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After arriving in Naples and island hopping from Procida to Ischia for our first few nights, it was time to move on to our ultimate goal – the Amalfi Coast. I’d visited Positano once before, on Round the World #4, but it was January and everything was closed for the season. I couldn’t wait to go back and explore during the summer season and share this gorgeous part of Italy with Dave.
From Ischia, we had a few different options for getting to our next stop in Positano. We could ferry back to Naples and then take the train to Sorrento, followed by a bus or boat to Positano. Or we could ferry to Capri, change boats and then head straight for Positano. Since we didn’t care for Naples at all and we loved the idea of stopping for lunch in Capri, we decided to go with option two and booked the 10:35am ferry to Capri.
The ferry ride to Capri was a rough 45-minutes across high seas but it was pleasant enough. We weren’t able to book our onward ferry to Positano from Ischia so once we got off the boat, we headed straight for Capri’s ferry ticket office to evaluate our options.
Getting to Positano
Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned high seas, all boats to Positano were canceled for the day. However, there were boats departing about every 30 minutes for Sorrento. I knew that from Sorrento we could easily catch the SITA bus directly to Positano as I had years ago on my last visit. With that in mind, we booked a ferry ticket to Sorrento for 1pm and then settled into a seaside trattoria for a trasty lunch.
The 30-minute ferry ride to Sorrento was much calmer and as a bonus featured spectacular views along the ride, especially as we arrived in port in Sorrento. It is one of the most beautiful ports in all of Europe with hotels soaring atop the cliffs and sapphire waters in the bay. Conveniently, there is an elevator built into the cliffs that will whisk you up top to the city center for just 1 euro.
Once we made it to the main square, we popped into a tourist office to get a map and review our options for getting to Positano. From there, it was a short walk to the main train station where the SITA bus stop is located.
The SITA Bus to Positano
I had pleasant memories of my previous experience with the SITA bus from Sorrento to Positano. It was just 1 euro, ran frequently (even in the off-season) and was also used as the local school bus meaning at certain times of the day it also carried cheerful local kids on their way home from school.
However, things had changed a bit since my last visit. We found the stop easily and bought our tickets, now 8 euro per person. (Either they are more expensive during the summer months or the price has increased considerably in the last 6 years!)
We had about 20 minutes to wait for the next bus and as we waited the crowd quickly swelled. So much so that I worried we wouldn’t make it onto the bus at all, despite the fact that there were only about 10 people waiting when we bought our tickets.
The tickets are not numbered, so when the bus arrives it’s first-come, first-served to get a seat. And it was a struggle to make it onto the bus with people pushing and shoving. Dave took our luggage around to the other side for stowing while I fought the crowd to get us some seats. We were lucky that we were in a decent position when the bus came to a stop, otherwise we may have had to wait for the next one.
The bus quickly filled every seat and every available standing space in the aisle for the 45-minute drive to Positano. It was packed, it was hot and it was the opposite of the pleasant, relaxed experience I’d had before. We immediately began considering other options for our return trip to Sorrento in a few days.
Arrival in Positano
Nearly an hour later, we emerged from the bus at Positano’s main bus stop into the thick of another crowd waiting to board the bus. And, generally speaking, crowds were the rule of the day everywhere we looked.
Tourists, tour groups and traffic.
It wasn’t at all reminiscent of the peaceful, coastal village I remembered and I could tell immediately that Dave was wondering why we’d come here at all (especially compared to the tourist-free paradise of Procida we’d left just two days before).
The next challenge was to get to our hotel, which would require a change to another local bus. The SITA bus driver pointed out the stop and we crossed the street with our bags to wait.
A budget-friendly find in Positano
Since we were currently traveling in Europe for a month, we were trying our best to stick to a budget. Unfortunately, the Amalfi Coast area can be a real budget-buster!
With average rates in Positano nearing $1,000 a night (and the most popular hotels like Le Sirenuse soaring well over that), it was again time to get creative.
With a little research, I discovered the gem of Le Ghiande B&B in Montepertuso, a small town nestled in the mountainside above Positano. With terrific reviews and a rate of just 90 euro a night, it almost seemed too good to be true. But the reviews convinced us to give it a try.
However, as we boarded another crowded bus to Montepertuso and began to climb higher into the hills away from Positano, I began to wonder if we’d made the right decision. Would the location be too remote for such a short stay?
The crowd thinned as the bus made its regular stops and we were finally able to breathe a bit as we emerged at the stop for Le Ghiande. The views from Montepertuso were indeed stunning but I still worried we might be too far away from the places we wanted to see during our stay.
But once we were greeted at Le Ghiande and shown to our beautiful room with its own private sea-view terrace, I began to care far less about dealing with the bus to and from town. The cool breezes from the terrace and fresh sea air would be worth it, I was sure. Not to mention for the first time all day, it was quiet. Blissfully, peacefully, quiet.
We settled into our room for a bit to regroup before heading back to find the owner for a little local advice on getting around. He gave us the schedule for the bus and told us that tickets were 1.70 euro each if bought on the bus or 1.30 euro if bought in a tabacchi shop in advance.
With map and bus schedule in hand, we headed to catch the next bus into town. Buses ran about every 30 minutes and the ride into central Positano took about 20 minutes. Once we got the hang of the system, our location in Montepertuso seemed far more an advantage than an inconvenience.
In fact, for the next two days, every time we emerged from the bus into the tourist-laden streets of Positano we were even more grateful we’d chosen not to stay in the center of town. Don’t get me wrong, Positano is gorgeous. But in the summer months it is also wall-to-wall with tourists.
Our plan for the rest of the afternoon was to explore the town of Positano, find some dinner and decide how we would get out to see the rest of the coastline the next day. With just one full day, I really wanted to make the most of our time by taking a boat tour of the coast.
After our experience with the SITA bus earlier that day, I couldn’t stomach the thought of getting to Amalfi or Atrani that way. Taking to the water seemed like a good strategy to see a lot in a short amount of time.
We made our way down to the beach and visited the stands of some of the boat companies set up near the pier. One option for touring the coast by sea was the Metro del Mare, the public boats that connect nearly every town along the Amalfi Coast and Capri. Tickets cost between 9-15 euro depending on the route. Other private companies offer certain routes between towns on a regular schedule for a similar fee.
A romantic splurge…
Since we had saved so much money on our hotel and our 2nd wedding anniversary was just a few days away, Dave and I were in the mood for something special. We decided to splurge on a private boat trip with a company called Cassiopea for the next day.
Yes, it was a little pricey (380 euro for a 3-hour trip) but it would give us the freedom to visit all the places we wanted to see in a single afternoon. And, as an added bonus, we’d leave the busy streets of Positano in our wake for the day.
After booking our boat trip, we headed back up to town to a cute restaurant by the main bus stop for dinner before hopping on the bus back to Le Ghiande for the night. That night we sipped limoncello from our terrace and marveled at the difference in atmosphere between Montepertuso and Positano. A town full of locals on a quiet mountainside with million-dollar views versus a town full of tourists with million-dollar hotel prices.
For us, it was no contest, we’d made the right choice.
Exploring the Amalfi Coast by Sea
The next morning we slept in and then enjoyed panoramic sea views over breakfast on Le Ghiande’s expansive terrace before catching the bus into town. Our boat ride was scheduled for 11am and by 10:45am we were at the beach and ready to go.
We were shown to our boat for the day (a gorgeous teak-trimmed Italian speedboat straight out of Amalfi Coast central casting) and introduced to our captain, Antonio.
Antonio outlined the rough plan for the day – a cruise along the coast to the towns of Praiano, Amalfi, Atrani, Minori and Maiori with plenty of secluded beaches, grottoes and cliffside fortresses in between. We could make stops in any of the towns if we wished or stop for a swim anywhere we liked. Or we could choose to stay on the boat and have more time to see a variety of things from the sea.
As soon as we threw off the lines in Positano and headed out to the serenity of the sea, we knew we wanted to spend all of our time on the water enjoying our own slice of private Amalfi Coast paradise.
Over the next few hours we experienced the jaw-dropping beauty of the Amalfi Coast as it is best seen, from the sea. We cruised along the jagged coastline stopping to peek in blue grottoes, passing the Marina di Praia, the hidden beach at Furore, countless 5-star hotels overlooking the sea and the towns of Amalfi, Atrani, Minori and Maiori.
The freedom of having a private boat allowed us to see so much more than we could have by land or by public boat. Yes, for us it was a splurge but we felt it was worth every penny.
As we began our ride back toward Positano, Antonio popped the cork on a bottle of prosecco and we lounged on the forward deck sipping wine hand-in-hand and savoring the views for the entire ride back. A more romantic 2nd anniversary I could not imagine.
Back in Positano, we grabbed a light lunch and spent some time wandering the shops and taking photos of the town before heading back to the bus stop in the hopes of finding dinner somewhere near the hotel that night.
We also popped in a car service office and made the executive decision to book a private car back to Sorrento for the next day. At 70 euro, it seemed well worth the price to avoid the bus.
After such an incredible day, we didn’t think anything could top it for dinner. While waiting for the bus back to Montepertuso, we ran into one of the guys we’d chatted with at Cassiopea when we booked our boat trip the previous day. He lived in Montepertuso and was headed home for the night with his girlfriend.
We got to chatting about our day and we asked if they knew of any good restaurants near our hotel. They both immediately recommended La Terra (which had also come highly-recommended by the folks at Le Ghiande) so we decided to give it a try. And wow, I’m so glad we did! It turned out to be the best meal of the entire trip.
Just a few hundred feet down the road from Le Ghiande, La Terra is an ancient stone farmhouse overlooking the bay of Positano. The views from the dining room were out of this world but the food was even better. A family-run restaurant, they grow much of the food they serve in their own gardens. We both tried different salads and pasta dishes and everything we tasted was outstanding.
We were lucky to walk in without a reservation and get a table and were even surprised by the very reasonable prices (unlike in Positano proper). If you’re not staying in Montepertuso, this restaurant is still well worth a trip, they also offer free shuttle service from your hotel.
After lingering over a romantic dinner, we made the short walk back to Le Ghiande to enjoy a little more time on our terrace before bed. It was a fitting end to a marvelous day.
Positano to Sorrento
The next morning we again slept in before enjoying one final breakfast from the terrace. Our driver arrived promptly at 10am to take us back to Sorrento and we were grateful to say goodbye to the local buses, especially since we were again traveling with luggage.
By 11am we had arrived at the Hilton Sorrento Palace to spend one final day enjoying Sorrento before heading on to central Italy the next day. I’d stayed at the Hilton on my previous trip to the Amalfi Coast because none of the hotels in Positano were open in January, Sorrento was the closest I could get. But I’d found it to be a wonderful hotel and it was even better than I remembered it.
We were checked into a spacious room with a terrace overlooking Sorrento and Mount Vesuvius. The plan for the day was to hop on the train to visit the ruins of Pompeii and then return to spend the remainder of the afternoon and evening in Sorrento.
A Day Trip to Pompeii
Situated between Sorrento and Naples, Pompeii is an easy day trip from either city. The walk from the Hilton to the Sorrento train station was a quick 10 minutes and 30 minutes later we were stepping off the train near the entrance to the ruins of Pompeii.
At the turn of the first century A.D., the town of Pompeii was a thriving resort area catering to Rome’s wealthiest citizens. Located off the Bay of Naples, just 5 miles from the base of Mount Vesuvius, the town’s paved streets were lined with elegant homes, artisans’ shops, cafes, taverns and even a 20,000-seat arena.
In August 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius famously erupted sending a plume of ashes and scorching-hot volcanic gases so high into the air that it could be seen for hundreds of miles. It was estimated that on the eve of the eruption there were nearly 20,000 people living in or near Pompeii. Many were able to escape but more than 2,000 people died as millions of tons of volcanic ash fell to the ground burying the city.
Pompeii remained abandoned and untouched for 2,000 years until a group of explorers uncovered the city in 1748. They quickly discovered that under all that dust, the city was remarkably well-preserved with entire buildings intact and skeletons frozen right where they’d fallen.
Today, the excavation of Pompeii continues, captivating archaeologists and tourists, alike. Walking the eerie streets and exploring the homes and theater with the imposing facade of Mount Vesuvius in the distance is a uniquely fascinating experience.
You could spend days discovering the site but under the intense summer heat we lasted about 3 hours before returning to the train station for the short ride back to Sorrento.
Last night in Sorrento
Once back at the hotel, we changed for dinner and walked into town to wander the quaint streets of Sorrento and do a little last-minute Amalfi Coast shopping. Later, we settled into a seaside café for sunset drinks and then found a terrific, off-the-beaten-path trattoria for dinner.
It was the perfect way to wrap up our incredible (and extremely affordable) week in the Amalfi Coast!
Tomorrow, we take the train back to Naples to pick up a rental car for the remainder of our Italian adventure. Coming up, our Week 2 itinerary includes San Marino, Florence, Elba Island and the Italian Riviera.
Next stop, the mountainous microstate of San Marino!