Italy is such a huge country you could easily spend months (although maybe not so good for the waist line) exploring the ins -and-outs of the big cities along with all the beautiful coastal & inland towns.
We allocated 3 weeks for our time in Italy and spread this time over Rome (4) , Naples (1), Florence (3), Cinque Terre (4), Venice (2) , Pisa (1/2), Capri (1), Sicily (4) & The Amalfi Coast (7). Our favorite of all? Exploring the 5 villages of Cinque Terre.
We had a rough guide to our plans in Italy, but they changed around slightly due to a pit stop needed at the Australian Embassy in Rome. Jacob had a full passport and we needed to allow 3 weeks for the processing, so to avoid backtracking, we were able to take the trip down to Sicily.
General Travel Tips for Italy
- If you see these words at restaurants they mean the following:
Aperitivi/Aperitivo – Pre dinner drinks the Italians say to “open up your stomach” before a meal, these drinks are usually given with nuts, olives, something light.
Apericena – More likely a buffet or selection of cheeses, meats, olives etc included in a drink purchase.
- On the first Sunday of every month most of the museums have free entry. Longer lines but perfect for a budget. We’ve been able to utilize this in Florence and Rome.
- When you buy a bus or train ticket you must validate it at the machines provided, buying the ticket isn’t all you need to do and you can get a fine without the validation.
- Download Rick Steves audio tours (pod cast) for any main attraction site, they are free and will tell you all you need to know.
- To purchase any of your train tickets in Italy, visit the Trenitalia website here.
The Amalfi Coast is a must see destination in Italy. The coast is known it’s rolling hills and narrow windy roads, boasting “1,001 turns”, with 1000 of them near certain to have a close encounter with another vehicle. During the summer months the roads are what many would consider complete chaos, as drivers dodge and weave their way around the bends. More than once our bus scraped windows with another bus while trying to pass.
Crazy driving aside, the scenery is just so picturesque, with jaw dropping cliffs plunging into the sea. You’ll encounter a variety of beaches & towns on the drive (or ferry) which makes the Amalfi Coast a typical destination for many tourists and Italians during the summer holidays.
Throughout summer, hotel prices are up & tourist traps in full swing, so here is our advice on how to make the most of the Amalfi Coast by dodging the traps, seeing the best places as well as money saving tips.
Accommodation in Salerno, not Sorrento
When you read all of the guide books, nearly all of them will suggest to stay in the town of Sorrento but instead you should stay in Salerno, on the other side of the coast. Whilst Sorrento is closer to Naples, Pompeii, and some of the towns on the coast, it isn’t necessarily the best place to base yourself for your time on the coast. Why? We’ll explain why below.
The reason we chose to stay in Salerno is simple. Salerno is the least touristic spot of all the coast, by a long shot. We’ve made it our mission on our trip to avoid the tourist crowds when possible. Although Salerno isn’t technically on the official Amalfi Coast, it is extremely easy to access, by bus or ferry. Here are our top reasons to stay in Salerno:
- Accommodation, restaurants, transport, groceries are all much cheaper & not touristic.
- There are barely any tourists, in fact I think we may have been the minority.
- You are able to get a seat 90% of the time on the buses to and from the coast. Otherwise you will be sandwiched in a crowded bus and most likely have to stand for 1-3hours on the journey anywhere, coming from Sorrento.
- Salerno is on a direct train line from Rome and the south of Italy, which means no changing trains.
We stayed in an Airbnb in an extremely local feeling neighborhood and we LOVED it. English was barely spoken around the town, but we got by and it was a real fun experience. It’s amazing how easy you can settle into a new area over a 7 day period. Our Airbnb host was a local Italian guy, born and raised in Naples. He showed us around the neighborhood on the first night, cooked us Italian meals and provided us with a rather large house for the week! Bellissimo!
If you end up staying in Salerno, you should definitely visit the beautiful Duomo di Salerno church (and we’re not big fans of churches). It is free to enter. There are also a number of piazzas (plazas) to explore, which include restaurants, fountains and common areas for the locals to hang out especially late in the evenings.
Regarding eating out in Salerno and the Amalfi Coast, we don’t have many recommendations as we utilized our well equipped kitchen and our Italian host to make a lot of home cooked Italian meals rather than eating out every day. It’s amazing how much $ you save by doing so. We’re planning to go to more Italian restaurants in Rome, Florence and Venice.
Below is a rough guide to some of the more popular towns along the Amalfi coast.
Amalfi Coast Guide & Overview
We spent a total of 7 nights in Salerno so we could explore the Amalfi Coast on day trips. Seven days was the perfect amount of time as we weren’t feeling rushed to see everything.
Below is a guide to the places you need to see (or not) on the Amalfi Coast.
Salerno – Stay here as a base to explore the Amalfi. It’s cheaper & way less touristy than Sorrento.
Sorrento – The “typical” home base to travel the Amalfi Coast but not necessarily the best.
Positano (shown above) Amazing scenery with houses & hotels tiered down the cliff, overlooking the beach below. Many cafes and souvenir shops. It’s super touristy but for good reason. Hotels are pricey here but worth it if you only have a few days to visit the coast.
Amalfi & Ravello – Amalfi is a beach area on the Amalfi coast, with a small town inside. If you take take the 10 minute bus ride up to Ravello, you’ll be in a whole other world. Ravello is a beautiful mountain town, also known for its classical music and stunning views of the coast below.
Erchie – This was one of our favorite beach spots. On either side of the main beach you can take a 2 minute boat ride (€3pp) to one of the more secluded beaches only accessible by boat. Bring your own lunch/drinks as they don’t have restaurants on the secluded beaches.
Capri – A glitzy island off the coast with fancy shops, pricey restaurants, beaches and grottos (caves).
Capri is a mid-sized ritzy island on the south side of the Gulf of Naples, easily accessible by ferry from Naples and the Amalfi Coast (Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi & Salerno). The island attracts celebrities, fancy yachts and boat-loads of tourists. There are beach clubs, high fashion boutiques, grottos (caves) to explore, loads of lemons, and tons of gelato & Italian cuisine to consume.
We took a day trip out from our home base of Salerno to Capri, which took 1.5hours on the ferry and cost €23 per person, per way. It’s €19 from Amalfi and €17 from Positano and Sorrento.
What to do in Capri
Get the funicular up to the top of the mountain and stroll through town, window shop in the fancy shops, get a refreshing lemon or orange slushy, eat pizza, eat gelato at Gelateria Buonocore, try a ‘baba’ or ricotta pear bakery treat, visit a beach club (La Fontelina or Il Riccio) and most importantly, rent a boat and drive around the island to swim and explore the grottos.
The Blue Grotto (blue sea cave) is a famous attraction of Capri where sunlight passes through the water to illuminate a cave bright blue. Whilst it is the main attraction people visit in Capri, it is a huge tourist trap. You pay €14pp for a boat to take you to another boat where you have to pay another €13 to go inside the cave + then pay more for tips, all while waiting behind dozens of other boats waiting to do the same thing. You then go in the cave for 5 minutes and it’s done. As an alternative you can rent a boat for 2 hours for €90 (max. 5 people) – like we did with 2 other friends – and cruise around the island exploring & swimming in the many other grottos on the island, including an equally as beautiful green grotto. Alternatively, if you really want to see the grottos, take the bus (not boat) from the main port to Anacapri and take a short bus ride directly to the grottos to avoid all the boat changes + costs.
Amalfi Transport Logistics
Getting around the Amalfi coast is quite straight forward, once you know how. You can take a bus or ferry, or if you’re brave enough, rent a car.
SITA is the official bus service of the Amalfi Coast and they have timetables on their website, that are all in PDF format. Find your area’s PDF and click on it. Pick up a bus ticket a local tobacco shop, ranging from €2-3. The bus timetable can also be found on another web site here.
For ferries, use TravelMar. Use their site or mobile app for timetables. You can buy tickets online or right at the port. The price will be the same.
Logistics from Salerno
Erchie – 25 minutes by bus
Amalfi – 1 hr by bus/30 minutes by ferry
Ravello – 1 hr by bus to Amalfi, change buses for a 20 minute ride to Ravello.
Positano – 2.5 hours by bus, change buses in Amalfi OR 1 hr by ferry. €34 return ferry.
Capri – 1.5 hours by ferry. Get the ferry from the main port in Salerno. €46 return ferry.
- If trying going to the Amalfi Coast from Salerno, get on the bus right at the main train station ‘Salerno Stationeze’, not anywhere else as it will be very full. There is a popup tourist shop right near the station for info as required, but it really looks like two people sitting in a chair with a table in front.
- The sun goes behind some of the mountains at from as early as 2:30pm-4pm so plan your day accordingly. Amalfi and Erchie Beach seem to go down later.
Married days survived: 167