Destinations,  Europe,  Italy

A Beginner’s Guide to the Amalfi Coast

As one of Italy’s most stunning treasures, the Amalfi Coast is home to sparkling blue waters, colorful cliffside towns, ice-cold Limoncello and all the delicious Italian food you could eat. However, as wonderful as it is to visit Amalfi, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There are many different towns and islands to see while on the coast and traveling between them can be anything but easy. Read on to find your complete beginner’s guide to seeing the best of the Amalfi Coast.

How to Get There

One of the most difficult parts of vacationing on the Amalfi Coast is figuring out how to get there! The easiest route is to fly directly into Naples Airport (NAP) and take a private transfer into Sorrento. Unfortunately, this is the far more expensive option. If you’re traveling on a budget, it’s much more cost effective to fly into Rome and travel to Amalfi from there. Although this option is cheaper, it’s also a lot more time consuming.

Follow the steps below to get from Rome to Sorrento!

  1. From Rome’s Ciampino Airport (CIA), a simple €5 shuttle bus will take you directly to Roma Termini station. If you arrive into Rome’s Fiumincino Airport (FCO), an €8 train will take you there with minimal stops.
  2. From Roma Termini, you will need to buy a train ticket to Napoli Centrale. Although you can buy them directly from the station, it’s always cheaper to buy them in advance. Compare train ticket prices on the Trenitalia and Italo websites.
  3. Once you arrive at Napoli Centrale, you have a couple of options to reach Sorrento. The cheapest of these options is to take the Circumvesuviana train to the last stop in Sorrento. The train takes around 2 hours and costs €3.60. We nicknamed it “the train from hell.” If you’re interested in a more expensive alternative that doesn’t make you want to throw yourself off the train tracks, you can take the Metro Linea 1 (€1) to Molo Beverello and get on the Aliscafi High Speed Ferry to Sorrento for €13.

Where to Stay

It’s more affordable to stay slightly outside of the larger tourist areas in Amalfi, so we decided on Seven Hostel in Sant’angello. To get to Seven Hostel, get off the Circumvesuviana at S.Angello station, one stop before Sorrento, and the hostel is a 10 minute walk away.

Seven Hostel is a great value for the money. The rooms are clean and, most importantly, have very strong A/C! There’s a fun bar downstairs that serves delicious cocktails and food and the hostel has stunning views from the rooftop patios. It’ll take you 25-30 minute to walk into downtown Sorrento, but the views are beautiful along the way. The only downside is terrible WiFi…but you’ll be out exploring most of the day anyway!

Views from the roof of Seven Hostel.

Sorrento

A short walk from Sant’angello, Sorrento is an adorable seaside town and the perfect place to spend a relaxing day on the water. Of all the towns in the Amalfi Coast, I would highly suggest staying in or around Sorrento. It’s the perfect “launch point” for day-trips to the rest of the towns along the coast.

English Inn

The Amalfi Coast isn’t the easiest place to spend a wild night on the town. If you’re desperate for a night out and a fun atmosphere, the English Inn is the place to be! The bar/restaurant/nightclub is in downtown Sorrento so make sure to grab a cab back to Seven Hostel when you leave for the night.

Leonelli’s Beach Bar

If you’re visiting Sorrento in the on-season, you’re going to have difficultly finding a spot on the beach. For €13, you can rent a beach lounger at Leonelli’s for as long as your heart desires! The water is clear and sparkling blue, perfect for those scorching Italian summers. And there’s no shortage of delicious food and blended drinks!

Try Italian Limoncello

Since you’re in the birthplace of Limoncello, you absolutely cannot leave the Amalfi Coast without sampling an ice-cold shot of this world-famous lemon liquor. Although Limoncello is a common after-dinner drink all over Italy, it becomes a different experience when you drink it overlooking the Italian coast framed by lemon trees.

Shopping in Sorrento

If you’re planning on doing any shopping in the Amalfi Coast, I would suggest doing most of it in Sorrento. Sorrento has a wide variety of charming boutique shops and sells souvenirs, linen and liquors at much cheaper prices than you’ll find in Positano, Capri or Amalfi.

Where to eat

Since I’ve always stayed in Sorrento when visiting the Amalfi Coast, I’m most familiar with the restaurants here. You’ll find hundreds of delicious Italian restaurants in Sorrento. Most of them selling fresh seafood at a fraction of the prices in Positano and Capri!

For some useful Italian phrases for ordering at restaurants, check out my post When in Rome…EAT as the Romans Do.

Ristorante Moonlight

We stumbled upon this gem on our first night in Sant’angello! Exhausted from a flight, a bus and two trains, we were lucky to find Ristorante Moonlight only a short walk from Seven Hostel. Not only were the meals delicious, but the prices were affordable and we felt instantly welcomed by the warm, family atmosphere. The family’s 10 year-old daughter brought our food to our table!

Tortellini with gorgonzola and walnut sauce. Linguine with crab and cherry tomatoes.

Il Leone Rosso

I visited Il Leone Rosso in August of 2018 during my first orientation with Bus2alps. Delicious tender pasta with sautéed eggplant and all the wine you could drink was the perfect first night in Sorrento. We spent another fantastic evening at Il Leone Rosso for my second orientation in 2019…the food was just as mind-blowing the second time around!

Ristorante Tasso

You absolutely cannot leave the Amalfi Coast without eating your fill of fresh seafood. Another gem in downtown Sorrento, Ristorante Tasso serves delicious baked whitefish and an appetizer plate consisting of fresh Italian tomatoes with fluffy mozzarella, fried and bacon wrapped shrimp, and zucchini flowers stuffed with savory ricotta cheese. This classy restaurant is also known for its delectable Neapolitan pizza, so make sure to sample some while you’re there!

Bar La Terrazza

The food is on the casual side, but the view is anything but. Bar La Terrazza is perched on a cliff overlooking the Sorrento coastline and is directly on the walk from Seven Hostel in Sant’angello to Sorrento. A variety-filled menu and affordable prices make it the ideal lunch stop on your walk downtown!

Omelette mista with prosciutto, formaggio & fungi. Panino uova & pomodoro.

L’Antica Cantina

Another great find only a quick walk from Seven Hostel, L’Antica Cantina offers a pizza-heavy menu at some of the best prices on the coast. They also offer a variety of pastas that are just as yummy as their pizza. Whatever you do, just don’t order the mixed antipasti and expect to have enough room for your entree… After many appetizer trays of caprese, bruschetta, mixed meat and cheese and a few different pâtés, no one at the table had any room left for the main course.

Bagni Sant’Anna

Bagni Sant’Anna is home to some of the best seafood I’ve ever had in the Amalfi Coast. The restaurant is perched on a dock jutting out of Marina Grande into the Gulf of Naples, so you can bet the views are fantastic. Although everything we ordered was delicious, I would recommend trying the scallops and the Polipetti alla Luciana (Octopi in red sauce).

Polipetti alla Luciana.

Positano

Arguably the most famous town on the Amalfi Coast, Positano was definitely our most-anticipated stop. If there was ever a place built perfectly for Instagram…it would be Positano. However, it’s not the most accessible destination and traveling there always takes some careful planning.

Getting from Sorrento to Positano

There are multiple ways to get from Sorrento to Positano. I was a broke college student during my first time in Positano, so I decided to take the cheaper of the two ways. The SITA bus shuttle, departing from Sorrento train station, takes around an hour and costs only €8 for a round-trip ticket. The bus will take you all the way into the center of Positano, a mere 10 min walk from the beach. Fair warning: these buses are terrible if you get car sickness…or if you’re afraid of an Italian bus driver driving you off a cliff.

When I traveled to Positano for my Bus2alps orientation, we took a private boat from Sant’angello. Coming from someone who has experienced both methods of transportation, I would definitely recommend going by boat. There are four different ferry companies that offer ferries from Sorrento to Positano during April-October. The prices range from €8-20.

During my first trip to Positano, we decided to get off the bus a stop early and walk 30 min downhill  through the winding, flowery alleyways. The cliffside houses peeking through the buildings are still one of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen!

Enjoy the Cliffside Views

This is only one of the hundreds of pictures I couldn’t stop myself from taking of Positano’s incredible views. There’s a reason why Positano is one of the most visited cities in Italy and the face of the Amalfi Coast. Tiny, colorful houses are carefully perched on the side of green and flowery Italian cliffs. No matter how many times you see it, it always takes your breath away.

Paddle Board on the Tyrrhenian Sea

One of my favorite things to do in Positano is rent paddle boards and paddle boats! They also offer kayaks and speed boat rentals. You can rent them directly on the beach and enjoy paddling on the crystal clear Amalfi waters. The rental companies charge per hour, so make sure to keep an eye on your watch.

Relax on the Beach

Most of the beaches along this stretch of coast are rock beaches, which can be slightly uncomfortable. Make sure to bring, or buy, a towel so you can soak up those Italian rays! There are also plenty of beach chairs available for rental if you’re looking to spend some serious time on the beach.

Buy Handmade Sandals

The Amalfi Coast is known for its handmade leather sandals. Positano, Sorrento and Capri are spotted with family-owned sandal shops! After a little browsing, I settled on a tiny shop in Positano called Artigianato Rallo Moda. The friendly shop owner helped me pick out a design, soles and straps for my new sandals. They fit the shoes directly to your feet and they’re ready to wear in 10 minutes or less! They’re not cheap, mine cost around €75, but they last forever and no one else has the same pair.

Where to Eat in Positano

Positano can be pretty pricey so, when visiting, I try to keep my lunches on the casual side. There are plenty of little sandwich shops near the beach serving delicious panini filled with ripe Italian tomatoes, homemade pesto and fluffy mozzarella.

Vini e Panini

Only a short walk from the beach, Vini e Panini has the freshest sandwiches in all of Positano. They even grow the basil for their pesto behind their shop! You can fully customize your panino, but I went for the classic caprese con prosciutto.

Classic panino with mozzarella, proscuitto and tomatoes.

La Brezza

Down the street from Vini e Panini, with a great view of the sea, La Brezza serves yummy sandwiches stuffed with fresh ingredients and served on soft Italian bread. You can also get ice-cold lemon granita (a lemon slushy-type drink). Perfect for a hot, Italian summer day!

Hemingway panino, Caval panino.

Capri

The island of Capri is another must-see destination on the Amalfi Coast! Spend a day cruising the sparkling blue waters and gaping at the boujee celebrity yachts that frequent the island.

Getting to Capri

There are hundreds of tour companies tucked away in the winding streets of Sorrento. After spending a few glorious hours at Leonelli’s baking in the Sorrento sun, we headed out to book a Capri tour for the following day. Wandering around Piazza Tasso, we found ourselves in a tiny tour operator office called Amo Italy Travel. We booked the Capri mini cruise for €55 which included a hotel pickup and transfers both ways, a visit to the Green Grotto, White Grotto and the Faraglioni rocks, a drop off at Marina Piccola and gave us 5-6 hours to explore Capri.

If you’d prefer to explore on your own, there are tons of ferries from Sorrento to Capri operating every day!

Cruise through the Tunnel of Love

On your way to Capri, most tours operators will take you to see the famous Faraglioni rocks and drive you directly through the tunnel of love. The legend says it’s good luck to kiss your s.o. while sailing through the tunnel! The rocks are also famous for being the site of countless Gucci ads.

The Faraglioni Rocks.

Tour the Blue grotto

If you have extra time in Capri, the Blue Grotto is definitely worth a visit. Tours leave from Marina Grande for only €14. Make sure to check the tour status day-of since they sometimes get cancelled due to tides or weather!

Hike to the City Center

When the boat drops you off at Marina Grande, you’ll see lots of signs pointing you in the direction of the city center. It’s about a 20 minute walk and, disclaimer, it’s ALL uphill. The walk itself is beautiful, but expect to sweat buckets in that Capri-sun (excuse the pun). If you’re trying to stay cute for the Insta-pics, or just feeling a little lazy from the vacation day-drinking, you can take the cable car up from Marina Grande. It costs €2 for a one-way ticket, but beware, the lines can get very long.

The walk to the city center

Drink a Granita at the Viewpoint

When you finally reach the city center, reward yourself with a lemon granita and a thousand pictures of a gorgeous view! If you’re in the mood for something a little more alcoholic…grab a seat at Bar Funicolare at the end of the trail where you can order a refreshing Aperol spritz to cool you down.

Visit the Gardens of Augustus

The Gardens of Augustus, or Giardini di Augusto, are only a short walk from Capri’s city center. A €1 entrance ticket will grant you access to stunning views of Capri, including the Faraglioni Rocks. It’s the perfect place to rest your feet and take in the beauty of the island!

Take the Chair Lift to Anacapri

The buses from Capri to Anacapri only take 15 minutes and cost around €2 per person. Anacapri is the highest point on the island with tons of shopping and great Italian food! Trust me, the views are seriously incredible. However, if you want the best views on the island…the Monte Solaro chairlift is the way to go. €11 for a round-trip ticket will take you to the highest point of Capri with a 360 degree view of the island and the Gulf of Naples!

Amalfi

I visited the town of Amalfi only once on my first trip to the Amalfi Coast. It was our last day in town and, after sleeping in well past 2:00PM, we decided to strap on hiking shoes and find some beautiful views. We took the SITA bus one stop past Positano to Amalfi and ,after some exploring, we hopped on another bus to Bomerano and the trailhead to Il Sentiero degli Dei.

Grab a Gelato at Mago del Gelato

You’re supposed to eat copious amounts of gelato before a three-hour hike…right? We did! Having some time to kill before the bus ride to Bomerano, we stopped for a double scoop of rich gelato at Mago del Gelato. While enjoying the tasty treat, we headed inside the Amalfi Cathedral for a bit of last-minute exploring.

Hike the Path of the Gods

We spent most of the day on a three-hour hike along the coast from Amalfi to Positano. Dubbed Il Sentiero degli Dei, or The Path of the Gods, the hike truly lives up to its name. Although the trailhead is slightly difficult to get to, this hike has the most incredible views of the coast and is worth every minute. To start, first take the bus or ferry from Sorrento to Amalfi. Next, hop on a SITA bus in Amalfi and ask the driver to drop you off in Bomerano. From there, the signs around town will lead you to the trailhead!

Make sure to bring lots of water, a charged cell phone in case of emergencies and hiking shoes with a good grip (the trail can get slippery).

Beautiful views of Positano in the distance.

Since we chose to sleep in till 2:00PM…we didn’t arrive at the trailhead until 5:00PM. These gorgeous pink and orange clouds lit up over Positano are the result of reaching the end of the trail at sunset. All in all, the perfect way to end a perfect trip to the Amalfi Coast… and an (almost) free way to spend the day!

 

Pompeii

The ruins of Pompeii are a 45 minute drive or quick train ride from Seven Hostel. This incredibly interesting archaeological site is definitely worth a visit while you’re in the area. If you make it over to Pompeii, I would recommend taking a guided tour of the ruins. The site is much more interesting when you know what it is you’re looking at!

While you’re in Pompeii, make sure to stop and grab a bite at Pompeii Pizzeria. The Diavola with spicy salami is my personal favorite and there’s nothing wrong with a little extra Neapolitan pizza!

 

Although Amalfi can be tricky to plan, the trip is worth every minute. Tourists from all over the globe flock here for a reason and it remains one of the most unique destinations I’ve ever visited! Hopefully this guide to the Amalfi Coast helps you to plan the trip of a lifetime.

And if you’re planning on seeing more of Italy, check out my related posts The Best of Florence, The Ultimate Guide to Dining in Florence, 24 Hours in Milan, When in Rome…EAT as the Romans Do and A Guide to the Best Sights in Rome.

As always, thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow my adventures on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps.

xoxo.

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