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Getting around in the off-season, including Paestum

Houston, Texas
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Getting around in the off-season, including Paestum

Hello, my husband and I (36 and 31 yo) will be visiting Campania for 3.5 days in late November. I thought I had our itinerary down but then I started getting obsessed with the idea of visiting Paestum. Originally, our itinerary goes:

first 1/2 day, stop in Naples en route to Sorrento (our home base) from Rome

day 2, Pompeii and Ercolano

day 3, Amalfi and Ravello

day 4, Positano and perhaps other, smaller towns

I want to rearrange things so day 4 will be all Paestum and move Positano to day 3. This makes our Amalfi Coast vacation not very relaxing, I'm afraid, and it being late November, the bus schedules are severely limiting our ability to actually move about quickly between towns. Will it be too crazy to pack in Amalfi, Ravello, and Positano in one day? With the bus itinerary for last winter, it's somewhat doable if we limit visits to about 1 hour per town if we want to see them all with daylight (best case scenario with buses actually following schedule). Is 1 hour enough time for each town?

As for Paestum, these are my options:

1. Public transportation: This was our original choice and TA has a lot of useful advise on Sorrento-Paestum options, but it just seems like a lot of time and changing, and we'll be at the second-to-last day of 2+ weeks of intense travel.

2. Guided tours: I've been researching tours and they usually run just on one day a week (not a day we'll be in the area), and doesn't seem to run at all in off-season. If you know one that runs in late November, Th/F/Sa, please let me know.

3. Car service/driver: Does anyone know of reasonably priced (hoping for less than $200, please don't laugh) car service to Paestum from Sorrento?

4. Renting a car: This would solve a lot of these problems, I guess, but I have reservations, namely: travel time to Paestum just as long (if not longer), lifetime of living in Chicago and Houston has not prepared my husband for intense mountain driving (though we've driven in Hawaii and Utah mountains for a bit), driver (aka my husband) can't enjoy himself and again, seems tiring. It might be worth it, though, especially if we also get it for the town-hopping. Will parking be a problem then?

Should I just end this craziness and drop Paestum altogether?

GAC
Los Angeles, CA
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1. Re: Getting around in the off-season, including Paestum

You can indeed see Paestum from Sorrento as a daytrip in winter, using public transportation, but it will take the better part of an entire (short) day. Take an early morning Circumvesuviana train to Napoli Centrale, then a Trenitalia unreserved regionale train direct to Paestum. Follow the same itinerary for the return trip.. This will involve 5+ hours on the trains, plus connection time. Three hours is sufficient to see the temples and the museum in Paestum. On the return trip from Paestum to Sorrento, you might consider taking the mid-afternoon SITA bus from Salerno to Amalfi, and from Amalfi to Sorrento. The two buses will take three hours (plus connection time), but it will give you the opportunity to see the coastline once again. The train from Paestum to Salerno takes only 35 minutes. The walk from the Paestum train station to the temples takes 10 minutes, along a very pretty narrow country road. Don't forget to validate the train tickets before boarding each train, and buy the return train ticket from Paestum in advance (either to Naples or Salerno), because the station has no manned ticket window, and the ticket machine might be out of service.

The best (most time-efficient) way to do Paestum from Sorrento is either by organized daytrip (bus), or by private transfer, or by driving yourself. A private transfer will probably cost around 400 Euros, as it involves a full day. Because the private transfer is so very expensive, many people end up using the train service to get to Paestum from Sorrento, even if it wastes so much time.

Doing Pompei and Ercolano on the same day is not recommended. You need two days just for Pompei. I recommend that you focus just on Pompei if this is your first trip there.

Doing Ravello, Amalfi and Positano on the same day from Sorrento using the SITA buses is taxing, but doable. You won't get to spend more than 90 minutes in each town (which is sufficient to get a very superficial "look and feel"), but it will be a good introduction to the area. Of course, if it's a rainy and/or overcast day, you may choose to modify your plans (for example, skip Ravello or Positano).

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2. Re: Getting around in the off-season, including Paestum

On a map Sorrento looks like the best place to base in order to see the places on your list, but when we did it I found it less than optimal. Sorrento is beautiful but it's stuck out on a peninsula that's difficult to get to, both from Naples and the Amalfi Coast. Relying on the Circumvesuviana railroad to get around was less than satisfactory, but the buses were even worse because of the traffic (even in the off season, when we were there) on the overused roads.

If you want to spend more time on the Amalfi Coast, I'd urge you to consider staying there, rather than Sorrento, even in the off season.

If you're only going to devote one day to the coast, I suggest you consider staying in Naples as it's easier to get to Pompei and Ercolano from Naples and it's actually easier to get to Paestum from Naples (even though it's further away) than from Sorrento.

For a day trip to the Amalfi Coast from Naples you can take the train to Salerno in the morning, then spend the day working your way out along the coast. We did this quite happily last year during the off season, combining bus trips with some walking/hiking between towns, ending up in Sorrento. From there you can return to Naples either by train (Circumvesuviana) or ferry (year round).

GAC
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3. Re: Getting around in the off-season, including Paestum

Another excellent alternative is to base yourself in Salerno for the three days. That way, you could arrange your day trips as follows:

Day 1: Amalfi and Ravello by bus (possibly to include Positano)

Day 2: Pompei by Trenitalia unreserved regionale train (use the Anfiteatro entrance on the east side, 800 meters from the Trenitalia station, not to be confused with the Circumvesuviana station on the west end)

Day 3: Paestum by Trenitalia unreserved regionale train

Salerno is a wonderful city, with many good cafes and restaurants, a world-class Cathedral, and a magnificent Lungomare which stretches for two kilometers. In winter, it will be much livelier than Sorrento, and much more "authentic" (since Sorrento is a winter haven for Brits). Salerno is also very different from Naples. It lacks all the "culture" in Naples (Sorrento lacks this even more), but it is a much cleaner, orderly city.

Do seriously consider basing yourself in Salerno based on your stated itinerary.

Edited: 20 June 2014, 13:16
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4. Re: Getting around in the off-season, including Paestum

Yes, Salerno is another good alternative. Either would be better than Sorrento.

Edited: 20 June 2014, 14:30
Portland, OR
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5. Re: Getting around in the off-season, including Paestum

And here is a good post about staying in Salerno instead of Sorrento:

walksofitaly.com/blog/travel-tips/salerno-so…

Houston, Texas
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6. Re: Getting around in the off-season, including Paestum

Thank you all for the replies.

I actually originally wanted to stay in Salerno (not a big fan of resort-y towns like Sorrento, in general) but I found that going to Pompeii and Ercolano from there would be too inconvenient and take too much time. This was before I thought about going to Paestum, though, and when I was thinking of doing Ercolano and Pompeii on different days.

I actually posted the "where to stay" question on here a few weeks ago, and I got answers of either Naples or Sorrento (mainly because of said Pompeii issue). We nixed Naples because we've both lived in big, loud cities most of our lives and would be coming from 4 days in Rome, so we'd prefer a quieter place for a few days. I was a little worried that Sorrento would be too quiet, though, so Salerno might be a good option if the Pompeii trip would not be too inconvenient.

GAC
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7. Re: Getting around in the off-season, including Paestum

QUOTE:

"Salerno might be a good option if the Pompeii trip would not be too inconvenient."

Why do you think this?

There are houly Trenitalia regionale trains from Salerno to Pompei (Trenitalia station) which take 33 minutes and cost only 1.80 Euros each way.

From the Pompei Trenitalia station, it's an 800-meter walk to the Pompei Anfiteatro Entrance (10 minutes each way).

There are scores of b&bs in Salerno within a 10-minute walk of the train station.

Pompei (Trenitalia) train station:

www.stazionidelmondo.it/pompeistazione.htm

Salerno train station:

www.stazionidelmondo.it/salernostazione.htm

Paestum train station:

…wikipedia.org/wiki/…Stazione_di_Paestum.jpg

Houston, Texas
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8. Re: Getting around in the off-season, including Paestum

That's true, I was mistaken. I think it was Ercolano that was a little out of the way.

This was my post with similar questions back in April: tripadvisor.com/…5785971

Portland, OR
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9. Re: Getting around in the off-season, including Paestum

For Ercolano, you would just get on the Circumvesuviana train at Pompeii and go to Ercolano. To get back to Salerno, you could just catch the Circumvesuviana from Ercolano to Naples, then direct train from Naples to Salerno (30 minutes).

GAC
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10. Re: Getting around in the off-season, including Paestum

Note that the distance from the Trenitalia (Ferrovie dello Stato) station in Pompei to the Circumvesuviana-Villa dei Misteri station in Pompei is 1,800 meters, or 22 minutes on foot or 5 minutes by taxi.

DO NOT CONFUSE these two train stations, used and operated by two totally different companies!!!

If visiting the Pompei ruins coming by train from Salerno, you should ENTER the Pompei archeological site from the Anfiteatro eastern entrance (800 meters from the Trenitalia Pompei Station), and EXIT from the western Porta Marina/Villa dei Misteri entrance, then cross the street to reach (100 meters) the Circumvesuviana station and proceed on to Ercolano. The distance from the Circumvesuviana Ercolano Scavi station to the entrance to the Ercolano archeological site is 600 meters, straight walk downhill along Via IV Novembre.