Italy’s Amalfi Coast is one of the most sought-after vacation destinations in the worth for good reason. Today, I’m rounding up everything you need to know to plan a trip to the Amalfi Coast!
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A quick note about coronavirus and my travel content: in these crazy times, I know much of the world isn’t traveling right now. But my hope is that you keep dreaming and planning for travel, and when the time comes, you go! In that spirit, I’ll continue sharing travel tips for when it’s safe for global travel.
General Tips to Plan your Trip to the Amalfi Coast
One of the great parts about Amalfi in general and Positano in particular is the rustic beauty so far away from everything. The combination of craggy mountains and gorgeous ocean makes it seem unfair that one area got so much beauty. It’s a getaway, in the purest sense.
That being said, the epic sights have a price. It’s remote enough that getting there is no easy feat, and the area is so popular with tourists that you’ll pay for the privilege of seeing it.
When we visited, I did a TON of research to figure out what’s the best way to get there and then experience the Amalfi Coast. I have yet to find one site (either by a travel blogger, tourism board, or travel agent’s online resources) to lay out all the options clearly. So I decided to round up all my sources into one place!
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The Amalfi Coast covers roughly 25 miles and includes several cities. There’s one for every type of traveler, so do a little research on where you want to treat as a home base.
Sorrento is a beautiful city and the easiest to access; therefore, it’s the most resort-y of the Amalfi Coast. But it also has some fantastic restaurants, a great variety of types of hotels, and is the simplest to get to.
Capri is an island with two main cities, and is popular for a reason. However, you pay for the privilege of staying: you’ll find the city expensive even by Amalfi Coast standards.
As the town that the entire section of coast gets it’s name from, Amalfi is small and cute but still very popular. It’s cathedral is an iconic Italian spot.
Smaller cities worth considering would be Praiano, Minori, and Vietri sul Mare. Praiano is known as the white city, Minori is most known for its specific lemons used in patisserie and limoncello, and Vietri sul Mare is famed for its ceramics.
Since we stayed in Positano and loved it, most of my recommendations revolve around that city. However, I’ll include suggestions for other cities as well!
Transportation: Getting to the Amalfi Coast
The most complicated piece of Amalfi Coast logistics is getting there. Essentially, you have to decide what your budget is in time and money and ease of travel, because you’ll trade one for the other two every time. There are roughly four options: driving, hiring a car, using public transport, and (sometimes) taking ferries.
Renting a car is the most straightforward option, but comes with it’s own set of complications. The advantages of driving are many: you can be on your own schedule, you have the flexibility to move from town to town, take day trips, and get to restaurants that are truly off the beaten path.
Remember these roads have existed for hundreds of years. They take hairpin turns, are typically one-way, and often if you come across someone on a two-way road one of you will have to hug the ledge or back up enough to pass each other. It’s a bit… stressful.
Parking exists here, in greater numbers than Cinque Terre. Positano has at least three paid parking decks so you can almost always find something, but you’ll pay for the privilege. There’s also parking along the road out of town, but be prepared to park a mile out and likely end up with a few scratches. Overall, this is a tough option I don’t recommend.
Hiring a Car
Hiring a car is the fastest option. You get in the car, they drive you the most direct route and drop you at your door. Simple.
In general, it’ll be cheaper to pre-book a car hire. If you book in advance, you can find deals that are $150-200. For a group of four, that’s a good deal! You may spend that much on parking for a long weekend.
You can also hire taxis to get you from town to town, but then you’re at the mercy of driver on price. If you get in a jam and need this, the region’s taxi drivers will negotiate a preset price rather than using the meter (generally a better deal), but you have to nail it down before you get in the car.
I haven’t used a private car so I can’t give a personalized recommendation, but do your research and book in advance!
As always, public transport is the cheapest option by a long shot and is available to certain cities on the Amalfi Coast.
The Circumvesuviana is a train that runs from Naples to Sorrento. It’s also the public transport option to see both Pompeii and Herculaneum (called Ercolano in Italian), so it’s a helpful option for seeing multiple things on one trip. It’s a very old train, so don’t be surprised by it being dirty (not gross, just decrepit-looking). The ride from end to end costs 3€ per person and takes 60-70 minutes, depending on if you catch the “express” train or the normal one.
From there, you can catch a bus to Positano, Praiano, or Amalfi. The bus company out there is SITA Sud, and it’s ridiculously hard to nail down the schedule. As of July 2020, this version looked correct when compared to the listed schedule at the stop itself.
The bus is a great option for cheap day tripping to other cities, and provides some epic coastline views! Sit on the right side if you’re heading south to Positano. During normal tourist seasons, these buses get packed with both locals and tourists, so be prepared to stand. Tickets are about 2€ to get from Sorrento to Positano, and it takes about 45 minutes. If you tend to get carsick on mountain roads, plan accordingly for the bus.
Overall: to get from the Napoli train station to Positano, it’ll take 2+ hours this way, but only cost 5€.
Some cities offer ferry connections, which in my opinion is the most fun way to travel around here. But it’s not universally an option, and many locations only run a few each day. So this option requires research.
If you can get around by ferry, I highly recommend it! It’s simple, it’s enjoyable, and each leg of the journey is about 15-20€. Some routes, like Napoli/Naples to Capri, run once every hour or so. Others, like Sorrento to Positano, only run 2-3 times daily.
To get to Positano from Naples, we decided to take a ferry to Capri and spend the day exploring the island. From there it’s only a 30-minute ferry onwards to Positano. If you’re already planning to do a day trip to Capri, this is a great option for minimizing time spent in transit.
Choosing a Hotel
I’ll be blunt here: the Amalfi Coast is expensive. It’s not a particularly budget-friendly place, and that plays out most in choosing where to stay.
Costs aside, a crucial consideration before you book is the stairs phenomenon. These cities are built into the mountain’s edge and therefore getting around requires walking along the tiny roads or cutting through with steep stairs. When a place advertises a 10-minute walk to the beach, remember that may mean 10 minutes of stairs! It’s certainly not a dealbreaker, but something to remember. As a fairly fit 30-year-old, I was always a sweaty mess on returning to my hotel and my calves were sore for a day or two.
In Sorrento, there are options to catch a taxi back up to your hotel after a day at the beach if you’d rather skip the stairs. But in Positano, there are few roads near the beach and they’re all one way, so things could get pricey if your cab has to circle the city to drop you off.
There are TONS of hotel options and vacation houses. I loved Villa Palumbo in Positano. It’s a gorgeous little B&B with a private balcony, air conditioning, and breakfast! Antonio, the owner, was also incredibly helpful for great restaurants that don’t break the bank and random questions like the closest bus stop.
My advice would be to decide on a city and then check out their hotels and Airbnbs. You pay more for closer to the beach, of course. We typically prefer Airbnbs, but Hotel Palumbo was such a good deal that we couldn’t resist!
Hostels remain the cheapest options, but you’d be lucky to find even a dorm bunk bed for less than $50 in the high season. Positano only has one hostel, Hostel Brikette, but there are more in more popular towns of Sorrento and Amalfi.
Like any good Italian resident, one of the things I always research before visiting a new place is the food. I’ve shared an entire guide on my favorite Positano restaurants, but there are a few things to consider as you plan a trip to the Amalfi Coast.
Many of the best restaurants aren’t that close to the beach. In fact, I’d recommend skipping anything that’s along the beach – they’re the easy pickings. The food will be fine – good, even! – but overpriced. The best spots will be the family-run restaurants along the cliffs where half the ingredients come from their nearby farms.
If that sounds way to complicated to get to without a car, don’t worry! Many of the ones a bit out of town will offer complimentary shuttle services. You only have to make a reservation in advance to set this up.
Speaking of reservations, you’ll want to make them. Italians eat later than the average American dinner time, so you may be able to sneak in right when they open at 7 or 7:30 and find a table. But during the high season it’s unlikely, especially at the best places. They also keep the tables with the best views for reservations only, so do it! If you don’t have an Italian phone, you can often find a reservation form on their website or an email address. If you stay at a hotel with a concierge, they can help too.
Definitely ask your hotel staff or Airbnb host for recommendations for places to eat. Our hotel owner steered us towards a spot that was ridiculously delicious but enough off the beaten path that we may not have stumbled across it otherwise! It didn’t hurt that it was one of the cheapest meals we ate in Positano either. I share more about it here.
If you read all of this, thanks for sticking through! I hope this helps you plan out a trip to the Amalfi Coast.
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