This tour treats you to the slice of Italy that's richest in contrasts, from cities to beaches, and from rugged to glamorous. After touring the wonders of Rome, your Rick Steves guide will take you across Italy's boot to the wild beauty of the Gargano Peninsula and Adriatic Coast. You'll meander through the untouristed Puglia and Basilicata regions, followed by the must-see historic sites at Paestum and Pompeii, the jaw-dropping vistas of the Amalfi Coast, and the untamed energy of Naples. Join us for the Best of South Italy in 13 Days!
You'll get all this!
- A small, friendly group of 24-28 people — half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of South Italy come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 18 group sightseeing events • Trastevere walking tour • Jewish Ghetto walking tour • Capitoline Museum tour • Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli • Gargano boat cruise (weather permitting) • Pasta-making demonstration • Alberobello visit • Puglia wine tasting • Matera Sassi walking tour • Mozzarella farm visit • Paestum visit • Pompeii tour • Gelato-making demonstration • Orientation for Capri excursion • Capodimonte Museum tour • Naples neighborhood walk • Sansevero Chapel • Naples Archaeology Museum tour...and more
- All group transportation from Rome to Naples
- 12 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Rick Steves' Italy guidebook, Best of South Italy Sightseeing Guide, Italian phrase book, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2014
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
Daily Activity Key
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: 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. Sleep in Rome (2 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: Layers of Rome
This morning we'll take an eye-opening walk across the Tiber, where we'll learn about the rich, yet often-overlooked, history of Rome's Jewish Ghetto. Then 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. The rest of the day is yours to wander through the Roman Colosseum and Forum next door, 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. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 3: Tivoli and the Gargano Peninsula
We'll leave Rome early, 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 the tip of the rugged Gargano Peninsula, one of the most beautiful areas of Southern Italy — and still unknown to American travelers. At our cliff-side hotel we'll share dinner tonight, and sleep in Vieste (2 nights). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 4: Vieste and the Adriatic Coast
Vieste's beaches are packed with Italians in mid-summer. But when we arrive we'll find a peaceful contrast to the hustle and bustle of Rome. Today we'll take a boat cruise (weather permitting) along the craggy Gargano Coast, marveling at the pretty 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. Boat: 1½ hrs. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 5: Alberobello and Matera
Today we'll head off the tourist path and into the Puglia and Basilicata regions, 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. Sleep in Matera (2 nights). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 6: The Wonders of Matera
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 Sassi 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. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 7: Greek Paestum and Positano
Early this morning we'll drive into the Campania region and tour an organic water buffalo farm which 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 including (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 are off to the dramatic Amalfi Coast. We'll follow the cliff-clinging road that winds above the sea to Positano, where we'll sleep (2 nights). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 8: Free Day on the Amalfi Coast
The 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 cliff-side villages along the way. Check out the sweeping views from Ravello, the candy-striped church in Amalfi town, the narrow streets and posh shops of Positano, or let gravity pull you down to a beach to relax upon. Tonight will be a great night to find a trattoria with a glorious sunset view. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 9: Pompeii and Sorrento
This morning we'll make a short drive for a thoughtful visit of unlucky Pompeii, where, with an ace local guide, we'll get a look at everyday life, frozen in time two millennia ago. After free time for lunch and to explore more of Pompeii on your own, we'll hop aboard the Circumvesuviana commuter train bound for serene Sorrento, our cliff-hugging home set amongst the lemon groves. Before we check into our Sorrento hotel, we'll watch the creation of an Italian culinary masterpiece — gelato. Sleep in Sorrento (2 nights). Train: ½ hr. Bus: 1 hr. Walking: strenuous.
Day 10: Serene Sorrento and Capri
Today is all yours. Your guide will arrange for an optional boat ride to Capri, where you can then take 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. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 11: Classy, Gritty Naples
After a short 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. Sleep in Naples (2 nights). Bus: 1 hr. Walking: moderate.
Day 12: Exploring More of Naples
This morning we're in world-class-art mode again, touring the greatest treasures of Pompeii, brought to Naples' National Archeological Museum for safe-keeping. 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. From here we'll head for the serene Cappella Sansevero, home to amazingly lifelike sculptures that have to be seen to be believed. Then, armed with the confidence and the Neapolitan street-smarts you've gotten 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! No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 13: Tour Over After Breakfast
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!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Best of South Italy in 13 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- Sleep in a cave-like hotel room in historic Matera.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Rome before your tour begins, use your Rick Steves' Italy guidebook to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of Italian, and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise.
Here are suggestions for sightseeing in Rome that we do not do as a group: Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican Museum.
Thinking of spending more time in Italy after the tour? From Naples you may want to make the trip up to the top of Mount Vesuvius; visit the impressive, ash-covered ruins of Herculaneum; you may even consider heading back south to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast; or train back up to Rome for more time exploring the Eternal City.
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). The most direct route is to fly into Rome and home from Naples. Rome and Naples are major transportation hubs, making additional travel before or after your tour quite easy. You may also want to consider a roundtrip flight in and out of Rome; then traveling by train from Naples to Rome after the tour. You may save money on the flight, but you need to consider the cost of an additional night in Rome. Important: the train from Naples to Rome takes 70 minutes - two hours; therefore you need to avoid early morning flights (6-8 a.m.) out of Rome. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
Read Rick's Guide to Eurail Passes and decide if your travel plans merit a rail pass (or contact our Rail Department for advice at email@example.com or 425/771-8303 ext. 214). You can get a rough idea of costs from the above guide or in Rick Steves' Italy guidebook.
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
While it is important to pack light, there is one item you may wish to include when packing for this tour. This tour has several opportunities for swimming. You may want to pack a swimsuit and perhaps a lightweight microfiber towel.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
"Susanna was an outstanding guide in all areas. Having been born and raised in Rome, she was most informative and answered any questions that were asked of her. She made it possible for us to really FEEL how things were in Italy's history, enabling us to put ourselves right in the middle of it all. I would take a tour with Susanna any day, anytime, anywhere."
— Suzanne in Cheshire, CT
"Donato (Don) is probably the best RS guide we have been with. He can read the group, he is knowledgeable, he obviously loves what he does, and he knows Southern Italy. Thank you once again Rick and your organization for choosing some of the best guides in the business and keeping them for 20 years!"
— Shirley in Citrus Heights, CA
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"There were many 'wow' moments during the Best of South Italy tour — the cruise along the Gargano Coast which included a chance to see some unbelievable sea caves; our time in the Sassi (cave houses) of Matera; the very idyllic setting and drama of the Greek ruins of Paestum; the pasta cooking lesson; and the time in Pompeii were just some of the amazing 'wow' moments."
— Charlene in Springfield, OR
"Paestum, Pompeii, Hadrian's Villa and the National Museum in Naples were all 'WOW' moments. For anyone with an interest in antiquities or Ancient Greece and Rome, these are must see places."
— Barry in San Francisco, CA
"The 'wow' moment was on top of the hill on Capri when we got off the chairlift! What a beautiful view of the island, the blue of the water, the cliffs below. Spectacular!"
— Mary in Eagle, ID
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
(For more Rick Steves' TV clips on this region, visit Rick on YouTube.)
- Roman Holiday (1953)
- Spartacus (1960)
- La Dolce Vita (1961)
- Il Postino (1995)
- Life is Beautiful (1997)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves' Audio Tours
- Rome: Pantheon, St. Peter's Basilica, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, Roman Forum
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Opera: Puccini, Rossini, Verdi, Andrea Bocelli, Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti, Ezio Pinza, Three Tenors
- Classical: Vivaldi's Four Seasons
- Pop/rock: Pino Daniele, Dean Martin, Mina, Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti
- Movie Soundtrack: Big Night
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations.)
- The First Man in Rome — Colleen McCullough
- I, Claudius — Robert Graves
- The Leopard — Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
- A Bell for Adano — John Hersey
- Pompeii — Robert Harris
- A Thread of Grace — Mary Doria Russell