If you think that a day trip to the Amalfi Coast is a good idea, I may have to try and change your mind. There are so many marvels to discover and so hard to do it it in a hurry that you might end up disappointed. Having no other option, I set out from Naples early in the morning with the sole purpose of seeing as much as possible and return in the evening. Spending most of the day in trains and buses, i never got to enjoy the truly spiritual experience that a trip to the Amalfi Coast is famed to represent. First of all, you have to know that as idyllic and spectacular as the location of the towns along the coast is, perched precariously between the mountains and the sea, it is also a curse for those who wish to reach them. The other thing to consider is that this is one of the most famous and popular travel destinations in the world, and as soon as the spring comes into fool bloom, it becomes overcrowded, ruining the wonderful journey that a trip to the Amalfi Coast could be.
Leaving in the early morning from the Central Station in Naples, I got on the Circumvesuviana train towards Sorrento, a trip that takes over an hour. In Sorrento, the buses SITA SUD have regular lines that reach the town of Amalfi and from there towards other destinations. The bus station is located right in front of the Sorrento Station and usually there is a small booth to buy the daily ticket. It costs 10 Euros, but it offers unlimited trip on the SITA buses during a 24 hours period. Leaving Sorrento, depending on your itinerary, the bus stops in the main towns along the Coast and it can also stop on facultative stations on request. The trip to the Amalfi coast takes about 90-100 minutes and you have to keep in mind that the road is extremely difficult, with hundred of close bends and steep ascents. It’s practically a roller coaster and if you don’t have a seat and must stand, this journey will not be a pleasant one.
It was one of the most emotional and unbelievable bus rides of my life and I have to give credit to the drivers for doing it every day. The road is so narrow that we had to stop on multiple occasions to negotiate some close encounters with other vehicles. I do not advice anyone to drive during a trip to the Amalfi Coast as you will not have a break to enjoy the journey. The first famous stop is in Positano and if you wish you can start to explore from the magnificent town. I had another plan and went to Amalfi, almost immediately catching another bus that makes the steep trip uphill to the fascinating Ravello. This is one of those destinations that stays in your heart forever, an enchanting place worth exploring for hours. It is usually less crowded than the seaside towns, but it packs some of the most beautiful places you could imagine. It is no winder why so many celebrities have chosen this splendid spot to enjoy the lavish and romantic atmosphere.
First place you have to visit is the Villa Rufolo, the jewel of Ravello and probably among the treasures of world heritage. Although few things have stayed the same since its conception and the heyday of 13th century. At the turn of the century, a Scottish industrialist revived the place and the Villa Rufolo was revived, reaching the elegant state we can see today. Its terraced gardens overlooking the sea and the distant coast, with colorful blooms, its old towers and superb Moorish Courtyard, as well as other things you can uncover make it a truly mesmerizing experience. Upon leaving the villa, you can admire the cathedral and then make you way to the second famous villa of Ravello. The Villa Cimbrone stands a little out of the tourist path, but it is fully worth the ten minutes walk. With a history somewhat similar to Villa Rufolo, Villa Cimbrone was a beautiful sight in medieval times and knew a period of neglect, being revived by an English traveler, part of the group of people who imagined The Grand Tour. Today, its gardens are considered among the most beautiful in the world, with artworks, architecture and panoramas that make everyone fell like living a dream. There are other marvels in Ravello, especially the music festivals that make it a genuine cultural destination.
The trip back to Amalfi could prove problematic during the off-season, as buses are scarce and I had to wait for almost two hours. Back in Amalfi, make sure you first visit the Cathedral of St. Andrew the Apostle, as it is one of the most important sacred destinations in Italy. It sits at the center of Amalfi Town, in the square with the same name, atop a set of stairs that increases its striking beauty. Originally built in the early 13th century, it has a mix of architectural features acquired along the centuries, including Arab-Norman, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque influences. The fame of this cathedral and its importance as a pilgrimage destination comes from the fact that it houses the relics of Saint Andrew the Apostle. They were brought here from Constantinople after the Fourth Crusade. There are many things to see inside, from the beautiful high altar to the Chapel of the Relics and from the Basilica of the Crucifix to the superb Cloister of Paradise. Still in Amalfi, you can visit the small but insightful Museum of Paper, telling the story of paper-making. In fact, you can also take a hike up the Valley of the Mills, through pristine nature and amazing panoramas. Taking a bus from Amalfi to Positano, you can also stop in one of the stunning places along the way, like the charming Emerald Cave or the unbelievable fjord at Cala di Furore.
Reaching Positano, you will most likely first admire the most famous panorama of a trip to the Amalfi Coast, with the trademark colorful villas clinging onto the steep slope of the mountains, gently descending right into the sea. The large beach in front of the town and its atmospheric streets have made Positano one of the most desired and dreamy destinations in the world. It is almost impossible to put into words all the feelings one gets upon setting eyes on this almost unreal panorama. You just have to walk on the tiny alleys of Positano, among small shops and lush gardens, reaching the edge of the beach and looking back on the fairy-tale town. Surely, this is the most important thing to do in Positano, but travelers can also visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta with its famous Black Madonna of Byzantine origins. Apart from the beaches that require enough time to relax in the heavenly surrounding, many travelers set out to hike the magnificent Path of the Gods (Sentiero degli Dei). It is a route that connects the hilltop villages of Nocelle (close to Positano) and Agerola through breathtaking scenery. The whole hike takes 3-4 hours, reaching the heights of the nearby mountains and offering unique panoramas of the sea and the Amalfi Coast. There might not be enough time to take the Pathway of the Gods during a single day trip of the Amalfi Coast, as you should make sure to catch the last evening bus back to Sorrento.