The Ultimate Amalfi Coast Guide For The First Timer

The Ultimate Amalfi Coast Guide For The First Timer

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After years of seeing pictures of the beautiful Amalfi Coast, I finally got the chance to spend a week exploring all of the charming towns along this Italian coastline. I absolutely LOVED it + am already dying to go back, however, I also learned a lot on this trip + have some great tips to share with you to avoid all the mistakes I made!

The beauty of the Amalfi Coast, is that there are so many small towns and islands dotting the coastline that it’s near impossible to get bored. I’d recommend basing yourself somewhere + traveling to the various towns + islands from there versus trying to stay in each spot. It’ll save yourself a lot of stress + all of the towns are relatively easy to get to. If you’re just here for restaurant recommendations, scroll to the bottom!

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Days 1 -3: Ischia

Ischia is a small volcanic island off the coast of Naples, + is on the Northern end of the Amalfi Coast. We knew we wanted to spend a few days on an island, + opted to stay here over the more popular tourist spot of Capri for a few reasons. One, Ischia is SO much more affordable than Capri. While I didn’t notice a huge difference in price for accommodations, I did notice a big difference when it came to shopping, eating, + transportation. The second big reason that led us to stay on Ischia over Capri, is that Ischia is far less touristy than Capri. While Ischia still had plenty of tourists, it was noticeably more local + authentically Italian, which for us was a draw.

For our only full day in Ischia we decided to rent a car ($60 for an automatic for the day - we rented day of + didn’t shop around so I’m sure you could find a cheaper deal!) + drove the island. We headed first to Forio which is a cute little town on the Western side of the island. There are plenty of beaches here as well if you decide to relax before continuing on your drive. We didn’t find the shopping in Forio to be the best on the island, so I wouldn’t use this area as a shopping area. From Forio, we took another 20 minute drive to Sant’Angelo. Sant’Angelo is a great town to grab a bite to eat + relax on the beach. Sant’Angelo doesn’t have a ton of shops, so I would say this is the best place in Ischia to lay out.

We spent most of our evenings exploring the area near Porto d’Ischia, which is actually just called Ischia. We found this to be the best shopping + is where we ate most of our meals. It’s also very close to Ischia’s largest tourist spot, Castello Aragonese. We never made it here unfortunately, but weren’t too upset about that. We were both on the tail end of our month long travels + found Ischia the perfect place to slow down + just enjoy actually being on vacation.

The stairs…oh my goodness. They were never ending in Praiano. My Apple Watch said we climbed ~100 flights of stairs a day.

The stairs…oh my goodness. They were never ending in Praiano. My Apple Watch said we climbed ~100 flights of stairs a day.

After we left Ischia we decided to use Praiano as a base to explore the rest of the coastline. Praiano is a smaller town just 15 minutes south of Positano. We stayed in Praiano for similar reasons to Ischia. It’s far less touristy than its’ neighbors, Positano + Amalfi, + has a much more authentic vibe to the town. We also found the food + service to be far superior to anything we had in any of the other towns on the coast.

Day 4: Praiano + Positano

We spent the first day on the mainland coast to enjoy our new little home for the remainder of the week. It’s important to note, Praiano is not a huge town + doesn’t have many shops like the rest of the towns on the Amalfi Coast. While there are great restaurants they’re fairly spread out + there is no real main part of town. We walked down to a beach on the south side of Praiano + camped out for the day. We went to Marina di Praia Beach. This is one of the main beaches in Praiano + has a plethora of restaurants surrounding it so you can easily spend the day there. This is also where the majority of the boat tours + water taxis depart from. Note: It’s the norm here to rent a chair + umbrella. We spent anywhere from $13-25 for two chairs + an umbrella.

After spending the day at the beach we went back to our Airbnb to relax + get ready for dinner. We took the bus into Positano ($1.30 one way + only a 25 minute ride, but you can’t buy a ticket on the bus!! Make sure to buy a ticket beforehand - usually there is a little grocery store/corner store right next to the bus stop that sells tickets). The view of Positano looks EXACTLY like the Instagrams you always see, however, we were really thankful we didn’t stay in Positano. It’s overly saturated with tourists + the restaurants are all overcrowded + overpriced. We were thankful to go there for an evening, but didn’t return after our dinner trip. We took a cab back that ended up costing $40.

Day 5: Amalfi

We took a bus to Amalfi (the same bus that takes you to Positano, still $1.30 + still only a 25 minute drive). We enjoyed Amalfi much more than Positano, but again were glad to be staying in a quieter + more local town vs. the crowded Amalfi. We spent a few hours wandering the town + picked up gifts for our family + friends back home. Then we took a 15 minute walk to get away from the hustle + bustle of the town to a quieter beach in the town of Atrani. We spent the afternoon at Spiaggia di Atrani + enjoyed the beach (+ the fact that we were able to order drinks directly to our chairs!). We took the same bus back to Praiano + enjoyed a little down time before having dinner in Praiano.

Day 6: Capri Boat Tour

We decided to do a Capri boat tour so that we could compare Ischia to Capri. We did our boat tour through La Boa Boats. It cost $80/pp + we were on a boat with 10 other people. They picked us up from our Airbnb + then we started our boat tour down the coast + over to the Gallos Island + then continued to a few of the famed grottos. After an hour of sailing, we made it to Capri where we were dropped off for 4 hours. Once we were on Capri we took the bus ($2) up to the main town + strolled the streets to do more shopping. While we were glad to have checked Capri off our list, it was crazy expensive + again the number of tourists was crazy. After we left Capri we were taken to another grotto + then anchored at a few different spots to jump in for a swim. If you have the time, I don’t think it was a bad way to spend our day, but I wouldn’t prioritize it on my list of things to do. I’d also be willing to pay more for a private boat tour depending on your budget.

Day 7: Pompeii + Vesuvius

We bought a bus ticket that would take us from Praiano to Pompeii + Vesuvius. The bus cost $35 + does not include entrance to either site. Because our bus was late it left us with only 1.5 hours at Pompeii, which was a little bit of a time crunch considering we also had to wait in line to buy tickets ($15/pp). I would recommend doing the audio tour or a tour group because without either, you’ll just be staring at ruins that you have no knowledge of…which isn’t particularly interesting. Looking back, we would have preferred to just do Pompeii + skip Vesuvius so that we would have more time + could have gone to the museum at Pompeii.

From Pompeii it’s a 40 minute bus to Vesuvius + the bus drops you off for 2 hours. It’s a 15 minute “hike” up to the top where you can see into the crater. It was impressive how large the crater was + you get incredible views of Naples, however, it’s a long time to be left there considering you probably won’t spend more than 15 minutes looking at the crater…we ended up spending about an hour sitting in the little “restaurant” at the base of Vesuvius waiting for the bus. Note: Tickets to Vesuvius are $10/pp + they do not take credit cards nor does the restaurant at the base of Vesuvius.

Where to Eat + Drink:

  • Porto 51 (Ischia) - Located right in Porto d’Ischia, this is a cool bar to grab a drink in + watch all the boats come + go. It has a noticeably distinct vibe from the rest of the bars + restaurants on this strip which is what drew us to it. A+ drinks + atmosphere.

  • Ristorante Alberto (Ischia) - We came here on our first night after strolling from town down to the water to try to find a good view for dinner + that’s exactly what we found here! Being right on the water you can guarantee that the seafood will be delicious + fresh - they even boast themselves on having no freezer to emphasize that their seafood is that fresh!

  • Ristorante Lo Scoglio (Ischia) - We stopped in here when we first got to Sant’Angelo + enjoyed a drink + app before continuing into the main part of town. This little bar is tucked in below the cliffs + is right on the beach. They even have lounge chairs if you want to stay for a swim!

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  • Cafe Novanta Quattro (Praiano) - This is a great little breakfast spot right by the bus stop, which made it easy for us to stop in before catching our bus in the morning.

  • Ristorante M’ama (Praiano) - Hands down our BEST meal. The view, the drinks, the food, + the service were all stellar. We were greeted with a complimentary glass of champagne + appetizer + then enjoyed delicious fresh seafood + pasta. For dessert, I enjoyed a deconstructed tiramisu that was the best tiramisu I had on our entire Amalfi Coast trip. To finish it off, we had complimentary limencello to close out our meal.

  • La Moressa (Praiano) - We stopped in here for lunch on our way up from the beach + had great views of the coast + a delicious pizza. It was exactly what we needed. While we didn’t stop by for dinner, it was busy every night we passed it + had a great, more casual atmosphere.

  • Ristorante Franchino (Praiano) - Franchino is built right into the cliff on the way down to Marina di Praia. They also greeted us with complimentary champagne + appetizers (yay)! We had more delicious pasta + seafood here. Also, because the outdoor seating is located right along a pathway vs. on a patio, it provides some great people watching!

  • Africana (Praiano) - Africana is a nightclub in Praiano that is built right into a cave on the coast with crazy water views. It’s expensive ($20 for a gin + tonic), but it was so fun to spend the night dancing + it’s one of the only places that you can really go out in in Praiano.

  • Il Pirata (Praiano) - We stopped in here for our last night to enjoy one last meal right on the water. We enjoyed more fresh pasta + seafood. This was by far the busiest restaurant we went to which provided a good atmosphere. The bar on the level above would also be a great place to stop in for drinks before dinner (here or elsewhere).

  • Ristorante Costa Diva (Praiano) - I am only including this place because it continually popped up on a list when we were looking for the best restaurants in Praiano. I would NOT go here. It was expensive, service was bad, there were ants on the table…need I say more? There are so many other yummy restaurants in Praiano that you should not even bother adding this one to your list.

  • Ristorante Al Palazzo (Positano) - We stumbled upon this hotel + restaurant when we visited Positano. The courtyard is spectacular + while the drinks were more expensive than neighboring Praiano, they were quite large + yummy! We only stayed for drinks, but based on the quality of the drinks + apps I would have loved to stay for dinner!

  • Terrazza Brunella (Capri) - WOW. The views here were superb + almost made the prices worth it (seriously, it was $9 for a Coke here). We only stopped in for a drink + an appetizer, but it was a great spot to relax in for an hour before continuing to explore the island.

Note: It’s important to note that it’s smart to make a reservation before heading out to eat. Especially if you’d like outdoor seating with a view (we recommend listing this when you make your reservation).

Transportation

I flew into Naples + then took the Alibus shuttle ($5) to the ferry terminal to catch our ferry to Ischia. Many people also fly into Rome + take the train down. I would look at flights to both airports + see what is cheaper. The ferries are reasonably priced + we paid ~$20 for our ferry to Ischia. I would say, that it’s important to plan out your transportation as some ferries don’t run frequently or even every day.

There are plenty of buses along the Amalfi Coast that are cheap + run every hour. We used the buses a lot + found them to be useful + inexpensive. Make sure that you buy your bus ticket before you enter the bus. They do not let you buy a ticket on board. Most of the time, there is a small store next to or near the bus station that will sell you the ticket. Despite other reviews online, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to rent a car. The driving is crazy, but as long as you’re cautious + okay with being passed I would definitely rent a car next time.

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Amalfi Coast was absolutely beautiful + I already know that there are places I want to go back to + places I wish we had time to see on our trip. It’s one of those places that I just know I’ll want to repeatedly return to + never tire of. If you’ve been to the Amalfi Coast be sure to comment below with your favorite spots!

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