel Basiliana in the sassi area of Matera and it was a perfect place to base and do day trips to towns in the 3 regions and then return for the evening. Matera has a large beautiful and vibrant pedestrian area and while it’s hilly in parts, it is very walkable. We visited Alberobello, Ostuni, Martina Franca, Grottaglie, Locorotondo, Taranto as well as a number of small towns in Basilicata and Calabria. We also flew out of Rome and took a direct high speed train from Barletta to Rome. There was a rent car drop off near the Barletta station which made it really easy and the train was less hassle and cheaper than flying.


http://www.basilianihotel.com/
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 06:21 AM
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Here's another suggestion to stay two nights in Matera. I also like your first plan, though the others could certainly work with some finessing.
I might reduce the 7 stay in Positano--not that it would not be amazing, just because it would give you the option to incorporate a longer stay elsewhere further into the trip. (I just don't mind moving more early on, then sinking in somewhere in the middle).
In Cilento area, I would choose somewhere central, rather than the north or south ends, for ease of exploration (plus Pisciotta was quite beautiful). Be sure to do a boat trip--the area around Marina di Camerota is stunning!
I chose Monopoli over Polignano because of its size and I felt it would be less mobbed for a photo opp (as that beach in Polignano seems like it might be)--I really don't think you could go wrong with either.
Not sure when the season really winds down on the Salento coast, but we liked the vibrancy of Lecce at night and found it easy to reach either coast during the day.
Hope that helps!
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 08:42 AM
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Thank you for your input!

A little more background...we will be travelling from Victoria BC Canada which means 1.5 days of travel including a red eye flight and then a 9 hour time difference. Takes me a couple days to get into the new time zone.

We are BIG walkers...love exploring small towns and cities, coastal paths, looking at architecture and art - in the street or in galleries. We seek out good food but not Michelin star type. We also seek energetic cities because we come from a small one (400K people) but recognize that we like to balance that with smaller towns/villages. We were in Barcelona & Lisbon last month and thought they were great - the walkability, street art, architecture, food... Small dip into Genoa made me want to go back to explore its old town more.

Because our weather in Victoria is never hot and we can't swim in the Pacific (hypothermia is a real concern here!), we are desperate for some heat and warm water which is why I seem so focussed on the beach. I would likely get that out of my system and be antsy after 7 - 10 days which is why I try to mix it up.

I would love to achieve a nice balance on this trip of seaside plus art/culture/ history/food and city fix.

Taormina looks great but I was questioning why travel there for 4 nights when it felt similar to Amalfi. I also was a bit concerned about all the cruise ship traffic. Perhaps I should leave Sicily and its islands for a bigger trip focussed just on that. I would be very interested in exploring Palermo and the seaside around as well as south and east. I did spend a bit of time researching it and the Aeolians and felt that I was rushing it in 2 weeks.

I'm thinking I should somehow get to Florence - spend more time there, see Sienna, go to Bologna? I haven't researched this idea yet but it is really resonating with me - and then finish in Rome. I was only in Florence for 2 days and would LOVE to go back.

I will add 2 nights to Matera. thank you for the two hotels recommendations - they look wonderful.

Perhaps I should eliminate the Cilento area as it is still more seaside wandering.

What about this revised plan:

6 nights Positano (could reduce even more and add to Florence?)
rent car Salerno or Sorrento and drive to Matera
2 nights Matera
4 nights Lecce (explore Salento - Otranto, S Maria di Leuca, Gallipoli?)
3 nights Monopoli (see Ostuni, Trani, Locorotondo, Cisternino, Polignano)
Return car Bari - fly to Pisa or Bologna?
6 nights Florence/Tuscany and/or Bologna
Train to Rome
3 nights Rome

Would I fly to Pisa or Bologna or would it be better to drive to Florence or train Rome/Florence from Barletta?

I could see if I can change my flights to fly out of Bologna perhaps..

His_Dudeness - Barletta is a great idea thank you!

yorkshire - there seems to be a consensus about Lecce so I will stick with that. Agree about Positano, I can reduce time there. I was also leaning towards Monopoli for the size. There seems to be a lovely old town but not sure about the new area. What did you think of Monopoli - good choice of restaurants and as a base? Do you have any accommodation suggestions for Lecce or Monopoli?

kja - so helpful, thank you! will add the 2 nights to Matera and saved your hotel idea. Trying to decide whether to stay in Trani 1 night or visit from Monopoli. Would love your suggestions on adding Florence to the itinerary please and how I can make that work. Base in Florence with day trips or...

sundriedtopepo - I have the same niggling concerns about 2 weeks in Puglia/Salento at the expense of other areas given this is our one big trip. Tropea - thank you for your comments. I was wondering that as well. I am open to any ideas..do you have any suggestions? Would the Florence/tuscany idea work?

Thanks!
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 09:37 AM
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Well that trip changed fast--ha ha! Still plenty of coast time. To make your mind spin more, we are sea lovers, and southern Tuscany was our best swimming/beach trip yet!
In Monopoli, we loved food shopping in the old town and there are plenty of good restaurants. We rented an apartment from http://www.helloapulia.com/. It is about a 40 minute drive to Bari airport from there. It was easy driving to the Itria vally towns.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention our Matera hotel, as we loved it so much we stayed there two years in a row: http://www.torrettasassi.it/.
Ditto our Lecce accommodation: http://www.roofbaroccosuite.it/en
We drove to the east coast one day and the west coast another day, totally doable to circle the coast, but with stops, I'd do one day for each side. Porto Selvaggio, north of Gallipoli, was a highlight.
Check Brindisi flights as well, though I imagine options are similar to Bari (but in that case you would switch Monopoli and Lecce order).
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 09:54 AM
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Yorkshire- How long did you spend in puglia?
I would love to hear about your southern Tuscany swimming beach trip. Can you tell me a bit about where you went and what you would recommend? I am clearly still in trip drafting stages and am open to ideas!
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 10:09 AM
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We visited Puglia two years in a row, 9-10 days each time, including time in Matera (in Basilicata) on both visits. We have also visited the Amalfi/Cilento coasts as well as Liguria a couple times, so we are definitely sea people. This year we visited the Maremma area of southern Tuscany, and it is really the best of both worlds--hill towns and scenery in the interior, and the best sand beaches we have enjoyed in the country (we did not get to them all in Puglia, as a caveat, and the Cilento beaches looked really nice, but it was not swimming weather). Back to Tuscany: Maremma park is wild with great hiking, and then on the Monte Argentario promontory, you have trails and rocky beaches, but the splits that connect to the mainland feature sandy beaches. Orbetello was just our speed--a low-key place to gorge on seafood, and we contrasted that with stays in some interior towns: Massa Marittima, Vetulonia, and Pitigliano.
Sorry to make the planning harder, but I am a firm believer in maximizing your time, so I thought it might help to know you can get impressive sea time in Tuscany!
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 11:47 AM
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yorkshire, what time of year did you visit Southern Tuscany? It sounds like an ideal trip for us too.
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 12:02 PM
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It's always late May for us, best time of year! But I'd also do September if I could swing it.
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 01:04 PM
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We spent four nights in Matera and enjoyed the experience. We stayed at the Palazzo degli Abati in the Sassi, which was an outstanding property. The owner, the daughter, and the other employees were terrific and helpful. The rooms are truly unique, as is the whole Sassi.

Consider spending a second night and in Matera just to enjoy the laid back environment.

The restaurant 19a Buca on Via Lombardi was as delicious as it was unique. The restaurant serves local cuisine and there are four underground levels. We liked everything about thi place.

Buon viaggio,
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 01:36 PM
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Hmmm wow... this sounds lovely also. I am not familiar with this area so am going to do a little research. I will then revisit my plans to see what to tag on after our Amalfi visit. I haven't given up on Puglia yet but like the sound of something else after that.

When you travelled the Maremma area, where did you fly in/out of and presume you rented a car? Are those nice beaches near Orbetello?

Thank you very much for the accommodation ideas in Monopoli, Lecce and Matera. Did you do the same itinerary to Puglia each of those 2 trips? I'm trying to decide if more time should be spent down in Lecce as a base or up in Monopoli..
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 01:44 PM
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We rented a car from Pisa airport (Florence and Rome work equally well). The sand beach we liked near Orbetello was Feniglia, but my priority would be the beaches within Maremma park. The rocky Monte Argentario beaches looked great, but we did not have enough time to drive around the windy promontory roads. There are some great beaches a bit further north as well (google Cala Violina, Punta Ala).
We basically did the same itinerary two years in a row, with slight tweaks. I think Lecce and the Monopoli area both warrant about the same amount of time if doing day trips, but it just depends on your interests. My husband does not like driving for driving's sake, only to get somewhere inaccessible otherwise, so I plan accordingly cuz I ain't driving!
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 01:51 PM
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rbciao47 - the overwhelming consensus here is to add more nights to Matera so that is what we will do.
Thank you for the accommodation and the restaurant suggestion!
Did you use Matera as a base to explore elsewhere or stayed in Matera enjoying what it had to offer?
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 04:28 PM
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I think your new plan (Oct 12, 17 at 11:42am) could work nicely!

Note that you don’t need a car to get to Matera from Salerno unless you want to – you can take a bus. You can also get from Matera to Lecce by public transportation. That said, you might want a car in Matera – your call! You can check rome2rio.com for your transportation options, but please be sure to check the links to which it directs you, as rome2rio itself is not sensitive to seasonal variation in schedules.

Before deciding whether to fly from Bari to Pisa or Bologna, remember to think about the extra time involved in flying rather than taking trains – you need to get to / from the airport, be at the airport some time in advance of the flight, etc. A flight might serve you best; just be sure you consider the options!

No reason to stay in Trani unless you want to – it’s within easy day-trip reach of Monopoli.

Re: Florence: Your call! I’m such a fan of art and architecture that I was in my own little personal heaven with more than 5 days in Florence – days spent exploring every bit of that city that I could, and still not seeing everything I would have liked to see. I never even made it out of the city! But I’m pretty extreme in that regard. It would certainly provide a nice contrast to the Almalfi Coast and Puglia. And IMO, it provides a nice contrast to Rome, too – even though both are cities with an abundance of stunning art and architecture, they are quite different.


@ sundriedtopepo: I didn’t make it to Ostuni, and can see the comparison to Greece in the picture of it in the article you linked. I was thinking of places I visited, like Trani, Bari, Lecce, Alberobello….
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Old Oct 12th, 2017, 07:24 PM
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Kja since I’ve never been to Greece...no Problem
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