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Things to Do in the Amalfi Area

Pauline Kenny

Positano on the Amalfi Coast, 09/01

We spent 10 days in Sorrento in September 2001. These notes are based on that trip.

Tourist Information to Get There

When you arrive in the area, go to the local tourist office to get all the train, bus and ferry schedules. Keep these handy because you will refer to them often. In Sorrento, the tourist office had the schedules available even when the office was closed.

Tourist office in Sorrento

Piazza Tasso, on Corso Italia, is the main piazza in Sorrento. The historic area starts here and goes west. The more modern area and the train station are east. The Mediterranean is north. The hills are south. From Piazza Tasso, facing the sea, take the Via Di Maio on the left side of the piazza down to Piazza S. Antonino and the sea. Follow this street through Piazza Antonino and continue a few steps past the piazza to the Tourist Office on your right. It is in the same building as the Foreigners Club - in through gates and a driveway to the main building. The schedules are on a counter just inside the front doors. You can also pickup a map of Sorrento here.

Maps to Get There

You will find maps for sale in many stores in the area.

A good map for the hikes in the Sorrento area is Sorrento centro e dintorni (6,000 lire) and it includes Massa Lubrense and Sant'Angello. Scale of 1:16,000 and 1:5,000. Shows roads and footpaths with descriptions of hikes in English and Italian.

I also bought Tourist Map: Costiera Amalfitana, Penisola Sorrentina, (10,000 lire) a map at the scale 1:50,000 for the whole region. It comes with a booklet of tourist information in Italian, English, French, and German. The maps shows roads and hiking trails for the Amalfi coast only - not for Sorrento and the peninsula.

Public Transportation

www.vesuviana.it: Train and bus schedules between Sorrento and Naples.

www.campaniatrasporti.it: Transportation information for the Campania region. In Italian.

Trains

There is a local train, the Circumvesuviana, that runs from Sorrento to Naples making many stops along the way. It is about 1 1/2 hours from Sorrento to Naples. We took this train to Pompeii, to Herculaneum and to Naples. It is an uncomfortable and slow train. The seats are hard plastic with two seats facing two seats on either side of the aisle. This means you are usually crowded in with knees touching the people across from you. This train is the best way to get to Pompeii and Herculaneum. For Naples, you can take a hydrofoil, but the two times we went to do that, the run had been cancelled.

Buses

Buses run from Sorrento to all points on the Peninsula and the Amalfi coast. We did not use the bus, but rented a car instead.

Ferries

A hydrofoil ferry service runs from Sorrento to several points:

Sorrento to Capri, every 30 minutes in the morning and evening, once an hour mid-day

Sorrento to Naples, every two hours or so

Sorrento to Ischia, one direct run in the morning, returning late afternoon

Sorrento to Amalfi, once a day direct at odd times

Sorrento to Positano, twice a day direct at odd times

In our time there, about 50% of the time the ferry we went to catch was cancelled and we had to wait for the next one (there had been recent flooding in Naples and this probably affected the ferries). The train to Naples was more reliable. We did not take ferries to Positano or Amalfi, but drove instead. The bus is probably the better alternative, but it is a long ride to Amalfi.

Driving

This whole region was crowded with traffic when we were there (September 2001). The driving was not fun. The area between Sorrento and the autostrada to Naples was very heavy with traffic and difficult driving. The Sorrento Peninsula was not difficult driving - nice country roads, not much traffic.

The Amalfi Coast drive was not as wonderful or as horrible as I thought it might be. The views are very nice, but the road is not pleasant driving. It is narrow and goes right through many small towns, so you have to be careful there because it becomes chaotic. There was a lot of traffic with some of the faster cars passing dangerously. The drive from Sorrento to Positano was easier than from Postiano to Amalfi.

Driving Times

Ravello to Amalfi - 15 minutes

Amalfi to Positano - 30 minutes

Positano to Sorrento outskirts - 30 minutes. We did the route over the hill instead of around the Peninsula and ended up in thick traffic getting into Sorrento (another 30 minutes in that). Perhaps going via the Peninsula would have been better.

See our section on Driving in Italy.

Parking in Positano

The main road goes through the top of Positano. To get into Positano you exit from the main road and take a one way road through the whole town. It goes down past hotels and parking garages, to a main public parking garage at the lowest point, then continues back up to meet the main road. We thought parking would be a problem, so pulled into the first pay parking lot we saw and ended up with a long walk down to the main area at the bottom of town. Instead, keep going until you see the main parking garage.

Prices (in September 2001)

Price is based on the size of the car (from 1800cc to 3000cc)

Daily from 7am to 9pm: from 5,000 to 7,000 lire per hour ($2.50 - $3.50).

Overnight: 30,000 - 35,000 lire ($15)

Click image to see a photo of the Price List (in Italian)

Positano, parking garage, 09/01

This is the main road through Positano.
The parking garage is on your right (you can see it in the photo).

Positano, parking garage, 09/01

This is the parking garage as you pull into it. Watch out for the dog.

Vacation Rentals

Where is the best place to stay in this area? These are my thoughts:

  • Sorrento: From Sorrento you can take the ferry to Capri, train to Pompeii and bus (or drive) to the Amalfi coast. Sorrento is a nice town and centrally located for seeing the whole area.
  • Sorrento Peninsula: I liked the towns on the Sorrento Peninsula. They looked like they would be fun to explore. From there you would have to drive into Sorrento for the ferry or train station (downside) but you would be close to good swimming and walking areas (upside).
  • Positano: Personally, I did not really like Positano, but I have talked with many people who do like it and staying in an apartment for a week would be a very different experience.
  • Amalfi: This looked like a nice town. The main road passes along the bottom of the town near the sea, but it looked like there was a nice beach area.
  • Ravello: Beautiful spot. The drive from Amalfi is hair-raising - 15 minutes on a very narrow and winding uphill road. The town is charming and not as crowded with tourists as Positano. You are up in the mountian overlooking the sea.

I would not recommend spending two weeks in Sorrento like we did. Better would have been 3 nights in Naples, so you could see Naples more easily (the train ride from Sorrento is too long and uncomfortable). See Herculaneum from Naples. Spend the day in Pompeii on your way to your next destination. Then a week in Sorrento, the Sorrento Peninsula, Positano, Amalfi or Ravello. If you loved Pompeii, do another day trip to it from there. This would be my ideal trip to this region.

While we were in this area, we looked at a few vacation rentals. See our reviews.

See our Vacation Rental listings for the Amalfi area.

Swimming

Sorrento swimming area, 09/01

Swimming in Sorrento

Positano swimming area, 09/01

Swimming in Positano

Nerano swimming area, Sorrento Peninsula, 09/01

Swimming near Nerano, on the Sorrento Peninsula

Sorrento is located on the top of a cliff above the sea. The swimming area is at the bottom of the cliff. You can take an elevator from the center of Sorrento down to the swimming area. There is no real beach, but instead boardwalk type structures out into the water where people lie in the sun. There are stairs down into the water, but we did not see many people swimming. We could have gone swimming here, but could not work up enough enthusiasm.

The area where you would swim didn't look great because it was very close to the area with boats - I never like to swim in water near boats because of the fuel spillage and general yuckiness from boats. We like to swim, and the Mediterranean is my favorite body of water, but we do not like to spend much time lying out in the sun and this seemed more to be an area to lie out in the sun.

The beach in Positano looked nice. This would probably be fun for swimming if you were staying in Positano, but there are also boats in this water.

The beach in Amalfi also looked nice.

My favorite looking beach in this area was near Nerano on the Sorrento Peninsula. Nerano is a small town up in the hills. Marina di Cantone is the town down from Nerano on the water.

See our general section on Swimming in Italy, with information about using the different types of beaches.

Hiking

There is good hiking in this region but it was just not that appealing to me at the time we were there. I think if you stayed in Positano or Amalfi you might be more inclined to do some of the hikes between towns. The hiking is very steep. For hikes from Positano, you have to climb up to the top of town and then up through the hills.

Food

See some photos of our meals in this area:

Maria Grazie in Nerano on the Sorrento Peninsula - Pictures of our Sunday lunch in September 2001.

Ristorante Bruno in Positano - Pictures of a casual lunch in September 2001.

Things to Do

The guidebooks will have better information, but here are a few things to do in the area:

  • Pompeii - train from Sorrento is about 50 minutes, then go to your right from station. The train stop is Pompeii Scavi.
  • Herculaneum - train from Sorrento 60 minutes, then 10 minute walk from station. The train stop is Ercolano.
  • Capri - ferry from Sorrento 30 minutes, then funicular or taxi to the town on top of the hill.

Resources

Sorrento Resources

http://www.sorrentoinfo.com/facebook_sorrentoinfo_en/: The Sorrento Webcam (accessed via Facebook)

Slow Travel Italy - About the Sorrento Webcam

www.sorrentoinfo.com: Sorrento Info, tourist information, accommodations, transportation

www.sorrentomap.com: Good map of Sorrento

Read my trip report of our two weeks in Sorrento

Other Tourist Information

www.sorrento-online.com: Sorrento Online

www.sorrentoservice.com

www.capri.net: Capri tourist information

www.positanonline.it: Positano tourist information

www.amalfi.it: Amalfi tourist information

Guidebooks

We brought two guidebooks for this region. One would probably do. Both were good.

Cadogan Guide to Naples and the Amalfi area

Eyewitness Travel Guides: Naples with Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast

I also brought Sunflower Landscapes: Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. This is a touring and hiking guide. I found the hiking section very confusing and did not end up using it.

See our section on Guidebooks for Italy.

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