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Dreaming of a return trip to the Amalfi Coast? Or determined to finally make this bucket-list trip a reality?
Whether you’re looking for a refresher on Amalfi, Italy, or you’re a first-time traveler in search of some tips for this stunning part of the world, then this travel guide is here to help.
The Amalfi Coast consists of several cities sprawling along the edges of the Tyrrhenian Sea in the Campania region, beginning with Salerno and ending with Positano. In between are many of the coastline’s most iconic towns, such as Amalfi and Ravello.
Sorrento is often included as part of the Amalfi Coast because of its proximity, even though it is technically located on the Sorrentine Peninsula. During the Middle Ages, Amalfi was a key port for military fleets and was at one time the capital of the maritime republic. Due to Amalfi’s status, the coastal region took its name as representative.
1. Getting From Rome to the Amalfi Coast
Take The Train To Salerno (or Naples)
If you’re heading to the Amalfi Coast from Rome or any of the other major cities of Italy, the fastest and easiest way to get there is to take the Frecciarossa high-speed train (operated by Trenitalia) to Salerno or Naples and then rent a car.
Going directly to Naples and then on to Amalfi might sound like the most appealing option because of the city’s familiarity, but unless you plan on staying in Naples or taking a trip to Pompeii, it can turn into a driving nightmare.
Italy is notorious for its manic, carefree drivers, but Naples takes it to a new level entirely.
There are so many cars darting in all directions, each person trying to avoid the backed-up-bumper-to-bumper traffic on the main thoroughfares; it’s the “no rules” feeling you get when driving through a mall parking lot on Christmas Eve.
So, if you can, avoid Naples, and take the train all the way to peaceful, beachside Salerno where you can rent a car near the train station, and you can get your bearings in a less-stressed state before you begin your drive to the Amalfi Coast.
A Note on Car Rentals in Italy
∇ Take out all of the insurance you can. A fender bender is only a curve away. Even if you have insurance through your credit card (American Express Platinum included), double-check because the coverage probably won’t apply in Italy.
∇ Many agencies are closed on Sunday. I found this out the hard way. So, just be aware of the procedures for renting or returning a car on a Sunday so you don’t find yourself in a fix.
Avoid the Train & Hire a Driver
If you want to avoid taking a train and even avoid having to go into Rome at all from Fiumicino Airport, you can hire a driver to take you directly from the airport to wherever you’re staying along the Amalfi Coast.
While this is a more expensive option, it does involve less stress, allowing you to relax and take in the scenery without the bother of timing your train tickets or white-knuckled driving on the narrow roads that cut through the mountains and hug the coastline.
Driving the Amalfi Coast
It’s only about 15 miles (25 kilometers) from Salerno to Amalfi, but it can take a little longer with all of the hairpin twists and slow tour buses. If you’re driving from Naples to the Amalfi Coast, it’s around 37 miles (60 km).
The vast majority of the drive hugs the Amalfi coastline, giving you sparkling views of the Tyrrhenian Sea while taking you through the lovely Italian seaside towns of Vietri Sul Mare…Cetara…Maiori…Minori…Amalfi…
While it is an absolutely breathtaking drive, and I highly recommend driving it yourself, it does require some courage and awareness.
Amalfi Coast Driving Tips
∇ Fold in your side-view mirrors. If you don’t, they’ll get smashed off, as is the case for many of the cars you’ll see.
∇ Use the mirrors strategically placed along the curved parts of the road to help you see what’s headed towards you, and you can adjust your speed accordingly (or if it’s a bus, just wait).
∇ In cases of extreme curves where there is limited to no visibility to the other side, there are traffic lights that will shine red, yellow, and green. If it’s green, you’re free to go, yellow, take it slow, and if it’s red, stop and wait until the cars from the other side are let through.
∇ Locals drive fast and will pass you. Don’t be a hero and try to keep up with them. They drive the road every day and know it. You don’t.
∇ Bicyclists and Vespas are zipping along the road, and here and there, a mule cart loaded with fruits and vegetables as well, so be on the lookout for these smaller, less visible modes of transportation.
2. Visiting Amalfi
I think that whichever town you first call home on this medieval Italian coastline is probably the place you fall in love with and where you want to return to again and again. My favorite Amalfi Coast town is Amalfi itself.
The Cathedral of Amalfi
Like most Italian towns, Amalfi’s main piazza or town square centers around the towering 11th-century Roman Catholic Cathedral of Amalfi, which houses the relics of the Apostle St. Andrew. Its distinctive Arab-Norman Romanesque architecture is eye-catching, while rich mosaics glint the contrasting hues of gold and black.
If you’re interested in visiting the Cathedral of Amalfi, it is open every day and admission is free during mass; but if you would like to visit during non-religious hours, there is a small fee to enter.
Museo della Carta: The Amalfi Paper Museum
If cathedrals aren’t your vibe, Amalfi offers another museum that might be of interest: the Museo della Carta, or the Museum of Paper. Dating back to the 13th century, the museum tour takes you through the ancient machinery used for making paper, all restored to working order. In our digital world, it may be hard to imagine the impact that paper production had on civilization, but this museum brings that impact back to life.
If you can’t bear another tour or just don’t have the time, the museum has a gift shop in the heart of Amalfi where you can purchase handmade paper and other writing utensils.
It doesn’t take much time in Amalfi to discover that the entire region of the Amalfi Coast is renowned for its lemons. They’re huge. So huge you think at first glance they must be a melon of some kind.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “When life gives you lemons make lemonade”. Well, the Italians take that advice a step further and instead make Limoncello — the result of pure grain alcohol, lemon zest, and simple syrup. While you can sample limoncello practically anytime at various shops or cafes, it’s served according to tradition after dessert and espresso as a final digestif. While it may taste strong at first, its initial sweetness-with-a-burn sensation is a satisfying way to end a full Italian meal, especially if Grappa isn’t your thing.
*A Quick Note About Grappa
I actually like grappa, but most people don’t.
Distilled from the leftover stems, leaves, pulp, and seeds of the grapevines used for winemaking, grappa is basically Italy’s strong brandy/vodka, with the added benefit of transforming what would normally be considered waste into something purposeful. There are several different brands and varietals of grappa that you can buy and are carried at larger restaurants, but many of the smaller restaurants and osterias in Italy make their own, so the tastes vary.
I’ve had grappa that tastes clean and crisp like vodka, and others that were so strong and fragrant from the grapevine mixture, I felt perfumed for days afterward with its heady scent. Like most strong liquors, grappa is an acquired taste, but the Italians do seem to appreciate (and even show a little admiration) when you order it.
Amalfi Lemon Cake
Another distinctively Amalfi treat is Torta di Limone or sometimes called Delizie Al Limone (a.k.a. Amalfi Lemon Cake). It’s one of the most deliciously refreshing desserts, especially if you’re too full to indulge in a heavy dessert.
As far as getting around the town of Amalfi, all you need is a comfortable pair of shoes. Up one street, down another more hidden one. Walking the cobblestone steps and passageways is the best and most romantic way to get to know this small, medieval town.
Amalfi Restaurant Suggestions
Tucked under the base of the Amalfi Cathedral on the left side of the stairs, this romantic taverna is a delicious option for dinner in the heart of Amalfi’s main piazza. Although the menu can be slightly limited, they serve fresh seafood and homemade pasta, and they create one of the best Torta di Limone (Amalfi Lemon Cake), so save room.
Address: Via Sant’Anna Piccola, 5, 84011 Amalfi SA, Italy
If you want to escape the main thoroughfares of Amalfi, take the winding side streets to the much smaller but quieter Piazza dei Dogi where you will discover L’Abside serving up a flavorful lunch and dinner. We loved it so much that we went twice. The food, atmosphere, and service do not disappoint.
Address: Piazza dei Dogi, 31, 84011 Amalfi SA, Italy
If you’re looking for a fine dining restaurant option in the heart of Amalfi with coastal views, then you definitely want to check out Sensi. The menu is gourmet but the foundations are solidly grounded in the cuisine of the region. They offer a variety of tasting menus at fixed prices or you can order directly from the full Bistro menu.
La Caravella of Amalfi was established in 1959 and it was the first awarded Michelin-Star in Southern Italy during the Sixties. It’s an undisputed gastronomic icon of the Amalfi Coast. | Michelin-Guide
Combining fine dining cuisine in an art gallery museum setting, La Caravella is a unique restaurant experience. With only 12 tables, a reservation is definitely a must, so if you want to get in, reserve ahead of time. For more information regarding the cuisine and the art as well as reservations, click the link below.
In business since 1968, this casual family-owned and operated restaurant is a few steps away from the main Piazza along Amalfi’s main street, Via Lorenzo. It’s a well-loved favorite among tourists and locals alike, and it has consistently high ratings.
Address: Via Lorenzo D’Amalfi, 14, 84011 Amalfi SA, Italy
Ever wanted to eat pizza under a canopy of lemon trees? Well, you can at Donna Stella. It’s definitely not fine dining, but it is a unique experience, and the pizza is fresh and tasty.
Where to Stay in Amalfi
There are so many fantastic places to stay along the Amalfi Coast, but I love the Hotel Santa Caterina so much, I’ve stayed there twice and am planning to go back this summer. Each time was equally above and beyond expectations.
*Note: It is a Seasonal Hotel, closing from early November to mid-March
Why stay here? So many reasons…
First of all, the view can’t be beat. To the left is Amalfi with nothing but the liquid blue sea stretching out in front of you. Morning coffee and breakfast are served on the terrace overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, and even though you may have an itinerary calling your name, you’ll want to linger.
Proximity to Town – From the hotel, you can walk or take one of the hotel trams that operate on a regular schedule. If you do walk, do be mindful of your footwear because it can get a little steep. It’s definitely not a time for stilettos or slippery-soled shoes. There is a sidewalk most of the time, but when it fades away, you have to be careful of oncoming cars and tuck out of the way. The rails are there, but they are low at times, so again, awareness is key.
With those warnings out of the way, it’s a gorgeous walk with the sea rippling on your right and boats drifting in and out of the harbor below.
*Note: The walk to town is completely downhill, meaning that the walk back is entirely uphill, so sometimes it’s nice to walk down and snag a tram or taxi at the pier back to the hotel to avoid overtaxing yourself (or in those cases when you might have had a little too much vino).
The Pool Deck & Elevator – If you can, try to save at least one day where you stay and enjoy the Hotel Santa Caterina amenities. Vacations are for relaxing, right?
From April to October, lunch is served at the AL MARE restaurant on the terrace just above the pool and patio. (*Note: If they have a Limone “Lemon” Pasta on the menu, order it.)
For a casual snack, order from the “Beach Club Bar.” They’ll make you any poolside cocktail you wish, or if you’re just in the mood for some prosecco or mineral water, they’ve got it covered. All drinks come with a salty accompaniment like pistachios and juicy green olives because Italians typically never drink alcohol without eating.
The Hotel Santa Caterina also offers a spa experience, but every time I’ve visited the hotel I’ve been too busy exploring the region or swimming in the pool to check it out. But, if you have the time, I’m sure it’s worth a visit. For more information about the Hotel Santa Caterina Spa, click here.
3. Visiting Ravello
The locals will tell you that a day trip to Ravello is a must. If you’re in Amalfi for more than two days, it’s a place you definitely want to visit.
If you choose to drive yourself, take note that it is a winding, uphill road, and once you reach Ravello, you’ll need to pay to park in a designated lot and walk to the village (which isn’t far).
The main square is large, with several stores selling colorful, handmade dishware and pottery, but the main attractions are the Villas. You can tour the 13th-century Villa Rufolo, and the views from its terrace alone are the reason to go.
Ravello Restaurant Suggestions
Once you’ve worked up an appetite after touring Villas and exploring the mountaintop village, stop in for a bite of lunch at Palazzo della Marra. Located a little off the beaten path, this B&B with its inviting wine bar enoteca is located in one of the most ancient, medieval buildings in all of Ravello.
They offer a wide selection of local wine, fresh pasta dishes, and various seafood options. The friendly, welcoming staff makes it a win-win all around.
Osterias in Italy are some of my favorite places to eat. Typically, these restaurants are small and casual. Each one differs according to its location, but one thing that they usually all have in common is their authenticity and care for their food. Osteria Ravello is no exception, so if you’re looking for a great spot for authentic Ravello / Amalfi Coast dishes, be sure to check it out.
Where to Stay in Ravello
While I’ve never stayed at the Villa Cimbrone, I definitely want to. What’s not to love?
If I had to choose a place to stay in Ravello, this historic and gorgeous hotel with its views and amenities for days would be the one. If you’re interested in staying in Ravello at the Villa Cimbrone, click the link below.
4. Visiting the Isle of Capri
*Note about the Amalfi Coast during the off-season. If you visit the Amalfi Coast in November through March (and even early April), you will have a more difficult time finding a boat or ferry to take you to Capri or any of the other islands or towns.
It’s not impossible, and your hotel concierge can help you find arrangements, but many boat and ferry services do not run the usual schedule to Capri, so be open to making alternative plans.
Getting to Capri is half the fun, but once you dock on the island, it can get a little hectic due to all of the tourists. If you want to experience a quieter, more authentic area of the island, head over to Anacapri.
While there is a bus that will take you there, I recommend hailing a cab. Not only will you get there faster, but the drivers are basically like having private tour guides, letting you in on the best places to shop and eat.
The Anacapri chairlift
If stunning, panoramic views are what you’re after, then definitely take the 12-minute chairlift to the top of Mount Solaro, the highest point on Capri.
You can also walk to the summit, but it would take you between an hour to an hour and a half. The chairlift definitely gets my vote. Single chairs (with a safety bar) silently lift you off the ground and carry you to the top.
The sea stretches out to the right while, below your dangling feet, local Capri islanders work in their gardens and vineyards or wave to you while they sip their wine.
The top of Mount Solaro can be extremely windy, but the view from every vantage point is stunning.
If you need a snack or a beverage, there is a shop where you can purchase some light bites. There are also lounge chairs and tables scattered about if you need a rest.
Since there isn’t a time limit for how long you can stay on top of the mountain, when you’re ready to leave, head back to the chairlift and make the peaceful descent back down to Anacapri, where you’ll find loads of shops and ristorantes.
Capri Restaurant Suggestions
For a tiny island, Capri has at least 20 restaurants scoring a 4.5 to a 5.0 rating on Google. Meaning, you probably won’t have too much trouble finding great food while you’re on this island. If you find yourself in Anacapri, here are a few suggestions:
Located just off the Piazza Vittoria, this casual restaurant is a great place to pop in for lunch. Expect fresh pizza, pasta, and seafood entrees, all with a relaxed atmosphere.
Offering a coffee bar, catering & picnic service, oil & garden, plus cooking classes, the Columbus Capri Bar & Ristorante has it all, and they do it all quite well. It’s a great place to have lunch near the chairlift to Mt. Solaro. For recent reviews, check out their TripAdvisor page by clicking here.
Where to Stay in Capri
Capri is filled with luxury and its hotels are no exception. While I haven’t personally spent a night on the island, if I did, this is the hotel where I would like to stay:
Opened in 1845, the Grand Hotel Quisisana is 5 star Italian Capri Royalty. Equipped with a Turkish spa and 3 restaurants, you don’t even have to leave, but Capri is so beautiful to explore, with so many amazing restaurants, you’re going to have the best of both worlds if you stay here.
A FEW TIPS FOR CAPRI
∇ Wear sunglasses and dress in layers. The sun may be warm, but the wind and sea spray can be chilly. If you wear a hat, make sure it is secured because the wind will swipe it right off your head.
∇ Be mindful of the time. Many of the boats leave the island around the same time, and if you’re not careful, you might not be able to find a cab back to the docks, and the last thing you want is to miss the boat. (Although, there are worse places to be stranded than on the Isle of Capri.)
∇ Bring cash to tip your boat crew when you return.
Amalfi Coast Attractions Near Capri: The Faraglioni
No doubt you’ve seen these rock formations before: in movies, perfume ads, and hundreds of Instagram posts. But how can they not be photographed and featured? I will happily photograph and post all the photos taken with these ancient rocks in the background. Perhaps part of their allure is because these were once believed to be the home of the Sirens whose alluring voices lured sailors into the sea and their deaths. All but Ulysses, of course.
It’s an amazing sight, and these rocks basically serve as the stone gateway to the island of Capri.
You’ll have an opportunity to view them up close on the boat ride in, and they’re also clearly visible from the top of Anacapri.
Amalfi Coast Attractions Near Capri: The Blue Grotto
The Blue Grotto is one of the stops along the way for those who want to board a wooden boat, lie flat on their back, and be rowed inside the glowing blue cave.
Because it is such a popular tourist spot, be prepared, because you might have to wait.
5. Visiting Positano
If you drive to Positano, it will take you around an hour to get there from Amalfi. But, if you’re in the mood to relax and enjoy the view, take a boat.
A ferry runs between the two, or you can hire your own private boat to take you. For pricing details, visit this link.
While Amalfi has some hills and upward slopes, the streets of Positano are completely stacked one on top of the other, so be prepared to walk up the incline and take lots of stairs. There are so many fascinating stores selling art, pottery, hats, and clothing that you could spend a whole day here and not see it all.
Positano Restaurant Suggestion
Once all of the walking and climbing takes its toll, and you’re ready for a breeze, make your way toward Il Grottino Azzurro (i.e. “the blue grotto”) for a glass of prosecco and a classic pasta dish or fresh seafood.
Where to Stay in Positano
Like Capri and Amalfi and most of the coastal areas along the Amalfi Coast, Positano is no stranger to luxury and there are a wide variety of hotels and resorts or B&Bs to choose from. But, if I had my choice of where to stay in this town, it would be here:
Le Sirenuse, like the Hotel Santa Caterina in Amalfi, is classic Italian luxury. The hotel reflects the history of the region, its beauty, and allows you to sink into a state of relaxation that you didn’t know was possible (according to John Steinbeck, who stayed here in 1953).
6. Amalfi Coast Packing Essentials
∇ Sunglasses: You’ll need them to protect your eyes from the bright sun reflecting off the sea (plus, you’ll fit right in with the Prada-wearing locals).
∇ Comfortable, non-slip walking shoes. Whether you’re walking around the cobblestoned streets of the towns, climbing up and down steps, or maneuvering around a boat bound for Capri, you’ll want cushion and stability.
∇ For clothing, think classic. The Italians are stylish, but they infuse that chic style with casual notes, so no need to overdo it during the day. It’s more important to be comfortable as you explore the coast. Do bring at least a couple of nicer options for restaurants that offer a fine dining experience.
∇ Babbel or Duolingo: Don’t know the language but want to start? Check out these easy-to-use apps for a few quick lessons. It’s always good to learn a few helpful phrases. The Italians definitely appreciate your effort; however, since most Italians in this area speak English very well, you should have very little trouble or stress communicating.
∇ Say Hi: An absolute game-changer when it comes to language barriers. It’s free, but I would be willing to pay for this app. Choose which language you want your words translated into, speak into the microphone, and voila, your voice and words are translated into the selected language, which can then be played. You can see the transcript as well to make sure the app heard you correctly.
∇ Google Translate: While it might not be the most poetic of translations, it usually is correct. The app version allows you to hold your phone over any text, and it will translate it immediately. Perfect if you need a quick menu translation.
∇ TripIt: Want all your travel plans (reservations, boarding times, car rental information, etc…) kept in one place? Tripit is the answer. It’s free and easy to use. It also allows you to share the itinerary with others, so everyone is on the same page. Don’t have wifi? No matter. You can still access all of your travel information when the internet isn’t available.
Looking for more travel ideas for Italy? Check out these guides: