The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline in southern Italy between Sorrento and Salerno, about 60 miles from Naples. The towns dotted among the cliffs, bays and beaches are renowned for their lemon terraces (and therefore limoncello), and extraordinary beauty.
We were in the area for five nights to take in the scenery, swim at the beaches and sample all of the local delicacies. We also managed to hike between and walk around some of the larger towns.
We arrived into Naples via an easyjet flight from Venice; Naples being the closest major city to our destination; San Lazzaro. The 55 minute, €48.50 per person flight (incl. luggage) seemed the better option over the five hour train journey available at a comparable price. However when you add in airport transfer times and cost, and waiting for the flight, the train might have ended up the better option. Train timetables and tickets are available from Trenitalia.
Low cost bus services in Italy are provided by Flixbus, who also have taken control of Megabus. Tickets can be as low as €1 if you book well in advance, but even if you book on the day of travel you can get a great deal. A Flixbus journey from Venice to Naples will cost around €16, but will take an average of 12 hours to get there. No thanks. We used both services happily on other parts of our Italy trip.
From Naples airport it was a 30 minute, €8 per person bus journey to Napoli Centrale Station through the manic streets of the city.
At Napoli Centrale the manic atmosphere continued and we struggled to find any information or help with how to get a train to nearby town Castellammare di Stabia. Competing train companies refuse to provide any information on routes other than their own, so it’s a matter of navigating the maze of a station without any sensible signage until you strike lucky. Eventually we found where we could buy tickets for our route and did so for €2.60 each, only to discover the last train had departed and the ticket booth had closed for the day; so no refunds there. We did finally end up on a local slow train to Castellammare di Stabia for another €2.60 each, which took around an hour.
At Castellammare di Stabia station we were instructed to take a bus to Agerola, the region where our accommodation was located, with a point in the direction of a bus stop 2km away. We managed to wave down a local bus and the driver kindly dropped us at the required stop, where we waited for 45 mins until it was clear from the other people waiting that the Agerola bus wasn’t coming. Another local bus (no charge again), and gestured conversation with the locals, and we were dropped by the road to Agerola with instructions to wave down cars for a ride. At this point it was 10pm.
Here’s the crazy part. We tried to hitch-hike without the slightest reaction from drivers for 40 minutes, and when we were just about to give up and go find a hotel; two angels slowed and picked us up. From Castellammare di Stabia it’s a 30 minute uphill drive to San Lazzaro; which is thankfully, and incredibly, where our angels lived as well.
Honestly, getting to the Amalfi Coast shouldn’t be such a headache, and we had thoroughly researched the all the options available. What we didn’t count on was the total lack of information, cancelled services, and just the general disorganisation of Naples. Getting to Naples first and using it as a base for the region is still the best idea in my opinion, but if I were to do it again I would arrive in the morning and plan for a full day trip.
Once in the region you can get between towns easily using the regular bus service, and between Amalfi and Positano on the ferry. A one way bus journey will cost between €2 and €3.50 and the Positano – Amalfi ferry costs €8 each way, also if you time it right the ferry can double as a sunset boat cruise!
Hint – Arrive early on a weekday so you have full daytime services available, and be flexible with your transport plan. You might get there in an hour on the easiest journey you’ve ever had, or you might end up hitchhiking at 10:30 at night.
The Amalfi Coast on a budget is a little difficult, but it can be done. Using Airbnb we rented an apartment for five nights in the village of San Lazzaro; high on the cliffs between Praiano and Amalfi itself. Our apartment cost €46 per night, which for the area and season is fairly cheap. We did sacrifice mobility a little as it’s either a long walk or scarce bus service to the coast, but were generally happy with the views and charm of San Lazzaro.
Camping is possible in the area. Check out Agriturismoil Campanile near Minori for sites that start from €30 per night.
Hostels can be found in Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, but if you need somewhere more budget friendly try one of the nearby cities Salerno or Sorrento, and use it as a base to explore the area. A dorm room bed can be found from around €15 per night, but average €25 to €30 per night for somewhere with good ratings.
Bnb’s and self catered apartments are a big deal in this area, and are the best bet for affordable and comfortable accommodation when travelling as a couple or group. Depending on the season you visit, double rooms can be found for as little as €30 per night, and average around €65 per night on sites like Airbnb.
Hotels can be found in abundance for most budgets from mid-range to extreme luxury. For reference, double rooms can be found from around €60 per night, but average around €120 per night for somewhere decent (I would say anything over €60 would be fine). As for the upper elite; you can honestly go as high as your imagination.
Hint – I recommend staying in one of the smaller, less popular villages. Towns like Amalfi, Poistano and Ravello are tourist hot-spots and can become tiresome.
The towns and villages along the edge of the Amalfi Coast exist almost exclusively for tourism, so expect to find a healthy dose of people wherever you go. Restaurants, cafes and shops are generally expensive and despite being carbon copies of places you can find almost anywhere, are usually rammed full of tourists. There are however, a few ways to avoid the tourist trap, break away from the drones and experience the unique things the region does have to offer.
As mentioned above, try getting accommodation in one of the smaller villages outside of the most popular tourist towns. Not only will you avoid the constant crowds, but the local shops and restaurants are less targeted to the tourist market. For example; there are upwards of ten specialty gelato shops in Amalfi, seven of which looked like they exist solely to rinse unsuspecting tourists. In a smaller village you might find one gelato specialist that doubles as the cafe, run by locals who serve locals. If you do go in for gelato, try the ricotta and pear…
Limoncello and wine are big draw cards in the area, so be sure to visit a vineyard or two for a tasting. We drank some fantastic local wines in the cellar of a family vineyard and only paid for the bottle of wine we took away. Including snacks it cost us €8. I would share a link to the winery but it’s honestly so small they don’t have a website. Just ask around and you will easily find somewhere to visit.
Hiking is the next best thing to do in the region and the stunning Sentiero degli Dei, or Path of the Gods, is the pick of the bunch. Starting in Bomerano (Agerola) its a medium difficulty walk along (and above) the coastline to Positano, where you can cool off in the ocean. The hike takes around 3.5 hours at a normal pace with breaks, be sure to take at least two litres of water per person and some food. Another nice walk is from San Lazzaro to Amalfi, which takes just over an hour and is all downhill. Don’t get too excited tho, the descent includes 1500 steps down; a tough time for the knees.
Amalfi is a pretty town with a small beach and main transport connections. You can walk around Amalfi in about an hour and see everything, and the further back from the beach you go the nicer it gets. Check out Donna Stella for great pizza (if a bit pricey); we took ours down to the beach with some beers for a sunset picnic. From Amalfi you can catch a bus to Ravello for €7 return per person. While Ravello is very beautiful and has incredible views, we didn’t enjoy our time there. There’s an air of the very rich and exclusive and it costs upwards of €7 each to visit the gardens the rich enjoy; for us the whole town was an overpriced wedding venue and a big turn-off.
Positano has a similar vibe to Ravello but has the advantage of a beach as well. It’s a gorgeous town, with beautiful buildings and mansions set into the surrounding cliffs that overlook the sea. Unfortunately it’s entirely ruined by the amount of people visiting and after a quick swim, unable to rid our noses of the petrol fumes from the hundreds of boats, and having already paid through the teeth for a bad bakery lunch, we declined one of the massively overpriced and crowded restaurants and fled back to our cliff-top sanctuary. So there.
The best part about our time in Amalfi was the incredible views around every corner and the sleepy village of San Lazzaro, which has two excellent restaurants; Leonardo’s for pizza and Da Gigino for pizza and pasta. In a village like San Lazzaro expect to pay between €16 and €23 for a meal for two including wine. The hiking is wonderful, the food is great, the limoncello, the wine; all fantastic. Despite being overwhelmed by tourists; the main towns on the coast are nice to look at and are still worth a visit, maybe just aim for the off season.
Hint – Beach picnics, cold pizza leftovers and getting your drinks from the supermarkets, will save you a ton of money in Amalfi. Also, walking just a few streets back from the main town square will reveal cheaper and more authentic local restaurants.
Amalfi Coast for five nights;
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