Q I'll be staying with a friend in Naples, Italy, for one week. Can you recommend some day trips that I could take that are less than two hours from Naples by train or bus?
A The Campania region of Italy is superb for exploring because of historical sites, stunning vistas along the coast and a well-connected public transportation network.
The big day trip from Naples is to Pompeii and Herculaneum, the ancient towns nearly perfectly preserved after Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. The sites are easily accessible by light rail, Circumvesuviana (www.vesuviana.it), which travels from Naples to Pompeii in 30 minutes. Consider buying a combo ticket to visit Naples, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata, a preserved Roman villa along the way. Plan on a full day.
The same train system continues on to Sorrento, which is an hour from Naples. Although Sorrento is a resort town with few tourist attractions, it's a good place to wander and admire the rugged coastline, especially from the gardens of the Villa Communale. From there you could explore the island of Capri and the Amalfi Coast; for a nice ride, go by hydrofoil or ferry.
Farther south is Paestrum, where you'll find a trio of Europe's best-preserved Doric temples, dating to 450 B.C. There's a fine history and art museum, too.
A short bus ride north of Naples are the towns of Caserta and Capua. Caserta has an 18th-century palace with gardens that stretch for more than a mile. Capua is four miles beyond and has a 1st-century amphitheater with a network of navigable tunnels. Also noteworthy is the Mithraeum, where bloodlettings were the norm.
And there's always Rome, which is less than 2 1/2 hours from Naples by train.
Info: Italian Government Tourist Board, 212-245-5618, www.italiantourism.com.