Napoli, Sorrento, Positano, Capri: Can you handle it?
Who doesn’t dream of visiting the Amalfi Coast and Capri!
Breathtaking views, centuries old houses and palaces, shimmering blue waters along the entire coastline, streets lined up with fragrant lemon and orange trees, amazing food, and of course limoncello! Napoli, Sorrento, Positano, Capri, Ravello, Amalfi promise all of that but no one speaks or writes about how stressful and chaotic these places are. While I don’t mean to discourage travelers, I feel the truth must be told.
I was born and raised in southern Italy and several times a year I take small groups around Italy, the Amalfi Coast included. The beauty around these places is unmistakable as it is the price you pay for seeing them. I am not only referring to the overpriced services of food, accommodations, transportations, parking, and tours but in particular to the unnecessary stress it will add to your vacation.
If you are accompanied by a local like my self or a trusted guide, your stress is significantly less, as you will not need to drive, negotiate cost of services, or deal with the constant taking advantage of tourists. Allow me to give you an example from my most recent trip to Napoli, Sorrento, and Positano. Just this past April, we were riding the train from Rome and before arriving in Napoli central station, I inquired with two locals if it was a good idea to grab a taxi to reach the rental car office. I was immediately told to be careful and not pay more then 10 Euros. When we arrived, I told my clients to stay behind and wait until I had negotiated the taxi ride. Even with me being Italian I was asked for 20 Euros. I replied that I was told it would be around 10 Euros at which point the guy yelled “take the bus if you don’t like it”. Three other taxi drivers came over to talk to me so I offered 15 euros to no avail. Finally, one of them agreed to do it for 18 Euros but his car wasn’t labeled TAXI like the others.
You will likely face similar situations every time you need to hire a service and if you plan to drive, all I can say is best of luck to you; you haven’t seen crazy driving yet.
The people in my small group in April loved to walk but the streets crowded with cars, buses, vespas, and the fumes from their exhaust killed their enthusiasm. So here is how we managed to have a great experience instead.
One morning we set off early from Sorrento to Positano, avoided most of the crowds and managed to find a parking garage in the center of town for two hours (10 Euros). There is no easy walking around Positano, the only option is hiking up or down 600-800 steps (each way), so we decided to hike down to the beach to enjoy the views. When lunch hour rolled around, we got back into the car and drove all the way to Nocelle (1,500 feet above sea level) and enjoyed the most stunning views of Positano without the chaos of the streets below. After lunch we went for a long passeggiata (walk) along the Path of the Gods to take in the beauty of the Amalfi Coast in its entirety.
The following day we did the same; we left the villa very early to avoid the crowds and drove to the port in Sorrento. When we got there, half the world had the same idea. For 30 Euros we parked the car for the day and we got in line to take the ferry over to Capri. Five return tickets and 200 Euros got us to Capri in half hour from Sorrento (The closest port). If you don’t have a private tour booked, once you get to Capri you will spend a lot of time and money trying to figure out how to get to the city center and to Anacapri. The cheapest option is climbing on foot (500-600 steps to the city center of Capri) followed by a tram or the bus. If you want to see most of the attractions, booking a tour is an option but you will need to go at their pace (too fast to appreciate and taken in the views). Lunch on the island of Capri might be a dream from most of you, just be ready to spend on average (for an average 3 course meal, water and wine) 60-80 Euros per person, or 30 Euros for a pizza and a salad.
However you decide to spend your time in Capri, just trust my word, don’t miss the view from the Gardens of Augustus (40 minutes walk/climb from the port in Capri). If you make it all the way to Mount Solaro, right around the corner from the entrance to Axel Munthe villa, there is a street that takes you to Scala Fenicia, the view from here is Stunning!
Choose wisely the time of the year you plan to visit the Amalfi Coast, the closer to summer/high season (June to September), the more crowded and the more expensive. Many think that the do-it-yourself option is the cheapest (low average of 150-180 Euros per person) but it does cut in half the time on the island trying to figure out your logistics.
Finally, allow me to share my point of view as a local and as a travel consultant with over 15 years of experience. Italy is beautiful no matter where you go. Choose to be relaxed and spoiled when you go on vacation, instead of taking on the job of researching and navigating the local chaotic culture and tourist traps. Traveling is a wonderful rewarding experience. Travel is not about the worlds’ most popular place everyone wants to see, it is about people and the experiences that await you. Italy is full of amazing gems, as a local I am happy and proud to take you off-the-beaten-path and have you experience the Italian way of life!
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