Positano is the ideal home base for a vacation on the Amalfi Coast! From location to budget to options for restaurants, Positano is the perfect Amalfi Coast town.
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With clear water, incredible food, and epic beauty, Italy’s Amalfi Coast is an iconic vacation destination that deserves a spot on everyone’s bucket list. If you want a town that’s the happy medium between “resort town” and “way too hard to get to,” head for Positano!
There are tons of amazing cities to see on the Amalfi Coast, but Positano hits the sweet spot for us. It’s big enough to have plenty of restaurants, two beaches, and many options for hotels and vacation homes. Many day trips leave from Positano, meaning if you want to book a tour or boat trip, you don’t have to find your own way.
That being said, Positano doesn’t feel like a massive resort city. Particularly if you stay a bit further from the beach and main shopping street (10 minutes’ walk away is fine) it looks less touristy. There’s a level of authenticity that comes from the way the city is so clearly built into the contours of the mountain.
Positano is also a bit cheaper than the biggest cities in the Amalfi Coast. While it’s still an expensive area, Positano has restaurants that you can enjoy a nice meal for two for less than 50€. Pizza or panino takeaway spots are pretty close in price to what I’d expect in far less popular towns.
Another advantage of Positano is you don’t need a car. There are plenty of places to eat, shop and see within walking distance. If you do need to get somewhere, there are taxis, buses, and ferries available in addition to many further out attractions including shuttles to and from Positano in the cost of admission.
That balance of options and peace made Positano an ideal home base as we explored the Amalfi Coast!
In general, beaches in Italy (and often in Europe) have a pay-to-play model. You rent out a space with chairs and an umbrella included and it’s yours for the day. For those of us who grew up tossing towels down wherever we found a spot, this is an adjustment. But I’ll say that having an umbrella to escape the Mediterranean sun has its benefits.
Both of Positano’s beaches have a free section, both on the far right side if you’re facing the ocean. However, they’re pebble beaches, so laying on a towel isn’t quite the same. They also get crowded, so get there early if you want a spot.
Spiaggia Grande is the big one next to the pier that you can’t miss when walking around Positano. As such, it’s the more expensive beach. Spiaggia Fornillo is a bit off the beaten path and quieter, but also significantly cheaper to rent a space. The only downside is that at ten minutes’ walk from the rest of town, you can’t as easily get a quick lunch from somewhere other than the beach club.
I highly recommend Spiaggia Fornillo over Grande. For a significantly cheaper price (in July 2020, it was 22.50€ at Grande and 15€ at Fornillo per person) you get less crowds.
At Fornillo, we chose the Fratelli Grassi beach club out of the three or four options. They had a full bar (pretty standard for beach clubs) and lunch options, but the surprise menu item was smoothies! With or without booze. 😉 More importantly, they didn’t taste overly sugary or as if they were made from a packet. They even have a boat that shuttles you back to the main pier, saving you that extra bit of walking on the way back home.
Typically you pay at the cabana or bar and then head to your assigned section. Staff will help you find the best spot and it’s yours for the day! I suspect this is a post-COVID thing, but the chairs didn’t feel too close to our neighbors, and we had the room to rotate our chairs to follow (or avoid) the sun through the day.
The nice part of renting out space is that you can leave your stuff. When at Spiaggia Grande, we decided to walk a bit into Positano to get away from the overpriced tourist food and left our towels and sunscreen at our chairs.
The third beach option takes a bit more planning: beach clubs are dotted along the shoreline throughout the Amalfi Coast! Most of them are boat access only, so you’d need to book chairs in advance and they’ll send a shuttle to pick you up at the pier. It’s a great way to get away from the crowds, and they all offer a restaurant for lunch. If you want one to check out, I’ve heard good things about Arienzo.
A Day on the Water
Even better than a day at the beach is a day on the water! There are tons of companies offering boat trips to explore the Amalfi Coast, and it’s truly the best way to get a sense of the whole area.
We chose to go with Blue Star Boat Tours. They offer small-group boat trips to a variety of options. Their most popular boat trip goes Capri, but since we had plans to go there separately, we instead headed down the coast!
Driving along the coastline is gorgeous, but seeing it from the water gives a different sense of scale. Be they small fishing villages or cities packed with opulent resorts, these beautiful towns are carved out of the mountainside, at times blending in nearly perfectly with the surrounding stone.
Our boat trip had only five people plus the captain, so it was the perfect size to do whatever we wanted without paying for a private tour. Our guide Hermes pointed out famous resorts and homes along the way and was so knowledgable about the history of the region. We stopped several times to swim, both at beaches and along the coastline. We even swam into a cave!
The boat tour took us as far south as the town of Amalfi, where we stopped for lunch. We had plenty of time to explore the city and do a bit of shopping before getting back on the boat to return home!
If you like exploring by boat, I highly recommend Blue Star Boat Tours. The trip ran about 10am-5pm, and they provided water, coke, and beer onboard. (For whatever reason they don’t advertise that fact, but from reading reviews this is a normal part of their services.) You can book online in advance (which I highly recommend during the summer) or walk up to their tent next to the pier and see if they have space for walk-ons.
The Emerald Grotto
With our tour was the option to see la Grotta dello Smeraldo, or the Emerald Grotto, another cave tucked into the side of the sheer rock face. We opted to check it out, and I’m so glad we did!
At 5€ per person, it was a good deal – not quite the same unearthly beauty of Capri’s Blue Grotto, but with different features. The cave was not massive but sections were lit with artificial light, allowing us to see features of the cave.
The row boat has capacity for about 10 people, meaning you get a bit more of the guided tour experience. Our rowboat captain gave a spiel in both Italian and English telling the history of the cave and why different rock formations were named certain things, be it the crocodile or the Garibaldi (which he likened to Abraham Lincoln for the benefit of the Americans on the boat).
I’d certainly recommend it. If you aren’t doing a boat trip along the coast, you can still do it by road; it’s located between Furore and Conca dei Marini. Depending on the line, it’s a quick pit stop and worth it. And the lines never get as crazy as the Blue Grotto either way.
Shopping in Positano
The Amalfi Coast is known for a few shopping items that are worth checking out!
The pottery here is amazing. While many regions of Italy are known for gorgeous pottery, I’m a sucker for the stuff and will buy a small piece or two everywhere we go that has beautiful options. The classic lemons on a blue background originates in the Amalfi Coast, and but there are a few traditional designs that you can find at most shops. I loved Tre Coralli – the work here comes from the local pottery school, meaning it’s high quality and hand-painted but a bit more affordable and proceeds help support the school.
Another classic Amalfi purchase is linen. Italians live in linen in the summer; it’s their favorite way to beat the heat and still look stylish. Here you’ll find many shops that sell linen products from the region. Check the tags for “made in Positano” (or at least in Italy) for the real deal. As such, it costs more, but you know the quality is good.
Sandals are also a classic to this region. You can get them throughout the Amalfi Coast, and you’ll hear different answers of which town they’re most specifically from depending on who you ask. 😉 Essentially, buying them anywhere on the Amalfi Coast is legit, but expect to pay at least 50€ for them. Many places will build them custom for you too!
In summary: Positano is incredible. I highly recommend staying in Positano for your trip to the Amalfi Coast. It’s the perfect balance of size and amenities, and did I mention it’s stunning??