The Unico Travel Pass
Traffic might be bad in the region, but paying for public transportation just became a lot easier. With one ticket for the specific area you are visiting, you can board all forms of transportation, from trains and the Metro to buses and ferries. The "Unico" is offered in several denominations (usually 45 min., 90 min., 24 hr., and 3 days) and is for sale at stations as well as tobacconists and newsstands near transportation hubs.
Naples's Unico is the most complicated because you can choose between several zone (zones), with a U1 covering the historic district, Pozzuoli, and the island of Procida; U2 extending to Ercolano, Baia, and Ischia; U3 to Pompei; U4 Capua and Vicco Equense; and U5 encompassing Naples to Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, and Salerno. U1 costs 1.60€ for the 90-minute version and 4.80€ for the 24-hour pass (3.20€ on Sun); U5 costs 4€ for the 90-minute version and 12€ for the 24-hour pass (6.30€ on Sun).
The Unico Campania 3T covers the whole region, including the Alibus shuttle from Naples's Capodichino Airport to the city center, plus public trains, buses, and funiculars on the mainland, Ischia, and Procida. To give you an idea, it includes the Circumvesuviana train to Pompei or Sorrento, the funicular and bus in Naples, as well as the SITA buses on the Amalfi Coast, the FS train to Benevento, and the local bus there. The pass is valid for 3 days, from the first stamp to midnight of the third day, and costs 20€.
The Unico Costiera covers all the towns along the Sorrento and Amalfi coasts, from Meta di Sorrento to Salerno. The best deals are the 24-hour pass and the 3-day pass (respectively 7.20€ and 18€), which also include one ride on the City Sightseeing tour buses between Amalfi and Ravello or Amalfi and Maiori. The Unico is also available in 45-minute and 90-minute increments, respectively 2.40€ and 3.60€. Any of the passes will allow you unlimited rides on SITA buses and the Circumvesuviana trains connecting Meta with Sorrento and stations in between.
For more information, visit www.unicocampania.it.
Public Transportation Strikes -- You might have heard it before -- even the U.S. travel advisory for Italy warns of it -- strikes occur in Italy and can hamper public transportation. However, they are a relatively rare occurrence, and planned walkouts are often canceled at the last minute because the parties reach an agreement. Should it actually happen, minimum service is guaranteed and alternate transportation is always made available. The bottom line is that strikes are no reason to forgo public transportation in favor of driving.
With easy connections between the region's major towns and the Vesuvian attractions of Herculaneum and Pompeii, the train is an excellent way to get around. Local trains are cheap and frequent and you don't need advance reservation: You can buy your ticket at the automatic machines inside the station and hop on the train. An added advantage is that the rail station is usually in the center of town, within walking distance from the major attractions and well connected by public transportation and taxis.
The national railway system, FS-Trenitalia (tel. 892021 from anywhere in Italy; www.trenitalia.it), serves the area together with local lines: Alifana (tel. 800-053939; www.alifana.it) covers Benevento and surrounding areas; Circumvesuviana (tel. 800-053939; www.vesuviana.it) connects Naples with the Vesuvian area including Ercolano, Pompei, Castellammare di Stabia, and Sorrento; and Metronapoli (tel. 800-568866; www.metro.na.it) connects Naples with Pozzuoli and the Phlegrean Fields.
National and regional lines serve most major tourist destinations, sometimes in parallel, with the result that even relatively small towns have two stations, one for the national railroad and one for the local line.
Local bus companies operate throughout Campania, and are a handy resource particularly in hilly and mountainous areas where rail service isn't available. We recommend using the bus, for example, in the Amalfi Coast, where the frequent service offers a good alternative to driving. SITA schedules numerous runs between Salerno, Naples, and Sorrento, with extra lines between Amalfi, Positano, and Sorrento, as well as secondary lines from Amalfi and Sorrento to minor destinations along the Costiera. These provide not only convenient but also cheap transport, as you can buy a single pass valid on public transportation for the whole Costiera.
The leading bus operators in the region are SITA (tel. 089-053939; www.sitabus.it), serving the Sorrento peninsula and the Amalfi Coast; SEPSA (081-5525125; www.sepsa.it), serving Pozzuoli, Baia, Cuma, and Miseno, as well as Procida and Ischia; CTP (tel. 800-482644; www.ctpn.it), serving Naples and linking it with neighboring towns; AIR (tel. 0825-204250; www.air-spa.it), connecting the Avellino area with Naples; and CSTP (tel. 800-016659 or 089-487001; www.cstp.it), with buses in Salerno, Paestum, and the Cilento.
Ferries are a great way to get around this region's coastal destinations and, obviously, crucial to reaching its islands. They are a fantastic option particularly during the summer, when the narrow coastal roads become overly congested. Several companies connect the region's top destinations. Hydrofoil service is the fastest, but is suspended in winter and operates only between selected harbors -- chiefly Naples, Capri, Ischia, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and Salerno. Other options include large ferries with transport of vehicles, and smaller motorboats, which can reach smaller harbors. All companies charge similar rates for similar service. The only relevant difference is the time schedule.
Naples's two harbors -- Stazione Marittima, downtown, and Terminal Aliscafi, in Mergellina -- along with Salerno's are the region's main hubs, followed by Amalfi, Sorrento, and Pozzuoli. All offer multiple daily connections to the islands (Capri, Ischia, and Procida) and the smaller towns of the Amalfi Coast, including Positano.
Companies offering local service are Alilauro (tel. 081-4972222; www.alilauro.it), with hydrofoils to Ischia and Positano; Caremar (tel. 199-116655; www.caremar.it), with ferries and hydrofoils to Ischia, Capri, and Procida; LMP (tel. 081-7041913; www.consorziolmp.it), with hydrofoils to Sorrento; Medmar (tel. 081-3334411; www.medmargroup.it), with ferries to Ischia; Metrò del Mare (tel. 199-600700; www.metrodelmare.net ), with commuter-style service between Bacoli and Salerno, with intermediary stops in Pozzuoli, Naples, Vico Equense, Sorrento, Positano, and Amalfi, and summer service to the islands; NLG (tel. 081-5520763; www.navlib.it), with hydrofoils to Capri; SNAV (tel. 081-4285555; www.snav.it), with hydrofoils to Ischia, Capri, and Procida; and Volaviamare (tel. 081-4972211; www.volaviamare.it), with fast boats between Naples, Sorrento, Amalfi, Positano, Salerno, Ischia, and Capri.
Companies offering minicruises and excursions are also great resources for moving around the region: We recommend Blue Cruises (tel. 081-4972222; www.blucruises.it) and Capitan Morgan (tel. 081-4972238; www.capitanmorgan.it).
By Limousine/Car Service & Taxi
A good alternative to renting a car is using a taxi or a car service -- make sure they use cars and minivans with air-conditioning (very important in summer), as well as trained, English-speaking drivers. Official taxis are at the airport and the train station. They are white and have a taxi sign on the roof, a city logo, and a card clearly detailing the official rates inside. The Municipality of Naples has established flat rates for major tourist destinations in the region. These rates are cheaper than if the meter was used, and you have to ask for them before departure. A round-trip to Herculaneum, with a 2-hour wait (during which you visit the ruins), is 70€; Pompeii and a 2-hour wait is 90€; a round-trip tour of the Amalfi Coast (Positano, Ravello, Amalfi, and Sorrento), for an entire day, is 220€; a round-trip to Mount Vesuvius, with a 2-hour wait, is 90€; round-trip to Baia (Scavi Archeologici) and Solfatara, with a 3-hour wait, is 85€; a tour of Naples is 70€.
The best companies are Radio Taxi Napoli (tel. 081-444444, 081-5555555, or 081-5564444; www.consorziotaxinapoli.it), Cooperativa Partenopea (tel. 081-5515151, or 081-5560202; www.radiotaxilapartenope.it), Radio Taxi La 570 (tel. 081-5707070; www.la570.it), and Consortaxi (tel. 081-202020). Taxis operate from the airport or various taxi stands at major destinations in and around the city. You can just go to one of these stands and grab a taxi, but book in advance for longer excursions.
Car services tend to be based on the Sorrento peninsula and Amalfi Coast. They are often cheaper than taxis, and drivers also act as guides. Car services we recommend are Sorrento Limo (www.sorrentolimo.com), Cuomo Limousine (www.carsorrento.it), and Paolo Bellantonio (www.bellantoniolimoservice.com), all based in Sorrento; Benvenuto Limos & Tours (www.benvenutolimos.com), based in Praiano; and Avellino Car Service (www.amedeoavellino.com), based in Vico Equense. We also like two private drivers: Francesco Marrapese (www.francescomarrapese.com) and Angelo (www.angelodriver.com).
Recommended providers in Naples are ANA Limousine Service, Piazza Garibaldi 73 (tel. 081-282000), and Italy Limousine (tel. 081-8080457 or 338-9681866; www.italylimousine.it).
Distances within Campania on the autostrada (limited-access, toll-express highways) are short: Naples to Salerno is about 30 minutes, and Salerno to Avellino only 20 minutes. Local routes tend to be much more congested, especially in the summer. Driving from Sorrento to Amalfi in the off season will take you less than an hour, but, with summer traffic, a 2-hour ride is more like it. Renting a motorcycle is a good way to get around as well.
Before renting a car or a motorcycle, though, know that Neapolitans have a well-earned reputation for aggressive and daring driving. You need to be a skilled and alert driver if you want to navigate Italian roads, which feature super-high speeds on the autostrade, super-narrow streets in the cities and towns, and one of the highest fatality rates in Europe. The situation gets worse in Naples and surrounding areas, where roads have guardrails only when the road is on a cliff and breaking speed limits is a local sport. Motor scooters are extremely prevalent and their drivers often do not obey traffic laws, so be mindful of them as they zoom and swerve between cars.
Also, driving is not cheap: In addition to high tolls on the autostrada, gasoline prices and parking fees are steep.
If you are planning to visit only major destinations in the region, you'll be better off using public transportation or hiring a car with a driver. However, driving will allow you to see much more of the countryside at your own pace, and it makes sense if you have the time to go exploring off the beaten path.
The two primary Italian car-rental companies are Maggiore (www.maggiore.it) and Travelcar (www.travelcar.it), but all major international car-rental companies operate here. In addition, you'll also find a number of local companies that rent cars (with or without driver) as well as scooters or motorcycles.
Rules of the Road -- In Italy, driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Unless otherwise marked, speed limits are 50kmph (31 mph) in urban areas, 90kmph to 110kmph (56-68 mph) in suburban areas, and 110kmph to 130kmph (68-81 mph) on limited-access highways. Speed limits for trailers, or towed vehicles, are lower: 70 kmph (43 mph) outside urban areas and 80 kmph (50 mph) on autostrada (100 kmph/62 mph for auto-caravans, or mobile homes). Automatic speed controls are installed on most roads, and you may be ticketed for driving faster than the posted limit.
It is mandatory to have your headlights on at all times outside urban areas and to use seat belts (front and rear) and age-appropriate car seats for children. High-beam headlights are sometimes used to signal to fellow drivers: If you are in the left passing lane and a driver flashes you from behind, you need to move out of the way. If an oncoming car signals you, it means that some danger is ahead, so slow down. If cars ahead of you put on their hazard lights, slow down: The traffic is completely stopped ahead. Horns cannot be used in urban areas except in an emergency.
Only motorcycles and scooters with engines above 150 cubic centimeters can use the autostrade. Helmet use is mandatory on all roads.
Drinking and driving is severely punished and there are fines for talking on your mobile phone while driving and for illegal parking.
Finding Your Way -- Road signs are posted with one sign about 1.6km (1 mile) before an exit, and then another right at the exit. Destination signs are blue for local roads and green for the toll highway. Destinations of cultural interest (such as monuments and archaeological areas) are posted on brown signs. Often, only the major town on a local road is marked, while smaller towns and villages on the way will not be posted.
Gasoline -- Gas stations are distributed along local roads at sensible intervals; however, large stretches of countryside are without stations. Pumps are generally open Monday to Saturday from 7 or 8am to 1pm and 3 or 4pm to 7 or 8pm (some have a self-service pump accessible after hours). On toll highways gas stations are positioned every 32 or 48km (20 or 30 miles) and are open 24 hours daily. Most cars take benzina senza piombo (unleaded fuel) or diesel (diesel or gasolio). Among diesel cars, only the newest models take the ecofuel labeled blu diesel (blue diesel) Be prepared for sticker shock every time you fill up -- even in a medium-size car -- as fuel is priced throughout the country at around 1.6€ per liter (diesel is a little cheaper, selling around 1.5€ per liter); a gallon equals about 3.8 liters. Make sure the pump registers zero before an attendant starts filling your tank: A common scam involves filling your tank before resetting the meter (so that you also pay the charges run up by the previous motorist), and it is still performed by some dishonest attendants.
Breakdowns & Assistance -- Roadside aid in Italy is excellent. For 24-hour emergency assistance, contact the national department of motor vehicles, Automobile Club d'Italia (tel. 803-116 toll-free within Italy; www.aci.it).
Parking -- Parking is always limited, particularly during the high season and near major attractions. Parking lots and areas are indicated with a square sign bearing a large white P on a blue background.
Parking spots are marked on the pavement with painted lines of various colors depending on the type of parking: Yellow is for reserved parking (deliveries, drivers with disabilities, taxis, and so on); white is free parking (very limited -- you won't find many of those on the Costiera); blue is paid parking. Rates vary as they are established by each municipality: Check the sign at the beginning and end of the stretch of parking spots and the sign on the automatic parking machines (usually located at a more or less reasonable distance from your parking spot; look for a gray/white box on a post or on a wall). Machines usually accept only coins, so come prepared (prices usually range 1€-3€ per hr.). The timer shows the current time, and as you insert money, it will show you what time you are paid through. When you're done, press the green button, collect the receipt, and place it on your dashboard in a visible spot. Do not even think about skipping this, particularly in tourist areas -- authorities are very vigilant.
The alternative is a private parking lot. These are usually located near the historic district (or attractions) in most towns. They are often underground, and attendants will park your car for you. Expect to pay 20€ to 50€ per day, depending on the location.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.