The vertiginous and craggy Amalfi Coast and its three island outposts of Capri, Ischia and Procida have been a magnet for visitors since Roman times.
Hemmed in by high mountains, the coastal towns on this seafront stretch are physically unspoiled, and they retain an evergreen appeal despite the inevitable tour groups. If you avoid high summer, when visitors arrive in peak numbers, a trip here will be a scenic, artistic and culinary delight.
From where to visit and when to enjoy the best weather to how to get around, here’s all you need to know as you plan your fantasy trip to the Amalfi Coast.
Best places to visit on the Amalfi Coast
Feel the timeless pull of Sorrento
A small resort with a big reputation, Sorrento is a town of lemons, high-pedigree hotels and plunging cliffs that cut through the heart of its historical core. Tourism has a long history here: Sorrento was a compulsory stop on the 19th-century “Grand Tour,” interest in the town having first been sparked by the poet Byron. A long line of vacationing literary geniuses followed in his footsteps to take the warm Sorrentine air. The romance still persists.
Savor the photogenic drama of Positano
Dramatic, deluxe and more than a little dashing, Positano is the Amalfi Coast’s front-cover splash, with vertiginous houses tumbling down to the sea in a cascade of sun-bleached peach, pink and terracotta. No less photo-worthy are its steep streets and steps, flanked by wisteria-draped hotels, smart restaurants and fashionable retailers.
Visit Capri for timeless and beautiful luxury
Capri is beautiful – seriously beautiful. Steep cliffs rise majestically from an impossibly blue sea; elegant villas drip with wisteria and bougainvillea; and even the trees seem to be carefully manicured. Long a preserve of celebrities and the super-rich, this small, precipitous island off the west end of the Sorrento Peninsula has a tangibly deluxe feel.
Enjoy some of Europe’s best hotels at Ravello
A hilltop garden paradise, Ravello is famous for its music festival and incomparably swish hotels. Founded in the 5th century as a sanctuary from barbarian invaders fresh from sacking Rome, this lofty Amalfi town was built, in contrast to other Amalfi settlements, at the top of a hill rather than down on the coast. It’s second only to Positano in its style and glamour.
Get a taste of ancient life at Pompeii
The ruins of Pompeii are a veritable time machine, hurling visitors back to the time of emperors and Latin chatter. Here, time remains paused at 79 CE, the city's frescoed homes, businesses and baths still waiting for their occupants to return. Few archaeological sites offer such an intimate connection to the past, and few are as deeply haunting and evocative.
When to go to the Amalfi Coast
On the Amalfi Coast (as everywhere), picking the perfect time to visit makes any trip better. Here’s a seasonal breakdown of what it’s like to visit the Amalfi Coast in each season.
Expect wildflowers and fewer crowds in spring
Spring is wonderful in this region, as swaths of bright wildflowers dot the landscape. June generally delivers summer heat without the August crowds and traffic.
Summer is peak season for culture – and crowds
This is a great time for cultural events, but high summer sees narrow coastal roads clogged, soaring temperatures and the occasional frayed temper. It’s best to avoid July and August, which is the month that many Italians take for their annual vacations.
Consider fall for optimal hiking and swimming
You can find decent deals on accommodations in fall after school starts and many people are back to work. It’s a great time for hiking and swimming, as the weather and water remain pleasantly temperate. Bountiful seasonal produce includes mushrooms, black truffles and chestnuts.
Things get sleepy come winter
Many hotels, restaurants and attractions are firmly closed from November until Easter. Boat and ferry services are limited.
Where to stay on the Amalfi Coast
The Italian region of Campania has been looking after visitors for centuries. Competition is fierce, and standards of service are high. Whether you’re honeymooning or backpacking, you’re likely to find a warm welcome, enhanced by a room decked out with local tiles and maybe even a lush garden.
With five days, you can take in the highlights of the Amalfi Coast. Consider a night or two on the volcanic garden island of Ischia, then spending the rest of your time at one of the coastal gems – Sorrento, Positano or Amalfi – with day trips to explore the splendors of Pompeii, Ravello’s gardens and some mountain scenery. At any time of year, it’s best to book ahead; bear in mind that demand for rooms is sky high in the summer.
The region does high-end tourism like nowhere else. Some of our favorite posh accommodation options include the venerable Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento and Capri’s opulent Grand Hotel Quisisana. Midrange B&Bs also excel: we’ve happily laid our heads at Casa Giovanni da Procida, La Fenice in Positano and hillside Ercole di Amalfi. There are some great hostel and camping options too: try Positano’s Hostel Brikette or beachside Camping Mirage on Ischia.
Best things to do on the Amalfi Coast
Nothing beats renting a boat
Nothing makes you feel more like a millionaire than having your own boat, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. Try Banana Sport if you’d like to make a sea circuit of Capri.
Go swimming in the azure Mediterranean
From Ischia’s thermal beaches to Positano’s Spiaggia di Fornillo, the Amalfi Coast is perfect for water babies. Just be careful how deep you dip your toes into the hot spring at Baia di Sorgeto – the water is thermally heated.
Walk the Path of the Gods (Sentiero degli Dei)
You need strong legs and a head for heights to walk the legendary Path of the Gods, which offers dizzying sea views.
Feast on just-caught seafood
You’ll find spaghetti alle vongole (with fresh clams) on practically every menu in the region. Another seafood special is tuna, best eaten in Cetara, which hosts an annual tuna festival.
How to get to and around the Amalfi Coast
While most visitors fly into Naples, taking an overnight train is a romantic and eco-friendly alternative from many European cities.
Driving through the region can be a hectic experience. It’s best to get around by public transport or hiring a driver – unless you have a penchant for zigzag bends, cavalier passing and buses swinging at you from the opposite direction. A network of ferries connects the coastal towns along the Amalfi Coast with Salerno, Sorrento and Capri. Connections to Naples, Ischia and Procida can be made via Sorrento or Capri.
The Circumvesuviana train line connects Naples with Herculaneum, Pompeii and Sorrento – it’s scruffy but fairly efficient and extremely cheap. As an alternative, take the Campania Express train. It is a bit more expensive and runs less frequently, but as it stops only in Naples, Herculaneum, Pompeii and Sorrento it makes for a much more pleasant journey. Nipping up and down the coast, circling Ischia and linking Capri’s towns, buses are a bargain – although some travelers might find the local driving style and crowds a little hard to stomach.