I’ve never met a single person who would say no to a trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast. In fact, for many, it’s the ultimate wedding or honeymoon destination – also now popular with backpackers, and rightfully so. Situated to the east of Naples, the Amalfi Coast is a 50-kilometer stretch that runs along the edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula.
Jamie had gifted us a flight to Naples as my Christmas present. To set things straight, he became keenly more interested in a trip to Naples following a boxset binge of the Sopranos. But I’m not complaining. It was the perfect opportunity for me to introduce us to the Amalfi Coast for the first time and so it was a win-win.
While only a short trip, 3 nights and 4.5 days, we prioritized the cliffs of Positano and a food tour in Sorrento, then a quick stop to the ruins in Pompeii and a traditional Napolese pizza at the famous L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in downtown Naples on our way home. If we had more time, I would have loved to spend it in Amalfi, Ravello, and the islands of Ischia and Capri – but there’s always a next time. So, let me tell you about Positano…
Getting to Positano is half the fun. If you’re in no rush, I highly recommend taking an open-air ferry, just make sure you check the schedules in advance. The highlight of my trip was taking the ferry from Salerno to Positano, sun beaming on our faces as we passed the tiny cliffside towns from the sea. It appeared as if the clouds could touch the tips of the churches, we saw old stone fortresses built into rocks and antiquated houses set amongst vineyards. It was all so peaceful, the sound of waves and the sun overhead made me feel lucky to finally be in the much-in-demand Amalfi Coast.
After arriving in Positano by ferry we were greeted by a porter who offered to take our luggage to our hotel. “No!” We sneered, we’ll manage fine. Oh, how naive we were. Has anyone told you about the stairs?!
With luggage in tow, we schlepped it up further and further, hoping the next set of steps would be the end, when in fact it was still only the beginning. Stopping to catch our breaths, we received words of encouragement from those passing by, they’d done this already and didn’t envy us. But it was worth it, to stop and look out at the blue ocean and beautifully weathered Italian houses, colorful B&Bs and the rugged mountainous setting around us.
We quickly discovered that the multilayers of Positano are beautiful looking up, and just as stunning looking down at the town and the sea below. It’s charming in its own right, it is the Italian med after all. But it’s not for those unfit or very accessible, the stairs definitely make it even more memorable. As do the hordes of tourists and day-trippers from Sorrento.
For a day and a half, we ate fresh seafood like kings, drank our fair share of local Calabrian wine and explored the gelaterias, art galleries, souvenir shops, and restaurants, taking a new set of stairs each time to uncover different places. The weather gods weren’t in our favor though, so there was no sun bedding to be had. However, an afternoon sipping 10 Euro Spritz’s (trust me, that’s a steal) and people watching at seafront Blu Bar was the perfect way to spend it.
For sunset, we made our way cliffside to Franco’s Bar, an Instagrammer’s dream, with lemon trees set against deep blues and limoncello yellow decor, upmarket cocktails and chilled out beats. You pay for the view and the price to be seen in this crowd, but hey, it’s worth 20 Euro for at least one drink for the sunset alone.
Another great spot is tucked around the corner from the main beach, a short walk brings you to Hotel Pupetto, with ocean views away from the crowds and a quieter and smaller beach to spend the afternoon.
Where to eat in Positano
Chez Black was a top favorite. Reasonably priced for being beachfront, they also honored my reservation and gave us an ocean facing table. Their signature dish is the sea urchin, but we came for the vongole. Simple al dente pasta and the sweetest clams I’ve ever had. We were impressed by their wine list as well as their 8 Euro cocktails. Jamie was most excited with their wall of fame, it appeared to be Denzel Washington’s favorite restaurant, amongst other celebrities.
Even better, the staff were excellent too. They recommended Fly Bar for a drink post dinner, built into the cliff with seaside views, jazz, and a banging 20 Euro coffee negroni. Situated above Music on the Rocks, which also comes highly recommended by a friend for a big night out as it’s the only club in town. They own these venues too, hence the recommendation.
La Tagliata was the one I was looking forward to the most. A family restaurant set in the town of Montepertuso high above Positano, they’ll arrange a private transfer for free – the views are outstanding as you wind up and up the mountainside, it’s a bit nerve-wracking but fun. Or you can go physical and take the thousands of steps up and work hard for your dinner. Served family style, there’s no menu and you get what’s grown from the garden with their own brand of wine all for 45 Euros, cash only. You are treated like one of the family, even visiting mama’s kitchen to snap photos with the staff.
We started with antipasta of Serrano ham, local cheese and pickled veg, arancini, and eggplant parmigiana. Wow, that’s a lot to start! This was followed by 4 kinds of pasta: ravioli, gnocchi, ricotta cheese cannelloni and zucchini over cortege – a pasta we’ve never had before. Take your time because as soon as your plate is empty, out comes the next course. It was a mixed grill of chicken, beef, pork, rabbit, lamb with fresh skin-on fries and salad, but this changes all the time. Finally, for dessert, we were served fresh fruit, a variety of cakes and limoncello. Stuffed.
The multiple courses upon courses were impressive, as was the warmness of the family such as Renato, the self-proclaimed black sheep of the family and Letizia who waited on us. But I just wasn’t that overly keen on the meal itself. Good, but not great. If you come here, it’s for the experience and I would still recommend it for that alone.
La Cambusa is another one that seems like it’s made for tourists as it’s right on the seafront, but the quality of the fresh seafood is excellent. The view from upstairs is fantastic, and we were blown away with our seafood scampi and lobster linguini. Mama mia it was good!
Highly recommended restaurants in Positano (that we didn’t try)
Da Vicenzo – If I had time for one more this is where I would have gone but we couldn’t get in without a reservation. A lively family-run restaurant with an emphasis on fresh fish, about halfway up the steep steps, reserve for an outside table with ocean views.
Ristorante da Bruno – Cliffside pavement tables overlooking the town, known for their quality of produce.
Casa e Bottega – For a light, healthy meal for breakfast or lunch (from 12); don’t take reservations.
Next 2 – Very trendy and glamorous wine bar, but traditional in its roots. It’s expensive but we heard good things from Canadians we met that it was worth it for a ‘special’ experience.
Ristorante Max – Where locals go for pizza and super fresh seafood, also part of an art gallery. The stuffed zucchini (courgette) flowers come recommended
Collina Bakery – The only takeaway coffee in town, also baked goods, desserts, pizza, and gelato.
How to get to Positano from Naples Airport
As I mentioned above, getting to Positano is half the fun.
By car is by far the quickest (if not in tourist season when the roads can be backed up) and most efficient, if you can handle the tight turns, drops and narrow passes on the windy roads. But they say the amazing views of the ocean below are worth it. Private hire transfers go from 60-100 Euro or you can book the Positano Shuttle in advance for 28 per person each way.
Alternatively, the bus from the airport makes two stops, Naples Central Station (15 minutes) or the Port (Molo) (30 minutes).
If getting off at Naples Central, you can then take a train to Salerno (40 mins) and then catch the Travel Mar Ferry to Positano. This is what we did because it was our only sunny day and we wanted to maximize the views from the sea. We didn’t regret it one bit! The train hugs Mt Vesuvius nearly the whole way, plus the cliffside towns from the ferry are breathtaking. Just make sure you check the ferry times. There are also many restaurants outside the port in Salerno to grab lunch. Keep your eyes peeled for the old leathered guy with the sunburned bald head and splitting Speedo, he’s friendly!
It’s also recommended to hire a boat to visit these smaller towns, as no boating license is required, and Salerno has some pretty reasonably priced rentals compared to the more touristy towns, so a local colleague tells me.
If taking the airport bus to the port, you can take the Alilauro Ferry to Sorrento (40 minutes). There are also plenty of hotels and restaurants near the waterfront in Naples if you need to kill time. Once in Sorrento, you can catch another ferry to Positano, or the local Sita bus. Note, you can also catch the train direct from Naples to Sorrento – it is slow, will be packed and you will likely stand for about an hour and it is riddled with pickpocketers – I witnessed this myself. The ferry is much more enjoyable.
Overall, a lovely time in Positano. I just can’t wait to go back when the sun is out!