I first visited the Amalfi Coast in Italy in the 1990’s, and it continues to be one of my favourite places. It has some of the most amazing scenery and coastlines in the world. It’s literally breathtaking and holds a special place in my heart.
Unesco has awarded 13 towns along the Amalfi Coast with World Heritage Site designation since 1997, so there is a lot of unique history and archeology to see. So, on with my guide of things to do in Amalfi Coast during your vacation.
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Map of the Amalfi Coast
The name Amalfi Coast is somewhat of a misnomer. There are actually two coasts on the Amalfi Coast: The Sorrento Coast or the top part of the peninsula, and the Amalfi Coast, which is actually the bottom portion of the peninsula. They are separated by the mountains of the stunning Lattari Mountains Regional Park.
How do you get to the Amalfi Coast?
You’ll most likely start from Naples, and you can either take a private transfer, rent a car, take the train, take a bus to Sorrento, or take a boat to Sorrento from Naples’ port. You can even bypass all the aggravation and take a boat from Naples to Amalfi or Positano if you can’t deal with the ‘Hoi Paloi.’
The biggest question I get is, is the Amalfi Coast on the Mediterranean Sea. The Amalfi Coast is located on the Gulf of Naples and the Tyrrhenian Sea, but it’s all part of the Mediterranean Sea. So yes, it is on the Mediterranean Sea.
Check out all my Travel Resources here before booking your travel.
Car Rental Amalfi Coast
The distance from Naples to Sorrento is only 30 miles, but it will take an hour to drive because of traffic and the windy turns. You can easily rent a car at the Naples airport or near the train station, but remember you’ll be in good company on the roads.
Train from Naples to Sorrento
The easiest way to get from Naples to Sorrento is the train. From Naples Central station, go downstairs where you’ll find the Circumvesuviana Train to Sorrento. The Circumvesuviana is a step back in time. It’s rickety with just the basics, and no air conditioning. Tickets are $4, and in about an hour you arrive in Sorrento.
At times, no seats are available and you are packed in with others, so keep track of your bags. Sorrento is the best city to use as a base to discover the best cities on the Amalfi Coast.
Private Transfer to Sorrento
You can also arrange a private car transfer from Naples to Sorrento for about $125. Again it will take a bit over an hour.
The most scenic way to get from Naples to the Amalfi Coast is by taking a ferry to Sorrento. The ferry from Naples to Sorrento is quick at 35-45 minutes, and there are 6-7 crossings per day. I highly recommend you book your ferry tickets to Sorrento in advance for the most efficient use of time. One way ferry tickets to Sorrento cost around $25. You can also head directly to Positano from Naples. It’s a beautiful way to see the coastline.
From either the airport or the train station, you can get a cab to the main ferry port in Naples. I’ve done it and it’s safe.
Bus from Naples to Sorrento
This is probably my least favorite way to get to Sorrento from Naples, because it will take 1.5 hours and costs around $40, which I think is a rip-off. For this amount of time, I’d take the train or the ferry.
These guidebooks may help with planning your Amalfi Coast vacations.
Best time of year to visit Amalfi Coast
As I mention with much of Italy, the best time to visit the Amalfi Coast is going to be outside of the high season in July and August. Check here for a well planned out 3 day Amalfi Coast itinerary.
The best time to visit Sorrento and the Positano coast is going to be March, April, May and June. Some hotels and attractions might not yet be open for the season in March or April as many places open around Easter.
You will, however, find that bus drivers, hotel staff, wait staff, boat operators will be more polite as the the tourism season hasn’t yet started.
While you’ll find cheaper hotels on the Amalfi Coast in September and October, the staff will be exhausted and ready to see the backside of you. They don’t care and just want you gone so their season can finish. Just saying…
Many smaller hotels along the Amalfi Coast will close during the winter season, but you’ll certainly find cheap hotels in Sorrento and around the coast in the winter if they are open.
Things to do on the Amalfi Coast?
Amalfi Coast things to do. While there are a ton of things to do in the Amalfi coast and plenty to see, I picked a handful of my favorites.
It’s never a question of what to do in the Amalfi Coast, it’s a question of will I have enough time to see everything on the Amalfi Coast I want to! You won’t, so I highly recommend booking some organized boat tours of the Amalfi coast and some guided bus tours from Sorrento, as that will take away a lot of stress if you want to see something but don’t want or have the time to do the research yourself.
The best tours of Amalfi Coast are ones where you leave the planning to someone else and I’m a big supporter of these day trips along the Amalfi Coast.
If you’re in Naples and want to do a day trip to the Amalfi coast, these are some of the best Amalfi Coast tours. There are all inclusive tours of the Amalfi Coast and small group tours if that interests you as well. Check these out below.
Take a day tour of Pompeii on the Amalfi Coast
You can’t have an Amalfi coast trip without visiting the city of Pompeii. Mount Vesuvius exploded in 79AD and smothered the entire city of Pompeii under a thick carpet of volcanic ash.
The unfortunate locals were asphyxiated under nearly 75 feet of smoldering ash that fell over a six-hour period! Can you imagine?
Pompeii was rediscovered in 1748, and excavations have been going on ever since. You can do a self-tour, or rent a headset and walk the important sections of the city. I could seriously spend days here since there’s so much to see. But when touring Pompeii on your own, you really need to do your research on what not to miss.
I really enjoyed the numerous intact artifacts, statues, frescoes, and stunningly beautiful architecture.
Other original pieces can be found in the Naples National Archaeological Museum. So you know, Pompeii receives 2.5 million visitors per year, so you will be in good company. I was lucky to snap some shots without the hoards. Entrance fee is $22.50.
Take in some cultural events in Sorrento
Throughout the year, there are numerous festivals, theatre performances, concerts and museums to enjoy along the coast. When I was there, I caught an open air concert in Sorrento’s Piazza Tasso. Seat were set up and I really felt like a local sitting among the town folk enjoying an impromptu concert.
The Sorrento tourism office has up-to-date information on arts and attractions, and other Sorrento must see items, and many are free! They provide the most accurate information on Sorrento things to see.
Check the Amalfi Coast website for current information about dining and hotels in the villages along the coast. The Positano website also provides current information about sights and activities in town.
Dine at the unique Ristorante Museo Caruso in Sorrento
One thing to do in Sorrento is enjoy a meal at Ristorante Museo Caruso. Enrico Caruso was a famous opera singer in Europe and the US in the early 1900’s. He was born near Naples, but Sorrento adopted him a long time ago.
Restaurant Caruso Sorrento is a museum to his memory of singing traditional Italian operas and Neapolitan songs. It’s a really unique and local experience, and we had an excellent meal there. This was my mom’s favorite opera singer so I had to go to report on how it was.
Each summer, an Italian artist wins the Caruso Award, which is given to those who spread Italian culture worldwide.
Caruso’s is a lovely, upscale restaurant with a superb menu and loads of paraphernalia on the walls. You can enjoy listening to Caruso’s music throughout your meal. It’s a real step back in time. Ristorante Museo Caruso is located at Via. S. Antonino, 12 Sorrento. Reservations highly recommended.
Enjoy an apero or hot chocolate at Marina Grande in Sorrento
There’s nothing better than facing the sea in this quiet port area of Sorrento. Marina Grande is very chilled with a variety of seafood restaurants perched near the water. I usually grab a drink at one of the little tables they position sea side. Or for a real treat, order yourself an Italian hot chocolate. That stuff is not like our hot chocolate. It’s like warmed pudding. Fantastic! And the best ones are from the Amalfi Coast.
You can also swim there and rent paddle boats. It’s a great way to relax and admire the beautiful coast line.
Another thing to do on the Amalfi Coast is to take a boat trip on the Mediterranean. A trip to the Amalfi Coast wouldn’t be the same without a boat ride to the island of Capri. From Marina Piccola in Sorrento, catch the AliLauro boat for $21 for a 20-minute ride, or the Caremar for $18.50 for a 30-minute ride. You can also do a day trip to Capri from Amalfi as well.
Either way, you will be amazed with the stunning landscape and its wondrous mountains. Book your ferry tickets from Sorrento to Capri in advance for the best fares.
Have a drink at the Gran Café in Piazza Umberto I in Capri
The best place to watch the world go by on Capri is in Piazza Umberto 1, and the most famous cafe there is the Gran Cafe.
The Gran Cafe has been around since the mid 1930’s and it’s located in Capri’s most famous piazza. It won’t be cheap, but it will be memorable.
Then take time to walk the small street through Capri inland until you come upon Anacapri.
Take the funicular to Mount Solaro in Anacapri
Once you reach Anacapri, you’ll find the signs to take the funicular. This funicular reaches the highest point on Anacapri (589 meters/1932 Feet) and offers the best views of Capri and the Coast. It’s amazing.
The funicular ascends from Piazza Vittoria in Anacapri and it’s a 12-minute ride to the top. You’ll have a variety of ‘holy shit’ moments as you float silently in the air, but the views are amazing! It’s $12 rt. You can also take a guided tour of Capri and Anacapri if that interests you.
Take a day trip to Amalfi and Positano by bus
Amalfi coast travel is quite simple if you are willing to take local transport. You are also in for the ride of you life! The best way to visit Amalfi Coast, and the cheapest, is by taking the SITA Bus network along the Amalfi Coast. The bus drivers have to have nerves of steel to navigate the hairpin turns of the Coast! This is also the easiest way to see some of the best cities on Amalfi Coast.
The Amalfi coast bus network is divided into two sections: The Sorrento to Amalfi section, which includes the towns of
- Bv S. Agata
- Colli Fontanelle
- S. Agnello
- Piano Sorrento
- Colli S. Pietro
- Grotta Smeraldo
And the Amalfi to Salerno section stopping in the towns of
- Vietri sul Mare
This ride will not be easy on your stomach, but the views on this Amalfi Coast drive will be spectacular! Sit on the right side (as seated) when you go from Sorrento to Amalfi, and on the left when returning.
In Sorrento, you catch the bus in Piazza Giovanni Battista De Curtis near the Circumvesuviana train station. The ride takes about 1.5 hrs is $7.65. Barf bag not included…
If that’s too much, you can also take an organized day trip to Amalfi and Positano and it includes lunch.
What to see in Amalfi
There are a few Amalfi things to do. It’s not a huge village, but the most notable things to see in Amalfi town are the medieval Amalfi Cathedral from the 9th and 10th centuries. For me this cathedral is weirdly squished in between other buildings in Amalfi almost as if they’d run out of space to build so they just decided to build in front and around the cathedral. Lovely but curious at the same time. Pop in and take a look at the cloister, gardens, crypt and museum.
Then another thing to do in Amalfi is wander the Via dei Mercantini, or the market street. This is originally called Ruga Nova Mercatorum and it’s a great place to shop for local items and the best gifts from Italy to take home to friends.
Also stop at the Arsenale della Repubblica, which is southern Italy’s only preserved maritime museum. You’ll find maps, instruments, artwork and a complete explanation of the importance of this arsenal in Amalfi’s maritime history. Here you’ll understand the Amalfi Coast Mediterranean Sea connection.
What to see in Positano
Positano is quite a small village that precariously clings to the edges of Monte Lattari National Park. It’s beautiful, but you’ll have to explore Positano’s sites on foot, and via lots of little staircases. Keep this in mind if you wish to visit Positano from top to bottom.
Also, Positano’s hotels can be quite a pricey and there are not a ton of hotels. So unless you want to splurge, but want to explore Positano more, you’ll be better off staying in one of the cheaper seaside villages such as Minori and Maiori.
Things to see in Positano include the Archeological Museum; the church that belongs to the iconic dome in Positano – Church of Santa Maria Assunta; Spiaggia Grande, or the big beach, which was also the beach setting in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, and some shops.
I’d actually suggest you spend the first few days using Sorrento as your base, then move to one of the villages on the south coast of Amalfi and use one of those as a base.
Depending on your budget, you will find very economical hotels in Minori and Maiori, whereas Amalfi and Positano hotels are quite pricey.
My top pick for a hotel in Positano
If you are willing to splurge on a fantastic hotel in Positano, and I say, splurge, check out Hotel Le Sirenuse, which used to be a private residence. I stayed here in the past and it’s simply divine. So much about Positano is the view and you want to stay somewhere iconic. This is it.
Otherwise, use Minori or Maiori as your base to explore the south side of the Amalfi Coast. I’ve stayed in Maiori as well, and the hotels are a fraction of the cost of Sorrento or Positano, which means you have more money to spend on excursions and dining. More about this below.
Hike the Lattari Mountains Regional Park Italy
For the avid hiker and outdoor lover, there’s nothing better than walking the trails through the Monti Lattari National Park.
There are 4 important trails in these Amalfi Coast mountains, and you can find information on their site how to get to them. The layout of the trails in the Amalfi mountains is like the arteries of the Amalfi Coast. This wildlife park near Sorrento and other areas of the Amalfi Coast offers so many miles of trails, that you just need to decide where to start and how long you wish to hike for.
You can take public transport from many villages on the Amalfi Coast up to the trails. The Sorrento wildlife park trails make you feel like you are miles from civilization. You’ll find unique plants, birds, wildlife and serenity like nowhere else.
Trails of Monti Lattari National Park
Visit the gardens at Hotel Villa Cimbrone Ravello
Other things to do in Amalfi Coast are visit the stunning villa and gardens of Villa Cimbrone in Ravello. It’s very close to Amalfi and Positano, and the easiest way to get there is to take a bus from Amalfi to Ravello. Their magnificent gardens are open from 9a until sunset and tickets to Villa Cimbrone cost $8.00.
The gardens are considered one of the most, ‘important examples of English botany and landscape in Southern Europe. ‘
“The most beautiful sight that I have ever seen in the world is the panoramic view from Villa Cimbrone on a bright winter’s day, when the sky and the sea are so vividly blue that it is not possible to distinguish them from each other.” ~ Gore Vidal
It’s also a hotel, and the price for a double room in summer starts at $780 for an view of the Chiostro, and nearly $950 for a superior sea view room. You will be lost in luxury. The hotel and gardens are at Lattari Mountains Regional Park, Via Santa Chiara, 26, 84010 Ravello.
Buy some local limoncello on the Amalfi Coast
Limoncello is the liquid gold of the Amalfi Coast, and they grow some of the finest and largest lemons around. Authentic limoncello can take months to produce, and it is well worth the wait. The best limoncello produced on the Amalfi Coast is by far at Limonoro Limoncello at 49 Via San Cesareo, where they produce and sell their high-quality limoncello on site. They use the best lemons of Sorrento (“femminello” variety), which are untreated and grow in the area beneath characteristic “pagliarelle”, or straw mats.
Where to stay on the Amalfi Coast
You will discover that the Amalfi Coast is a pricey place to stay, but you can find hotels along the Amalfi Coast that will not break the bank. There are a variety of 3* hotels on the Sorrento Coast (northern part of the ‘Amalfi Coast’) that can be economical. While you are in Sorrento, at minimum book a hotel with a magnificent view of Mount Vesuvius.
There are a ton of reasonably priced hotels in Sorrento, as well as expensive accommodation, so you might as well get one with a sea view of Mount Vesuvius! It’s magical to wake up and open your windows to see this massive volcano. Also, you can only see it from the Sorrento coast side of the Amalfi Coast.
Great 3* Hotel Option in Sorrento
A great hotel I’ve stayed at a few times in Sorrento is 3* Hotel Zi’ Teresa. It is close to the central piazza in Sorrento, offers a good breakfast, has a pool, and the multi-lingual staff are friendly.
Besides having balconies that face Vesuvius, they have a massive rooftop terrace with spectacular 360° views. Room rates in summer 2019 run around $120-130 a night depending on the month. Mid August the rates rise substantially.
Another great hotel in Sorrento is the 4* Hilton Sorrento Palace, a little further out of town. It has a lovely panoramic shared terrace with views of Sorrento and Vesuvius.
They offer top-notch services and amenities, which Hilton is known for, and a great choice if you want to use some of your Hilton Honors points. I love their stunning ‘Pompeii-esque’ indoor pool and infinity pool looking smack at Vesuvius. It is so decadent.
Some other great 3* Hotels in Sorrento based on reviews include:
Some highly rated 4* Hotels in Sorrento are:
Hotels in Positano
Positano is on the southern peninsula of the Amalfi Coast and it’s a dreamy location. As I mentioned above, my best recommendation is to stay at the Hotel Le Sirenuse. I stayed here decades ago, and it’s now a place where ‘A-listers’ stay. It is theee most decadent place to stay, so check out Hotel Le Sirenuse. Positano is an expensive place to stay so keep this in mine.
Other top rated hotels in Positano include:
Hotels on the Southern Amalfi Coast
I spent some time in Maiori, which is a lovely place to base yourself to discover the lovely villages and towns of the actual southern Amalfi Coast.
Hotels there are really inexpensive, the atmosphere is much more quiet, authentic, and they offer a great base to experience the real Amalfi Coast. Maiori is a lovely place to base yourself to discover cheaply the Amalfi Coast.
Have you enjoyed these suggestions of things to do Amalfi Coast? If so, drop me a comment. Would love to know where you’ve visited and what you liked about it.
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