This looks to be a long day. The driving time might be longish, but you haven't addressed the important factor of whether you're going to get out of the car at either of these sites.
Pompeii alone would be at least half a day to do well--it was a complete city, after all. And it cannot be seen from the road.
Positano can be seen by the road...I guess. But it certainly isn't the way I would want to see it.
Have you considered staying in Positano and driving back, with Pompeii as a stop then?
We are considering a private car tour that includes Sorrento for 3 hours, Positano for 2 hours and Pompeii for 1.5 hours. I know the Pompeii time is not acceptable so am considering omitting Sorrento and splitting the "out of car" time between Positano and Pompeii. He estimated the drive from Rome to Sorrento at 2 hours but I'm wanting to know what the time might be with Positano first and then Pompeii. As much as I want to see Positano I am wondering if the train to Pompeii might be a better use of time or if the drive and scenery is worth it.
Sounds like the train option will save you a lot of money. Positano is a beautiful spot I guess you could always arrange for a taxi to take you to Poistano from Pompeii and then to the train station. All very rushed though. If archeology or history is the main reason of going to pompeii, perhaps just focus on that and do Positano on another visit. If you want to do Pompeii and Positano give Sorrento a miss so you can spend more time if the other places.
Is staying overnight in one spot not an option?
We did the drive from Positano to Rome and I think it was about 3.5 hours. Most of it is on highway. Anywhere near Positano is gorgeous with the road hugging the cliffs.Edited: 23 October 2010, 20:06
I think you should consider an overnight. This way you can take the train to Naples and spend the day there. The next day can be split between Sorrento and Positano. You can hire a driver in Naples if you prefer or you can take the commuter train to Sorrento and then hire a driver to take you to Sorrento. This might save you a lot of money and will give you a lot more time to enjoy these wonderful cities.
nkg, we just returned from Rome and took the train down to Pompeii for the day. We took the cheap, slow train (which really wasn't bad at all) and got there in apx. 2 hours - we aren't big clock watchers on vacation, just like to enjoy the journey. Along the way, we did see some nice sights (including views of the sea) from the train windows. We spent about 4-5 hours in Pompeii and it was barely enough. It was absolutely incredible - and IMO you need to be able to wander off a bit from all the hordes of tour groups and find quiet spots to really experience the place and its atmoshphere. We left our hotel at about 8 a.m., took the bus to Termini, took the train to Naples, then the Circumvesuviana to Pompeii. Had a quick bite to eat and then explored the site. Caught a return train from Pompeii at about 6 or so and ultimately wound up back at our hotel at about 9:30 or 10 if memory serves me right. We were tired, but not overly so. We thoroughly enjoyed doing it on our own and the price was certainly right! R/T "slow" train was apx. 82 Euros and the Circumvesuviana was 4.80 R/T.
P.S. The prices quoted were for two people.
2 travelers, I think you made a mistake either in your last post or at the train station. The trip from Naples centrale to the pompeii scavi stop is 2.40 each making it 4.80 to get to the site but then it costs another 2.40 each to return. If you didn't buy return tickets you could have been heavily fined if you'd been caught. If this was the case I'm glad it worked out for you but just remember that they don't sell return tickets unless you ask for them and they are basically two one-way tickets. Did you have a good time?
(In actuality, there is an even cheaper (and even slower) train, the unreserved regionale train, which is definitely not recommended for a round-trip between Rome and Naples which also takes in Pompei).
The reference to the Circumvesuviana commuter train between Naples and Pompei costing 4.80 Euros round trip is also correct, but reflects only one passenger. The round-trip fare for two people is 9.60 Euros.