|Subject: ideas for campania|
We are also planning a trip that involves some time in the Naples area this summer, so here is some of what I've found. We've been south of there a few times, in Maratea, for a beach week.
You might want to make Sorrento your base in the region. Hotels seem to be more economical there. You can ferry to Capri and to Naples from there. There is also a ferry from Sorrento to Amalfi, but I don't know if it only goes in the summer months.
You can take a train from Rome to Naples, and then either the ferry to Capri or Sorrento, or the local train, Circumvesuviana, to Sorrento. The currnet price on http://www.fs-on-line.com (trenitalia website) is 22 eros/2nd class from Rome to Naples on the ES train (fastest one).
If you are planning on taking the train back to Rome, it may be cheaper to purchase the Italian kilometric ticket, only available in Italy. It allowes up to 3000 km of travel for 1-5 people travelling together. The price may or may not be more economical, L226,000, but at the end of the month that price will change to euros. More info on that can be found at ricksteves.com/rail.italy.htm (or go to the link for railpasses from the home page, and click on step 3) with directions on how to use it. Or check the trenitalia site, go to special offers, frequent railers.
As for seeing the Amalfi coast, it may be easier and more enjoyable to take the local busses that run between Sorrento and Salerno, stopping at the towns along the way, if you want to get off in Positano or Amalfi. It is much cheaper and you actually get to see the view, instead of focusing on driving (if you were driving) on the narrow roads with lots of busses, and each person gets a window seat to see the view. It's not as crowded of a road in the spring as it is in summer, but it may save you some money by not renting the car. However, with a car you can stop when and where you want and drive up into the hills above the towns for an even better view. Ravello is higher above.
If you do have a car, I would highly recommnd driving to Paestum to see the Greek temples, some of the best preserved temples anywhere - even better that many in Greece. Also, you can drive or take the train, Circumvesuviana, to Pompeii and Herculaneum, if you want to see some Roman ruins - Pompeii is very interesting! And don't miss the archaeology museum in Naples - it has alot of stuff from Pompeii.
For car rentals in Italy, I have always found the best prices with Kemwel, http://www.kemwel.com I checked for the dates around the end of March/beginning of April, and for the small car, the 3 day rate is $149 and week rate is $199. This includes a 5% discount they are currently offering if you book before 2/28. I made reservations last month for the summer, and the price actually came up less when they sent me my voucher than the web quote said. You might want to check it out. We find driving in Italy isn't that bad, but I don't know how adventurous you are! A good map, patience, and good driving skills is all you need!:)
Hope this helps!