How to Road Trip the Amalfi Coast, Italy
The Amalfi Coast road, the SS163, is a 50km spectacular stretch of tarmac, hugging the cliffs and coves of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
This slither of gravity-defying road runs from the Sorrento peninsula to Salerno, twisting and winding it’s way past pastel painted villages and the most incredible views. This is surely one of the best bucket list driving roads in Europe.
When to Road Trip the Amalfi Coast
So beautiful is this UNESCO World Heritage Site stretch of road that people come from all over the world to travel along it, and many say it is the most beautiful places in Italy because of the rugged scenery, lush landscapes and turquoise blue seas.
If you’re planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast, whether you take a coach trip, drive the road in a car or enjoy it on two wheels, it will undoubtedly be very busy in the summer.
As the Costiera Amalfitana road draws towards villages and towns en route, it narrows and larger vehicles have to practice nifty manoeuvres; this slows down anything behind, including you! Patience will serve you well here…you could probably use the time to get a few stunning images of the view!
The absolute best time for driving the Amalfi Coast is April and very early May or late October into November. If you have to travel in peak season, go early in the morning or on a weekday.
Avoid weekends and peak hours where at all possible. If that’s not possible, accept that you will spend time in non-moving traffic and in the summer months it will get very hot. Make sure you take plenty of water with you in case you get stuck.
The Amalfi Coast is also a gorgeous winter destination, with warm temperatures and emptier roads and towns – a perfect destination to get away from the crowds.
Ways to Road Trip the Amalfi Coast
Amalfi Coast By Car
The Amalfi Coast drive is relatively easy if you are a confident and experienced driver. Look on the map and you will see that it is twisty, and there are a few hair-pin bends on the main route, may more if you head into the hills. Most of the road consists of sweeping corners rather than tight ones.
There are some (but not many) places to stop and admire the breathtaking views and for pictures of the sparkling turquoise waters, so take your opportunity when you can.
The Amalfi Coast road itself is maintained in good condition and is wide enough for cars to pass comfortably. Our top Amalfi Coast driving tip is to drive from Salerno to Sorrento instead so that you hug the cliff rather than the edge. If you are a nervous driver, it is probably the best way to drive this infamous road and the Amalfi drive is no less spectacular for this. Car rental is easy in Sorrento or Salerno for a day or two, and helps make the most of the area.
The Amalfi Coast road is closed to large motorhomes. Stay at Santa Fortunata Village Camping in Sorrento and take a day trip, hire a scooter or take the bus.
You can hire scooters and mopeds (with helmets) in all the towns along the Amalfi Coast, as well as in Sorrento and Salerno. This is a cheaper option than hiring a car and means you can park quickly and easily wherever the fancy takes you, and it will take you often. If you’re looking to do something special, why not consider a vintage Vespa tour with a local guide?
Don’t make this your first time on a moped; you need to be an experienced rider to contemplate the Amalfi Coast road on two wheels, but if you are, this is by far the best way to travel the Amalfi Coast.
By Public Transport
There is a regular bus service operated by Sita, which runs between all the coastal towns on the Amalfi Coast. This service is provided for locals, but in the summer months each bus is full of tourists wanting a glimpse of the famous views and a budget friendly way to experience the road.
Buses run every day on a frequent timetable but due to traffic volume are often very late. You may have to ride standing up and you may be on the wrong side of the bus; your only view will be the cliffs! This is a great option if you need to get somewhere along the road but not the best choice if the road itself is your destination.
Organised Amalfi Coast Trips
If driving the Amalfi Coast road is not for you, you don’t have to miss out. There are lots of day trips to the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento or Naples to choose from, you can let an experienced driver keep their eyes on the road whilst you revel in the gorgeous scenery and sea views, with a tour guide to take you to all the best places and answer all your questions.
How Many Days Do I Need to Road Trip the Amalfi Coast?
It depends on what you want to do! You could do the whole trip from Sorrento to Salerno in a day, but one of the best places to visit in Italy shouldn’t be rushed. If you hare along the whole road in a day, you won’t have much time for visiting anywhere, let alone seeing all of the top attractions and towns.
It would be easy to plan an Amalfi Coast itinerary of 7 days and spend a few days in each key place to see the best of the Amalfi Coast, taking day trips, spending time on the beach and generally relaxing…if you really wanted to chill this could easily stretch to an Amalfi Coast itinerary of 10 days!
Or, you could plan an Amalfi Coast itinerary of 3 days or less, if you plan ahead and choose where to stay and what to do carefully.
Amalfi Coast Itinerary
Amalfi Coast Map
Sorrento – The Starting Point
Sorrento is the unofficial starting point of any Amalfi Coast road trip itinerary. Sorrento is on the road to the Amalfi Coast if you’re coming from Naples or Rome and is easy to reach by car. You can also get a bus or train from Naples to the Amalfi Coast in around thee hours.
Sorrento is a good home base for your Amalfi Coast travels, as it also offers great options for day trips to Naples, Pompeii and Vesuvius, and boat tours to the beautiful island of Capri, due to its position on the peninsula.
You’ll find lots to do in Sorrento. Head for Piazza Tasso where you’ll find pretty shops, restaurants and bars. The piazza is the hub of the city and a perfect spot to indulge in a little people watching. Take a walk through the historic town, full of narrow alleys and home to the Chiesa di San Francesco, a fourteenth century church with a tranquil cloister. End you day with a guided food hopping tour and eat like a local.
Stay at the Grand Hotel Aminta for it’s panoramic views, mid-century architecture and nightly entertainment.
Amalfi Coast Essentials
Positano, the most famous and recognisable of the Amalfi Coast towns, is the first you will arrive at if you’re driving from Sorrento. You will recognise it from the thousands of images online, which show pastel coloured houses stacked higgledy-piggledy down to the sea. From the road, it’s hard to see where people might walk and enjoy the town, such is the intimacy of the buildings.
But behind this magazine cover lies the everyday reality of faded Italian grandeur, crumbling plasterwork and tourists. Take a wander through the maze of steep streets and steps to find charming hotels, restaurants and interesting independent boutiques and shops.
Take a boat trip to get a different perspective and see Positano from the water for the best Instagram shots. Or head out to gorgeous Capri island, one of the must-visit gems of Italy, and get lost in its winding streets and secret corners.
Il Sentiero degli Dei (The Path of The Gods) is an incredible and famous hiking trail in the hills behind Positano. You can find out more about the trail on the official Positano website or you can book a guided tour which will organise all the transport to get you to the trailhead and you’ll have a guide on the hike itself.
Positano’s main beach, Marina Grande, still attracts Italian families who fight for space in the summer months with the chic middle-classes on holiday from city life. If you fancy something a bit more laid-back, head west on foot to Spiaggia del Fornillo (one of Positano’s top ten beaches), a long stretch of soft sandy beach backed by a few cool bars, where you can while away an hour or so, or spend a slightly more energetic evening bar hopping.
Stay at Hotel Marincanto for its incredible cliff-hugging location, stunning views, gorgeous rooms and excellent service from hands-on owners.
If you’re looking for somewhere special, Il San Pietro di Positano is legendary for it’s glamour, faultless five star service and stunning position and is widely recognised as the best Amalfi Coast hotel.
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Positano to Amalfi should take about an hour, but plan on it taking at least two as you stop for photos and traffic! You might also want to stop and see the Grotto della Smeraldo (Emerald Cave), which you can find by taking the stairs down at kilometre marker 24, just outside the fishing village of Conca dei Marini and about 5km before you reach Amalfi itself. But, parking can be a challenge and the cave receives mixed reviews.
Amalfi is a hugely popular holiday resort and the largest of the coastal towns along the road. It has less of a luxe feel than Positano but is no less attractive. The pretty seafront, with its many cafes and elegant boutiques give this town a buzz and it’s easier to navigate than Positano; meandering rather than hurtling to the sea at its foot.
Head for Piazza del Duomo, in front of the striking cathedral and enjoy a coffee or gelato before taking the steps up to the church. Dedicated to St. Andrew, the Duomo di Sant’Andrea is a tranquil and beautiful place. Inside is the hidden Cloister of Paradise, dating back to 1266, with a army of columns, Arabesque arches and an amazing fresco.
Amalfi has a fascinating history as a maritime republic, whose importance was equal to coastal Pisa, Venice and Genoa. It was a trade bridge between the Byzantine and western worlds for centuries and the town is packed with graceful historical buildings.
Just a few kilometres to the west from Amalfi, the tiny quaint town of Atrani hangs on the cliffside. The smallest town in all of southern Italy, its history is closely linked to Amalfi, with the two places even sharing a beach. You can learn more about both towns on a private walking tour, where you’ll find out about the towns maritime history. If you’re feeling a bit more energetic, take a hike up the Valle dei Mulini for fabulous views.
Everywhere you look around Amalfi, you will see lemons and marvel at the size of these huge citrus fruits, enjoying the perfect environment to produce the most flavour and juice. The lemons grown here are used for the classic Italian drink, Limonchello. Make sure you try an ice-cold glass of this delicious (and potent) liquor when you’re in town.
Amalfi is a great place to stop overnight if you’re spending two days in the Amalfi Coast area.
Stay at La Bambagina for it’s perfect location on the Piazza del Duomo, airy and spacious bedrooms (there are only four!) and and super-friendly service.
Italy Travel Guides
Surely one of the most gorgeous villages in Italy, Ravello is perched 365m above the sea, overlooking immaculate terraced slopes full of vines. Home to a handful of superb hotels, Ravello ranks as one of Italy’s most luxurious destinations.
Verdant with lush mediterranean planting, and charming sun-dappled squares with breathtaking vistas, the detour to Ravello from the main coast road is so worth taking. Legend has it that when the devil wanted to tempt Christ with the wonders of the world, he took him to Ravello!
Visit Villa Rufolo, host to past popes and kings and magnificent views from its beautifully landscaped and dramatic gardens. With iconic Italian cypress trees and umbrella pines, against a backdrop of azure waters and blue skies, the gardens are a highlight and are one of the best photo spots on the Amalfi Coast.
Take a stroll into the town and head for the pretty Piazza Vescovado, where you will find the elegant eleventh century Duomo. This simple and largely unadorned church has undergone extensive renovations over the ages, its shining white facade dates back to the last major restoration in 1931.
The perfect place to stop for lunch on a one day itinerary of the Amalfi Coast, Ravello has no shortage of good restaurants serving delicious local food with an incredible view.
Stay at the Hotel Villa Maria for its dining terrace where you could spend days in awe of the view, old-world Italian charm and fabulous breakfasts.
Authentic Vietri sul Mare
Vietri sul Mare, just west of Salerno, marks the end of Amalfi’s coastal road and is also the ceramics capital of Campania. You’ll find colourful pottery on every corner, made locally since ancient Roman times.
This over-looked Amalfi town does not have the visual appeal of it’s more famous neighbours but it’s authentic and down to earth, a great antidote to the glitz and glamour of the rest of the coast.
Vietri’s narrow streets spread out from the main landmark, the Renaissance Church of Saint John the Baptist with its colourful bell tower and ceramic-covered dome. You’ll find fabulous tuna and the local speciality, colatura di alici, a delicious extract of fermented anchovies, referred to locally as liquid gold.
Stay at Palazzo Suriano for it’s fragrance filled terraced gardens complete with hot tub, excellent home-made breakfasts and gorgeous decor.