The Amalfi coast is a stretch of coastline just south of Naples on the Sorrento Peninsula. It's made up with a number of villages dotted along the UNESCO world heritage site. It was the first 'we need to see that' thing we've passed on our travels. It's a major bucket-lister.
It's also so, so not welcoming in a campervan. The winding, cliff-side roads are tight and as always, the Italians have their own way of driving (fast.) Seeing that the Peninsula offers a few attractions, we actually rented an AirBnb (two bedroom house with balcony and was cheaper than any campsite) parked up the van and got around on a scooter for the week.
So our week in Amalfi was also our first week out of the #VanLife since starting in August. It felt very guilty. But alas, the show goes on. Here's our highlights.
Possibly the most famous village on the drive, it was also our closest stop. We gave an afternoon to the village as soon as we got the scooter. The picture-perfect setting looks as good as it does on camera. Coming from Sorrento, we drove 'behind' the houses and didn't get to appreciate the view until we were basically right down on the black sand beach. It was a delayed sense of gratification.
What's noteworthy is that the beach had about 10 people on it. Possibly all locals, too.
Visiting Positano in November has pros and cons, with that being one of them. It was still warm enough to swim if you wanted, and it's important to remember that this village is practically overrun with tourists during high season. The beach is covered in sunbeds and you are shoulder to shoulder with people.
November travel (along with Covid) meant that the place was practically dead. This is perfect for those that just want to chill on the beach, take it slow, etc. It is a problem, though, if you are there for a week. If you are there for 'the good life' and have holiday money ready to spend, you should come earlier in the year. About 90% of the shops were closed, no boat tours running and restaurants were closed for the season (not all, but most).
So yeah, we had Positano all to ourselves, but there wasn't a lot to be had. That suited us. We're still on a budget and the main attraction was the village itself and the experience of riding a scooter down an iconic road. We had a gelato and cruised on.
Amalfi and Ravello
After Positano, you are treated to about 30 minutes of winding roads, through tiny villages and mini tunnels. Amalfi is obviously the main village on the coast and apparently gets busier than Positano, so keep that in mind. We didn't do a whole lot here besides get gelato again... It seemed beautiful, but we weren't looking to buy anything, and again, it's pretty quiet at this time of year.
Ravello is another town just up (literally) from Amalfi. It's not on the coast but any trip planner would tell you to spare some time and visit this village. It's boujee, with beautiful views and gives another unique perspective of the coast. With everything closed (except a pizzeria...) we ate, strolled around and got back on the road.
Of course, there are some attractions in both towns, but being on a schedule and with a lot of things closed, we didn't really indulge. We wanted the road, and by God did we get it. A definite pro to travelling at this time is that the road is empty, too. In the summer, it's bus after bus, standstill traffic, which would really take the magic away from this place, we feel.
If you wanted to plan a trip to the Amalfi coast, here's your general best tactic (we feel).
Use Salerno or Sorrento as your base. Sorrento is the side that we stayed on (we didn't stay in Sorrento itself, but were west of Amalfi.) From Sorrento you have a town with plenty of activity in the Summer. You can also see Capri for a day with boats leaving from the port. Positano is not too far away, and the Amalfi coast in general is easily reachable.
Or, stay in Salerno. Salerno is a town to the east of the Amalfi coast and is closer to Amalfi and Ravello than Sorrento is. It's also apparently a cheaper place to stay than Sorrento, which can be important, and apparently has a nice beach, too.
From either of these locations, we would rent a scooter. It's just more fun, isn't it? The bus runs and is cheap, but the actual experience of riding down the Amalfi coast was a big plus for us. With the scooter, you can also reach places that aren't as popular. Such as..
We had no idea what to expect with this beach. Most of the beaches on the Peninsula are small and rocky. It wasn't too surprising to see one of the top rated beaches having boulders on it in the Google review, but on we went.
To get down to the beach, it's a pretty steep decline on a private road for about 25 minutes. As you get further down, though, the trees clear and the view comes out.
Crystal clear waters with Capri sitting in the distance. We went on a weekday and were accompanied by about 4 other people. It was so chill and disconnected from the main road.
The highlight of the beach is the small natural jumping platform. It's about 3-4 metres high and creates a swimming pool almost, with how it's separated from the rest of the sea.
We ended up coming here 3 times. Even on the weekend there was no more than 20 people there and the beauty doesn't seem to fade.
It was the prettiest piece of coast that Leslie has seen so far, and it was only 6 weeks ago that we were passing the Costa Brava in Catalunya. The beaches by Positano and Amalfi and quite small and very nice, but this place blew them away.
Visiting the Amalfi coast was a bucket list experience and it didn’t let us down at all. The week prior was relatively stressful, so staying on the peninsula was a majorly satisfying decision.
Amalfi coast is not recommended by van at all. The roads are tight and narrow and there are literal signs prohibiting the coast route between 6am - midnight. In a van, you will have to find a base and view the coast a different way. It’s also worth noting that the roads in general aren’t catered towards large vehicles and there’s few places to park comfortably.
You are definitely best to accept the fact that you’re holidaying in an expensive area and not to force the experience in a van.
Though it was a holiday, we still did it pretty cheap. Here’s the breakdown (everything was split due to Leslie and Bianca travelling together.)
AirBnB 1 week: €115 (€57.5 each)
125cc Scooter Rental 5 days: €100 (€50 each)
Scooter Petrol: €7 (€3.50 each)
Food (we ate out just once): €58 (€29 each)
Activities: €0 (Beach is free, road is free. Anything extra is unnecessary 😫)
That is Big Bang for your buck.
Leslie has probably spent that much on Lidl pastries already.
The main save was the AirBnB. It was weirdly low, even compared to the rest of the area. We got very lucky with accommodation, we were even given an extra 10% discount for no real reason. You could easily double or even triple the accommodation for a visit during non Covid times.
We also got a €30 discount (1 day free) on the scooter, and our single meal out was in a pizzeria.. We didn’t splash out, and we didn’t feel any need to.
Where to now?
We have brought the van south yet again, heading to Cliento National park.
Italy has designed a traffic light system of Yellow, Orange and Red for each region.
Yellow means theres a 10pm curfew and museums are closed.
Orange means you can’t leave your region for any non essential reason.
Red means it’s an old school lockdown and you can’t leave your town without a self declaration form.
Only a handful of regions are orange or red, so we plan on keeping an eye on the news and staying in the yellow areas. Pretty simple.
We plan on catching a flight to Ireland on Dec 20th so we wont stray too far from our current region, Campania.
We actually planned on seeing the two regions south of us, Calabria and Sicily. Both of these regions are now in Orange or Red status 🥰
We’ll see how we get on.