Friends often ask me for tips on planning a holiday on the Amalfi Coast, from what time of the year to go to where to stay, so I have created this little beginner’s guide to making the most of a trip to la Costiera Amalfitana.
When to go
Mid spring to early summer (April – June) and the beginning of Autumn (September-October) are the best times to visit the Amalfi Coast as the temperatures at this time of year are generally mild and there are less tourists than during peak season (July – August).
In high season prices are higher, hotels can be difficult to book, and traffic, parking and finding a spot on the beach can be quite a headache thanks to the massive crowds. The temperature in July and August often reaches the mid 30’s and occasionally even higher.
There are also a few downsides to consider when visiting Amalfi in the off-season. During Autumn and Winter some services such as the buses operate less frequently and others such as some ferries and excursions don’t operate at all. From November to March you may have to deal with rain, fog and temperatures as low as 3 or 4 degrees oC.
Where to stay
When planning your trip you need to decide which town is going to be the base from which you will visit the rest of the coast. Some people choose Sorrento because it is close to Naples and Pompeii. However, Sorrento is arguably the most touristy town on the coast and while it is quite beautiful, it is also quite far from Amalfi and much of the rest of the coast, making it not the most convenient home-base for your holiday.
Maiori makes a great base for your Amalfi Coast holiday. It’s less than 6km from Amalfi and has its own port from which you can get a ferry to Capri or Amalfi (and then get a connecting ferry to Positano from there). It also has the longest beach on the coast.
Amalfi is the largest town on the Amalfi Coast, but it hasn’t yet become overly commercialised so you don’t feel too overwhelmed by tourists and there are still remnants around of this ancient maritime republic’s proud history. It is a convenient base for excursions to Capri and the Grotta dello Smeraldo. One of Amalfi’s must-see attractions is the Duomo (the Cathedral of St Andrew), with its alluring mix of European and Moorish architecture, magnificent bronze door and baroque interior.
If you are looking for a truly romantic town to stay in during your Amalfi Coast holiday you should consider Ravello. Being positioned on a ridge high above Amalfi, Ravello is much less convenient than most other towns. There’s no train station and you have to switch buses at Amalfi to get there. What makes it worth considering is its unique charm, beautiful villas and gardens, and spectacular views over the sea. Being more inaccessible it is less overrun by tourists. It is also more expensive than most of the other towns. Music lovers should seriously consider making Ravello their base as The Ravello Festival, an arts and music festival, takes place every summer in this magical town.
Positano is popular because of its central location and its breathtaking beauty. The downsides include the crowds in high season, the exorbitant prices, and the hundreds of stairs to get to the beach and some of the restaurants. It is a favourite with honeymooners as it rivals Ravello for the title of the most romantic town on the Amalfi Coast.
Other towns you might like to consider as a base for your holiday include Salerno, Praiano, Scala, Maiori, Atrani, Minori and Vietri sul Mare.
There are lot of great accommodation options to choose from. Don’t think you are restricted to staying in an expensive hotel. There are plenty of Bed & Breakfasts, Pensione, and serviced apartments and villas throughout the coast offering a range of different prices and facilities.
How long to stay
Some tourists plan a day trip to Amalfi from Rome or Naples, thinking they can squeeze it in to their itinerary. I don’t think you can truly appreciate the Amalfi Coast and all its charm in day. I would allow a minimum of 3 days, but if you really want to experience the Amalfi Coast lifestyle – a week is ideal. One of the most incredible experiences you can have in this region is waking up in a hotel and having breakfast on a terrace overlooking the scenic village-covered cliffs and the shimmering sea. My ideal itinerary would be:
- 1 day in Ravello
- 1 day in Capri
- 1 day in Positano
- 1 day in Amalfi followed by dinner in Atrani
- 1 day at the beach of your choice or kayaking, boat trip in – Maiori/ Praiano/ Furore etc.
- 1 day hiking e.g. Sentiero degli Dei (The Path of the Gods), Ravello to Amalfi, Ravello to Minori or Montepertuso to Positano etc.
- 1 day visiting other towns and attractions of your choice e.g. Praiano, Furore, Vietri sul Mare, Sorrento, Thermal spa day in Ischia, Grotta dello Smeraldo, Minori, Scala, Salerno, Pompei/Vesuvio excurision, and Herculaneum excursion.
How to get there
Not many airlines fly into Naples (the closest international airport to the Amalfi Coast) so depending on where you are flying from and which airline you choose to fly with you may need to fly to Rome. Then you can choose whether to get a flight to Naples or get a train to Naples or Salerno and then make your way to the Amalfi Coast from there (bus, taxi, hire a car). Some hotels provide shuttle services from the airport. You can also get a taxi from the airport or hire a car to make your way down the coast to your base town.
How to get around
The Amalfi coast SITA bus is an experience in itself. When you see the bus drivers tackle the hairpin curves with nothing below but sheer cliffs and the sea below, you will probably be both impressed and slightly horrified! The Amalfi coast bus in high season can get extremely packed and some of the buses have very poor air-conditioning so it can be an unpleasant way to travel at this time of year. Another issue is that the bus drivers don’t take the bends on the coastal road very slowly and even if you aren’t prone to car sickness your stomach could feel like it’s been turned upside down after a long stint on this windy road.
Ferries and hydrofoils in high season are a little less crowded than the buses and are usually faster but more expensive. You get to enjoy some beautiful views of the Amalfi Coast towns from the water. If you’re prone to seasickness, you should avoid the smaller boats and travelling by ferry in the choppier Autumn months.
You can also rent a car and drive but just remember that the narrow, winding Amalfi coast road is not for the faint-hearted.
If you are planning your own holiday on the Amalfi Coast I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to share your experiences or questions in the comments.