Every year about 5 million people crowd onto the Amalfi coast to experience its UNESCO world heritage landscape and culture, sample its mouth-watering cuisine, and walk in the footsteps of celebrities past and present. Despite existing shoulder to shoulder for hundred of years, there is a surprising amount of variation between the towns on the Amalfi Coast. Here are some tips to figure out which town is best suited to the style and price point of your Amalfi Coast vacation.
Sorrento – The perfect gateway to the Amalfi Coast
Sorrento is the official starting point of the Amalfi Coast and the easiest town to reach. This accessibility is both a blessing and a curse, because it places Sorrento firmly on the Amalfi Coast itinerary of most day-trippers – meaning its population swells to the bursting point during the summer high season.
This small city in the southern part of Italy features wonderful hills, deep valleys and beautiful mountains. Nearby, you will find small local villages, prestigious hotels, camping and even the opportunity to work local farmland if you so choose. Sorrento makes a good starting point for numerous excursions to nearby cities and islands around the famous Amalfi Coast. You will love driving along the coastal and winding roads overlooking the sea. It’s the perfect place for a road trip along with your family.
In the south you can explore the peninsula’s unspoiled countryside, to the east is the breathtaking Amalfi Coast, to the north lie Pompeii and other archaeological sites and offshore lies the fabled island of Capri.
Also, Sorrento is an extremely fun place to be in. With that thought in mind, there are many fun things to do in Sorrento with complete ease.
Dive along the cliffs is one of the many fun things to do in Sorrento! The beaches around Sorrento are such that they may not be the greatest – or even the most conducive for actually lazing around, but at the same time, you can easily dive from the lower cliffs down to the sea for memories which will quite likely last a lifetime! Renting a scooter on Capri is an especially fun and very local way to explore the island.
If you are in Sorrento don’t miss to:
- See the cathedral – Mostly made of intarsia wood, the cathedral overlooks the main street of the town, Corso Italia.
- Visit the Covent di San Francesco – It preserves important works in wood, representing Saint Francis, and has a rich variety of architectonic styles melded together to form one work. It’s an ideal setting for the art exhibitions, festivals, concerts, and events.
- Head to Sorrento Cape – Here you can see famous beaches and the archaeological site of the villa of Pollio Felice.
- Go inside the Duomo – Found on Corso Italia, one shouldn’t let the seemingly simple exterior of this sight detour them from the grandeur that resides inside. The interior is lined with beautiful, original furnishings, including wooden choir stalls and the marble bishop’s throne.
- Wander the Museo Correale – This is the main museum in Sorrento. The collection here is very extensive and includes Japanese, Chinese, Neapolitan and European art dating from the 17th-19th centuries.
- Learn the art of marquetry – Sorrento is known for its marquetry handicrafts, a term which refers to inlaid objects (like pearls or other decorative materials) on wood.
- Stop by the Archaeological Museum – The Territorial Archaeological Museum George Vallet is a relatively new museum (1999) located in a neoclassical style building. The collection consists of archaeological artifacts unearthed along the Sorrento Peninsula. There are some pieces from the Greek era as well as the Roman.
Stay here if: You want to ease into your Amalfi Coast experience; you want to stay somewhere where most everyone speaks English; you want a strategic location for easy travel and day trips within the region; you don’t have a lot of time on the coast; you want a mix between new world conveniences and traditional atmospheres; you want to day-trip from Naples or to Pompeii.
Sant’Agata and Nerano
Sant’Agata is a pretty hill town between two gulfs: the Bay of Naples with the imposing Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Salerno with the Li Galli Archipelago. A bit off the coast, this tiny hill town has a great view of Capri Island as well. Visit the ancient Greek necropolis nearby and the Monastero del Deserto, a Carmelite monastery that has been attracting travelers with its gorgeous panorama since Goethe visited in the late 19th century.
Just down the road is the fishing village of Nerano, whose beaches sit in the center of the Punta Campanella Natural Marine Reserve. Its rocky seabed and clear waters are a favorite among scuba divers, but be careful; according to Greek mythology, this is where the sirens sang to tempt Ulysses off course.
Stay here if: You want to explore the Amalfi Coast with your taste buds; you’re interested in ancient Greek history or archeology; you want to follow the footsteps of Ulysses; you don’t mind being off the coast (if you stay in Sant’Agata).
Positano is the Amalfi Coast’s most photogenic and sophisticated town, with vertiginous houses tumbling down to the sea in a cascade of sun-bleached peach, pink and terracotta. No less colorful are its steep streets and steps, flanked by wisteria-draped hotels, smart restaurants and fashionable retailers.
Take a boat with your family and enjoy the breathtaking scenery! With an Italian Prosecco and some snacks, you’ll love to discover the beauty of the Amalfi Coast in one day. Also, don’t miss the famous Fiordo di Furore, one of the most fascinating geological features on the entire Amalfi Coast. The view from the bridge is stunning and you can stop here for 2 hours to take your vitamin sea: the beach is incredible.
On your way to Amalfi town, visit by boat the Emerald Grotto! The name comes from the green-blue light that bathes the cavern. Here, you can explore the stalactite and stalagmite encrusted inside, while the visual spectacle will delight your gaze. The entrance ticket to the Grotto is 5 Euros.
Stay here if: You want to vacation in luxury with a few A and B-list celebs; you want to shop; you’re physically fit; you want to stay at a sandy (as opposed to rocky) beach; you’re looking to splurge; you’ve come for the nightlife; your idea of an Amalfi Coast vacation includes those pastel-colored houses and of course Instagram photos with your lovely family!
Praiano and Conca dei Marini
Located exactly halfway between Amalfi and Positano, tiny Praiano and even tinier Conca dei Marini are far too often overlooked. Much quieter, Praiano is generally considered the most romantic Amalfi Coast town due to its views – extending from the Bay of Positano to the island of Capri – and its gorgeous sunsets. The cherry on top is that Praiano is also a great base for hikers: the famous trail called the Sentiero degli Dei starts from here.
Stay here if: You want non-stop beach time; you don’t need to be near major transportation hubs; you want to soak in the small-town atmosphere; you’re looking for the most romantic spot on the coast; you are on your honeymoon; you’ve come to hike; you want to explore the sea caves nearby.
Amalfi is the largest town along the coast and the perfect place to stay for those who want the luxury and beauty of Positano without the VIP nightlife. The town has a little something for everyone, with great pebble (and sometimes sandy) beaches, as well as interesting culture and history. As one of the region’s main maritime powers since at least the 6th century, Amalfi is packed with historical interest and beautiful medieval buildings.
Stay here if: You’re looking for an energetic daytime atmosphere; you want to be right in the middle of the Amalfi Coast for easy travel to the other towns on the coast; you have many different travel preferences to satisfy; spending a lot of time on great beaches is a priority for you; you’d like some art, architecture, and history along with your beach time.
Ravello is a tiny village that sits back from the coast, perched atop a cliff overlooking the sea. The most romantic places along the coast are its known jaw-dropping vistas to ogle the gardens and opulent villas. Don’t miss Villa Rufolo built in the 13th century for the wealthy Rufolo dynasty. The panoramic views here are absolutely magnificent!
Stay here if: You want peace and quiet; you don’t want to share your Amalfi Coast town with the crowds; you don’t mind not being directly on a beach; you don’t mind the lack of nightlife; you want to take beautiful travel photos; you want to relax with your loved ones.
Maiori and Minori
Maiori is home to the biggest beach on the Amalfi Coast, as well as a host of other beaches only accessible by boat. It’s a perfect destination for families with small children. It’s also notable for being an ancient Roman settlement and it’s home to some spectacular ruins, most notably the Villa Marittima Romana, one of the most important Roman archaeological sites on the coast. After exploring the town, take a boat to the stunning sea cave called the Grotta di Pandora, or some of the other beaches of Maiori accessible only by boat.
Nearby Minori enjoys a fresher microclimate than many towns on the Amalfi Coast and is almost always blessed with a pleasant breeze. Its beach is small and can be cramped, but it also soaks up the sun for the entire day. Known as the “City of Taste”, Minori’s terraces house vineyards and lemon trees, but the town’s real fame comes from its pasta. Minori has been a pasta powerhouse since the 16th century and today its fresh, carefully- made pasta is celebrated nationally. Minori’s restaurants are on the Amalfi Coast itineraries of all real gourmands. Both Minori and Maiori are still curiously crowd-free when compared to the more trendy towns on the Amalfi Coast.
Stay here if: You’re traveling with children and looking for a family-friendly atmosphere; you’re not interested in nightclubs or VIP bars; you’re hoping for a beach with some space between umbrellas; you want to avoid the crowds in Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello; you’re interested in small boat excursions; you’ve come for the pasta!
Cetara and Erchie
Cetara is a picturesque fishing village with a reputation as a gastronomic hotspot. It has been an important fishing center since medieval times and today its deep-sea-tuna fleet is considered one of the Mediterranean’s most important. At night, fishers set out in small boats armed with powerful lamps to fish for anchovies. Right beside Cetara is Erchie, a tiny hamlet with a massive Norman tower on the coast and two small beaches. Legend has it that Hercules founded the town on his arrival from Greece.
Stay here if: You want a no-frills atmosphere that is as unchanged by tourism as you are going to get on the Amalfi Coast; you are a die-hard seafood lover; you’re fascinated by ancient Greek history; you want to relax without the tourists; you’re looking for a good value along the coast.
Its size makes it less quaint, but gives it an eclectic mix of clubs, pubs, and restaurants next to cathedrals and castles. Its centro storico is also exploding with life. Here you can visit the Medieval Cathedral when you’re not lounging on one of Salerno’s many beaches, which are also bigger than most of the beaches along the typical Amalfi Coast itinerary.
Stay here if: You want to be on the main train line to Rome or Pompeii; you’re looking for convenience; you want a mix of small-town charm and city life; you’re a public transportation pro; you want something less touristy than Sorrento.
Vietri sul Mare
Vietri sul Mare is technically the last small town on the Amalfi Coast and just two miles from the city of Salerno. As with all the towns along the coast, Vietri sul Mare enjoys great food and great views, but its real claim to fame is its rich ceramics tradition. Vietri sul Mare is the cradle of Italy’s brightly- colored earthenware pottery known as majolica. In fact, the whole town seems to be covered in beautiful ceramics!
Stay here if: You don’t need tons of tourist bells and whistles; you want to avoid tourists at all costs; you’re a lover of fine ceramics; you don’t need to hang out with a celebrity crowd; you’ve come for a simple seaside holiday.
Trips & Tips
- Head to Capri – Located a quick ferry ride off the coast, the island of Capri is a popular day trip from Sorrento. On Capri, you’ll be able to find beautiful beaches, great seafood, small villages and some hiking. Make sure you go to the famous Blue Grotto, a small cave where the light turns the water a neon blue. Try to stay the night and avoid the day trippers. Once they leave, the island gets a lot better!
- Visit Ischia – Ischia is just like the island of Capri, but without all the tourists. It’s cheaper and though it lacks the blue grotto, in our opinion, it’s a better island to visit because of the fewer people.
- Explore Marina di Puolo – This picturesque seaside village has only about 150 inhabitants and a territory divided into Sorrento and Massa Lubrense. There is also Punta Campanella, a protected area notable for its biodiversity.
- Visit Punta del Cupo – While on any of the numerous Amalfi Coast tours, it makes perfect sense that you head out to visit Punta del Cupo, from where you can enjoy some really panoramic and breathtaking views of the entire Amalfi Coast, particularly Mount Vesuvius, the entire Bay of Naples and, of course, the town of Sorrento itself.
- At Amalfi Coast Pompeii would be perfect from Sorrento, given the fact that both are located so close to one another. In fact, while in Sorrento, you can schedule one day for this trip which will allow you to visit Pompeii and see its ruins at leisure with ease.
- Visit Castello Aragonese – Located on Ischia, this castle dates back to the 5th-century. At various points of time, it has served as a defensive stronghold, a noble’s court and a convent. Admission to the site costs 10 EUR.
- Seek out the best beaches by rented boat, with or without a skipper. Live unforgettable memories with your family while the sun sets. Starting at around €50 per hour or from €150 per day, a sunset cruise will be an experience truly special.
- Visit Spiaggia Grande – the main beach of Positano. From here, you’ll enjoy a lovely coastal panorama with beautiful houses and villas that surround the hillsides of Monte Commune and Monte Sant’Angelo.
Explore Amalfi Coast best events and festivals
For all the lovers of good music and concerts of classical music, the Ravello Festival is a must. Famous for its tranquil atmosphere, Ravello is positioned on the Amalfi Coast on a 350 meters high hill, offering various architecturally refined buildings. In 1880, admiring this marvelous scenery, Wagner drew inspiration for his Parsifal. Today, in his memory, in the garden of a villa, concerts of the Ravello festival are held. The Festival spans between diverging cultural areas, ranging from symphony, to chamber music, dance, visual art, cinema, literature, science, design and, for the first time, also theater. This Festival is traditionally staged at Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone.
Lemon Festival Massa Lubrense is a gastronomical festival dedicated to the lemon. Every year in July, in Piazza Vescovado, Massa Lubrense, a festival dedicated to the aromatic citrus of Sorrento is staged: the lemon. The festival aims to celebrate the smell, taste and the manner in which the lemon is cultivated and consumed according to the secrets passed down for centuries, from generation to generation. The products, typically based on the lemon, are numerous: citrus honey, lemon cream gelato, lemon crushed ice, delizie (lemon delicious), mousse, baba` al limone (traditional cake soaked in a lemon liqueur) and Limoncello.
The Grape Festival in Sorrento, in October, the biggest protagonist of this annual event is grapes and their diverse uses. The festival provides a rich program of activities that is not limited only to aspects of the exhibition and its stands, but also includes music, shows and cabaret.
The “Pesce Azzurro” is a traditional Sorrentine event in October not to miss; whoever may feel like tasting these genuine specialties, immerging in the aromas of fresh catch and salty shores, the ‘’Pesce Azzurro’’ Festival in Marina Grande is where to be!
Sorrento Jazz, one of the many events in Sorrento dedicated to music, is the Sorrento Jazz Festival, that includes an abundant musical program dedicated to all the lovers of jazz music. The Festival is held in differing locations, like the Saint Francis Cloister (Chiostro di San Francesco), churches or historical villas. Sorrento Jazz lasts approximately one week and occurs between the months of August and September.
Whatever you choose to do, a holiday to Amalfi Coast offers families the chance to explore the timeless beauty of Italy between the wonder of its top attractions (Positano, Capri, Villa Rufolo, Furore, Valle delle Ferriere) and the freshness of its local specialties. Offer your loved ones spectacular views and unforgettable experiences, while you rejuvenate your mind and soul for a long time. Because a journey here turns into a legendary one. Amalfi Coast is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life! Don’t waste your time and book your next Summer holiday here. It’s gonna be awesome!