Boasting the city of Naples, Mount Vesuvius and several gorgeous coastal towns, it’s no wonder that this part of Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. But if you’re not a fan of crowds then, thankfully, there are ways to avoid them!
Explore different sites around Naples
Not all the attractions in Naples are packed with tourists! Once you’ve explored the city’s main piazzas and pizza shops, you can head to the more peaceful attractions such as Palazzo dello Spagnolo. This elegant double-ramped, five-arched staircase is a fantastic example of baroque architecture and, in the past, even horses used to climb the stairs to transport lazy cavaliers!
For a slightly morbid look into the history of Naples, you can visit the Cimitero delle Fontanelle. Stacked with human skeletons from plague victims, this underground cemetery can’t be missed. Though some may wish to avoid sites such as this, it provides a surprisingly calm escape from the bustle of Naples and the respect with which the bones are treated humbles many visitors. The Chiesa del Purgatorio is like a mini Fontanelle and is arguably more atmospheric. Geivan Cola Di Franco designed this elaborately decorated church. See the images of winged skulls inside and visit the hypogeum.
Go on a cooking course
Italian cuisine is world-famous and learning to cook it correctly should be a goal for any dedicated foodie! And if you’d like to get an authentic taste of Italy away from large crowds and tourist menus then a cooking course could be the perfect option. Tours run from several towns and cities in the Bay of Naples and many of them take you and a small group to lesser-known or remote towns for your class.
Visit the other Vesuvian sites
Mount Vesuvius famously buried Pompeii in 79 AD. This ancient city may receive the most attention from tourists, but it was not the sole victim of the volcano. The town of Herculaneum, which lies north east of the volcano, attracts fewer visitors than its more famous sister, but if you really want to leave behind the crowds, then a visit to the sites of Oplontis and Stabiae are a must!
The areas surrounding Pompeii were a playground for the Roman elite and Oplontis was no different. Rumoured to belong to Emperor Nero’s second wife, Poppea Sabina, Villa Poppaea in Oplontis exhibits beautiful sculptures, fountains, and columns. Stabiae also features luxurious villas and remains of beautiful frescoes, each one giving an insight into the ancient past.
Find the quiet spots along the Amalfi coast
To the south of the Bay of Naples lies the Amalfi Coast – one of Italy’s most stunning (and popular) stretches of coastal scenery. Peppered with beautiful towns, tourists swarm to see the pastel-coloured buildings and relax on the cliff-flanked beaches. However, there are a few towns that enjoy relative peace and quiet.
Nocelle, located 400m above sea level between Positano and Praiano is set amongst a terraced hillside with spectacular panoramic views. A steep 1700 step staircase descends into the town of Positano and hikers will love the trails that lead into the Lattari Mountains from here. Perched high above the more touristy towns, Nocelle allows visitors an escape from the hustle and bustle of the crowds and a chance to see the incredible natural beauty of the area.
Atrani, Maiori, and Minori, positioned further east from the town of Amalfi are comparable to the other Amalfi Coast towns apart from their levels of visitors. Of course, they won’t be deserted but they are a quieter option. The town of Atrani curves around a beach with large stone arches separating the buildings from the sand. The tiered houses that rest amongst the hillside above the arches simply must be seen. Minori is famed for its pasta factories and delicious pasta dishes and Maiori contains one of the largest beaches along the coast, perfect for soaking up some sun away from the masses!
Experience peaceful island life
The most famous island in the Bay of Naples is undoubtedly Capri. With its grottos, rock formations, and upscale shops and restaurants, it welcomes thousands of tourists a day (up to 20,000 in peak season). For those of you who wish to enjoy a spot of island life off the beaten track, then there is Ischia. Located in the bay’s north east, Ischia is known for its mineral-rich thermal waters. It’s essentially an island crossed with a natural spa! Featuring Roman remains, sandy beaches, manicured gardens, lush landscapes, and a lower price tag, it’s a refreshing alternative to Capri.
Swim at the marine reserve
If you’d like to enjoy a little swimming and snorkelling away from the constant splashing of other swimmers, then Isola della Gaiola provides an excellent antidote to the busier beaches. These two tiny, deserted islands form part of a marine reserve and provide great snorkelling opportunities for those of you who wish to see some of the native marine life. Due to its size, only 100 people are allowed into the area at a time, perfect for avoiding large crowds!
Isola della Gaiola is said to be cursed, with the death and demise of many former inhabitants being linked to the islands. But have no fear, the area is very safe and if you would like to explore the islands with others then there are daily snorkelling, kayaking, and diving tours available year-round.
Overall, it can be tricky to escape the throngs of tourists around the Bay of Naples, especially if you’re visiting during the summer months. But with a bit of careful planning and a willingness to explore, you can find secluded havens and calm escapes that will provide you with a relaxing and unique holiday in this wonderful part of Italy.
An even lesser known burial place of Naples’ dead is the Chiesa del Purgatorio ad Arco. Smaller but arguably more atmospheric than the Fontanelle, this church and hypogeum provides a fascinating insight into the city’s past. The church itself was designed by Geiovan Cola Di Franco and is elaborately decorated with marble and stucco and even features images of winged skulls.
Related article: One Day in Naples