Last summer we spent 4 nights on Amalfi coast of Italy and it was as strikingly scenic as we have imagined it (it was also very crowded– but more about that later). I have been dreaming about visiting Amalfi coast (Unesco World Heritage Site) for a long time but was uncomfortable with the idea of driving on steep coastal roads. Turns out, with a little planning you can visit Amalfi Coast without driving your own car – by ferry, buses or taxi. There are different ways to plan Amalfi Coast transportation logistics depending on where you plan to base, which towns you are going to be visiting and your budget, of course. Here I am sharing my planning notes for our 4 nights Amalfi Coast itinerary – you could find useful links to plan your own trip at the bottom of the post.
We came to Amalfi Coast (in the South of Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea) in search of the breathtaking views- to admire from land and water. We are beach aficionados- so visiting in the middle of summer – we made sure to spend some time on the beach every day of our trip. There is of course a lot of history and interesting architecture here- we would have spent more time inside some museums – had we visited in late fall or early spring.
Getting to Amalfi Coast (without your own vehicle)*
Getting to Amalfi Coast (and traveling between the towns) without your own vehicle is entirely possible but requires some planning.
We headed to Amalfi Coast straight from Rome Fiumicino Airport after a transatlantic flight – and opted for a private car transfer with Sorrentotours. It was not the cheapest option but definitely the most convenient for us (and it allowed us a quick stop in Pompei along the way).
From Rome (and now also directly from Rome Airport), you could take a speed train to Naples (takes about an hour and is very frequent- either on Trenitalia or Italo; and then switch to a ferry* to take you to your Amalfi base town. We used the ferry route on our way back from Capri (via Naples) to Rome. (For additional transportation options and schedules, scroll to the bottom of the post)
*Note that ferries do not run from November-March. If you are visiting without a car during winter months, you would have to rely on buses or organized tours.
Choosing a base town (or two)
There are 13 municipalities on the Amalfi Coast, but for our first visit I wanted to see the 3 “main” towns of Amalfi, Ravello and Positano and venture to the island of Capri (which is technically part of the city of Naples in Compania region). So, it made sense for us to split our base between Amalfi Town (for 2 nights) and the Island of Capri (another two nights). We chose Amalfi town because it is centrally located between Positano and Ravello- two other towns we wanted to see in our introductory visit to Amalfi Coast. Amalfi Town is also flat- unlike most other towns on Amalfi coast – which makes checking in/out of your hotel and carrying luggage to the ferry boats to your next destination very convenient. It’s a very compact town; Hotel Residence in Amalfi Town where we stayed was steps away from the beach, old town, taxi/bus and boat stations.
Our 4 nights (5-day) introductory Amalfi Coast by boat (and taxi) itinerary by day.
Day 1: Arrival in Rome and transfer to Amalfi Town. Taxi to Ravello.
Overnight: Hotel Residence in Amalfi Town
Our flight from Boston arrived in Rome at 7 am; with a private car transfer from the airport and a quick stop to self-tour Pompei, we made it to our Hotel Residence in Amalfi Town by 2pm. This hotel, in a beautiful 18th century building a with a sea view breakfast terrace (there is also a high cuisine restaurant on site) was perfectly located next to the old town on one side and beach, bus/boat/taxi hub on the other. Our balcony had a view over the sea on one side and over the old town and the mountains on the other.
It was a hot mid-summer day, so after a quick jet-legged nap, we went out for a swim. The beach in Amalfi Town is very small and not very impressive, but when I snapped a quick photo to share my “disappointment” – to my surprise, my friends were still very impressed! Apparently, as far as Amalfi Coast is concerned, even if it is “bad” (crowded)- is still pretty beautiful!
Now we were sufficiently refreshed and ready for a visit to nearby Ravello. This Amalfi coast town is a bit further away and is situated above the coast, so it gets a smaller share of the Amalfi coast visitors and has a more intimate feel to it- earning it a definite place on your beginner Amalfi Coast itinerary.
To avoid taking a very long staircase from the ferry landing, we chose to take a taxi to to and from Ravello (even with taxi sharing it ran us $40-$50 each way for a 40-minute drive).
In Ravello, we planned to visit the 13th century Villa Rufolo– to explore magnificent gardens with iconic Ravello views (It is also where Boccaccio’s Decameron novel is based). In the summer, there is a famous music festival taking place- we considered attending but thought it would be too tiring for our first night in Italy. Turns out- the Villa is closed to the public on the the festival nights! If you are visiting in the summer, it is a good idea include the concert at Villa Rufolo to enjoy the music with iconic Amalfi Coast views!
We decided to walk through the old town (high above the coast) to the second famous landmark in Ravello- Villa Cimbrione . The walk offered beautiful views over gardens and onto the sea but this historic Villa (now a hotel) was also closed – for a private event. At this point I was very disappointed with myself for not checking right before our visit, but we were generously compensated for our misfortunes by the gorgeous sea view from our table at Garden Ravello restaurant. This is where we cheered the beginning of our Italian vacation and picked into the back of Villa Rufolo’s stage to see musicians’ on their breaks.
Tip of the Day: Check Villa Rufolo’s and Villa Cimbrione’s schedules in Ravello ahead of time and then re-check just before you take an (expensive) taxi to go there to make sure it is open to the public.
Day 2: Boat to Positano, evening in Amalfi
Overnight: Hotel Residence in Amalfi Town
It was not easy to make it to breakfast on time at our hotel Residence as we adjusted to Italian time, but the views from the breakfast terrace (and the fresh food) was well worse it. To get to Positano, we took the ferry boat – right outside our hotel. We checked out the boat schedule ahead of time, but did not buy the tickets (there are several boat companies servicing the route which takes 15-30 minutes and runs several time each hour in the peak summer season depending on the boat). We did purchase tickets for next day to go to Capri as these could sell out in season, especially for early and late departures favored by the island day-trippers.
Positano strikes you with its famous views right off the boat. Despite the crowds, I admired Positano views the most out of the towns we visited or passed by on the Amalfi Coast.
In Positano, we first walked to Fornillo Beach along the pass above the sea (it is to the right of the ferry landing if you face the sea) and paid for our sun beds to enjoy a couple of hours on the beach (it was less crowded than on the town’s central beach by the ferry landing).
We then walked up the (many) stairs into the center of town. We sat in the bar on Via Colombo and admired iconic Positano views. (You may want to check out Franco’s Bar but they often have lines; other places nearby have same views overlooking Positano from west).
We took one of the afternoon boats back to Amalfi Town where we had dinner plans at the historic Santa Caterina Hotel’s Mare Restaurant (their more “casual” fare). This hotel is located on the road leading to Ravello (I would not recommend walking there) but they provide a shuttle from the center of Amalfi. The restaurant was overpriced, but the views were (probably) worth it.
Back in Amalfi Town after dinner, we walked past the Amalfi Cathedral (we sat on the steps but did not go inside this time) and through the center of Amalfi’s old town. (Amalfi Cathedral is famous for its unique mixture of architectural epochs (Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque to name a few – some dating back to 9th century). It is something we would take a closer look at when we return to the area for another visit.
Tip of the Day: Check the Boat schedule ahead of time so you know your options but there is no need to purchase tickets between Amalfi Coast towns.
Day 3: Transfer to Capri
Overnight: Hotel Weber Ambassador Capri
On our third day on the Amalfi Coast we moved our base to the island of Capri. We chose Hotel Weber Ambassador on Marina Picolla for its walking distance to the beach. Hotel provided a shuttle into the center of town – so called Pizzetta – a 10 min drive away. We used the shuttle frequently (car rental is not practical on narrow Capri roads and probably not even allowed during the peak season).
On day 1 of our 3 day stay, after our “obligatory” daily beach time we took the shuttle to Capri’s main square (“Piazetta) and walked to the Augustus Gardens to admire the views over Via Krupp.
For dinner we booked the Rooftop with the views over famous Fragione rocks in a clear sight. The cocktail prices here definitely “included” the views- but were worth it for us!
Tip of the Day: Capri does not have too many beaches so if beach time is important to you, look for an accommodation close to the beach, such as in Marina Piccola area (and bring your water shoes as beaches are rocky here)
Day 4: Anacapri and Boating around Capri
Overnight: Hotel Weber Ambassador Capri
On our second day on Capri we visited Capri’s second town – Anacapri. Many visitors, us included, find Anacapri to be more atmospheric than the main town – definitely less glamorous.
Our time here was quite eventful- we took a chairlift up Mount Solaris, enjoyed the views from Museo di Villa San Michele and the scenic overlook facing the Gulf of Naples and then lost ourselves for a bit on the streets of Quartiere Boffe (or just Boffe) which takes its name from original barrel vaulted homes of the island just off Via Giuseppe Orlandi. This is the oldest neighborhood on Anacapri.
The architecture lovers will also find several important baroque Churches nearby (the Church of San Michele Arcangelo and Church of Santa Sofia).
In the afternoon we went on a 3-hour boat trip around the island- from Marina Piccola. We opted NOT to stop at Blue Grotto but enjoyed swimming off the boat and our guide’s narration. We dined al fresco at Panorama Piazetta 5-minute walk from the Piazetta.
Tip of the Day: If visiting Tiberius’s Villa Jovis is important, plan your visit around it’s opening times which are currently Thursday-Sunday (another estate that was closed during our visit)
Day 5: Morning on the Beach, Boat to Naples
Today was our “official” Capri beach day. We love beaches and try to visit one every chance we get on our vacations. Given the crowds in the midst of summer, paying for beach bed – was a great way to literally buy a bit of a space to relax in – so we reserved this experience for final morning of our Amalfi itinerary. We booked a ferry to Naples for 5 pm and enjoyed a good number of hours at the beach. Food choices on Italian beaches are typically plentiful and Marina Picolla was no exception. The water was very pleasant and the backdrop of the rocky coast on one side and Faraglione rocks on the other was spectacular. So much so that my teen said it was her favorite trip experience despite the crowds.
From Capri we took a boat to Naples to continue our Italian trip in Rome, Senigalia and Tuscany.
Amalfi Planning Tips
- You probably don’t need to pre-book a ferry ticket between Amalfi Coast towns, but early and late ferries may sell out so if you are planning a day trip to Capri, you may want to buy your tickets several days ahead.
- Beach weather and swimming season are best enjoyed June to October (which is also when it will be the most crowded). The ferries run April-October (and are more frequent in the summer). Here is a link to schedules.
- Remember that Ravello is located above the sea and offers magnificent views from its coastal gardens and is also a home to summer music festival.
- Positano offers the most iconic Amalfi Coast views but you would need to navigate many stairs (with your luggage) if you plan to stay there (especially if you are arriving by boat).
- Keep in mind that occasionally boats are cancelled due to weather so it is a good idea not to plan your visit to Capri right before your flight home.
- Note on buses: Amalfi Coast is serviced by Sita Sud bus company- here is the link to their timetable (in Italian). It is a more budget friendly option than boats and taxi but for our short Italian vacation we simply preferred boats where possible.
Additional Options on Getting to Amalfi Coast
Some travelers choose Sorrento as a base for Amalfi coast travel (by a ferry or buses). You could also drive or take a (longer) train ride from Rome to Sorrento (it’s a shorter ferry ride from Sorrento to Amalfi towns (than from Naples). Yet another option is a speed (about 2 hour) train from Rome to Salerno which is situated on Southern Amalfi Coast, bit further from Positano. There is a SITA bus between the towns on Amalfi Coast.
Amalfi Coast Hotelsvia booking dot com (booking with this link will not cost you extra but we may receive a small commission to support this site)
(we stayed in Hotel Residence in Amalfi Town