The Amalfi Coast is a kaleidoscope of exploding colors, textures, and smells. From the shimmering azure blue of the Tyrrhenian Sea to the sheer cliffs, terracotta-roofed pastel houses, and picturesque coastal views, charming fishing villages, to terraced lemon groves and vineyards along the hillsides and pizza wafting out from cobblestone piazzas, the Amalfi Coast will not disappoint. Oh, and don’t forget the 25-miles of white-knuckle hairpin turns on those craggy cliffs when you drive from Naples to Amalfi Coast!
It’s where pizza and limoncello were created, and of course, those delicious Italian desserts!
Resting on the southwest coast of Italy, there are thirteen municipalities along the Amalfi Coast, but for this one-week itinerary, we’ve limited it to the must-see destinations for the first-time visitor. Have no doubt, you will want to return to this place of undisputed beauty and stunning natural landscapes again.
Amalfi Coast at a Glance
- Language: Italian
- Designation: UNESCO World Heritage Site (1997)
- Province: Salerno, Italy
- Currency: Euro
When to Visit the Amalfi Coast
We visited the Amalfi Coast in July. It was hot, which I did not mind, and also quite crowded. To avoid those two scenarios, I’d suggest that you visit in April/May or September/October when the weather is still mild, but with fewer tourists.
Cinque Terre, along with the Amalfi Coast, have a similar cliffside look and are arguably the two most beautiful areas on Italy’s west coast. Here’s a look at the differences between the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre.
What to Pack
Naturally, it will depend on what season you are visiting the Amalfi Coast. If you visit in summer, like us, at a minimum, you should pack a sun hat, sunglasses, swimsuit, sandals, sundress, and reusable water bottle. If you are planning to hike, don’t forget to pack good sneakers or hiking boots.
Click here for a full list of what to pack for a beach vacation.
Day 1: Naples
When visiting from another country, you’ll likely be flying into Naples. There is an Italian saying that while Rome is the heart of Italy, Naples is the soul, so instead of heading directly to the Amalfi Coast, I recommend that you spend one day exploring this city because there are so many great things to do in Naples. Italy’s third-largest city, Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with a rich history dating back to the 7th century BC, and perhaps even further back than that. Public squares, monuments, archaeological sites, and more await discovery.
And of course, it’s where pizza was created, so even a no-carb person like me had to try some!
We had limited time in and around the Naples port, so we decided to take in what we could by foot. Start your day at Grand Caffè Gambrinus, one of the oldest and nicest coffee bars with a steaming cup of coffee and one of the famous sfogliatella – a delicate, layered pastry filled with cream, cheese, and fruit.
The highlight is Centro Storico, Naples’ historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spaccanapoli Street cuts the city in two. This area is the most charming and authentic area of Naples and you won’t want to miss it.
If you have more time, you’ll want to explore Maschio Angioino castle, also known as “Castel Nuovo,“ built between 1279 and 1284 by Charles I of Anjou. The castle, which dominates the scenic Piazza Municipio (one of the largest squares in Europe), was known for hosting great artists, writers, poets such Boccaccio, as Giotto, Petrarch.
Another option is to explore the hidden world of Napoli Sotterranea (Naples Underground). The archeological site encompasses the ruins of underground forums, homes, and markets built by the ancient Greeks and later developed by the Romans.
From Naples, you can take a bus to the Amalfi Coast, but I recommend renting a car. It will be easier to get around and get to the places you like best. Plus, you won’t want to miss the memorable adventure of driving the nail-biting curves.
Be aware, though, parking is scarce and expensive in the cities.
Day 2: Sorrento
The picturesque old town of Sorrento is perched high on a craggy cliff, about an hour’s drive from Naples. With a population of 16,000, Sorrento is the largest city on the Amalfi Coast.
Sorrento is renowned for its lemon groves, orchards and vintage antique shops make it one of the must-visit Amalfi Coast towns.
Piazza Tazzo is the town’s main square lined with streets hosting boutique shops, bistros, and cafes, and a nice place to start your exploration. Other sights include Palazzo Veniero, Palazzo Correale, and Sorrento Cathedral, and the Church of St. Francesco.
One of our favorite points of interest was our limoncello tasting. Limoncello is the area’s traditional digestive, an alcoholic beverage served after your meal. It’s made from lemon skins that are soaked in alcohol for weeks then mixed with sugar to make it sweeter. It is a great souvenir, too!
Day 3: Capri
Across the coast from Sorrento, the Island of Capri was once the summer home of emperors in Ancient Rome. It’s easy to see why, with the shimmering azure water and captivating mountaintop views.
Upon arrival in Capris, hop on the funicular and ascend to the top of the city. Then head to Augustus Gardens for the spectacular view of the coastline, the Faraglioni cliffs, and the winding road that leads back to the sea.
The highlight of Capris is arguably the Blue Grotto, a sea cave illuminated by sunlight, creating the effect of glistening neon turquoise waters. Since tours get crowded, if you are interested in seeing the grotto, you might want to head here first, to beat the crowds.
Capris is a great day trip from Sorrento. You can take a ferry or one of the many full-day boat tours that depart from Sorrento.
Day 4: Positano
According to legend, thousands of years ago Poseidon created Positano as a gift to the nymph Pasitea.
In fact, in 1953, John Steinbeck published an essay in Harpar’s Bazaar dedicated to Positano in which he described it as, “A dream place that is not quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you’ve gone.”
Known for its pastel-colored homes nestled into the cliffs and rolling down to the sea, Positano is a photographer’s dream. One of the most popular things to do is to climb the never-ending stairs or hike up the rugged cliffs for outrageously gorgeous photo ops.
We loved just strolling through the cobbled streets of the city center, discovering hidden alleys with tiny, intimate restaurants and shops, tucked into every nook and cranny. Viale Pasitea is the main road that crosses the town and is where hotels and shops can be found as well as restaurants overlooking the sea. Wherever your feet take you, don’t forget to simply turn around to admire the fantastic views.
If you’re looking for some beach time, the main beach is Spiaggia Grande (Big Beach), one of the most luxurious beaches on the Amalfi Coast, frequented by celebrities from all over the world. Take note that it is generally crowded during the summer months, and it consists of grey pebbles, not soft sand, so you’ll want to wear water shoes and rent a beach lounger rather than sit on a towel.
10th-century Santa Maria Assunta is and one of the most photographed sites in Positano, sporting a dome-shaped top and colorful majolica tiles.
For archeology buffs, in 2000 archaeologists discovered an ancient Roman villa below the church of Santa Maria Assunta, buried by a rain of ash in 79 AD when Vesuvius erupted burying Pompeii. The ash preserved many frescoes and mosaics, making it the most significant discovery on the Amalfi Coast in recent years.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast and up for a memorable hike, you simply must do the Path of the Gods (Sentiero degli dei). The 3-hour, 4.8-mile scenic route is moderately difficult with a path carved into the earth, but you will take in some of the stunning scenery on the Amalfi Coast. You can do the hike on your own or with a guide to gain insight into the history of the area as well as hidden photography spots along the way.
Day 5: Fiordo di Furore
I’d never even heard of this photogenic beach until I found it on Instagram.
In essence, Fiordo di Furore is really a bridge, behind which is a secret beach on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Sometimes referred to as “the town that doesn’t exist,” Fiordo di Furore is not that easy to find, it is worth your while to seek out this unique beach. Craggy cliffs rise up behind the tiny turquoise beach, making the tiny terraced houses that cling to the rocks almost invisible from the sea.
Depending on the day of the week and time of the year, the beach could be empty or jammed with a throng of enthusiastic sun-seekers.
Day 6: Amalfi
Our favorite location on the Amalfi Coast was the cozy capital city of Amalfi.
We wandered endlessly around the picturesque cobbled streets beneath the shadow of the towering Duomo di Sant’Andrea (Amalfi Cathedral) which is dedicated to the apostle, St. Andrew, and the even more imposing mountains looming on the landscape. Climb the 62 steps of the church for a nice view of the piazza below or enter the church to see statues and busts as well as the crypt where the relics of St. Andrew are stored.
For the most spectacular view, walk out onto the pier where you’ll have a panorama of the structures embedded into the mountains, the beach, and the historic old town.
For beachgoers, Marina Grande is the largest and most popular of Amalfi Coast beaches. You’ll find a lovely promenade along the beach where you can rent an umbrella and beach chair and relax with your beverage of choice in hand. This scenic beach is an Instagram favorite, with the magnificent backdrop of the town and mountains.
Day 7: Pompeii
Pompeii is a must-see site when in the Amalfi Coast area. Just a day-trip away from any of the above cities, here you will find the fascinating archaeological ruins of a city that were buried and preserved under solidified ash when Mount Vesuvius catastrophically erupted in 79 AD.
Pompeii has been dedicated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, hosting some 2.5 million visitors every year.
Once a thriving Roman city, Pompeii boasted an estimated 11,000 people, a complex water system, an amphitheater, gymnasium, and a port. The blast was completely unexpected (Vesuvius hadn’t erupted for 1,800 years), instantly burying the town and its inhabitants by volcanic ash which served to preserve everything almost exactly as it was on the day of the disaster.
You’ll want to visit Pompeii with an archaeologist who will regale you with facts and stories about the excavations and restorations.
It takes around three hours to explore the ancient town and it gets very crowded. However, we visited later in the afternoon, and there were not very many people there, allowing us to explore at will and photograph without hordes of tourists in the pictures.
Some of the highlights include the Antiquarian, columns at the Forum, Temple of Isis, House of Menander, and the impressive amphitheater.
What to Eat
Cuisine on the Amalfi Coast is all about freshness, seasonal availability, local fish and seafood, and of course, some of the best Italian pasta dishes.
The tomatoes are also really delicious making Margareta pizza and Caprese salad with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves big favorites.
Designated as a UNESCO heritage site, the Amalfi Coast is one of those bucket list places that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.
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About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.” Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.