Q. We're hoping to visit Sorrento for a week in early October but are struggling to find good accommodation.
Q. We're hoping to visit Sorrento for a week in early October but are struggling to find good accommodation. We are taking our 18-month-old daughter and my fit and active mother. We'd like to do day trips to Pompeii, Herculaneum and Capri, and hear that the public transport links are good enough for us to not have to drive. Ideally we'd like a two-bedroom apartment that's fairly central, although a hotel would be OK if it offered a listening service. It needs to be pushchair accessible and our budget stretches to about £600 per person. After a recent disastrous holiday with a "reputable" company we are worried about our accommodation and don't know where, other than a few obvious brochures, to look.
The Hall family, via e-mail
A. October is an excellent time to visit the Amalfi Coast, the famous but precipitous stretch of beautiful cliffs, coves and lemon groves which arcs east of the Bay of Naples. The narrow coast road that snakes between Sorrento and Salerno has at least 10 overheated tour buses to every hairpin bend during July and August, but by October things will have quietened down considerably.
Sorrento itself is a steeply terraced, bustling resort at the western end of the bay. You won't need to drive here as public transport links are good. Orange Line buses run every 30 minutes from the central Piazza Lauro, to villages along the coast. Offshore, a veritable armada of ferries carries visitors back and forth to the island of Capri. And, while Capri itself is very expensive, getting there won't break the bank: expect to pay around €5.80 (£4) per adult for the 20-minute boat ride with Caremar (00 39 081 317 2999; www.caremar.it). Sorrento is also at one end of the Circumvesuviana railway line (00 39 081 772 2111; www.vesuviana.it). This will get you to Naples in 40 minutes, and the archeological sites at Pompeii or Herculaneum in around 20 minutes, all for between €2-€3 (£1.40-£2.10) per person.
As for accommodation, most of the "obvious brochures" you mention concentrate on hotels or fly-drive self-catering holidays. Both Citalia (020-8686 5533; www.citalia.com) and Magic of Italy (0800 980 3378; www.magictravelgroup.co.uk), however, have a couple of smaller family-run hotels that might be suitable. For instance, Citalia has seven nights, departing in October, at the three-star Hotel Gardenia, staying in twin-bedded rooms, for £599 per person, including return flights to Naples from London Gatwick, transfers and accommodation with breakfast. The hotel has a lift for your pushchair, and the town centre is about 10 minutes' walk away. Incidentally, Sorrento is all one big hill, which can make homeward buggy journeys tiring - however, the Gardenia has a bus stop right outside, which should save your legs at the end of the day.
If you can get over your crisis of confidence and book independently, Sorrento has plenty of holiday apartments, many rented direct by the owners or via small Italian agencies. Try the PortaNapoli website ( www.hotel.portanapoli.com) for links to a good selection of rental apartments. Alternatively, Scent of Sorrento (0781 413 7251; www.scentofsorrento.com), has a two-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor (with lift) of a modern block on Corso Italia, Sorrento's high street, for €675 (£480) a week during October. If you can live without a lift and would prefer a smaller building with more character, Interhome (020-8891 1294; www.interhome.co.uk) has a simple but charming three-bed, two-bathroom flat on the second floor of a 19th-century apartment house. This is located in a narrow lane a short walk from the railway station, costs £360 per week and is available to rent any time between 2 and 15 October.
This will leave you with plenty of money for flights: easyJet (0870 600 0000; www.easyjet.com) flies daily to Naples from Stansted and Gatwick. British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com), which flies from Gatwick, currently has return tickets from around £100 per adult for departures in early October. Your baby's ticket will cost around £17, if she sits in your lap. From Heathrow, BMI (0870 607 0555; www.flybmi.com) offers fares of around £67 per adult, with your child flying for £7.
The alternative is to stretch your budget to the limit and go for the expensive but extremely comfortable Villa Swiss Cottage, bookable through Sorrento Villas (00 39 081 534 2218; www.sorrento-villas.com). Don't be put off by the name - it's an airy, refurbished three-bedroomed villa in the gardens of what used to be a royal residence, but is now a luxury hotel. About 1km uphill from the town centre, it is 50m from a private beach with "elevator access", has use of the hotel pool, and costs €1,820 (£1,300) per week in October. For more information about visiting Sorrento, contact Sorrento Tourism on 00 39 081 807 4033 or go to www.sorrentotourism.com. Alternatively contact The Italian State Tourist Board on 020-7408 1254.
A final tip when it comes to sightseeing: even out of season, Pompeii (00 081 857 5331; www.pompeiisites.org) can get riotously crowded. Get there when it opens at 8.30am, preferably on a Saturday (tour operators' change-over day), and you should avoid the worst of the melée. The site is open daily from 8.30am-7.30pm and admission costs €10 (£7) per adult (EU citizens under 18 go free). If you are planning to visit more than one site, it might be worth investing in a combined three-day ticket giving access to five different sites; Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae, Oplontis and Boscoreale for €18 (£12.80) per adult.
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