4 days in the Amalfi Coast | Positano, Sorrento, Amalfi & Capri
A first-timer's experience and travel itinerary: Here's to four incredible days of an Italian summer paradise, beautiful architecture and romantic streets, way too much gelato, and amazing Italian food.
Colourful rectangular blocks built into cliffs that
plunge into sparkling turquoise seas.
Pristine beaches under the bright summer sun.
An Italian island paradise.
You've probably seen/pinned/read many blog posts on these very popular, very Instagrammable, UNESCO Heritage medieval towns and beaches that make up the Amalfi Coast, located just south of Naples.
And here I am, about to contribute to perhaps already a mountainous number of posts on the Amalfi Coast- with memoirs of a post-graduation trip with one of my best friends in the summer of 2019.
Our adventure began a little bit differently - for it started, with a thunderstorm.
- Travel tips -
The 'Amalfi Coast' is made up of many coastal towns. We stayed at Positano - one of the most beautiful and popular towns - known for its stunning sunsets, amazing restaurants, and architecture.
From there, we took day trips via ferries to different towns.
Positano vs Sorrento vs Amalfi /
Transportation-wise, all three towns provide easy access for you to explore the rest of the Amalfi Coast.
However, Positano was my favourite because it was quaint, and had a homey village feel to it. Returning after every day trip really felt like we were heading home!
Sorrento was like a modernised town with structured roads and stores surrounding its medieval centre.
Amalfi was a maze in comparison because the whole place was a medieval town unto itself. But it felt a lot more packed than Positano.
Getting to Positano /
The nearest airports are in Rome or Naples, from which you can either take a bus, ferry or rent a car. More transportation information here.
We actually flew to Naples airport, then booked a car that drove us 4 hours along the winding, scenic road to the top of Positano.
1. Bring comfortable footwear because there would be a lot of walking and STAIRS.
2. Pack light because you may have to carry your luggage up flights of stairs and ferries.
3. Always have some cash in hand because some of the small stalls do not accept cards.
4. By default, restaurants would serve bottles of mineral water like Acqua Panna and San Pellegrino. You can request for tap water if you want to save some money!
More travel resources /
- d a y 1 / Positano -
The afternoon sun shone brightly as the car stopped in front of the hotel. A friendly middle-aged man greeted us warmly and helped with our bags with the explosive energy that Italians have.
Our host, who explained that his family had been running the hotel for years jovially checked us in, then excitedly showed us to our room, while raving of the beautiful seaside views.
We, too in extreme excitement, hurriedly freshened up and happily proceeded to hike down the long route to the centre of town.
When heavy rain appeared almost out of nowhere.
If the weather forecast shows rain in the Amalfi Coast, this would be no light summer drizzle.
Expect a tropical thunderstorm - so come armed with umbrellas, slippers, and raincoats!
Stroll down the steep winding roads between the pastel buildings. Open the wrought-iron gates and chance down narrow stairs.
Is it another stone platform you find yourself on with a hidden art gallery to your right and a souvenir shop wafting with the scent of lemons to your left?
Or is it a cobbled street you are on? As you walk below arches of vines, your eyes taking in the warm orange buildings, the colourful garments. You hear the cheerful calling of waiters, the indiscernible chatter of the crowds and the loud, joyful marching band.
Now imagine rain- relentless rain as water gushes down the steep cobbled streets, the stairs. As the wind whips at your face, the umbrella helpless against it, and unfortunately, drenching you in the process.
I kid you not- rain in Positano was like having to hike up a waterfall. And I did so in sneakers, which was not a great idea.
My friend and I navigated blindly through the mist in silence for a bit before we laughed at our situation. No one I've spoken to who has visited this place had ever experienced anything but sun in Positano!
Thank god it only lasted a day.
- Things to do in Positano -
Shop! (While exploring the village of course!) /
Positano was brimming with lemon-scented AND lemon-shaped souvenirs.
In our fantastically planned itinerary of 'arrive in Positano, check-in, and just get lost', we came across so many clothing stores filled with bohemian-style summer dresses, florals, and colourful fabrics!
The Amalfi Coast is also well-known for handmade bejeweled leather sandals. You can either opt to buy it straight from the rack, or choose your own straps and colour, and they'll craft one for you on the spot!
Stroll along the beach to the sound of waves crashing against the sand. Watch an artist at work. Indulge in a cup of coffee as you look to the horizon of the turquoise sea, to a calm amidst the frantic summer energy. Or if you like, go for a dip in one of the famed grottos.
The Santa Maria Church /
In all honesty, we found this church by accident: it was where we had to literally take refuge as we waited for the rain to pass.
Eat amazing Italian food /
Food is such a big part of the local culture and Italy was a paradise of fresh seafood, delicious pasta and of course, gelato.
Positano is famed for its beautiful restaurants and balconies boasting stunning views. Looking back, all we really did was walk, eat, take photos, and chill. Oh, dear.
Positano was our resting spot - where we dined to sunsets and happily explored the narrow lanes. Stay tuned for an upcoming article on Positano sunsets and night scenes!
- d a y 2 / Sorrento -
Occasionally, shards of ivory cliffs penetrated the soothing, endless turquoise.
"Sorrento!" Someone shouted.
Suddenly, rectangular blocks of all shades of yellow studded the green cliffs that
emerged from the mists as our ferry drew closer to the Town of Lemons.
- Things to do in Sorrento -
First things first: The Climb to the City of Sorrento/
Upon arrival, we were met with a long winding ramp leading to a fort-like wall lined with stairs. And above it was where the prestigious hotels and restaurants lay.
So if you're thinking of staying in Sorrento, pack light!
The stairs deposited us at a very busy plaza named after the poet Torquato Tasso.
Vespas whipped across the roads, as waiters danced between tables. The aroma of coffee filled the air as people gathered at this popular hub of restaurants and cafes to people-watch.
The cobbled streets were packed. The bright morning sun shone across the yellow facades.
Joyful accordion tunes, an excited child's voice amidst the chatter, the swishing of the trees in the summer breeze, the tolling of the bell of the Sorrento Cathedral.
Ahh... that was the very spirit of summer, of life.
Explore Old Sorrento... and indulge in Gelato! /
We weaved our way through the crowds in the rambling cobbled alleys of the old town. The sharp smell of lemons filled the air. Everywhere we turned, we would see at least one store covered with crates of brightly-coloured limoncello or ceramic lemon magnets. Hence, the nickname: the 'Town of Lemons'.
And if you ever visit Sorrento, I highly recommend trying Raki. They churn up amazingly smooth and light gelato with many unique flavours! We found this store by accident and oh boy, was that a great start to our 'a gelato a day' goal when in Italy.
Lunch at the Port of Marina Grande: the fishing village /
We walked down a winding pathway to the secluded nook of the Marina Grande.
This quaint fishing village retained its laidback, rustic charm as a historical marine trading port that has been connecting Sorrento to the sea since the Roman Times.
The atmosphere differed greatly to the modern buzz of Sorrento.
Here, people dined on simple wooden platforms to the sound of seagulls and the view of a boat-filled beach and harbour. Waiters kept rushing out of the kitchens with trays of fresh seafood.
These restaurants generally open at noon, but they get really packed by around 1 pm. So come early to make sure you get a seat!
- Notes -
There wasn't much to do in the town itself as many use it as a starting point for excursions. By lunchtime, we had finished exploring Sorrento and took a mid-afternoon ferry back to Positano.
For a more comprehensive guide on transportation and accommodation in Sorrento, check out this Sorrento Travel Guide.
- d a y 3 / Amalfi -
Again we sailed - today to the romantic, artsy, coastal town of Amalfi.
In that one morning, we witnessed three weddings on the steps of the
Amalfi Cathedral as we basked in the romance in the air over gelato and calamari.
When in Italy, you just have to indulge in the local cuisine.
- Things to do in Amalfi -
We walked up a slope to the Piazza del Duomo. Quaint, rectangular medieval houses guided us to a square of shops- where children played around the fountain, while people dined or enjoyed a cup of coffee al-fresco.
And towering above them all: the renowned Amalfi Cathedral- a Roman Catholic cathedral that was filled with tourists and groups of newly-weds with their entourage and photographers.
We wedding-crashed our way up the stairs, to be greeted with tranquil cloisters and stunning interiors in a bubble of calm and awed silence.
This popular Cathedral was soon packed with tourists so I do recommend visiting early.
Explore the medieval town & eat street food! /
My sharp-eyed travel buddy spotted a small calamari stall hidden behind a long queue, and dwarfed by the shadows of the towering buildings. The half-hour wait did not disappoint! The calamari was so fresh, crispy, and juicy. And this is coming from someone who is not a fan of squid!
Along the main plaza is a heaven for art lovers: here you'll find shops selling beautiful stationery, notebooks, art, and hand-painted wooden bookmarks.
Stroll through the narrow alleys of the medieval town for a treasure hunt experience similar to that of Positano, where you may encounter many seashell magnets, accessories, and decor.
The Paper Museum /
Located high atop the hills of Amalfi, this museum was a 15-minute walk away from the central medieval town. In all honesty, I didn't find it particularly fascinating. But if you have a lot of time to spare, go forth!
Lunch by the beach /
Everywhere, restaurants and cafes were bustling with people and a flurry of food. It was a relief when we stumbled away from the crowds, down the hill, to the quiet of the empty beach. Where we settled at Stella Maris for a simple but delicious Italian fare on the sea view terrace.
- Notes -
It was late afternoon when we left Amalfi.
Amalfi is one of the biggest coastal towns along the Amalfi coast. Despite that, I felt that it had more of a quaint, nautical feel in comparison to Sorrento.
I really enjoyed it, but expect massive crowds!
- d a y 4 / Capri ... ish -
Capri - the glamorous Hollywood island.
The summer paradise where you dress your best for who
knows if you'd spot your favourite celebrity?
Due to personal matters, we, very regretfully, had to cancel this leg of the trip. But indignant, we REFUSED to leave until we've at least seen this island!
Stop 1 / The Blue Grotto Museum
... That we didn't quite make it to.
We took one of the cheapest and most popular 'Island Tour + Blue Grotto Visit' boat tours. This was an hour-long ride around the island with an optional stop at the Blue Grotto Museum.
Honestly, it got a little dull after half an hour. And when we arrived at the Blue Grotto, the entrance was covered behind so many boats and you would have to wait for around an hour on the rocky seas to enter.
My friend was feeling seasick, and our time at Capri was ticking. So after a rocky on-sea balancing act of a passenger exchange with another boat, our boat made a turn back to the mainland.
If you only want to visit the Blue Grotto Museum, I suggest taking a direct boat ride to the museum, and go EARLY!
Also, I highly recommend packing medication if you are prone to sea-sickness because that sea was swaying our small boat like a pendulum and the diesel fumes did not help.
- Travel tips / Getting around Capri -
Your boat will dock at Capri's busy harbour, the Marina Grande. But the magic really lies up that cliff, in a whole charming city hidden behind the greenery.
Central Capri is accessible via the funicular (cable car), or one of those uber-cool open-top Capri taxis - where you can zip up that cliff like a character out of an action film.
PS. Do you know the Korean series Vagabond? Basically, imagine yourself in that scene of Suzy zipping down the winding mountainside road with her hair flying behind her.
For more transportation information: Getting around Capri.
We walked down the pristine streets, our senses desperately trying to soak in every detail of the chic shopping streets, the beautiful architecture, the food, the classy yet vibrant atmosphere. Overwhelmed, our breaths caught, our voices cracked:
How do you even start to try to see everything in two hours?!
Defeated, we decided to just relax and indulge in one last amazing Italian meal and gelato.
The sun was still high in the sky when our ferry pulled away from the docks of Capri.
Once again, Positano welcomed us back warmly as we picked up our bags and bade our host goodbye who saw us off with the same energy as when we arrived.
And off we went - down that winding road, under the blistering late afternoon sun. Ruefully, we watched as the dreamy pastel blocks faded from view- like that of a fading summer dream.
This had been an amazing trip- not only was it particularly memorable as a trip to celebrate the end of my undergraduate years, but the Amalfi Coast itself had also been a wonderful, relaxing experience. In those four days, I was allowed to completely disconnect from the hustle of living in London.
Sure, the towns were packed. But to hear the seagulls, the crashing of the waves, to admire stunning sunsets or stare at the horizon- it was an escape and a memory I will forever treasure.
I hesitated to write this article for a long time. Especially when the pandemic overtook Italy and then the whole world. Travel writing seemed like such a thing of yearning. But now, I write this not out of rueful recollection, but with the intention of celebrating life and how wonderful it is to experience it.
This too shall pass, and I believe that everything can be rebuilt. Maybe even elevated to something better!
But until then, stay safe!
Thank you for reading!