You can view all posts from my trip to Italy here.
I did NOT have the best experience with traveling to and from the Amalfi Coast. I hope you can learn from my experience though! The Amalfi Coast is such a beautiful place, so once you actually get there, it’s definitely worth it. There are a few different ways you can get around the Amalfi Coast, and each have their pros and cons (except my train experience, that was all cons). So here’s a guide to transportation on the Amalfi Coast so you can hopefully have a better journey than me!
So the Amalfi Coast was the last stop during our trip to Italy, and while we had an amazing time there, the journey getting there was ROUGH. All of our trains in Italy had been great other than a few mishaps, but the Circumvesuviana train at the Naples station was a whole different story. The Circumvesuviana connects Naples to places like Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Sorrento, and we had decided to take the train from Naples to Sorrento (where we would catch a bus) because we were familiar with the trains in Italy and it was cheaper than getting a taxi or a private car.
We were misinformed about what kind of tickets we could get by the website that apparently hadn’t been updated in months, so we were struggling to figure out what kind of tickets we needed with our poor Italian. The website said that we could purchase a 72-hour ticket that also includes the bus, but apparently they didn’t do those tickets anymore and we had to buy two 1 way train tickets and bus tickets separately.
Unlike most of the trains in Italy where you just buy a ticket for your location and validate it at the kiosk, you have to make sure you get the correct ticket and insert it to go through the gates and onto the platform. Once we finally sorted it out, we went to the station. I’ve been on trains all over the U.S. and Europe, and the Circumvesuviana is one of the dirtiest and most run down ones I’ve ever been on. One website was polite and described it as “scruffy,” but that’s much too nice of a word.
The train we needed apparently doesn’t run often enough, so there were MASSIVE crowds waiting to get on the train. It was honestly one of the most packed crowds I’ve ever been in. It was getting late in the day, so we were really nervous that we weren’t going to be able to get on the train and then the bus we needed to get to our hotel.
The train finally arrived, and we fought (and I mean really fought!) to get on with all our luggage. People were throwing elbows and shoving their way on, and I’m sure I knocked into my share of people with my suitcase just trying to move it. We were packed in worse than sardines! There was absolutely no room to move any part of your body. Then after a few minutes of relief of actually miraculously making it on the train, there was an announcement in Italian and everyone started getting off. Us panicked Americans had absolutely no idea what was going on, and thankfully an elderly man befriended Mariah and tried to explain what was going on in broken English. It had turned out that they mislabeled the train, and it was going off in another direction.
So we had to do the process all over again, with even more people who had come to the station in the time that had passed! We crossed to the other side and waited, even more worried than before. Finally, the RIGHT train came, and we fought our way on again, knocking into people with our suitcases and getting our feet stomped on. Stephanie’s foot still hasn’t recovered from being trampled, months later. The hour that this entire process took was one of the most stressful and frustrating of my life. My short summary doesn’t even begin to do it justice! This one terrible experience is what inspired me to write this guide to transportation on the Amalfi Coast- I don’t want you guys to have the same rough journey!
And we didn’t have problems with the train just once- we had issues with the Circumvesuviana on our way out of the Amalfi Coast, too! We got to the station in plenty of time and got seats on the train that was sitting there, but it quickly started filling up. People got upset at us for having luggage (there weren’t any luggage racks on the train, I’m not sure why) and started getting very rude, so we tried our best to make room and just ended up having our giant suitcases on our laps or under our feet the whole time.
Having big pieces of luggage was a hassle for both trains, so if you do take the Circumvesuviana, try to pack light because there aren’t any places to put your luggage other than your lap- if you’re lucky enough to even get a seat.
Thankfully, not everyone on the trains was rude, and we did befriend an Australian woman and a French couple on our way to the coast. Nearly getting trampled to death really brings people together! Also, there was no air conditioning on the trains, so we struggled to open windows to get any sort of air flow. This was May and it was pretty hot already, so I couldn’t image how hot and stuffy it would be in July!
So if you’re planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast, be prepared for issues with the Circumvesuviana or find an alternate route. I would honestly pay good money to get a taxi or a private car to avoid the Circumvesuviana. Lonely Planet also recommends the Campania Express train, but it makes fewer stops, doesn’t run as often, and is more expensive, but I would recommend paying more money for it just to avoid the Circumvesuviana if you can!
There are some ferries that travel along the coast, but they don’t travel often during the off season, so it wasn’t a good option for us, especially since we would be arriving after dark. There are also a few different ferry companies, so it was hard to find the best information on all of them. We were also coming into Naples by train, so we would have had to catch a bus or a taxi to get to the ferry. But if you want to avoid my experience, you should look into catching a ferry if you’re going there during peak season.
You can catch a ferry in the port of Naples, and they stop in Sorrento and you may have to catch another one to get to Positano and Amalfi. If you’re staying anywhere other than Positano or Amalfi (we stayed in Praiano), you may have to catch a bus from where the ferry lets you off. If you’re staying on Capri, you will definitely have to take a ferry or a private boat out there. When we visited Capri, we caught a boat from Positano and it was very easy to find! We took a ferry with Alilauro to Capri and a ferry with Lucibello back to Positano.
But be aware that the water can be too rough for any ferries to run. The day after we went to Capri, the water was too rough and there were no boats allowed out. And it wasn’t even stormy; the sun was shining all day. The day the ferries were canceled, the buses along the coast got PACKED. So just be prepared for all kinds of transportation craziness if the weather isn’t good!
You can rent a car to drive along the Amalfi Coast, but unless you’re really comfortable driving along curving cliff sides, I really wouldn’t recommend it. There were some insanely tight curves, and the roads are really narrow. I would be way too scared to try driving there! The Positano website also recommends not driving during peak season because traffic can get really backed up. I’m also not sure what the parking situation is like, so that’s another thing you would have to consider.
Buses are a pretty good and cheap way to get around the Amalfi Coast. Apparently there are buses that leave from Naples, but it was hard to find information on that. Once we finally got off the Circumvesuviana, we had to catch a bus to our hotel in Praiano because there isn’t a train that goes further than Sorrento. There were a few different bus companies, so it was a little confusing trying to find the right now. We asked some locals about exactly which bus we needed and when it would be arriving, and they were very helpful.
It took a while for the bus to come and there were a lot of people waiting, so we were getting a little nervous that we wouldn’t make it on. Once the bus finally arrived, everyone was able to get on because they really pack people onto those Amalfi Coast buses! We were there in May so it wasn’t high tourist season, but I bet the buses are even more packed in the summer. So plan accordingly! Since we had so much luggage, we split up so Morgan and I would load all the luggage under the bus while Mariah and Stephanie got seats, so it worked out pretty well for us.
The bus ride to Praiano was pretty long, but we did get some beautiful views of the coast during sunset!
The Amalfi Coast has some of the curviest and tightest roads I’ve ever seen, so I’m really impressed with how the bus drivers handled it with ease. Also, if you ever get car sick, riding on a hot bus zigzagging around the curving road WILL make you sick. I have vertigo, so I made sure I had my medicine with me. Make sure you bring whatever medicine you need and some water. Gatorade also helps me some when I’m nauseous, so bring some if you can!
There were a few times during our time there where the curve was too tight for both sides of traffic to pass, so the bus driver would lay on his horn to alert oncoming traffic that a huge bus was approaching. There was even a time when two buses were trying to go around a tight curve, and the bus drivers had to get out and talk about which bus would go through first, and then one directed the other to back up to give space for the other bus. And this is while cars and bikes were piling up behind both buses! It was pretty crazy, and I’m really happy that we didn’t try to drive on those insane roads.
Also if you’re wearing a backpack and it’s standing room only on the bus, please take it off so you don’t repeatedly hit a sitting passenger in the face with it when the bus hits those tight curves! Poor Mariah can attest that it’s pretty painful and annoying.
One of the reasons we stayed in Praiano is because it’s a pretty central town, so it was easy to get to both Positano and Amalfi. We also took buses to go back and forth between the towns. The bus system is pretty good, for the most part. There were a few times where a bus didn’t show up and we had to wait a while for the next one, but the time table is pretty easy to figure out. We also learned the hard way that you can’t buy tickets on most buses, so make sure you buy your tickets from local stores ahead of time.
So there you have it- the ultimate guide to transportation on the Amalfi Coast! If you’re planning a trip to the coast, I hope you learned from our terrible experience! But our horrible journey was worth it for the beautiful views on the coast 🙂 Stay tuned for tons of upcoming posts with photos of the beautiful Amalfi Coast!