Winding around the cliff walls on a bus about as wide as the entire road, squeezing past cars and other buses driving in the opposite direction, and holding my breath the entire ride for fear of tumbling off the side of the cliff, we eventually made it to the well-known Amalfi Coast. This popular tourist destination lies along the southern part of Italy on the Sorrentine Peninsula and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a cultural landscape. (Apparently we are seeing quite a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites in our travels). Amalfi Drive is the only land route leading in and out of the more than ten municipalities that share this steep landscape from Ventri sul Mare in the east to Positano in the west. We decided to visit this gorgeous coastline to escape the busy cities of Rome and Naples on our way through Italy. I am still in awe with the driving techniques of the SITA bus drivers, taxi drivers and the locals that are able to navigate past each other on the narrow streets with literally, only millimeters to spare. We spent four nights in Praiano and our personal highlights were visiting the secluded Tordigliano Beach, hiking the Path of the Gods, and finding character and culture within Amalfi and Praiano.
Check out some of our videos from the drive below:
We arrived early in the evening after visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum on the way from Naples. We checked in to Hotel Il Pino, our boutique hotel in the town of Praiano. This town is much quieter than the others with only a few hotels and restaurants, and lacking some of the larger beaches in some of the other towns, all of which likely keep the visitors to a minimum. Either way, we had to cash in some credit card reward points to afford it and watching the sunset behind the cliff walls and mountains made it well worth a break from our previous budget accommodations.
The next morning, well rested, we wanted to go to Tordigliano beach. This small secluded beach is only reached by a narrow and steep hiking path off the side of the Amalfi coast road just a little west of Positano. The only public transportation within the Amalfi Coast is the SITA buses so we grabbed our tickets from a nearby store and boarded the bus when it arrived. (The bus pass is either a single one-way ticket for 1.20-2.60 euro depending on the destination, or a 24hr pass for 8 euro. The tickets cannot be bought on board the bus and must be purchased at the nearby stores prior to boarding).
I was uncertain where the path started and asked the bus driver to let us off at the closest stop to the beach and followed the GPS on my phone as we neared. Soon enough Whitney and I were stepping off the bus on the side of the road all alone. There was no sight of any town, home, people, or parking, only the road we came in on and a small stretch of beach through the trees about 400meters below. (I was not too excited about the hike back up, but we were very intrigued by the secluded shore). We wandered down the road until we saw a tiny dirt pathway off the edge of the street and followed it as it winded down to the shore and then around the rocky point. We climbed over a few boulders, turned the corner and saw the stretch of beach with only a handful of beachgoers most of which must have arrived via the yachts anchored off shore. We stretched out our towels to sit and eagerly splashed into the cool water after the long steep hike. As with other beaches we’ve visited on the Mediterranean Sea the shore was small pebbles rather than sand, but that will never stop us from enjoying ourselves.
As the sunburn began to set in we hiked back up to the road, eventually squeezed into a SITA bus and headed home. We were able to enjoy the evening sunset once again before finishing off the night with a 3 course dinner special at our hotel restaurant.
On our second day we got up early to hike the Sentiero degli Dei, the Path of the Gods. This hike runs high above the towns of the Amalfi Coast with its name coming from the spectacular scenery along the way. The expected time it should takes to do the entire path is about 3 hours and it is best done early to beat the blazing afternoon sun and sweltering heat. We chose to hike this path from the very beginning, in the town of Bomerano, thus we changed buses in Amalfi to get to the town. Following the signs out of town, it eventually opened up to the upper ridge overlooking the sea. The views at this level are incredible and looking out it’s as if we could see nearly forever. The hike is not too steep as it travels along the edge of the mountains, but is a bit rocky and has a few areas of rocky steps. We passed only a handful of people along the way, otherwise we had the trail all to ourselves loving every moment of the hike.
Near the end of the trail in Nocelle there is the option to take a bus down or walk down the 1700+ stairs to Positano. Having finished the hike in just a few hours, we decided to risk the stress to our knees and ankles, avoid the few euros for the bus and made our way down the stairs. Arriving at the bottom, we saw a sign pointing to Arienzo beach and decided to check it out. It just happens to be even further down some stairs, but once on the pebble beach we were able to slip into the sea to cool off. It was a perfect cap to another hike.
For our final day, we had no specific plan. We chose to head into Amalfi to see what it had to offer. It was lunch time when we arrived so we walked into the center of the village. This town is much busier than the others, specifically Praiano where we were staying. Differing from the other towns, there was a small parking lot near the water and the port, with tour buses and SITA buses coming and going regularly. We were too hungry to browse menus looking for the preferred restaurant and sat in the first one we passed. From here we were able to engage in one of our favorite pastimes…people watching. After lunch we opted for a couple lounge chairs and an umbrella on the Amalfi beach for 20 euro for us both. It was a little pricy, but we wanted a softer spot to lay on than we had on our last couple beach days. This particular beach was one of the most crowded in the area and had a tremendous number of families spread out on the shore and in the water. Still, it became a great afternoon at the beach in which we even swam way out in the sea to take in the beautiful sunset behind the town.
As we read prior to our visit, the SITA bus is often standing room only which was very true on this late afternoon ride back to Praiano. We were squeezed in between fellow passengers pushing our way into the door of the bus as the next one would be in an hour. (Be sure to check the schedule and arrive to the bus stop early if it’s the busy times, or you are at a busy bus stop.)
Once home and cleaned up we headed toward the Church of San Dominico. The Illuminaria of San Geronimo had been going on for the past week, and we were especially excited to watch the final night. Each night there had been a pyrotechnic show followed by fireworks taking place at the church. We had missed the last few nights, but saw a peek at the fireworks the night before and now wanted to be sure to see it in full our last night. We grabbed a couple pizzas to go and stationed ourselves overlooking the church courtyard. From here we had the perfect view point for the show and were able to take some great action photos.
The fireworks display at the end of the incredible pyrotechnic show signaled the conclusion of our stay in Amalfi. We really enjoyed our time here and think that 4 nights was perfect to enjoy the area. We definitely could have spent more time venturing into the other towns such as Positano, which is one of the most popular towns for visitors, or splurged for a boat trip to Capri, but we had more to explore and set off for Bologna.