The Amalfi Coast is a popular side trip out of Rome, and for a good reason. The cliff-perched villages and umbrella strewn beaches are straight out of a postcard. If you want to visit a location that screams Under the Tuscan Sun (well, the part where she isn’t in Tuscany) and all things Italy, this is your spot. Despite its popularity with tanning Europeans and summer-abroad students alike, it remains very difficult to access- in that, there is no direct route in or out without hiring a private car.
Instead, your transfer will start a little something like this:
And end a little something like this:
Lets get into it, shall we?
Positano.com has great information about how to get to the various towns on the Amalfi Coast. One issue that we had, however, was deciding which method to take.
Train to smaller train to bus?
Train to smaller train to ferry?
Train to ferry (to ferry)?
And to complicate things, when Positano is your final destination, you need to decide if you connect in Sorrento or Salerno. If you can keep those names and the routes straight, you are doing better than I did!
This handy image from Positano.com helped us out a ton in organizing the important information.
With some travelers with motion-sickness concerns in our group, we wanted to avoid tight, enclosed buses on the winding mountain roads and instead favored the ferry option. After plenty of confusion (and a very delayed train from Rome) we were extraordinarily happy with our choice to take the ferry. It was a gloriously stunning day and after plenty of travel frustrations early on, stepping on the ferry felt like we were starting our vacation early (the cheap beer and wine on board helped!).
In the end, here is what we did and what I HIGHLY suggest for future travelers:
Traveling from Rome, take a high-speed train to Naples.
From Naples, take the Vesuviana train to Sorrento. (We ended up on a tourism train, the Circumvesuviana, that makes a few stops in various geological and historical sites as it circles Mt. Vesuvius. From everything I could tell, this was actually one of the faster options)
If the weather is fine and you are traveling between April-October, skip the big tour bus that is going to weave along the super narrow cliff-top roads and start enjoying the scenery from the water! Walk down Sorrento to the harbor and follow the signs to the ticket booth. We ran up to the boat right as it was leaving-the last for the day- so be sure to check in with the ferry times before you go.
On the way back, we took a Ferry direct to Naples via Capri (where we switched to a large, high speed boat) and skipped the Circumvesuviana. While this was a far more enjoyable option and offered some new scenery, switching boats in Capri was mayhem as, for some reason, no ticket booth would sell us both tickets from Positano, so we first had to queue. Also, we were dropped at the harbor in Naples (obviously) which is still a ways from the train station.
I will also add that Naples is the first and only city that I have ever visited where I feel entirely uncomfortable. We opted to take a taxi from the harbor to the train station and spent most of the time telling the driver NOT to take us all the way to Rome because we already had train tickets, wondering why he asked us not to buckle our seatbelts and then –literally- beating off hoards of pickpockets in a gauntlet of pan-handlers as we walked a single block into the station. I cannot stress enough that I would do all in my power to avoid Naples again and the Circumvesuviana would at least take us straight into the Station.
(Perhaps this was an isolated incident, perhaps not. If you love Naples, live there or frequent it and disagree, feel free to express yourself in the comments, however I feel strongly that it is not a destination for the average Italian tourist)
Enough with the “getting there”, lets talk about Positano.
Beautiful, rocky, fishy, lemon-y Positano
Arriving at its harbor, the only way for you (and your stuff) to find and wind its way into town is up! For this reason, pack lightly. We took only backpacks but saw far too many girls with massive roller bags paying fit young porters to haul them up hill.
The small pebble beach that stretches along the face of the town is always alive with activity: small boat tours, fishermen, people watching the wide-eyed new imports from the newest ferry. It has a designated free section for bathers with towels as well as a long stretch of pay-per-day loungers under colorful umbrellas and then an even more private (and chic) section around the corner for glamorous bar-side bathing .
There are plenty of beach-side restaurants that seemed to all offer roughly the same menu of fried fresh catches – and nearly all looked and smelled very good! However, keep in mind that they all have a price tag to match their superior view and hike-free location. As it turned out, one of the best meals we ate came from the grocer next to the town cathedral- there is a small deli inside and the cute butcher put together a few panini with uber-tasty cured meats, basil, cheeses and tomatoes, all on a HUGE loaf of bread- finished with a cheeky smile and a wink for the signora. Grab yourself a few of those and some Peroni and stop at any of the endless fabulous outlooks for a perfect lunch. View, free of charge!
Aside from sunbathing, the next best thing to do is shop the boutiques along the narrow streets. With offerings from beautiful linens to custom-made leather sandals to various shaped bottles of limoncello, take your time meandering through whatever catches your eye. Its all about slowing down a bit outside of the city, so stop for frozen lemon sorbet, a Negroni, or to look at the local art work.
We stayed the night at Hotel Savoia, an affordable and charming hotel located about halfway up the town. Each room had a large verandah that showcased the rocky village sweeping down the mountain. The all-over ornate Italian tile in bright shades of blues, yellows and greens paired with white linen drapes and bedding gave the whole little place a distinct romantic nostalgia. I simply loved it.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the horribly cheap happy hour, the massive breakfast spread and the overly attentive staff.
Yes, actually, maybe I should return to the pink façade and green-and-white striped awnings of the Hotel Savoia soon.
If you have the time and fancy a long hike with spectacular views (you know, other than walking from the beach to the hotel…) consider walking the Path of Gods. This hike, which can be varied in length depending on your starting point, typically ends just outside of Positano, and offers some of the most breathtaking views of the Amalfi Coastlines that can be afforded. I have heard it highly recommended. As we were just over-nighters in Positano, we spend our precious time relaxing, but if I returned, I would spend an extra day or two to hop between some of the other, smaller towns and hike the Path of Gods. Aftervall, it was quite the ordeal to get here to begin with!
For a superb meal in this cliff-side town, hike your way on up to Da Vincenzo, which came highly recommended to us by people with fine palates and plenty of experience. It turns out that the secret was out, because we saw the crowd waiting as we approached. However, the man of the house instantly offered us a glass of Prosecco to sip as we waited outside for a table to come available, which we happily accepted. Tables turn over rather quickly here, so don’t fret too much about a wait- and don’t be in a rush when you get a seat! Italians would sooner die than rush you through your antipasti, primi, secondi, and dolci!