Glittering on the western edge of Italy is the Amalfi Coast, a string of 13 colorful towns that cling to the cliffs. The road between the sun-drenched villages stretches 25 miles (40 kilometers) long and bends narrowly in and out of the hills.
The Amalfi Coast has been listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, and still attracts thousands of domestic and international tourists each year.
Thirteen towns make up the Amalfi Coast, so naturally, some are more well-known than others. Though you may have never heard of Tramonti, Furore, or Scala, you likely know of Positano and Amalfi (and maybe Atrani, as well).
The entirety of the Amalfi Coast is known for its production of limoncello (lemon liqueur), though certain towns offer their own specialties. Check out Positano (or nearby Capri) for handmade sandals, Amalfi for bambagina (handmade paper), Cetara for anchovies, or Vietri sul Mare for ceramics.
Many of the towns also feature beaches, but you’ll find the most popular in Positano, Amalfi, or Atrani. Head to Praiano if you want to break out your hiking boots, Ravello if you want to wander lavish villas, or one of the harbors if you want to sign up for a boating excursion.
The easiest way to reach the Amalfi Coast is from Rome. It is possible to fly into Naples, which is the nearest airport, but that will likely be more expensive. Instead, hop on a high-speed train and arrive at the colorful coast in only a few hours. Head into Naples first, then connect to Positano and transfer to a bus.
The best (and only) way to travel between the villages is via public transportation. Sita buses run between the towns, and though the tickets are relatively inexpensive, the timetables aren’t always reliable due to heavy traffic. So always plan for extra time when traveling along the Amalfi Coast.
It’s also possible to take ferries between some of the major towns on the coast during the summer months, but you’ll want to book your seat in advance.
If you’re not taking public transportation, you must be road-tripping the Amalfi Coast! If so, be wary on the roads — they’re notoriously dangerous, as the pavement winds right next to the cliffside and you’ll have to compete with lines of other cars and massive buses for your share of the street. And, make sure to plan for parking ahead of time, as there are limited (if any) lots in the towns — they’re also likely to cost you a pretty penny.
Know Before You Go
It’s crucial to understand the difference between the Amalfi Coast and Amalfi. Unlike the Cinque Terre, which is just a name for a grouping of towns, you’ll actually find a village called Amalfi along the Amalfi Coast. To avoid mix-ups, just remember that when you put the word “the” before “Amalfi,” you’re referring to the coastal region as a whole. If you just say “Amalfi,” you’re talking about the single town.
The best time to visit the Amalfi Coast is between April and June, when you’ll find warm water and spring flowers. Tourists flock to the Amalfi Coast in July and August, and temperatures rise as well, so it’s best to avoid the middle and end of the summer months.
Like Italy’s other famous coastal region, the Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast is best experienced if you choose a “home base.” Book well in advance if you want to stay in one of the towns, or pick nearby Naples, Salerno, or Sorrento as your hub. Although they’re not technically part of the Amalfi Coast, they make great centers from which you can explore the towns that are.
The towns of the Amalfi Coast are built into the sides of mountainous cliffsides, which means that navigating within the villages often requires sets upon sets of stairs. Ladies, do yourself a favor and leave those heels at home.
While exploring, keep in mind that although the streets of Amalfi and the other towns are cobblestone, that doesn’t mean they’re pedestrian-only. On the contrary, small cars whizz down and around streets that hardly resemble roads. Always be on the lookout so as not to get hit!
Finally, keep in mind that most of the beaches in the Amalfi are rocky, not sandy. The general rule in terms of popularity is: the further north, the more crowded. While Positano might be the Amalfi Coast’s jewel, it’s packed during the summer and you’re not likely to easily find a spot on its main beach. Also keep in mind that some of the waterside hotels have strict policies about who can use their chairs and sections of the beach.
Many of the beaches are run by organizations that rent out individual sunbeds, umbrellas, and even towels, so check online to see if that’s the case for the town you’re headed to. Reserving a sunbed or renting a towel will also often grant you access to beach showers, concession stands, and restrooms, which is always a plus. Just be sure to do a bit of research before you break out your sunblock!
Header image by Omar Cordovani.