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7 Secrets to a Perfect Vacation on the Amalfi Coast

Annie Gabillet

On Italy’s Amalfi Coast, sun-soaked villages like Positano and Ravello cling to the cliffs while the Mediterranean sparkles below. It’s so beautiful the United Nations declared it a World Heritage site.

This natural and cultural wonder is the perfect romantic getaway spot, as I discovered on my honeymoon a few years back. It’s hard to have a care in the world while you explore a breath-taking hilltop village or swim in a dreamy lagoon. Come evening, you’ll be sipping limoncello after a delicious plate of seafood pasta and thanking the Roman gods for la dolce vita. If you find yourself in the Amalfi Coast region, located about 150 miles south of Rome, you’ll want to take it all in. Here are seven secrets that will make your trip to the Amalfi Coast simply perfect.

Pack Vacation-Chic Attire

The Amalfi Coast is definitely laid back — pretty much everyone there is either on vacation or working in the tourism industry. But there is also a good dose of glamour. Must-have packing items include:

Make sure to leave room in your suitcase for a few items, like the classic sandals sold in Positano and Capri.

Stay in Positano

Image Courtesy of Unsplash // Raghu Nayyar

When we planned our honeymoon, we hesitated between Sorrento and Positano. In the end, we booked a hotel in Sorrento and immediately regretted it when we showed up. Sure, Sorrento has a ton of charm and is convenient, but it’s also very touristy and bustling with noisy scooters. After one night, we negotiated a refund and relocated to Positano with no regrets.  

Positano is more intimate and looks like a postcard from every angle. In Positano, the steep streets are lined with pastel, wisteria and bougainvillea-covered buildings that feel like they’re piled on top of each other. The town has plenty of chic restaurants and boutiques, and you can venture down the hillside steps to the beach or comfortably enjoy the view of the Mediterranean from your hotel’s swimming pool. I highly recommend staying at Marincanto, an airy hotel with dramatic views and friendly service. There are also a ton of stunning and relatively affordable options on Airbnb.

Don’t Be Afraid to Rent a Car

Image Courtesy of Unsplash // Ihor Malytskyi

The winding roads of the Amalfi Coast are infamous, but if you are a decent driver I don’t think you should have an issue on them — we didn’t. In order to get to the region, we took a train from Florence to Naples and rented a small Fiat at the Naples train station. From there, it’s about a 1.5 hour drive to the region. We found it convenient to have the car for exploring and that it was worth paying for parking at our hotel in Positano. After our stay there, we took a ferry to Capri for a few nights and planned to ferry from Capri to Naples to catch our flight. So we arranged for the rental car company to come pick up our car from Positano when we were finished with it. This service was surprisingly affordable — about $50 — considering how helpful it was to avoid the trip back to Naples by car. Inquire with your hotel or rental car company about that option.

If you don’t want to drive, there is a very-cheap public bus that will take you from town to town, as well as ferries. I did the bus on a trip to the Amalfi Coast as a student, however, and found that it was even more scary to be in a large bus on the small, cliffside roads. Keep that in mind, too.

Visit Villa Cimbrone in Ravello

Photo Courtesy of Annie Gabillet

I still dream about Villa Cimbrone in Ravello, which is about an hour drive up the coast from Positano in Ravello. The 11th-century cliffside villa is now a 5-star hotel, but anyone can enjoy the public gardens that hug the cliff. In the early 1900s, an English aristocrat updated the gardens to include roses and pavilions that only add to the gorgeous view of the Mediterranean. A visit to Villa Cimbrone is also a perfect excuse to check out Ravello itself, a glamorous town first settled in the 5th century.

Do a Pizza Pilgrimage to Naples with a Stop in Pompei

Image Courtesy of Annie Gabillet

If you rent a car, you can easily get to Pompei and Naples when you’re ready for an adventure. Spend the morning at the pool or beach, and then hop in the car to Pompei after an early lunch. It’s about an hour drive from Positano. There, spend the afternoon exploring the well-preserved ancient town and outdoor museum at the foot of Mount Vesuvius and imagine the eruption of 79 AD.

After a few hours at Pompei, head in to Naples, another 25 minutes northwest from Pompei. Sure, Napoli is gritty, but it’s also the birthplace of pizza! When my husband and I went in to Naples for dinner after Pompei, we visited no fewer than four pizzerias in one night to try the real deal. I recommend either L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele or Pizzeria Napoli O’ Presidente.

Image Courtesy of Annie Gabillet

Visit Capri in the Evening

Image Courtesy of Annie Gabillet

Capri sits in the Bay of Naples and attracts a ton of tourists who take the ferry from Sorrento or Positano each day — for good reason. The island town is glamorous and beautiful. But if you really want to experience the best of Capri, visit it in the evening. After the bulk of visitors have left for the day, you’ll practically feel like a local as you wander the quieter streets. Try spending at least one night there, so you can enjoy your hotel or an afternoon on the water during the day, and the town in the evening. If you’re looking for a real wow factor, consider staying at the Caesar Augustus Hotel, quite possibly the most magical place on earth.

Splurge for a Private Boat Tour

Image Courtesy of Will Truettner

The Amalfi Coast is meant to be seen from the sea. If you can, dedicate at least half of a day to a private boat tour, which will let you take in the hilltop villages from below, swim in the Blue Grotto, and discover the lesser-known but just as stunning Emerald Grotto. You can ask your hotel to arrange the tour — as we did — or stop by the ports to check out the offerings.

With these tips, you will have an unforgettable trip in the Amalfi Coast.