Driving The Amalfi Coast in Italy
If you enjoy road trips, good food and incredible scenery, you need to plan a bucket list trip to the Amalfi Coast in Italy.
This beautiful stretch of coastline is often called the ‘Blue Highway’ (because the overriding colour is the blue of the ocean) and it’s regularly voted as one of the best road trips in the world. It’s actually mostly driven on a peninsula and the route connects some of the most famous villages and small towns in Italy, including the ruins of Pompeii and the glamorous beaches of Positano.
I’ve always had a love affair with Italy. There’s something about the people, the passion and the food which calls to my soul. So, when given the opportunity to spend a week exploring the Amalfi Coast by motorcycle, I jumped at the chance (despite being a little intimidated by tales of the crazy Italian drivers- we’ll get to that shortly!)
Planning your Amalfi Coast Road Trip
In order to make the most of your trip, there are several things you should organise before you arrive at the Amalfi Coast.
The first thing is getting there. The Amalfi coast is easily reached from Naples International airport, which joins routes to most major hubs around the world. From here, it’s about an hour’s drive to the coast (although you might want to stay in the city for a night and enjoy some of the most famous pizza in the world!)
Next is your vehicle. How do you want to do the trip? If you’re renting a vehicle, you’ll be spoilt for choice; there are luxury sports cars, family saloons and classic cars available for hire. Why not rent a soft-top convertible and feel like Brigitte Bardot (or Bridget Jones!)
If you fancy being even more adventurous, do what we did and go motorcycling in Italy; there’s something about feeling the wind in your hair and smelling that incredible ocean breeze through a helmet that makes the whole trip feel more like an adventure. If a motorcycle is too much or you don’t have the correct licence, you can hire a scooter and feel like a true Italian as you zip around on your Vespa!
It’s perfectly easy to explore the Amalfi coast without a guide, although plenty of tours do go there, you’ll have a lot more freedom with your own vehicle and a good map. Plus, you can linger over a glass of limoncello or go back for another dolce.
The last thing to do is to plan your accommodation. This is an incredibly popular stretch of coastline and can get very busy, especially in the high season of July and August. If you’re planning on travelling during that time, or one of the many festivals in the area, make sure you plan well in advance and book up hotels or B & Bs to stay in during your trip. This article covers three days, however, if you have longer take a look at this 5 day Amalfi Coast itinerary.
Amalfi Coast Itinerary
A common question everyone asks when planning to drive the Amalfi Coast is how long does it take. Well, in all honesty, as long as you like. The entire route on the peninsula is only 43 miles long, although you’re not going very fast because the road apparently has 1001 turns in it! I’ll be honest, I didn’t count them, but I do promise you’ll be stopping regularly to take photos, which will slow you down considerably.
Start your trip by taking a day to explore the ruins of both Pompeii and Herculaneum before you head down to the Amalfi coast. Pompeii is jaw-dropping with its sheer size and the different areas of the city still so easy to see, but Herculaneum is incredibly well preserved and you can really get a sense of the people who lived there and their heart-breaking end.
Although you don’t need a guide for the Amalfi coast trip, I highly recommend paying to either join a tour or getting a private guide for both Pompeii and Herculaneum (there are almost always some available in Pompeii; Herculaneum has fewer to choose from.) The knowledge that these guides have, and the things they will point out that you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed, will lend a much greater depth to your visit and understanding of what you’re seeing.
It’s also worth paying for a fast-track entrance ticket as the queues to get into Pompeii can be huge. Make sure you turn up early too- the best time to visit is definitely first thing in the morning before the huge crowds from tour buses arrive.
After your visits, head south to Sorrento and stay the night ideally somewhere with a sea view; the views across the Bay of Naples are stunning and you’ll see some of the best sunsets in the world if the weather gods are kind.
Sorrento is famous for its lemons and the colourful houses and hotels built onto the cliffs overlooking the sea. It’s apparently the birthplace of limoncello- be sure to enjoy a glass or two if you stay overnight.
You can also see the island of Capri from here- this is well worth a day trip to see the ruins and villas of the rich and famous. If you get time, add it to your Amalfi Coast itinerary- you won’t be disappointed.
Day Two (unless you’re visiting Capri)
Start your Amalfi Coast road trip ‘proper’ by leaving Sorrento and driving around the peninsula anti-clockwise. If you’ve chosen a small car, motorbike or bicycle, you can take the really small coastal road all the way down to Nerano, where there’s a nice taverna on the small seafront.
Alternatively, if you’re not confident on very small, steep roads, stay on the main SS145 route and head around to Positano.
Positano is often referred to as ‘the jewel of the Amalfi peninsula’ and I’ll agree that it’s beautiful and very glamorous. However, it’s TINY- much smaller than we anticipated. I think we walked almost every main street within an hour or two.
There’s a famous hike near here called Path of the Gods. We didn’t hike it (can’t think of anything worse than hiking in motorcycle gear) but if you’re more suitably attired the views are supposed to be incredible.
There are several hotels in the area if you’d like to stay the night, but you’ll find more choices if you continue on to Amalfi. This is a much bigger town (and flatter to walk too!) and there are plenty of places to sleep and eat, many with incredible sea views. In the summer, you’ll find boats in the harbour offering tours out to sea- it’s a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the incredible scenery- some even allow you to swim and snorkel from the boat.
Continue your trip onto Ravello, another stylish town. The gardens here are where the ‘famous’ viewpoint of the Amalfi coast is and I’ll agree, it’s hard to take a bad photo from here. Ravello is famous for its music festival (the second oldest in Italy); be careful if you’re visiting the area then as prices skyrocket and it can be hard to find availability.
Don’t miss visiting Villa Rufolo and Palazzo Cimbrione- the Arabic influences are clear to see. You can do both of these within a few hours unless you want to really relax and take your time. Also don’t miss one of the best lookout points on the route: the lighthouse Capo d’Orso.
You can finish off your Amalfi Drive with a visit to Salerno. This was possibly one of my favourite towns on the whole trip. It’s got a little bit of everything. Don’t miss walking up to the Castello di Arechi, the castle built on top of the cliff. The views from up there showcase the entire bay and are some of the best in the area. Finish your trip with a well-earned dinner on the seafront; it’s a brilliant place for people watching.
Final thoughts on driving the Amalfi Coast
I’m always a little apprehensive about going somewhere which has been on my bucket list for a long time. What if it doesn’t live up to the hype? Turns out, I didn’t have anything to worry about.
The Amalfi coast is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. It’s hard to describe the breathtaking views or the wonder as you approach every corner (all 1001 of them) and the way the sun sparkles off the ocean. You keep expecting it to stop, or the best to have already been seen, but it just keeps getting better. And better.
Sure, some of the roads are terrifyingly steep and tiny and sure, the Italian drivers are a little bit crazy, but if you take your time, drive defensively and allow them to overtake, you’ll be absolutely fine. It really is one of the most incredible stretches of coastline we’ve ever explored, and certainly worthy of adding to your Italy bucket list. I can’t wait to go back one day and do it again!
About the Author
Kathryn Bird never planned to get her own motorcycle. But when her daughter grew up enough to ride ‘on the back of Daddy’, Kathryn lost her pillion seat. After much coaxing, pulling on her big girl pants and a new bike, she fell in love with motorcycle touring.
She travels almost full-time with her husband and their cocker spaniel, visiting 17 countries and driving nearly 30,000 miles.
Kathryn is passionate about inspiring others to experience the freedom of time on two wheels, whether it’s a long weekend or a month away. You can read more about Kathryn’s adventures, tips and ‘How to’ guides at Biker Girl Life.
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