Planning Your Trip to the Amalfi Coast
Maybe it’s the languid air of this dramatic, craggy coastline, where pastel-colored houses cascade down to sapphire blue seas in a tableau fit for a painter. Maybe it’s the lush gardens and scenic beaches that have been luring jetsetters and honeymooners for decades. Or maybe it’s the fact that this area has starred in well-known films like Under the Tuscan Sun and The Talented Mr. Ripley, which present it with a golden sheen that isn't too far from reality.
If you have only a couple of nights here, you may choose to stay in Sorrento, at the tip of the peninsula, so you can easily drive along the Amalfi coast to other towns. Although Naples is exciting in its own right, it’s a bit farther away. The island of Capri can be part of even a short visit, easily accessible by hydrofoil from the peninsula, and a boat ride to the area's hidden grottoes will be an unforgettable adventure.
With a few more days on the Amalfi Coast, you can see the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and hike up to the top of Mount Vesuvius. You might also elect to take a tour of lemon groves and learn about the limoncello-making process, or survey local vineyards and do a wine tasting. You can even indulge in a cooking class that will teach you to use the region’s excellent ingredients to create memorable, traditional dishes.
For an 8-day Italy itinerary that includes the Amalfi Coast, click here.
Amalfi Coast in 24 Hours
If you only have one day and one night to experience the Amalfi Coast, head to the classic locations where you can get the most out of this region, and get in those classic photos too.
Medieval fishing towns-turned-tourist hotspots like Amalfi and Positano exude that classic coastal vibe, with colorful houses that appear to cascade down the cliffside, interspersed with lemon groves and beautiful summer villas. On your first afternoon, you can drive between the two of them, also stopping at smaller villages along the way like Praiano and San Michele, or driving farther east past Amalfi to the village of Ravello, known for its grand Cathedral and intimate Coral Museum, as well as its famed annual music festival.
On your second day, you may choose to forgo a car entirely and take to the hills, going on an approximately 3-hour walk from Amalfi to Ravello, or hiking the famed Path of the Gods, Amalfi’s best-known route, which connects Bomerano to Nocelle in the hills above the coast. This hike is easily accessible from Positano (although, depending on your fitness level, you’ll have to make a decision about whether to go entirely uphill, or start at the top and go down). If you’d rather take it easy, you can also hop on a boat tour between Amalfi and Positano to witness the craggy, picturesque coastline from the water, particularly memorable at sunset.
For highlights of Italy, including the Amalfi Coast, click here.
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Amalfi Coast in 2-3 Days
It isn’t technically part of the Amalfi Coast, but any trip to this area should include a stop at Pompeii. During a visit of 2-3 days, you can visit this thriving Roman city that disappeared in an instant in the year 79 CE, when the eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried it in ash, preserving its buildings, works of art, and even people going about their day. The unearthed ruins have proven invaluable in understanding the life of the ancient Romans, and today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After wandering the remains of what were once grand villas, government buildings, shops, and plazas, and viewing the plaster casts that show Pompeii’s citizens in their last moments, head to Herculaneum, an even wealthier town that was destroyed in the same eruption, home to some miraculous mosaics.
Take an afternoon hike up Mount Vesuvius (which is carefully monitored by scientists and computer equipment these days for any stirrings that may point to an impending eruption). A stop at a winery on its slopes will teach you about the unique volcanic soil that nurtures very special types of grapes, while a gaze into the smoking crater of this sleeping giant will give you an idea of its awesome power. Even 2,000 years after the eruption that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum, this looming volcano still has a profound effect on local life.
On your third full day, you can also check out another Amalfi must: the island of Capri easily accessible from Naples and Sorrento by hydrofoil. Known as the Pearl of the Mediterranean, the island of Capri has been a favorite since ancient Roman days, when the well-to-do built summer villas here, and through the heyday of the 1950s and ‘60s, when it was a hotspot for celebrities and socialites. It’s easy to see why: sunshine, clear blue water, and pristine beaches make it the perfect place to relax. In a morning trip to the first of two main towns, also called Capri, you can see the main harbors (Marina Grande and Marina Piccola) and stroll the Belvedere of Tragara (a villa-lined promenade with panoramic views).
After lunch, it’s up the hill to the smaller, quieter Anacapri, where you can take some short hikes and visit Villa San Michele, the 19th-century home of a Swedish physician built on the ruins of a much-older chapel, and the world famous Grotta Azzura or Blue Grotto, a watery cave only accessible by boat. Many boats will also take your past the Faraglioni Rocks – three iconic rock formations, one of which has an arch at its center – for photos.
Click here to learn about a 2-week itinerary that incorporates Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Capri.
Amalfi Coast in 4-5 Days
With 4-5 days on the Amalfi Coast, you can also take a boat tour of the area’s many secluded beaches and hidden grottoes.
Start with the RunghetielloGrotto, a hidden sea cave marked by a rock arch said to be good luck if you kiss your sweetheart there, and Bagni della Regina Giovanna or Baths of Queen Giovanna, an emerald-colored pool and one-time favorite of royalty cut off from the sea by a rock barrier. If you're after more traditional beaches, check out the stunning but rarely crowded Baia de Ieranto or Fiordo di Crapolla, both quiet beaches beloved by ancient Greeks and Romans. Read more here on the hidden grottoes of the Amalfi Coast.
If you’d rather taste all that’s delicious about this area, there are several themed tours and classes that may be right for you. The sunny, sweet, tart liquor known as limoncello is a quintessential flavor of the Amalfi region, Naples, and Sorrento. While you’re here, you can sample the beloved after-dinner drink, and go on a tour to see the vertical lemon gardens that cling to the slopes above the Amalfi Coast, and the small factories and producers that turn it into a delicious digestivo.
You can also visit the region’s vineyards and learn how the unique volcanic soil yields special flavors within the grapes that transfer to the wines. Your tour will include a stop at the award-winning Marisa Cuomo Winery, where you’ll visit the estate’s cellars and try several vintages.
If you’re a hands-on kind of person, and you’re ready to tie on an apron and get a bit messy, perhaps a cooking class is right for you. There are plenty of half- and full-day classes offered along the Amalfi Coast that highlight some of the region’s best produce, but the 4-hour class at the Sorrento Cooking School is among the best, and not just thanks to its beautiful location. Here, you’ll learn to cook pasta, pizza, fish, and desserts, alongside both amateur chefs and professionals looking to up their game. You’ll share a meal together and of course, come home with invaluable skills you can use again and again.
Click here for more on food and wine adventures in Italy.