The Amalfi Coast is hugely popular with tourists across the globe. And rightly so. It’s easily one of the most beautiful places on earth. But where do you stay on the Amalfi Coast and how do you get to see the best of it?
Everyone’s heard of the Amalfi Coast. Social media, travel magazines and even cooking shows have featured this stunning part of southern Italy at some point in the recent past.
And it makes total sense.
After all, the whole dramatic coastline of the Bay of Naples and the Sorrento Peninsula is heart-breakingly beautiful. Somewhere that looks as good as this is always going to draw attention. And the 10-million + visitors a year prove it.
With so many visitors, crowds are inevitable. Swarms of holidaymakers turn the delightful terraced streets of Positano and the sleepy shoreline of Amalfi into tourist traps that dent the natural charm of the area.
But tourism tends to do that, doesn’t it? Hurt the object of its affection?
Thankfully there are a few places between the hotspots of the Amalfi Coast where you not only get a true feeling of what this gorgeous part of Campania is about, but also where you’re not paying all the way through your nose to stay there.
We’ve put together a snapshot video of the Amalfi Coast and some of the highlights of this incredible peninsula. The cliffs, the beaches, the towns, the food festivals…
Where to stay on the Amalfi Coast to see the real Amalfi
The first town you come to on the Sorrento Peninsula and Amalfi Coast is Vico Equense. It’s often overlooked by travellers heading straight for better-known Sorrento down the coast.
This clifftop town doesn’t have the terraced red-tile rooftop aesthetic of Sorrento or Positano. But what it lacks in that vein of architecture it makes up for with castellos and cathedrals teetering over cliffs that peer into the sea far below.
Vico Equense is home to a pretty little beach and harbour, and the town itself has a wealth of restaurants, bars and cafés. Our favourite is Ristorante Cerase, which has views out over the Gulf of Naples and a menu of local produce and seafood that’ll make you hungry even if you’re feeling full.
We were also lucky enough to time our visit perfectly with the town’s annual food festival – Festa Vico – which sees almost every street closed to traffic and opened to foodies. Celebrity chefs from around the region come to share their favourite dishes at stalls dotted around the town. It’s a good time to be here!
Getting around is especially easy from Vico Equense, which has its own train station. Connections to the rest of the peninsula, and also to Naples and Pompeii means this town is an ideal spot to base yourself to explore the Amalfi Coast.
On the other side of the peninsula to Vico Equense, Praiano offers some of the best views of nearby Positano from across the shallow bay. It’s a cute little town with a few shops, bars and restaurants along the main road that runs around the coast.
The beach at Praiano is a long walk down the cliffs and an even longer one coming back up. But it’s worth it. Things are helped along with a well-situated bar halfway up. However, be ready to wait as it’s understandably over-popular and overwhelmingly understaffed.
Our first stop when we arrived at Praiano was Trattoria San Gennaro, which overlooks a piazza of the same name connected to a beautiful baroque basilica also of the same name – and probably the starting point for this eponymy.
The trattoria worth a visit, and the view down on the piazza is a people-watching gem. Especially when the locals and their kids come to play football and hang out there in the afternoons.
For both Praiano and Vico Equense, we found excellent properties on AirBnB. They were far more affordable than hotels in the area. And both towns are also cheaper to stay in than Positano, Sorrento or Amalfi anyway.
When we came back from our trip to the Amalfi Coast, friends in the travel writing community asked us if we managed to get to Ravello. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it this time, but we’ll make a point if we have a chance to return.
Perched high in the hills back from Amalfi Town, Ravello has spectacular views out over the coast. And because it’s set back from the main drag, Ravello tends to be less busy than most other towns in the area.
A cultural hotspot, this town has wooed many great poets, painters and protagonists. The likes of Winston Churchill, Greta Garbo, D H Lawrence and Virginia Woolf all spent time here.
The elegant villas and tempting restaurants evidence the once high-flight aristocracy that called Ravello home. These days it’s the perfect spot for a discerning traveller. You can pull up here away from the goggling crowds and experience life that’s truly Amalfi.
Don’t discount Naples
Much maligned in recent years, Naples has built a reputation as being rough, dangerous and dirty. Of course, any big city has its darker side and Naples isn’t immune.
But with its famously hot-blooded locals, and books and films like Gamorrah showing the worst of southern Italy, Naples’ reputation is understandable.
However, every time Christina and I have been to Naples, we’ve found it to be a fascinating, friendly, beautiful city. And certainly no more dangerous or scary than London or Paris, or any other large European city really.
Naples is a superb city to explore and, being the closest travel hub to the Amalfi Coast, is the perfect launchpad (or landing strip) for a trip there.
Trains run from Napoli Garibaldi Train Station straight to Vico Equense or even as far as Sorrento. And from there, buses will take you wherever you want to go along the coast.
For our last trip to Naples, we stayed in Hotel Piazza Bellini, which is centrally located, comfortable, affordable, and surprisingly fun and modern for such an old building. Check out our review of Hotel Piazza Bellini here.
If you’re travelling to Naples and the Amalfi Coast, you should definitely find time to visit Pompeii. Here are some of our favourite posts on the Forgotten City:
And for more of our stories on Italy in general, check out our Italian library here.
Of course, wherever you go in and around the Amalfi Coast, a beautiful view, a delicious meal or an interesting local won’t be far away.
That’s the wonderful thing about travelling in Italy: even in the most touristy of places, real life is never too far below the surface or beyond the horizon.
Have you been to the Amalfi Coast? Where did you stay? Did you have a favourite part? Tell us in the comments!