Towns built into Mountains - The Amalfi Coast
Most people think of the Amalfi Coast as a honeymoon spot or somewhere to take your partner as a surprise, but me and my friend Lainie went all on our own and we had a great time with all of the couples.
There are a lot of different cities along the Amalfi coast, from Sorrento to Amalfi, and each has its own unique setting. I think most people focus on the two biggest – Positano and Amalfi, but I found that they were significantly more expensive and very crowded. But no matter where you end up staying, I think the entire Amalfi Coast is an experience that everyone should get to have in their lifetime. Incredible Italian food, amazing sunsets, fresh limoncello, and cities built into the mountains are just the beginning of what makes this area special.
Flight: Ibiza-Barcelona-Naples – RyanAir
Hotels: Tramanto D’Oro in Praiano (between Positano and Amalfi)
Gorgeous views from the hotel rooftop deck, especially of sunset
Great deal for the money
The owner and staff were incredibly helpful – they made reservations for us for dinner and the boat and got us taxis whenever we needed them
Parking – we were able to park on site for free
A pool with a bar
The rooms were very light and airy
Has an excellent breakfast for free – the restaurant is also a popular dinner spot, especially for sunset, but we didn’t eat there
Praiano is a much smaller town that the famous ones and it made cab fare extremely expensive if we didn’t want to take the bus
There are probably much fancier rooms in the bigger hotels in the larger cities. However, we were perfectly fine with it for the price
Transportation: We actually rented a car in Naples and drove down to the coast. Our rental car was through Avis/Budget. It was one of the only car rental places without an insane line. The Naples airport is tiny and the rental car lot is even smaller. The other agencies had lines of 20+ people.
I think a lot of people are nervous about driving in the Amalfi Coast, and with good reason. The roads are incredibly windy and skinny and the local drivers are fearless. Worse than the local drivers are the buses. You can end up on a cliff while a bus passes you and you just have to hope they know what they’re doing.
That said, the benefit of not having to figure out the train+bus situation was great. It also gave us more time to stop for pizza and in Pompeii on our way back to the airport.
What I loved:
Boat Trip to Capri – this will basically take up your entire day, but it’s so worth it. The company can be contacted online or via your hotel. The one we took picked people up from both Praiano and Positano. Capri is an incredible island and you can do a bunch of different things. We opted to take the bus to the top of the island and wander around and shop. Make sure that you have cash for the bus. I think it was 3EUR each one way There’s also a gondola where you can go up to the top of the other side of the island. Don’t forget to buy some limoncello while you’re there. The owners of the shop will let you try as much as you want and there’s nowhere in the world where it’s more fresh!
Bus up to Ravello – Ravello was a town recommended to us by our hotel owner. She said most tourists miss it but that it’s probably the best part of the Amalfi Coast. She wasn’t wrong. It might have been my favorite part of the entire 18 day trip. You can get there by taking the bus to Amalfi and then a separate bus up to Ravello. Make sure that you have cash with you for the buses. You’ll take the bus up into the mountains and you’ll get dropped off at the entrance to Ravello, where you’ll have a bunch of options on how to spend your day. You can be there for an hour or 5, depending on what you want to do.
There are two Villas – Villa Ruolo and Villa Cimbrone. They are both 100% worth it. Villa Cimbrone is one of those places that you wish you could get married at. You can wander through the old home and check out some of the old architecture before you head out into the grounds. There are quite a lot of them and they’re all gorgeous with incredible views of the water. Villa Rufolo is near where the bus drops you off. It’s more of a historical site and there was a lot of information on the background of the building. It too has incredible grounds with views of the mountains and the water. It also serves as a location for performances, which is evident from the stage.
Wandering the streets – there is so much to see in this town and so many tiny streets for you to lose yourself in. The local vendors love tourists coming in and sell some beautiful art and fabrics.
Head up to Belmond Hotel Caruso. Even if you’re not staying here for $600+ a night, it’s worth the hike up to it and to check out their terrace. We kind of felt like we were intruding because everyone was dressed so well and we were dressed like sightseers, but it was a gorgeous terrace.
Sunsets in Praiano – this little town is positioned perfectly to watch the sun setting over Positano and the mountains. I think Amalfi is probably at the right angle as well, but it probably way more crowded. You can get a table at an outdoor restaurant in Praiano for optimum viewing.
Wandering the streets of Amalfi – we ended our day after Ravello by wandering around the crowded streets of Amalfi. It’s quaint but still incredibly bustling. I was kind of disappointed by how many souvenir shops there were relative to local items. The church there is incredible though even if you just wander up the stairs and don’t pay to go inside.
The Path to God – this is a hike you can do from Amalfi to Positano. I didn’t go, but Lainie did and it’s recommended to do it at sunrise or sunset. She loved it and said it was incredible but steep – not great for people like me who have a fear of heights. Or a fear of early mornings – also me. You don’t have to do the entire hike either – you can just go up to the top from whichever town you’re staying in and then come back down.
Pompeii – We stopped at Pompeii on our last day on our way back to Naples. There’s an option to take a bus up to the top of the actual volcano, but we didn’t have time, so we opted to just see the ruined city. One of the things you might not realize until you get there is that most of the artifacts that have been preserved aren’t actually there anymore – they’re at the archeological museum in Naples. So, what you’ll see in the city itself is the ruins of the buildings and amphitheaters. One of the things that I can’t recommend enough is going with a guide that speaks your language. When you get to the parking lot, you’ll end up having some random guys come up to you offering a tour in English – while it seems sketchy, it’s actually not at all. You’ll pay them at a kiosk outside the actual normal entryway and you’ll wait with the rest of the group for your tour time. Once that time comes around, the guide will take you all to the main desk where you’ll pay the guide for your ticket (in cash) and he’ll get you past the line to enter. He’ll then guide you all over the city and give you time to stop in each of the areas to take pictures. I guarantee you’ll learn way more with someone explaining everything to you than you’d learn wandering around on your own. I think the tour was only 8EUR each so it was well worth it.
What went wrong:
We originally planned on going to Pompeii on our way down to the coast after we landed. However, after a crazy 36 hours in Ibiza, we were totally wiped out and just wanted to sleep. It was fine because we ended up hitting Pompeii on our way back to the airport, but it did cut our time there short.
Cab fare – something we didn’t count on was that if you want to eat in another town on the coast, for example when we went to Positano for dinner, the cabs will be 30EUR one way. Most of the taxis in the area are really just open air carts, but those drivers aren’t allowed to leave their town. Therefore, if you want to go to a different city and you don’t want to wait for the bus, you have to get a cab that holds 6-9 people and it’s expensive. 60EUR in cab fares for dinner was not something we had planned for.
What I may have done differently:
If we could have found a cheaper hotel in Positano, I probably would have preferred to stay there. That said, I did love Praiano and it was way less crowded and therefore probably cheaper. It also had better sunsets because it faced west.
The other thing I was looking at when I booked a hotel was the reviews on how many steps people had to walk down/up with luggage to get from town to an air bnb or a hotel. I’m not sure I would have cared as much about that. I was worried we’d be too far from the beach or from the restaurants, but these towns really aren’t about being on the beach.
Ristorante La Strada (Praiano – Positano side): this is a place that was basically across the street from our hotel in Praiano. It has a deck on the top floor where you can sit outside and watch the sun set or sit under the stars. The food was incredible – you can tell it’s family owned and operated. Plenty of locals ate there. Our hotel made us a reservation.
La Taglieta (Positano): We didn’t actually make it to this restaurant but I wish we had. Everyone recommends it. Make your reservation in advance!
Eden Rock (Positano): This place had great reviews online so we took cabs there – 60EUR total there and back. The restaurant is situated on the top deck of the hotel and it’s a gorgeous view of Positano. However, it was basically empty. We got there at 8pm and by the time we were done eating we were the only people left. It was kind of weird. The food was just okay. The desserts were amazing. I wouldn’t go back, especially for the price of the cab fare.
Il Pirata (Praiano –Amalfi side): This was probably my favorite meal we had in Italy. We were able to take one of the open cabs from our hotel to this restaurant and it was a blast. You have to have a reservation for this one as well, so make sure that your hotel calls for you. The restaurant itself is set into the mountain right at the dock so you’re right on the water. It’s almost all outdoors and the setting couldn’t be more gorgeous. On top of that, the service was fantastic and the food was excellent. We left completely stuffed full. I’d highly recommend it.
General Tips and Tricks
Take the buses during the day – they’re cheap and one hell of an experience
Ask your hotel for restaurant reservations – they know the best places
Eat dinner later. When we made 7pm reservations we were the only ones there aside from a few other Americans
Gelato – enough said.