Ah, the Amalfi Coast. Home of the world’s most sought-after Instagram pic and the location of 75% of everyone on Facebook’s marriage proposals. For a place this well-documented on social media, you’d think it would fail to live up to expectations a little bit. I went along to see what all the fuss was about on this particular strip of coastline in Italy, and I can vouch that it definitely meets the hype.
Where to stay on the Amalfi Coast and how to get there
Unless you’re arriving by boat (or maybe a luxe helicopter or something idk) you can’t really arrive directly into the Amalfi Coast. I flew into Naples airport and then caught the ferry to Sorrento, where I stayed for a few days before heading over to Positano. The Amalfi Coast stretches over quite a few little towns and villages, but the most famous by far is Positano, with its dramatic plunging cliffs covered in colourful houses all vying for attention. There’s not a whole lot to do in Positano though other than eat, drink, relax and sit on a boat, which if you’re like me, is only fun for a few days. Sorrento on the other hand, is the town next to Positano and is arguably just as beautiful, and has a little more to do. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and bars around, and loads of tours. In short, stay in Positano for the relaxing, and Sorrento (or somewhere else nearby) for the doing.
Do a day trip to Pompeii and hike Mount Vesuvius
You can catch the train from Sorrento to Pompeii, and the station brings you pretty much at the doorstep of the ruins. We opted to do a tour that ran for a couple of hours and took us around Pompeii, which I’d really recommend as they tell you SO MUCH fun information about the place. They also explain how to tell what buildings used to function as, based on the layouts and structure.
Did you know that in Pompeii, they used to have street signs and forms of advertising? Animals and other everyday items were carved into the side of buildings to indicate what street you were on, e.g. at the butcher on the corner of pig and chicken lane. The walls of the city used to be covered in graffiti as well, but rather than tags and other scribblings, they used to deliver the news of the city to the people. Political propaganda, news and other sorts of things were written on the walls by artists, which is how everyone kept up to date.
Pompeii is honestly so big, and there’s so much to see, do and learn here. You could literally spend days wandering the streets, however Mount Vesuvius is not far away and also a must-do. Make sure you leave time to catch the bus up and back, as the last bus back to the station is around 6pm (roughly, from memory). You can catch a public bus or a coach, and both will drop you off near the top of the mountain. From there you can hike the rest of the way to the top, to the giant crater that’s still slightly smoking to this day. The views are absolutely spectacular, and it was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
Take the little tourist train in Sorrento
For only €6, this one is a no-brainer. You can’t miss this cute little train parked in the middle of the piazza in Sorrento, and it takes you on a 30-minute trip to some of the highlights of the town, along with a guided talk given through headsets. It’s a great way to get your bearings and figure out what spots you want to come back to and check out properly later.
Eat at Fuoro 51 in Positano
Finding good food in Italy is like finishing a bottle of wine: easy and always a fun time. Fortunately, you can do both those things at least three times a day (maybe more, you’re on holiday so nobody is judging) when you’re in Sorrento. If I had to pick just one restaurant to recommend from my time in the Amalfi Coast though, it would have to be Fuoro 51. This unassuming little wine bar is tucked away down an alleyway, and boasts a menu full of contemporary Italian food that’ll blow your socks off. The cheese and charcuterie board is an absolute must here, piled high with different cheeses, meats, bread and accompaniments. A small jar of lemon honey (!!!) literally blew my mind, from a local apiary called Miele d’Angelo. You can bet I slathered that on every bit of cheese and bread on the platter. The seared tuna and the anchovy pasta were also standouts.
Being a wine bar, it would be a crime not to indulge in a bottle while you’re here. They have a wide selection, from local vineyards and other areas in Italy, as well as budget to rare and expensive. The staff are really knowledgeable and happy to help, as well as generous with the tastings.
Don’t catch the bus between Sorrento and Positano
If you’re moving between towns on the Amalfi Coast, the best bit of advice I can give you is to get the ferry (or hire a private car if budget isn’t an issue). We opted to catch a coach between Sorrento and Positano, and it was not a great experience. While the views are breathtaking, they’re a little hard to enjoy due to the narrow roads carved precariously onto cliff faces really not being built for two-way traffic, let alone a giant coach. The traffic and road rage is real here, as is the lack of air-conditioning on the bus, the number of people crammed into seats and standing, and the arguing between tourists and locals. We ended up hiring a driver to get us back to Naples instead, which was a far more relaxing experience.
Catch the bus to the start of the Path of the Gods
Once you’re in Positano, it’s a lot less stressful to use the bus system. There is an incredibly beautiful hike here known as Sentiero degli Dei, or Path of the Gods, named after an ancient legend where the Greek Gods travelled down this path to save Ulysses from the sirens. It’s about a 7km trail and takes around 1.5-2 hours one way. The best way to do it is to catch a bus around to the top of the trail, and then walk the 7km downhill, admiring the breath-taking scenery and dramatic cliff views along the way.
We did not do this and attempted to hike the way up. Unless you’re super fit and don’t mind the blazing heat, really don’t do this, it’s less than fun. The whole way is incredibly steep and you’re facing a whole bunch of stairs rather than the beautiful views behind you. Someone told us about this bus trick when we were about an hour into our hike uphill, after which my bag broke and we decided to forget about it, go grab some ice-cream and lie on the beach.
Browse the shops, but be aware they are $$$$
All around the Amalfi Coast are shops filled with beautiful clothing, fine ceramics and leather goods. A far cry from the cheap knick-knacks you usually find in tourist-filled places, these pieces have price tags to match their premium appearance. I can’t say I looked at the ceramics and leathers too much, but the bold patterns of the clothing sucked me in every time.
Yellow zesty lemon prints, swirling red, blue and yellow designs and summery blue and white pieces looked like they’d just walked off a Dolce & Gabanna Runway. Floating dresses, cute two-pieces and wide palazzo pants made me literally want to throw out my entire wardrobe and replace it with these stunning designs, but the price tags stopped me in my tracks. Starting at about €100 and going up to about €300, these cotton and linen pieces could easily break any holiday budget after picking up a few of them. It is a beautiful momento of your time spent holidaying in the Amalfi Coast and a practical one as you can wear it, so my advice would be to spend time finding a piece you really love, and invest in just the one. Unless you’re super-rich, in which case, buy everything and send me something.
Except the food shops, buy everything from the food shops
All the above rules go out the window when it comes to the food shops. These little Italian culinary gems bring all your foodie dreams to life, packed full of oils, herbs, spices, pasta, you name it. With lemons in abundance in the Amalfi Coast, expect to find plenty of homemade limoncellos, lemon pasta, candy and oil, as well as a huge range of lemon skincare products. You can also get all the other traditional Italian goods here too though, with so many types of cheese, meats and wine, if you try and bring a little of everything back to the UK (or Australia, or wherever you’re from), customs will definitely be asking you some questions. It’s all pretty reasonably priced too, considering the quality and flavour.
Capri isn’t a must-do
Yes, you have the famous arch of Capri, the quaint funicular train and stunning views. But in all honesty, I found Capri to be the least pleasant place I visited in the Amalfi Coast. It was incredibly touristy, with lots of people by the marina jostling to sell you boat tours and things. The restaurants were incredibly overpriced and expensive, with probably the worst food I’ve eaten in Italy, and rude staff to match. What I generally felt about Capri is it’s a place that will consistently have tourism and money rolling in, so it felt it didn’t need to try and deliver on any of its expectations. I would say save your time and money, and spend it around Positano and Sorrento instead.
You don’t have to go in peak Summer to have a good time
I went around the end of September, and the weather was beautiful and warm every day (around the mid-to-high-20s). It was less busy it would have been in July or August time, and I imagine a little cheaper flight and hotel-wise. Though it was warm, coming from Australia I generally wouldn’t go swimming in weather under 30-degrees, however the beaches that I saw in the Amalfi coast weren’t the best swimming beaches in the world anyway. Their attraction is the dramatic cliff-faces and beautiful water, which are perfectly fine to be admired from the shore, Aperol Spritz in hand.
Single, with your family or with a partner, the Amalfi Coast is definitely one place to see in your lifetime. It has a unique beauty that I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world. Not just the cliffs and the water, but the colour-drenched sunsets, the vibrant coloured plants and flowers, the incredible patterned tiling and general architecture are what help this Italian dream live up to its hype. As an Italian poet once said, ‘The Day of Judgement, for the people of Amalfi who will go into Paradise, will be a day like all the others.’Images taken on the Nokia 9 Pureview