A Complete Guide to the Amalfi Coast

I’ve traveled through a lot of Europe and naturally my expectations of a city have raised a bit. Enter the Amalfi Coast. This place is exactly what I hoped it to be. You really do feel like you have entered into an entirely different world and that life is meant to be lived this way. It is so easy to forget about worries when you adapt the Italian lifestyle of this gorgeous coastline. I would highly recommend a trip here!

When I started to plan my trip to the Amalfi Coast I felt a bit overwhelmed. There are so many things to see and everyone has their own opinions of what to do. I especially had a hard time planning out transportation because I was confused about the layout of the coast and how efficient public transportation was. Here is my attempt at making this easier for you!

Overview of the Amalfi Coast:

The Amalfi Coast is the coastline south of Naples facing Capri. There are many small picturesque cities along the coast, with the main ones being Amalfi and Positano. Smaller cities include Ravello, Minori, Maiori and Vietri Sul Mare. The island of Capri is about an hour boat ride from the coast. The Amalfi Coast is the perfect place in Italy to lay on the beach, hike in the hills and enjoy a slow paced vacation lifestyle.

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Just a warning: The Amalfi Coast is not a budget friendly destination. Hotels, food and transportation are all expensive. I am always looking out for a good deal and am not a huge spender, but this is one destination where you just have to splurge. It will be stressful to pinch pennies here and the last thing you want to do is stress in such a beautiful place!

 

Getting to the Amalfi Coast:

The closest airport to the Amalfi Coast is Naples, which is about an hour and half from most cities. Most people fly into Naples or take a train from Rome. I would not recommend renting a car because the roads are CRAZY. Seriously do not try to drive it yourself. There are crazy unspoken rules of the road and the entire coastline is hairpin turns along an extremely narrow two way street. Also parking is insanely expensive/non-existent. Save yourself the heart attack and hire a driver from the airport or train station to take you straight to your hotel. This ride is pretty pricey but is definitely worth it. Plus you will get to actually look out your window and see the gorgeous coast. A ride from the Naples airport to Positano is an average of 150 euro.

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Believe it or not this is actually a two way street!

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The road curves like this along the entire coastline

 

Beware of stairs!

Another huge benefit of a private driver is that they will drive you straight to your hotel. Each city along the coast is made up entirely of stairs and very few roads. Each city is gorgeous because of all the buildings along the cliff side, but it doesn’t hit you until you’re there that you are walking along a cliff. Everyday is a calf workout. All this to say that the last thing you want to do is to drag your luggage up these stairs. I passed so many tourists who looked like they were about to pass out from dragging their luggage up/down stairs. Try to avoid it!   

If you reallly still want to take public transportation, you do have some options. There is a train from Naples to Salerno or Sorrento and you can take the bus from there to whichever city you are staying in. From Sorrento you also have the option of taking the ferry. Walks of Italy gives a detailed overview of all your options for getting to the Amalfi Coast from Rome or Naples.

 

Transportation within the Amalfi Coast:

City Bus: Cities within the Amalfi Coast are serviced by a city bus (SITA). During peak times these buses can get extremely crowded and you might have to wait around for a second bus. Many people will do a self guided Amalfi Coast tour starting from Sorrento. This means the buses coming from Sorrento towards the other cities are very crowded in the morning and the opposite way in the afternoon. For the bus schedule, click here.

Private Bus: There is also a red double decker bus option if you want to avoid the city buses. Tickets start at 5 euro and they have stops at most of the major towns. Check out their website to download the time tables and bus stop maps. If you plan on taking luggage on the bus, keep in mind that there is no luggage area. It will have to be small enough to fit in your lap.

Ferry: You also have the option of taking a ferry to each city. If you don’t get a chance to see the Amalfi Coast from the sea, then I would suggest opting for this route. You get a great view of each city from the water. In some cases, the ferry is faster than a bus considering it’s more direct than driving on the windy roads. Note: the ferry service is seasonal (usually from April to October). The main ferry company is Travel Mar. They even have an app you can download so you can look up times.

Taxi: If you would like to opt for convenience, you always have the option of booking a taxi. They can be quite expensive, but sometimes it is worth the splurge. I booked a taxi one-way from Ravello to Positano and spent 80 euro. When I took taxis within Positano, it was 20-30 euro each time. There are many private car service companies in Amalfi so look one up to book ahead or ask your hotel to book one for you.

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Enjoying the view while taking a taxi

Staying in the Amalfi Coast:

The two most popular cities for hotel stays on the Amalfi Coast are Positano and Amalfi. Positano is the most popular (and in my opinion the prettiest) town of the coast. I stayed in Positano and would highly recommend it. Sorrento is also a popular choice, although it’s not “technically” on the Amalfi Coast. (It actually faces the Gulf of Naples.) Sorrento is where many of the locals live and is less of a glitzy tourist town than the other cities and is also farther away from the big tourist spots. However, hotels here are much more affordable. These three cities are extremely busy so if you are looking for a more low key city, you can also consider smaller cities like Minori, Maiori, or Vietri Sul Mare. These cities are much smaller and are farther down the coast which makes them less crowded.

The streets of Sorrento and the beach of Positano

Ravello is a wonderful place to stay although it is not as easily accessible as the other cities on the coast. This is because Ravello is high on a hill overlooking the coast so you don’t have the option of arriving on a ferry and the only bus service here leaves from Amalfi. I still would highly recommend staying in Ravello at least for one night. It was my favorite part of the Amalfi Coast and well worth the price of the taxi ride. (Also the hotels here are  more affordable so there’s a chance it evens out in the end.)

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Beautiful Ravello

I stayed one night in Ravello and 4 nights in Positano. I thought this was a very good itinerary and I loved both of my hotels. For more info on those hotels, check out my posts on Ravello and Positano.

 

Eating in the Amalfi Coast:

The Italian Lifestyle Revolves Around Meals: If you have never been to Italy then you might not know about the Italian lifestyle. Italians believe that all meals should be eaten in groups and fully enjoyed. They do not believe in taking food to go. Not even coffee. Italians will stand at the coffee bar and socialize while they drink. Many restaurants and coffee shops have adapted to tourists and will offer to go items (sometimes called take away) but this is not the standard. Their entire day is planned around meals with family. Generally they eat a small breakfast at home and then head to work. Around 1pm they close shop and head home for lunch and a nap. They return to work a couple of hours later and eat a late dinner – generally around 9 or 10 pm. Because of this schedule, many shops and restaurants are closed around 1pm. Most restaurants will reopen around 7:00 or 7:30pm and sometimes even later. In the more tourist cities – like Positano – restaurants will be open earlier to cater to the tourists. In the smaller cities – like Ravello – they stick to the standard Italian times. I was hungry in Ravello at 6pm and all restaurants in town were closed. There was a crowd of tourists at 7pm waiting at the only restaurant that opened that early. I was lucky to get a table. So if you are always hungry (like me), make sure to eat a big lunch or have snacks on hand.  

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It’s easy to see why eating is a large part of Italian culture – they have amazing food in beautiful places!

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I get hungry just from thinking about my meals in Italy

 

It’s all about lemons in Amalfi! The Amalfi Coast is all about lemons. They have the biggest lemons I’ve ever seen and many dishes will incorporate lemons. Lemon granita (lemon slushie) is very popular and there are little stands all over selling lemon granita. It’s only one or two euro for a cup so I had multiple a day!   Also each meal ends with a shot of lemoncello so you end each meal with a taste of lemon.

Try Caprese in its namesake region: Caprese salad was invented in Capri (a connection I didn’t make until the trip!) so naturally it’s on every menu. I highly suggest eating as much caprese as possible. In Italy, the mozzarella is consumed less than 24 hours from when it’s made so it is always extremely fresh. You’ll never be happy with American caprese again. 😉

One restaurant that I HAVE to recommend is La Tagliata in Positano. It is located high (and I mean realllly high) up on the hills above Positano. This means the view is absolutely breathtaking. The food is very authentic and the restaurant is farm to table. You can see the garden just outside! There is no menu – they just bring you what’s fresh – and lots of it! Make sure you come hungry. Since it’s so far outside the city, they will send a shuttle to pick you up from Positano, just make sure to ask when you call to book a reservation. Expect to stay for a very long, very enjoyable meal that you won’t forget for a long time (maybe forever). Website

To complete your trip planning for Amalfi Coast, check out my posts on Capri, Ravello and Positano.

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