A Guide To Visiting Amalfi, Italy
The beautiful town of Amalfi stretches out up the cliffs from the shoreline of Southern Italy, and being the largest on this stretch gives its name to the much sought after bucket list destination – the Amalfi Coast. While some prefer the pastel colours of Positano, or the glamour of Capri, the white washed houses and charming streets of Amalfi hold something special in their own right and are well worth a visit.
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The first and oldest Marine Republic in Italy, Amalfi became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, and is also the birthplace of ‘cannelloni’. There’s plenty to see and do here in this stunning setting, with favourable climates for most of the year and views from almost everywhere over the Mediterranean, it’s hard not to fall in love with with this picture perfect place.
Getting to Amalfi
If you’re flying in to Naples as many do when visiting the Amalfi Coast there are a number of options to then transfer on to Amalfi.
Many hire cars and do a tour of various places along the Amalfi Coast, but I have been told that parking costs particularly in Positano and Amalfi are not cheap (up to 5 euros an hour in some cases). Fine if you’re passing through, but not if you’re staying for any longer length of time.
From Naples you could get the train to Sorrento or Salerno, and both cities then have SITA bus links on to Amalfi. From my experience it’s fine to book train tickets on the day, but be aware there are no direct trains all the way through to Amalfi. Salerno and Sorrento train stations are both good transfer points if you’re traveling via train from other parts of Italy, with direct trains all the way from Rome.
From the port of Sorrento you can also get a ferry to Amalfi, which takes about an hour. If you’re looking at doing this I’d consider staying in Sorrento for a few nights too, as it’s a beautiful city in it’s own right and breaks up the travel. I used Direct Ferries for all ferry bookings while we were in Italy.
Taxi transfers from Naples are of course an option, but are quite pricey at minimum of 160 euros, and pricier still but if money isn’t a problem then there’s also the option of private boats from Naples or Sorrento.
If you’re just visiting for a day and are based in Sorrento like we were, a private or semi private boat excursion is in my opinion, very much worth doing. I absolutely loved sailing in to Amalfi with the views of the whole city from the sea, and being picked up from the jetty when it was time to leave.
The waters are crystal clear, and perfect for a swim on the return journey, as well as sunbathing out on deck. It’s a lot more relaxing than staring down the cliff from a bus, I can promise you that.
Where to stay in Amalfi
I’ve not stayed in Amalfi myself, but I’ve absolutely spent time researching where I’d want to if I did. Looking at pretty hotels on booking.com is one of my favourite pastimes.
I’d actually not want to stay right in the centre, as it’s quite packed in, but if you did then there are quite a few three star city centre hotels. Some of the nicer ones look to be Hotel Fontana, and Hotel Amalfi.
Personally I’d prefer to go all out, staying in one of the cliff side luxury hotels with pools and sea views. Hotel Santa Caterina looks absolutely incredible, and so does the Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi.
The best time to visit?
While it’s beautiful year round, our skipper told us June or September is the perfect time to visit. For warm weather, but without the masses that flock there in July and August, when it becomes very overcrowded. This is especially true if you’re driving, and what can be a relatively short journey turns into hours of winding roads, difficulty passing large tourist buses, and large queues with limited parking.
Things to do in Amalfi
We’ve all seen the gorgeous Instagram photos of the sweeping roads around the Amalfi cliffs, and the views from the beach, but there’s so much more to it than just these views or snapping the perfect Instagram photo.
It’s often the case that with such beautiful places, the reality is a bit underwhelming, but I was actually really surprised by how much I loved Amalfi.
We spent one of the best days of our trip here, so here’s just a few suggestions of things to get up to:
Visit Amalfi Cathedral
In the heart of the city on Piazza Duomo sits the eye catching Cathedral of Amalfi, dedicated to Saint Andrew. There are 62 steps that lead up to the Cathedral, which aren’t fun in the heat – stick to the shaded side! Similar to the iconic Cathedral in Florence, it’s decorated with mosaics, archways, and colourful tiles, with a separate bell tower.
You can go inside the Cathedral for a 3 euro fee daily, with shorter opening hours during off peak season. The 9th Century Roman Catholic Cathedral sits over the city, and is said to be the final resting place of St. Andrew. Relics belonging to him are inside, as well as historical artwork.
Cloister of Paradise
Within the Cathedral, the Cloister of Paradise was once a graveyard for the noble folk of Amalfi. It is essentially a museum now, with white columns, natural surroundings of palm trees and flowers, making it a haven of peace among the city.
The beaches of the Amalfi Coast are talked about in great detail, as there are so many secluded coves and beaches that can only be reached by boat. Duoglio beach for example, can be reached by climbing down a significant 400 steps, so is best reached by boat.
Amalfi Coast towns like Ravello, and Atrani both have beautiful small beaches too, but the main Amalfi beach is Marina Grande. You can rent loungers and umbrellas, but be warned it get’s very busy in the summer so you need to get there early.
This brings me on nicely to boat trips, and days out from Amalfi. One side of the marina is purely for boat traffic, which is pretty busy even in September. There are so many options for boat trips of all sizes. From Amalfi it would be silly not to visit smaller cliffside towns like Ravello, or some of the secluded coves and smaller cities. Duoglio is great for water sports too.
Of course there are bigger boat trips to be taken, to the likes of Sorrento, Positano and Capri, all of which are absolutely worth doing for different reasons. Sorrento is a gorgeous city, sun soaked all day long which is sometimes not the case among the cliffs of Amalfi, Capri for it’s undeniable ‘La Dolce Vita’, and Positano for those pastel coloured cliffs and incredible seafood lunches.
Enjoy a lemon spritz or limoncello
Produced right along the Sorrento and Amalfi Coast, local tradition suggests that no meal is complete without a lemon spritz or limoncello made from Amalfi lemon peel. The whole limoncello, lemon ‘thing’ is absolutely everywhere, from shops selling nothing else, to souvenirs decorated with lemons, lemon soap and fragrances, you literally can’t get away from it.
In the heat of the day, a cocktail break for a lemon spritz in the main Piazza of Amalfi, with the Cathedral and fountain as your backdrop there really was nothing better.
As well as all the touristy souvenir shops, some of the local stores in Amalfi were fabulous. The linen clothes shops were hugely popular, as were the local markets for fresh fruit and veg, and the handcrafted but beautiful jewellery.
It wasn’t the sort of stuff you wear on holiday and then never again either, it was really stunning stuff you could wear year round.
Some of the homeware and kitchen shops were also really unique and full of ceramics or dishes you would want to take home with you. They weren’t all adorned with bright yellow lemons either.
Try the gelato
It goes without saying when you’re in Italy to try the gelato, and I don’t know if it was the heat or the dramatic scenery but it tasted so much better than any other Italian gelato I’ve had – even from Rome. The choices are endless, but as with most things in Amalfi, it wasn’t cheap, but so worth it.
Whether you’re passing through and want to wander the little white washed streets, mingle with the locals in the cafes, or choose to stay in a luxury Amalfi cliffside hotel, it really is a fabulous place.
I’d seriously consider staying here over Positano if you’re wanting to do the Amalfi Coast, not just for the price or the perfect base to explore further afield, but for what you can see and do right there in Amalfi.
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