Very few places in the world actually live up to the hype surrounding them – Amalfi coast is one of them. With turquoise waters, bright colored buildings, narrow picturesque alleys and winding roads, Amalfi is the dream destination for many and looks like it is straight out of a fairy-tale!
Does anything sound more romantic than the Amalfi Coast? How about a road trip through the Amalfi Coast!!!! While researching on driving along the coast, almost all the reviews that we read discouraged potential visitors from driving in Amalfi for many a reasons such as narrow curvy roads, lack of parking and pretty good network of public transportation. We still went ahead with having a car even during this part of the trip cause of our love for driving and the flexibility it provides. In hindsight, we do agree that there are a few cons to driving through the Amalfi Coast; but it is definitely not impossible nor is it that harrowing! Yes parking is a challenge – in fact, we had to circle around the town of Positano for almost an hour until we found parking, and the roads are very narrow at some places, but the views that you get as you are driving along the coast, more than make up for the cons. In fact, the Amalfi Coast drive is probably one of the most scenic road trips in Italy.
Where to stay
Most people set up base at Naples and make day trips to Capri/ Positano (via ferry). Since we were planning to be in Amalfi Coast for 4 nights, we decided to split our stay between Ravello and Sorrento (2 nights each) and made day trips to several towns.
If you decide to stay in Positano, bear in mind that you will need to climb a lot of stairs with luggage to actually get to the hotel from where the boat/ bus drops you. Or you can cab it up to your hotel.
For those who do not have a car, going from one town to another via ferry/ bus is pretty straightforward. While the bus is convenient and cheap, arriving by ferry will give you incredible views of the cities. Amalfi, Capri and Positano are all connected by ferry. It is best to reserve your ferry tickets ahead of time, especially in the summer months.
Things to do / places to visit
Ravello was the first stop on our Amalfi Coast trip. To be honest, Ravello does not even feature on most people’s list since it is not easily reachable by public transport. Even if you are taking a ferry/ bus, you need to get down at Amalfi and then take another bus, which will get you to Ravello in 15-20 minutes. This is not ideal when you have to drag your suitcases from one place to another but since we had the car, we made the most of it and set up base in Ravello.
Ravello is a quaint town with beautiful gardens, grand villas, charming hotels and spectacular views because it is situated on a cliff. Ravello is also famous for its music festivals and there are concerts held every few weeks in the summer.
The town center is entirely pedestrian, so you will have to park your car outside the center. Once you park, make your way to the main square, Piazza Vescovado. Many of the most important historic places and hotels are within spitting distance of this square – the Duomo, Villa Rufolo, Hotel Caruso, Hotel Parsifal.
Once you get to Piazza Vescovado, head to Villa Rufolo – on paying an entry cost of about € 7 per person, you get to visit the villa and its gardens which have stunning views of the coast. There is not much of the villa to see, but the gardens and the views make it a lovely setting. You will certainly not be disappointed.
Another villa you must visit is Villa Cimbrone (entry is € 7 per person). It is a bit of a hike to get there from the main town center – you have to climb a lot of stairs and you will pass by several restaurants and more hotels as you get there. As soon as you cross the entrance, there is a lovely path covered by wisterias. Keep walking along the manicured gardens and admire the stunning views of the coastline. It is a grand property compared to Villa Rufolo and you get endless views of the ocean.
Once you are done with the villas, stroll through the streets and uncover Ravello’s secrets – this is my favorite part of getting to know a new place – more than the must sees and dos, aimlessly walking around the town and discovering new spots make it more exciting. There are so many beautiful surprises around every corner and up every staircase here. Get lost in the small streets of Ravello while you browse ceramics stores and enjoy the views. Stop by and admire the handiwork and if you want to splurge, pick up a few things for back home.
There are several dining options from where you can admire the views of the coast. Garden bar is one such option. Or walk a couple stairs and try one of the more expensive options at five star hotels such as Hotel Belmond Caruso, Hotel Parsifal. Even if you don’t want to eat here, grab a drink or two and enjoy the stunning hotel properties.
From Ravello, we took the Sita bus to get to Amalfi – it was barely a 15 minute ride and the return bus tickets cost us € 4.80 per person. We were contemplating taking the car to Amalfi, but we thought the better of it (it is very difficult to find parking and even if you do, it is expensive – as much as € 5 per hour). The Sita bus worked out to be a convenient option (just keep in mind that you cannot buy your bus tickets on board the bus -you must purchase them at a Tabacchi).
Once you reach Amalfi, first thing you will notice is that it is a much bigger town as compared to Ravello and definitely more crowded. Pay a visit to the town’s towering Duomo – the entry is € 3 per person. Stroll by the local shops, dine at a sea-side restaurant and take a dip at the beach. One thing that you must at least try when in the Amalfi Coast is Limoncello. Antichi Sapori di Amalfi has amazing Limoncellos which are made in-house and it is located right in Amalfi’s main square! They will even let you sample before you buy!
On day 3, we made our way from Ravello to our airbnb located in Piano di Sorrento. We actually passed Amalfi and Positano on the way to our accommodation. While google maps indicated that it would take us about 1 hour 15 minutes, it eventually took us over 2 hours. The roads along the coast are very narrow and since you need to stop at times, to make way for the bigger cars/ buses, it takes additional time. Needless to say, driving along the coast offers some jaw-dropping views.
Once we had checked in our apt, we left for Positano. It is the most sought after destination on the Amalfi Coast and the most photographed town in the coast and 5 minutes into the town you will notice why! Its vibrant pink, orange and yellow buildings add contrast to the blue waters, creating surreal postcard views. Positano’s roads run from the top of the hills down to the beach with plenty of stairways along the way.
We visited Positano on a Sunday over a long weekend in Italy, so there was crazy traffic and a LOT of people in the town. Again, a route, which should have taken us merely 20 minutes, ended up taking us an hour. Plus, all the parking lots were full and parking on the streets was unavailable. After several futile attempts, we managed to find parking on the main highway, way above the town.
We walked through Positano’s narrow streets and stopped by several shops along the way. There isn’t really too much to do in Positano but explore the narrow alleyways, peek into the boutiques, or unwind with a cup of coffee in one of Positano’s many cafes. You can also get some custom leather sandals made.
Marina Grande, Positano’s main beach, is one of the liveliest and most glamorous beaches on the Amalfi coast. The beach is lined with a string of bustling restaurants and bars. As you sit by the beach, the views of Positano are straight out of a postcard. Since this is the main beach, it gets busy in the summer months. So keep walking from the town center and after a short walk, you will reach Fornillo Beach. It is much more peaceful with fewer tourists than Marina Grande.
If you are in the mood to splurge, stop by for drinks/ dinner at La Sponda at Sirenuse. It is a beautiful property offering ah-mah-zing views of Positano. The candles are lit at dinner in the restaurant which provides the magical touch. It tends to get busy in the summer, so do not forget to make reservations. We had made reservations for lunch, but we got there almost 2 hours after the reservation time (thanks to the traffic and after endless futile attempts to find parking).
Day 4 was reserved for our day trip to Capri. We booked a boat tour through our b&b host which included a pick up from the apt, boat ride to Capri and a 2 hour boat ride along the coast. We ended up paying € 85 per person, which was a lot economical than what we were finding on several websites. Also, our boat only had 10 passengers so it was a semi-private boat tour.
We reached Marina Grande at around 10.30 am. Marina Grande is the main dock where most ferries arrive. It is also the departure point for boat tours to the blue grotto. If you wish to visit the blue grotto, take the earliest possible ferry to Capri so you get ample time to visit the grotto and the island. Blue grotto is on most travellers list so it gets crowded – at times, there is an hour-long wait to get inside the grotto. We had limited time on the island and hence, preferred to skip the Blue Grotto. I was absolutely bummed about this but preferred visiting the town in the limited time we had.
From Marina Grande, you can either walk or take the bus (€ 1.2 per person) to Capri’s main square – the Piazzette. We ended up walking – the climb was mostly uphill and was a bit strenuous. We picked coffees and croissants and walked to the lookout point from where you get great views of the coast. From the Piazette, stroll down Via Camerelle, famous for the luxury shops and designer fashion boutiques, which line the street.
After that, make your way to Augustus Gardens for an amazing view of the cliffs, water and Via Krupp. Via Krupp is currently closed due to the danger of falling rocks but can be viewed from above from the scenic overlook in the Augustus Gardens. There is merely € 1 per person entry fee and you get stunning views of the coast.
From Marina Grande, you can take a bus to Anacapri (about a 20 minute ride), a much quieter town (and less crowded) than Capri. From here, you can take the chairlift to the summit of Monte Solaro, or visit Villa San Michele – you get spectacular views of the coast from both the vantage points. However, we preferred visiting Augustus gardens since you get more of an up-close look. You can literally see the glistening blue waters.
Another thing you MUST do is a boat ride along the coast. The boat makes several pit stops such as the green and white grottos, Faraglioni rocks, Marina Piccola bay, Punta Carena lighthouse, etc. and lasts for about 2 hours. The water is absolutely crystal clear and in some parts, even green. In the warmer months, you can even dip into the grottos for a swim. As we were in the water, we saw larger boats carrying almost 50-60 passengers and were so glad we chose the semi-private one. No doubt you are paying extra €€€ for private or semi-private boat tours but they are totally worth it. Imagine lounging on the sunbed while you marvel at the glistening water. It was indeed the highlight of our trip.