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 archeological sites to see. So, on with my guide of what to see and do on the Amalfi Coast during your visit.
First, how do you get to the Amalfi Coast?
It’s easy. You’ve got to get to Naples! Either fly to, or take the train to, Naples, then go downstairs and grab the Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento. The Circumvesuviana is like 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 there 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 Amalfi Coast.
You can also arrange a private transfer from Naples airport or train station to Sorrento for about $125.
What to See and Do on the Amalfi Coast?
While there are a ton of things to do on the Amalfi Coast, I picked a handful of my favourites. I hope you, too, will find these interesting while you enjoy the intoxicating smells of lemon blossoms and get lost in the labyrinth of stairways and narrow alleys of the Amalfi Coast.
Book a room with a view of Vesuvius
There are a lot of hotels Sorrento, whether inexpensive or over the top. Try and get a seaview. It’s magical to wake up and open your windows to see Vesuvius. One good choice is 4* Hotel Zi’Teresa. They are very close to the central piazza, offer a good breakfast, have a pool, and the multi-lingual staff are very friendly. Besides having balconies that face Vesuvius, they have a massive rooftop terrace with spectacular 360° views. Room rates will run around $100-130 a night depending on the season.
Another great hotel choice is the 4* Hilton Sorrento Palace, which is a little further out of town. It has a shared terrace with views of Sorrento and Vesuvius. They offer top notch services and amenities as 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.
Take a tour of Pompeii
I have visited the ancient city of Pompeii numerous times. Pompeii was smothered under a thick carpet of volcanic ash in 79AD from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Locals were covered in nearly 75 feet of smoldering ash that fell over a six-hour period! It was rediscovered in 1748 and excavations have been going on ever since. You can either do a self-tour or rent a headset and walk around looking at the important sections of town.
I really enjoy the numerous intact artifacts, statues, frescoes, and stunningly beautiful architecture; and original pieces can be found in the Naples National Archaeological Museum. 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.
Sometimes I visit en route from Naples to Sorrento, or I go back once I get settled in Sorrento. To avoid a bazillion tourists, head to the sites of Herculaneum and Paestum instead, which suffered the same fate, but not as busy as Pompeii.
Take in some culture on the Amalfi Coast
Throughout the year there are numerous festivals, theatre performances, concerts and museums to enjoy along the coast. In summer, you can catch open air concerts in Sorrento’s Piazza Tasso in the centre of town. The Sorrento tourism office has up to date information on the arts and attractions. And many are free! The Amalfi Coast website is also a great resource for information about dining and hotels the villages along the coast. Another resource Positano offers information about sights and activities along the peninsula.
Book a table 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 has adopted him. The restaurant is a museum to his memory of singing traditional Italian operas and Neapolitan songs.
Each June/July, an Italian artist is selected to win the Caruso Award, which is given to those to spread Italian culture worldwide.
Caruso’s is a lovely, upscale restaurant with a superb menu and loads of photos and paraphernalia on the walls. I enjoy listening to Caruso music throughout my meal. A step back in time. Ristorante Museo Caruso is located at Via. S. Antonino, 12 Sorrento
Take a seat at the 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 sea. I usually just grab a drink at one of the romantic little tables they position sea side. You can also swim there and rent paddle boats. It’s a great way to relax and see the beautiful coast line.
Cruise over to Capri
A trip to the Amalfi Coast wouldn’t be the same without a visit to Capri. From Marina Piccola in Sorrento, catch the AliLauro, a 20-minute ride for $21. Another carrier, Caremar costs $18.50 for a 30-minutes transfer. Either way, you will be amazed with the beautiful Amalfitan Coast landscape and its wondrous mountainous.
Stop at the famous Gran Café in Piazza Umberto I
The Gran Cafe is in operation since the mid 1930’s and you will find it in Piazza Umberto I, the most famous piazza in Capri. This is such a great place to watch the world go by and refuel.
Take the funicular to Mount Solaro in Anacapri
This funicular reaches the highest point on Anacapri (589 meters/1932 Feet) and offers the best views of Capri and the Coast. You leave from Piazza Vittoria in Anacapri, and it’s a 12-minute ride to the top. You’ll have a variety of ‘holy shit’ and extremely quiet moments as you float silently in the air, but the views are amazing! It’s $12 rt.
Take the bus to Amalfi and Positano
You are in for the ride of you life when you take a SITA Bus along the Amalfi Coast. The bus drivers must have nerves of steel! The hairpin turns of the Amalif Coast are not easy to navigate with tons of traffic. This ride might not be easy on your stomach, but the views will be spectacular! Sit on the right side (as seated) when you go from Sorrento to Amalfi, and on the left when I’m returning to Sorrento. You catch the bus in Piazza Giovanni Battista De Curtis in Sorrento, near the station of the Circumvesuviana of Sorrento. The ride takes about 1.5 hrs is $7.65.
After a few days in Sorrento you can pack up, get on the bus and move down 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 can be quite pricey. But you can use one of those towns as a base as well to explore the south. I’ve stayed in Maiori and the hotels was a fraction of the cost of Sorrento, which mean more to spend on excursions and dining.
Treat yourself to Hotel Le Sirenuse in Positano
Part of the Leading Hotels of the World collection, Le Sirenuse is pure luxury. This 58-room hotel used to be the summer home of the Marchese family, if you can believe it! Pulling dates for rates, I see a double with a courtyard view goes for $340 in October 2017, and $550 for a view of the pool and/or partial sea. For $675 you can have a sea view.
I stayed here 20 years ago and paid about $200 for a sea view! Many Hollywood A-listers now stop here and it’s truly a once is a lifetime experience. Their restaurants, service and pool are impeccable. If nothing else, come for a lovely lunch at La Sponda Restaurant. They are located at Lattari Mountains Regional Park, Via Cristoforo Colombo, 30, 84017 Positano.
You must see the gardens at Hotel Villa Cimbrone Ravello
Villa Cimbrone is very close to Amalfi and Positano. Their magnificent gardens are open daily from 9a until sunset, and costs $8.00. They are considered one of the most ‘important examples of English botany and landscape in Southern Europe. ‘ Take a look at the fantastic video produced by Roberto Vuilleumier below. Roberto’s family were instrumental in restoring the gardens to their current glory after a decade of neglect post WWII.
“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
I completely agree.
It’s also a hotel, and the price for a double room in summer starts at $560 for an view of the Chiostro, and nearly $900 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.
Take home some local limoncello
Limoncello is the liquid gold of the Amalfi Coast, and there are some of the finest and largest lemons around. Authentic limoncello can take months to produce, and it is well worth the wait for a taste of this. The best is at Limonoro 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), untreated and grown in the area beneath the characteristic “pagliarelle” or straw mats.
What to See and Do on the Amalfi Coast
Have you enjoyed my options of what to see and do on the Amalfi Coast? If so, drop me a comment. Would love to know where you’ve visited and what you liked about it.
Life On The Mediterranean
US expat living the life on the Mediterranean in the South of France. I regularly travel to Spain, Italy, Greece and other super locations around the Med. Former Hyatt Corp Marketing Manager and hotel photoshoot art director.