How to Plan a Trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast — Best Seaside Towns, Top Luxury Hotels, and Tastiest Restaurants Included – Travel + Leisure

The allure of the Amalfi Coast has drawn people to the Italian region for millennia. Its dramatic landscapes and idyllic weather enticed ancient Roman nobles to build their villas there several centuries ago, a high-end real estate trend that has never faded. Today, the mountains and cliffs remain dotted with breathtaking historic houses perched above the crystalline waters, making the coastline one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. Its fragile cultural landscape — churches, gardens, vineyards, and towns — is divided into 16 municipalities and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Positano, Ravello, and Amalfi are the area’s top destinations, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Here’s how you can be one of them.


How to Get to the Amalfi Coast

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There are multiple ways to get to (and around) the Amalfi Coast.


Make your way to Salerno, which sits on Italy’s rail network, with high-speed and regional trains passing through via Rome and other destinations. From here, there’s a local train to Vietri sul Mare, the first town on the Amalfi Coast (the journey time for this leg is around 10 minutes).


Sorrento is accessible from Naples on the Circumvesuviana, a narrow-gauge railway that runs through the Naples suburbs. The trip takes around 70 minutes.


Ferries run along the coast from Sorrento, Salerno, and Vietri sul Mare. Travelmar travels between Salerno and Positano, stopping at all the main towns. From Sorrento, options include Navigazione Libera del Golfo and Alilauro Gruson. Alternatively, Alilauro runs a ferry service directly from Naples to Positano and Amalfi.


Of course, you can also charter a boat if you don’t fancy the ferries. In every town, travelers can find several companies offering private trips. If you want to book ahead, try Positano Boats or Lucibello.


The Amalfi Coast is one of the world’s most famous road trip routes, and driving along its switchbacks, high up on the cliffside, is truly spectacular. Both Salerno and Sorrento have all the major car rental companies, though local companies often offer better value — Salerno Rental, for example, is reliable.


Kaitlyn Collins

A word of warning: If you’re driving, be aware that the road is narrow in parts and full of switchback curves, which you may be required to reverse around. Plus, traffic on weekends and in the summer can be excessive. However, the traffic is much lighter if you go midweek and outside the high season. Just note that traveling by road takes much longer than by sea — at least an hour from Positano to Amalfi, for example, compared to 25 minutes by ferry.


Alternatively, Sita Sud buses run the length of the Amalfi Coast, and most hotels can arrange private transfers.


Those traveling from Rome or Naples can opt for one of the new economic shuttle sharing systems, like Positano Shuttle. It leaves from both international airports and main stations and deposits travelers directly in Positano.


Whatever means of transportation you choose, book it well in advance of your trip.



Best Amalfi Coastal Towns to Visit


Positano

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If you’ve seen the Amalfi Coast on Instagram, chances are you’ve seen Positano. With its brightly colored houses spilling down the cliffs around a tiny bay, and dramatic mountains rearing up behind, it’s picture-perfect.


In Positano, travelers will find shops selling locally made linen clothes and more vintage, tailored styles. Positano is particularly known for its handcrafted sandals — try Nanà, where Vincenzo Ruocco makes made-to-measure sandals as you wait, along with his son, Lorenzo, and wife, Anna.


When in Italy, learn how to cook as the Italians do. Buca di Bacco is a hotel that offers cooking classes to visitors. The classes typically operate daily, and clients help chefs prepare regional appetizers and first and second courses.


Positano is also home to one of the coast’s most exciting recent openings. Mar, the Roman Archeological Museum, is a mind-blowing Roman villa beneath the town’s bell tower. The space opened to the public in 2018. Although only one room has been excavated, its colorful frescoes make it a must-visit.


Positano is also the endpoint for one of Italy’s most stunning hiking trails. Hemmed into the mountains above the coast, the Path of the Gods is a gentle five-hour hike that snakes high above the sea. It runs from Bomerano, west of Amalfi, to Nocelle, above Positano.



Where to Stay in Positano

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Book a room at the four-star Hotel Poseidon to experience Positano’s bohemian flair at its finest. Family-owned since it opened in the 1950s, this property is laid-back and friendly. Vintage-style rooms are large, and all but one overlook the town and sea from private balconies. Perched above the center of Positano, it’s far enough to avoid the tourist crowds, but it’s a quick walk down to the action.


If you prefer to stay right in the center of it all, the charming Hotel Palazzo Murat is located in the pedestrian zone by the waterfront. While it lacks the knockout views of higher-up hotels, its sizable private courtyard planted with palms and fragrant flowering vines is a lovely place for a candlelit aperitif.


Le Sirenuse is another Positano institution, terraced into the cliffs on the opposite side (and a bit lower down) from the Poseidon. It’s a feast for the eyes, surrounded by exquisite tile work, lemon trees, and plentiful art.



Where to Eat and Drink in Positano

Courtesy of Le Tre Sorelle Positano

At Michelin-starred restaurant Zass in Positano, chef Alois Vanlangenaeker builds artful culinary creations, from fruits and vegetables grown on the property to local meats to seafood caught fresh each day.


It may not have a Michelin star (the owners deliberately try not to make this a hot spot to keep the familial atmosphere), but Il Tridente at Hotel Poseidon is exceptional. You’ll eat local dishes, like the sublime shrimp carpaccio, off crockery hand-painted in Vietri sul Mare.


Another place to try is Da Vincenzo. Since 1958, the family-owned restaurant has served regional seafood and pasta dishes, like braised beef rigatoni and chargrilled octopus.


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Le Tre Sorelle, a more affordable dining option located on the beach, is consistently good and has served traditional Amalfitano dishes since 1953.



Amalfi

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Of all the coastal stops south of Sorrento, the town of Amalfi is the most popular. Part of that has to do with the fact that it’s a major intersection for nearly all the buses, boats, and ferries shuttling tourists between the islands and towns. The crowds can be overwhelming, but try to visit the town’s ninth-century Duomo di Amalfi. The church is one of southern Italy’s treasures for its collision of various architecture styles and materials — it draws on Arab-Norman, Romanesque, Byzantine, and Rococo designs.


Amalfi used to vie with Venice and Genoa as one of the three maritime republics of the Italian peninsula, and if you look past the shops selling identical lemon soaps, limoncello, and Amalfi tea towels, you’ll see some fascinating remnants of history. The Museo della Carta — dedicated to Amalfi’s handmade paper industry — is one of them. The museum, housed inside a 13th-century paper factory, has been going strong since medieval times. For more antique oddities, try La Scuderia del Duca, which sells art and stationery on the famous Amalfi paper, plus the odd antique.


Of course, Amalfi lemons are everywhere, but the best way to see them is through the Amalfi Lemon Experience. The Aceto family has been growing lemons just above town for six generations. They opened their farm for limited tours of the lemon groves, picnics, and cooking classes with the family. Not only is a visit lovely, but you’ll gain an idea of the heroic, backbreaking work of the farmers as they grow the lemons on mountain terraces, working the land by hand.



Where to Stay in Amalfi

The NH Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi, a converted 13th-century monastery, sits high up on the cliffs like a white palace. It’s a five-minute walk from Amalfi and has two restaurants, a pool area, a gym, and a spa. Those who drive to Amalfi will appreciate the hotel’s on-site parking.


A bit further west, Hotel Santa Caterina provides an excellent buffer from the hectic summer crowds. The property has a beach club with a pool and a sun deck with views of the town. The rooms and suites, most with small terraces and sea views, are few, which makes this place more secluded and personalized.


The new kid on the block is Borgo Santandrea, which opened in 2021 just over two miles west of town, closer to Conca dei Marini. It’s a fresh, modern take on Amalfi style, and comes with an elevator that rides down the cliff to a private beach, complete with a restaurant.



What to Eat and Drink in Amalfi

In the Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi, Kyushu offers a break from typical Italian cuisine. Chef Julian Marmol created a menu that uses local Mediterranean ingredients to build modern Japanese plates.


Amalfi locals have been eating at Trattoria da Gemma since 1872, and there’s a reason for that. You could spend an afternoon grazing through their tasting menu, enjoying locally sourced dishes like tuna carpaccio, roasted provola, and homemade pasta.


Emanuele Anastasio/Courtesy of Pasticceria Pansa

Emanuele Anastasio/Courtesy of Pasticceria Pansa

Make sure to try some local pastries. Pasticceria Pansa is Amalfi’s most famous bar, established in 1830. Try the Delizia di Limone: lemon cream in a sponge case, drizzled with lemon sauce.



Ravello

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If you visit Ravello — the town high in the mountains above Amalfi — and don’t spend an hour or two roaming through Villa Cimbrone‘s gardens, you’re essentially missing the point. From Ravello’s central piazza, signs will lead you to the storied gardens, which are part of an 11th-century palatial compound perched on the coast. Famous writers such as the well-traveled Gore Vidal have proclaimed the spot the most beautiful they’ve ever visited.


Within the historic center of Ravello is the Villa Rufolo, a stunning example of regional 13th-century architecture with beautiful Italianate gardens overlooking the blue water below. During the summer months, the villa and gardens host spectacular outdoor concerts.



Where to Stay in Ravello

All rooms in Ravello are blessed with gorgeous views of valleys, mountains, oceans, and ancient towns. Still, there are a few five-star standouts. The Caruso, a Belmond Hotel, has 50 rooms and suites, with details such as vaulted ceilings and 18th-century frescoes, and beautiful grounds overlooking the coast.


There’s also the jaw-dropping Hotel Villa Cimbrone, a 12th-century building perched on the sea cliffs and enclosed by its world-famous gardens.


Palazzo Avino has a more classic, regal feel. The over-the-top rooms and suites feature 18th- and 19th-century furniture, antique rugs, and heavy curtains. The hotel’s clubhouse is spectacular and built right into the cliffs, with a poolside restaurant and bar.



What to Eat and Drink in Ravello

Courtesy of Hotel Villa Cimbrone

Il Flauto di Pan, in Hotel Villa Cimbrone, is one of the coast’s most popular restaurants, where tourists from all over the Amalfi Coast queue up for a table. Chef Lorenzo Montoro is at the helm of this Michelin-starred establishment, drawing on the surrounding countryside to create his 10-course tasting menu. It’s costly, but the superb food and sea views from the garden terrace are worth the cost.


Piazza Vescovado, Ravello’s square, is a beautiful place to refuel or relax in the shade of the cathedral. Visitors spill out onto the piazza for drinks, gelato, or granita at a handful of cute, simple bars ringing the square.



Vietri sul Mare

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Those brightly colored, hand-painted plates and bowls sold all along the coast? They’re from Vietri. There’s even a museum dedicated to the tradition — the Museo della Ceramica — just outside town.


Walk around the streets, and you’ll be blasted with tiles everywhere: donkey-shaped designs for every house number, portraits of saints painted over strips of tiles on walls, and mattonelle tiles that have been adorned with the same patterns for centuries. Solimene is the primary producer, housed in a gigantic warehouse store above the town, clad in tiles like a Gaudi building in Barcelona.


For something completely different, you need Mirkò, a superb modern artist who has taken the Vietri tradition to new heights. His artworks, which can cost thousands, are sold as far away as New York, but he also makes smaller, much more affordable tiles for his shop in his hometown.



Where to Stay in Vietri sul Mare

You won’t find the fancy five-star hotels in Vietri that you will further along the coast, so this is your chance to experience genuine southern Italian hospitality in a locally owned bed-and-breakfast. You can’t go wrong with B&B Vietri Centro, on the main drag, two doors down from the family’s ceramics shop. In a beautiful 18th-century palazzo, owner Fausto Salsano created a lovely B&B, with each room styled by a different local artist and ceramicist.



What to Eat and Drink in Vietri sul Mare

In Vietri, life revolves around the Belvedere. And there’s no better place to take it in than from Ristorante Sud Est, a laid-back pizzeria serving fluffy Neapolitan-style pizza, seafood, and pasta dishes.



Best Time to Visit the Amalfi Coast for Good Weather

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The weather on the Amalfi Coast is best in May, when it’s warm yet fresh enough to walk the vertiginous towns. You can also see wildflowers blooming along the roadside during this time. September and June are also beautiful, as is October, when the sea is still warm enough for swimming. July and August tend to be very hot — both because of the humidity and the tourists jamming into the towns.



Cheapest Time to Visit the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast isn’t so much a destination for the winter months since everything revolves around the season, essentially from April to October. Outside this period, you might struggle to find accommodations, and many shops and restaurants are closed. So, instead of going for a winter bargain, try April, early May, or late September to October. Prices tend to rise from June until mid-September.



Best Time to Avoid the Crowds

Be aware that there’s never really a time the Amalfi Coast is without crowds, but go midweek during those cheaper months — May, April, and September — and you’ll find it much quieter, particularly in the evenings when the day-trippers have gone home.

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