When planning our trip to Italy, the Amalfi Coast was at the very top of our list. So many of our friends rave about it, and we wanted to see what the fuss is all about! We traveled there from Cinque Terre, and Amalfi Coast feels and looks similar, although it's huge by comparison - both the size of the individual towns and the distance between them. Amalfi definitely has more going on, with a slight Hollywood vibe, compared to the slower, small town feel you get in Cinque Terre.
We immediately wanted to know: where should we stay and for how long? Positano came highly recommended, and we were told to stay four nights so that's exactly what we did. I concur with this advice. Although I certainly would've been happy to have another night or two, you'll get to see quite a bit in that timespan, and Positano would be my top pick for lodging. No matter where you stay, you're going to want to do lots of exploring! Let's take a look at a few places you should visit.
We stayed in Positano for four nights, and absolutely loved our bed and breakfast (if you go please tell Manuela we say hello!). Like anywhere in the Amalfi Coast, there were a brutal amount of stairs. Almost 400 of them to be exact, to get down to the beach or take a ferry, so we only made that trek once per day. Even if you don't stay here, you'll want to visit! Positano is the beach town with the largest sandy area, abuzz with action, great shops and restaurants. We both enjoyed our favorite meal of the trip in Positano. We also spent an entire day just lounging around - we did our laundry, went to the barber, relaxed on the beach. Its' pretty rocky terrain so I went straight for the beach chairs, which are rented out for a daily fee. Be sure to grab one of the far left (when you are facing the water), because the mountain casts a shadow on the beach in early afternoon. There are tons of cute restaurants, shops, paddle boats and paddle boards right there on the beach!
Without a doubt, the star attraction of the Amalfi Coast is the island of Capri. In Positano we saw companies advertising ferries and excursions to Capri more than anything else. The natural beauty of Capri is completely unmatched. I've been to 15 Caribbean islands but Capri totally knocked my socks off. That said, Capri is also overcrowded, expensive, and takes forever to get around. (My theory is that to really enjoy Capri you need to be loaded. With a private yacht and a limo to whisk you away from the crowded marina, then Capri would be heaven. Otherwise, it's not without challenges.)
The ferry tickets to Capri were pricey (our day trips were averaging about 12€ per person, but this was more like 40€ per person). If you want to see the famous blue grotto, you'll need to get on the very first ferry in the morning (buy your tickets the night before). The minute you arrive in Capri, buy your island excursion (do the 2-hour entire island tour). Then that boat will immediately head to the blue grotto. When we arrived, first thing in the morning, there was already a huge line, and we were just in time to get in. Some people we met later arrived five minutes after us and didn't get to go. (The line becomes hours long, so your tour boat won't wait.) Your large catamaran will idle while you climb, four people at at time into small row boats. That row boat takes you over to another row boat to pay, in cash, to enter the blue grotto, 14€ per person. Then your guide squeezes you through the tiny hole (everyone has to lay down completely flat in the rowboat!) and you stay in the cave for about 2 minutes. A total cattle drive, but guys, seriously, I cried. Tears down my face, it was breathtaking. The next hour you'll glide around the island of Capri and see more beauty (and possibly even dolphins like we did!). The water around Capri is magnificent and it glows that crazy blue color all by itself. You'll likely wish that you were on a private yacht instead because people are pushing, kicking and shoving you (no joke) to get the best pictures.
Once our boat trip was over, our local contact recommended we take the bus to Annacapri rather than the railcar, which often has a couple hour wait. (There's not much to do or see in the marina at Capri, you gotta travel to see something.) Buses are inexpensive and the sign said they come every 10 minutes. An hour and something later... the bus finally arrives. Then you'll experience the most terrifying ride of your life where your bus is literally dangling off a cliff (everyone on the bus was gasping). Once you've arrived at Annacapri, you'll enjoy an adorable area with shops and restaurants. Another bus ride back down and that's your day. Capri is both awesome and challenging.
Amalfi (the town) is a quick ferry ride from Positano, and I highly recommend spending a leisurely day there as well. Not only is it the namesake of this area, it's also completely adorable and easy to navigate. The marina area has a great beach, restaurants and shops, and the cathedral is breathtaking.
Another major area to visit is Sorrento. From there, you can spend the day exploring, or even take a quick train ride to the Pompeii ruins. And beyond that, there are tons of other little towns to explore in this area, see the Amalfi Coast website for ideas.
One last thing... how in the world do you get to Positano and the Amalfi Coast? We wondered the same thing. Because ItaliaRail doesn't go that far, it actually ends in Naples which is hours away. After lots of research and traveling there and back (we did #3 and #2), here's what we discovered:
- The first option is to hire a private car from Naples. You'll see tons of advertisements for this and people recommending it. I'm sure it's amazing, but it also costs 120-150€, so it's not cheap.
- Next option includes using the ferry system. If you take ItaliaRail to Salerno, from there you can take an easy ferry over to Positano. (It's also a super easy, flat walk between the train station and the marina.) This is the "medium" option because it's the medium price and also the medium amount of hassle. You may only want to leave Positano this way though, and not arrive via route, because ferry schedules are not always posted online. It could be a little risky to train it to Salerno and then not know what time the boat is leaving or if you will be able to buy a ticket. We used this route to leave, though, and absolutely loved it. (Especially compared to #3...)
- The third option is the Circumvesuviana - a totally separate train system in Italy that only goes between Naples and Sorrento. If you are researching online you will see all sorts of horrible things about it. People getting mugged, people packed in like sardines, no air conditioning. And it's pretty much true. It's not great, but it also costs something like 2€. Since it only takes you as far as Sorrento, you will exit the station and find the SITA bus located right outside. That's another inexpensive fare, and one, crazy nauseating ride around hairpin turns and mountain views for about 30 minutes until you get to Positano. It's by far the cheapest route, but a bit of a pain.
At the end of our trip we'll be sharing an "Italy Travel Guide" with general tips for things like etiquette, traveling between cities, etc. These are our Amalfi-specific recommendations. Do you have any tips for the Amalfi Coast that we missed?