Last May, I had the opportunity to visit one of the world's most beautiful destinations: the Amalfi Coast. I seldom use those words. The last time I was so moved was a visit to Plitvice National Park in Croatia, just outside of the capital of Zagreb. We'll save those sentiments for another post.
Taken right off Wikipedia, the Amalfi Coast is a 50-kilometer stretch of coastline along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region. Popular cities in the region include Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento, and Ravello. In my own words, it's a 2-3 hour trek outside of Naples or Salerno with no direct or easy way of getting there. This is where the adventure begins.
Just short of a camel ride, the smartest thing you can do ahead of your arrival is to have a few options in your back pocket, in case something goes unplanned. The morning of my arrival into Positano, I received a travel notification from the ferry company, Travelmar, alerting me that all boats departing Salerno were cancelled due to high winds. Luckily I was coming from Venice, which gave me extra time to plan. I eventually rerouted through Naples by train, transferred to a regional train into Sorrento, followed by a bus ride to Positano. What began as a 3-hour train to ferry itinerary, turned into an all-day excursion. This small hiccup didn't deter me from getting to this magical place and it shouldn't stop you either. Here's a few travel tips to consider as you're planning your Amalfi Coast bucket list trip.
Know Your Surrounding Cities: Naples and Salerno
I believe my readers appreciate the value of pre-planning. One of the best ways to travel savvy is to know your surrounding geography and the transportation options available within a 50-100 mile radius (2-hour drive) of your destination. From planes, trains, to busses, each additional option could save your trip from derailing. For example, in my hometown of San Francisco, you're able to access the city from 2 additional way points: San Jose and Oakland. Both cities have major international airports and easy access to regional trains or local car service. Consider flying into OAK or SJC instead of SFO, which is notorious for weather related cancellations or delays. An understanding of your surroundings could save you considerable time.
Now, back to Positano.
The two bookend metro hub cities that surround the Amalfi Coast are Naples and Salerno. These two cities are your jump off points if you intend on using public transportation to access this coastal region. Salerno is the perfect option for a ferry, while Naples for the train. There are certainly other options, but to keep this post simple, I consider Naples and Salerno to be the best options.
Trenitalia, Circumvesuviana, and Travelmar
The inherent challenges of traveling to a new place is communication. Dialects vary between countries, social cues can be taken out of context, and there's also cultural norms to consider. While I wouldn't worry about taking a Rosetta stone course, I find it helpful to know a few key words from each language, particularly transportation companies. What's the name of the largest train company? How about a reliable boat company? Being able to quickly recognize those brands will significantly help as you make decisions on the fly.
The primary veins of transportation in/out of the Amalfi Coast is typically some combination of train, ferry, bus, and/or car. The most common companies are: Trenitalia, Italy's largest train company, Circumvesuviana, the Campania region's main train service, and Travelmar, a local ferry service.
My intended route called for a train ride from Venice into Salerno on Trenitalia, followed by a ferry ride from Salerno to Positano on Travelmar. My eventual route started with a train ride into Naples on Trenitalia, connecting to a regional train with Circumvensuviana to Sorrento, followed by a local bus ride from Sorrento's train station into Positano. Bus tickets are easy to come by once you step off the train in Sorrento.
For costs, you can expect to pay around €100 total for everything each way. The travel time between Naples and Sorrento is an hour, followed by a 1.5 hour bus ride from Sorrento to Positano.
Below is an illustration of my intended route (1 - right side) and my eventual route (2 - left side). As you can see, each of these three companies played a key role in my trip.
Asking For Help
Pre-planning for a trip is incredibly fulfilling. But, no matter how much time you spend up front, there are some elements that are out of your control (cough cough, weather). And, that's ok. The morning I received notification of my cancelled ferry, I turned to the next best option: ask a local for help. I innately believe people enjoy helping others so I spoke with a representative from Travelmar for options and reached out to our hotel in Positano for help, as well. Being able to review my ideas with a local was incredibly helpful and gave me the confidence to make a sound decision.
It was a moment of relief to step off the bus in Positano after a longer-than-planned travel day. But, the fulfillment and joy of getting to this remote part of Italy was all the more satisfying, even after an additional 6 hours of travel time. With our arrival, it was time to equip each hand with a glass of vino and gelato, respectively.