Are you organizing a holiday on the Amalfi Coast, in Italy? Good choice! Amalfi and its coast – renown all over the world – are one of the most beautiful places to visit in Southern Italy: true gems that you really shouldn’t miss out on. In this short guide you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about taking a trip on the Amalfi Coast, as well as the chronicles of an amazing motorcycle tour along this unforgettable route.
If you are thinking of a trip to Italy to explore the Amalfi Coast, you’ve made the right choice. An Amalfi Coast Tour is a unique opportunity which will take you through amazing scenery, and let you experience the best of Italian traditions and cuisine. You will need to organize your holiday carefully, so you might want to think of joining an organized tour which will allow you to make the most of the time you have. If you have already made up your mind about seeing the Amalfi Coast, I can give different kinds of suggestions:
- What the Amalfi Coast looks like;.
- Showing you a map of the Amalfi Coats;
- Answering some of the most frequently asked questions about this magical place in Southern Italy;
- Telling you about my personal experience on a motorcycle tour of the Amalfi Coast.
It won’t take long to read, and it will be well-worth it.
The Amalfi Coast, Italy: what it is and what it looks like
If you are thinking of a tour on the Amalfi Coast, that probably means that you have heard of it and know something about this amazing place. Without doubt, it is one of the most beautiful places in Southern Italy. The Amalfi Coast is in the Italian Region of Campania; it runs along a narrow strip of land for about 50 kms, between Salerno and Pompei, just south of Naples. The Amalfi Coast is characterized by steep cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, and 13 small, colorful towns strung together like a precious necklace:
- Conca dei Marini;
- Vietri sul Mare.
The Amalfi Coast, besides its stunning cliffs and crystal-clear sea, is also famous for its handmade artifacts and its food. The pottery made in this area is stunning, and is a perfect gift to take home as a reminder of your holiday. As for the Made in Italy food, there is all sorts of delicious produce to choose from: fresh fish, cheese and mozzarella, pizza, lemons, limoncello and wine… just to mention a few!
Read: Il tour del sud Italia
Look at the Amalfi Coast map
A holiday on the Amalfi Coast: tips and tricks
Let’s go on to the Frequently Asked Questions about the Amalfi Coast: you can certainly find lots of information on the Internet, but the best advice yet is my first-hand experience, matured over the many years that I have worked as a motorcycle tour guide.
How many days do you need on the Amalfi Coast?
The Amalfi Coast is a small area, but there are lots of things to see and do. Deciding how many days to spend in the area depends on what you enjoy. Whatever you like, you will certainly need no less than two full days, if not you won’t get to see or do very much!
When is the best time to visit the Amalfi Coast?
The Amalfi Coast is on the Southern Italian coastline, so the weather is generally mild. The best time to visit are Spring and Fall. These seasons are perfect as the climate is neither too hot nor too cold, and usually the weather is clear and sunny. The Summer months are also great, but this is the period in which most Italians take their holiday, so there can be a lot of traffic on the roads and bus-loads of tourists in the villages. It can also get very hot and humid.
What should I wear on the Amalfi Coast?
If you decide to travel in Spring or Summer you need light, practical clothing: short and long cotton or linen pants, sandals or open foot-wear, T-shirts and a lightweight sweater or cardigan, shirts, dresses, caps or hats, sunglasses and sun-screen.
Read: Food festival in Italy
What is the best way to see the Amalfi Coast?
The best way to see the Amalfi Coast is “on the road”, driving along the whole length of the route which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea the whole time. I obviously think the best way to do this is on a motorcycle: you are truly immersed in this particular Italian scenery: the warm, salty air, the scent of pine-trees and lemon-groves, the sound of church-bells ringing and bleating sheep… unforgettable!
Is the Amalfi Coast too touristy?
Of course it is! Tourists come here from all over the world. But should this deter you? Not at all. What you need to do is choose the right time to visit. April and October are both great months to tour the Amalfi Coast: the weather is perfect and the holiday crowds are still stuck at their desks!
Is the Amalfi Coast expensive?
Considering that the Amalfi Coast is one of the most famous – and one of the most visited – places in Italy, it is actually not as expensive as one might imagine. Then again, it certainly is not “cheap”. There are several luxury resorts, and restaurants whose bills might take your breath away, but – at the same time – there are plenty of places where you don’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy a good meal, sleep in a great hotel, and enjoy your time on the “Costiera Amalfitana”.
The Amalfi Coast Tour on a motorcycle
This is the very true account of 2 of the days included in the Hear The Road tours that touch the Amalfi Coast. These tours then continue to Southern Italy to discover other unforgettable locations, known for their beauty, history, culture and popular traditions.
I like reaching the Amalfi coast just before sunset, after having visited the archeological site of Pompeii with my clients, desirous for history and antiquity.
We get to the Costiera through the Chiunzi Pass. Leaving the motorway at Angri Sud, the road immediately starts to wind up the Lattari Mountains. The name of this small mountain range that connects the Amalfi Coast to the Sorrento Peninsula derives from the flocks of goats grazing in the area, which provide a great quality of milk (lactis in Latin).
The first village we pass is Corbara, then there are 4 narrow turns where every now and then the view opens up onto the Gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvius.
I’ve always thought of this short stretch of road – it’s only 10kms long – as a kind of baptism of fire for the mythical and stunning Amalfi Coast. The road is narrow, and you have to be very careful of the tourist coaches that come in the other direction, as well as the “holiday dolts” with their rented cars who don’t know how to drive on these very different roads. Luckily the road has recently been re-paved, and there are no longer those awful holes that used to shake your motorbike.
Once on the summit the road drops to the coast. The road is still narrow, and sometimes wet and a little slippery, but suddenly it opens onto the Gulf of Sorrento and, in the distance, you can just about see the small town of Ravello, perched on a hilltop more than 1200 feet (~365 meters) above the Mediterranean.
We are surrounded by lemon-groves, covered in dark netting to protect them from the winter frosts, a few vineyards, and vegetable gardens of different sizes.
It’s incredible. This piece of Italy, renown mostly for its stunning scenery and transparent Mediterranean sea waters, is also an area which is rich in natural produce that transforms into the delicacies that the world envies us. From the milk of the goats that roam the Lattari Mountains, with which the dairypeople make delicious cheeses, to the red and white grapes that are turned into a variety of wines known as the Amalfi Coast wines; from the lemons used for the famous Limoncello, to the home-grown tomatoes that garnish the Pizza Napoletana. And I haven’t even started on the sea produce: calamari, squid, Cetara anchovies and…
I prefer staying in Ravello, because is far removed from the crowds that flock to the sea towns.
Just before entering the village we make a U-turn to reach the hotel. I announce our arrival with my hooter, then call out: “Luigi, we’re here. Open the garage please!”. And here’s Luigi: “Hi there! In you come!”.
I feel I’ve come home.
Having parked the motorcycles we begin a surreal experience to get to the hotel entrance. We climb up stairs and steps, pass a tennis court that hasn’t seen a ball for goodness knows how long, walk through a small door, cross the laundry-room where women are hanging sheets and pillow-cases, and, finally, we reach the elevator. We’re on level Minus-5. Yes, this hotel has been built back-to-front: it starts on ground zero and goes down. So forget about First floor, Second floor, and so on. If anyone in the elevator asks you what floor you need, remember to answer Minus 1, minus 2, Minus 3… You won’t get to you room otherwise!
Once in the bedroom the first thing you’ll do is go straight out onto the terrace to watch the sun gently slip into the sea, heading for the other side of the world. Below you the lights start to come on along the coast; wood-smoke rises from a couple of orchards where farmers are burning the scrub; and if you lift your eyes you’ll see a tiny church hugging the slopes of the Lattari Mountains.
It’s dinner time, time to put something – although “something” is hardly the right word! – into our bellies. The choice is endless: entrees and mains with a selection of meat, vegetables or fish; and, of course, Pizza! And if anyone is still hungry, there are a whole variety of traditional regional desserts just waiting to be tasted!
Between courses, the politeness and friendliness of the waiters makes you feel at home. They are always ready to exchange a smile and share a joke, despite the fact that they are truly busy.
Dinner always ends with a “goccetto” (a drop), of limoncello. Once the bill has been payed it’s time to ask for a second round. This time it’s “la casa” that offers the drinks – it’s on the house.
In the morning, after having had breakfast in front of the Gulf of Salerno, we leave the hotel heading towards Amalfi. Thank goodness that the road sloping down to the sea has a stop-light, alternating traffic: it is so narrow that there isn’t room for more than one car at a time! If you don’t believe me, take a look at this video filmed with Ginny’s GoPro from her Harley – she did the Amalfi Coast tour and survived!
At Amalfi we climb back up the slopes of the Lattari Mountain. A short stop for a good coffee at Angrola, then another one in Gragnano to visit the Fabbrica della Pasta, yet another Italian excellence: a typical example of how a family with nothing to its name has managed to create a business by staying true to its traditions. Legend has it that the Gragnano pasta is the best in Italy because the “pastai” (pasta-makers), use local water that springs straight from the surrounding mountains.
With our bikes laden with pasta we head for the Gulf of Sorrento. Here the traffic becomes quite mad, and everyone wants to stop to take a photo along the road, where colorful carts and kiosks sell their wares: granita, lemons, chili peppers and sun-dried tomatoes. Over the sea, in the distance, Mount Vesuvius stands proud: thank goodness it hasn’t rumbled for quite a while.
Just before Sorrento we turn left and inland towards Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi. This small town has the privilege of having a double-view: on one side you can see Sorrento and its Gulf; turn your head and you see the Gulf of Naples.
It’s nearly 1PM, which means it’s time to put our legs under a table! We stop in Marina di Cantone, at a small restaurant with a terrace right on the beach.
Simple but genuine food. Their fried anchovies drive me crazy, but their Neirano spaghetti are also worth tasting. Today isn’t a full-riding day. We have the time, and the luxury, to drink a chilled beer. Also because after lunch there’s nothing to stop us nodding off on one of the sun-beds on the restaurant’s private beach.
Back on our saddles we head for the Strada Statale 163, the road that runs along the whole length of the Costiera. The sea is on our right: it’s stunning. The bikes speed softly over what many consider one of the most wonderful roads in the world: a succession of curves, only protected by low walls. It’s impossible not to look out to the horizon where the small archipelago of Le Galli seems to float on the water, and – further away – the Capri Faraglioni rise from the waves. How can we not to stop to take a yet another picture?!
After another few kilometers we leave the road and climb down towards Positano: a true gem of the Amalfi Coast. The streets are all one-way, and the going is extremely slow. We leave our bikes in one of the many pay-to-stay parking places. A short stroll towards the small beach, passing street vendors, clothes and souvenir shops, art galleries and local ceramic crafts stores… yes, sorry!, I forgot to tell you that the Amalfi Coast is also famous for its pottery: vases, plates, tiles, ornaments of all kinds, and so on and so forth.
At the beach – and this happens every time – most people need to use the toilet, so they ask: “Hey, Enrico, where’s the rest-room?” I point to the bar and warn them: “Remember that if you want to use the facilities you’ll need to buy something”. And the answer is always the same: “Ok! I’ll get a gelato!” Any excuse is good enough for an Italian ice-cream!
Our last leg is Amalfi. It’s sometimes hard to find anywhere to leave the bikes here, as there is only one place to do so: in the pay-to-stay County parking lot. But it’s worth it just to see the Cathedral, a medieval Roman Catholic church dedicated to the Apostle Saint Andrew.
It’s time to go back to the hotel: a little lane-splitting, a left turn and we are back on the road to Ravello.
The next day it’s time to say goodbye to this beautiful Italian spot. Riding-wise, the SS163 that takes us to Vietri sul Mare is my favorite road. Perhaps because I always ride it early in the morning when the villages are still half asleep and there are few vehicles around; or perhaps it’s because I know that once I am on this road I am leaving the Amalfi Coast. But it’s not goodbye, only an “Arrivederci”: once you’ve been here you can’t wait to come back. Obviously on a motorcycle.