The Amalfi Coast has become a popular destination for luxury beach holidays, and it’s not hard to see why – with its dramatic craggy coastline, gorgeous, tiny hotels and B&Bs perched atop cliffs overlooking Vesuvio and the Bay of Naples, delicious fresh seafood, impossibly blue water, and plenty of small-town Italian culture to discover, this slice of Mediterranean paradise is stunning. With unparalleled beauty comes exclusivity, and that can mean soaring accommodation prices and tourist traps. You may have seen the glamour of luxury travel along the Amalfi Coast in magazines and on Instagram, but did you know that you can have your own Amalfi adventure on a budget?
You can still swim in the azure ocean, eat authentic Italian food, and live it up in Positano without getting yourself into debt. With a bit of planning and the help of insider tips, you will be able to have your own Amalfi adventure on the cheap!
Recommended Itinerary – 3 Day Amalfi Coast Adventure
For a budget trip to the Amalfi Coast, I would recommend spending 3 days travelling along the coastline. I’ve recommended 2 nights in Sorrento, but you can do one night in Sorrento and one night in Positano if your budget allows (bearing in mind that Sorrento is a bit cheaper) . We travelled to Naples from Rome, and then took a ferry across the Bay of Naples to Sorrento, but you can choose your own route depending on where your starting point is. You can fly in to Naples International Airport, or take a train, and then either take a bus to Sorrento, or a ferry. I’d highly recommend the ferry journey, as the views of Vesuvius are breathtaking, and the fresh air helps with motion sickness if you sit on the deck above.
Suggested general timeline & activities:
Day 1: Getting there & exploring along the way
- Travel to Naples in the early morning (by air, train, etc).
- Spend a few hours in Naples, have authentic Neopolitan pizza for lunch, and then take a ferry or bus to Sorrento in the afternoon.
- Explore Sorrento, check in to your accommodation, take an afternoon dip in the ocean, and then enjoy a picnic dinner with a bottle of wine at your accommodation. You can buy food from a market or deli to save costs, and supermarket wine is also usually good!
Day 2: Positano
- Early breakfast at the hotel / B&B, then explore around Sorrento town in the morning and have an espresso or cappuccino in a pretty piazza.
- Take a SITA bus from Sorrento to Positano – you can buy a day pass at a Tabaccheria or on the bus (which is a bit more expensive). Travel sickness medication is recommended for the bus trips, if you suffer from motion sickness. The route is long and winding, with sharp turns.
- Swim in the Med, shop for souvenirs, and have lunch in Positano. Look for lunch specials – often restaurants have set menus for lunch that are more affordable than ordering separate meals! Limoncello tastings are also highly recommended.
- Either eat dinner in Positano (look for pizza al taglio or dinner specials), or make your way back to Sorrento for dinner.
Day 3: Amalfi & return to Naples
- Breakfast at hotel / B&B, or grab some local pastries and coffee to go. Take a SITA bus to Amalfi, stopping off at Praiano if you’re keen to explore another tiny town on the coast.
- Spend the day in Amalfi, sightseeing and enjoying a few hours in the beach.
- In the late afternoon, make your way back to Naples (or another end point).
Glimpses of What to Look Forward To – Amalfi Travel Inspo
A Whirlwind Tour Of Napoli
Naples is the most overwhelming city I’ve ever been to in Europe! The streets are narrow and choked with the fumes of decrepit motorinos, the heat is stifling and almost tangible, and the city growls with traffic noise and the yells of fruit and vegetable vendors. Off-season visits to Naples might be more comfortable with lower temperatures and less tourists, but I kind of liked the atmosphere of the intense heat and activity in the streets.
Naples is full of churches that are worth visiting, especially Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo, Santa Chiara, and Complesso San Lorenzo Maggiore – and you’ll stumble upon many, many more that seem to pop out of nowhere as you turn a corner or emerge from a tiny, narrow street.
You will notice hundreds of little cornicello talismans for sale at souvenir shops – “little horns” that look like red chilli peppers – as well as other charms to ward of the evil eye, and delightful mini Pinocchio figurines. The city is saturated with a seemingly bizarre mix of religion – Roman Catholicism – and pagan superstition, which makes it all the more fascinating. If you have time, you can visit the impressive 12th century castle, Castel dell’Ovo, or another point of interest that takes your fancy. You could easily spend a week exploring Naples, including an excursion to Vesuvius and Pompeii, but on this little trip you will get a heady dose of the city that will leave you excited to return for a longer stay.
Bay Of Naples & Sorrento
A great way to get to Sorrento is by ferry or hydrofoil from Naples port – it takes around 30 minutes, as opposed to the 1.5+ hours via SITA bus! The water crossing is pleasant and the views are amazing – you can sit up on the deck and enjoy a drink as the scenery slips by. Sorrento is technically on the Sorrentine Pensinsula, but it is a kind of gateway to the Amalfi coast and serves as a lovely introduction to the area. Accommodation tends to be a bit cheaper here than Positano, as the scenery is less dramatic, but it is still special and has a lovely relaxed atmosphere.
We stayed at Hotel Desirée, a cute and comfortable hotel situated quite a walk from Sorrento town centre. The hotel has access to a gorgeous little private beach where you can suntan and swim, and it has an unbelievably convenient lift that saves you the time and effort of walking up and down the cliff-side steps. We cut costs by choosing a budget room without a balcony and without air conditioning, and it was perfectly fine for our needs. There is a terrace with stunning views where you can relax and drink wine (preferably supermarket wine – try pinching pennies, with some extra glamour to boot) instead of visiting a trendy cafe for cocktails.
We stayed for one night, but we could have easily stayed another night. I’d also recommend having one splurge dinner (if your budget allows) at Sorrento harbour – indulge in fresh, locally caught seafood and delicious local wine. Dining by the water is a fabulous highlight for a visit to the Amalfi Coast.
Positano is the gleaming jewel in the crown that is the Amalfi Coast. A first impression is one of a kaleidoscope of colour – fuchsia bougainvillea bushes, the azure ocean, dark green scrub covering the steep cliffs, and yellow, orange, and pink houses clustered together like pastel-hued bricks of Lego. Positano has several very popular beaches, but these orange-umbrella luxury zones require payment for using the beach, umbrellas, and loungers. If you walk a bit further, you can find free swimming spots! There is one lovely spot to the right of the main beach – simply take the path up the cliff, and then down along the path through the small forest to a little pebble beach.
Positano is THE place to try Limoncello, especially if you’ve never had it before. This intensely lemon-infused liqueur is the perfect end to an Italian feast, or after sun-downer cocktails. There are also many, many lovely shops in Positano, which are fun to browse even if you are on a budget and can’t go on a shopping spree. Some souvenirs to look out for are printed dishcloths, ceramic ware and tiles, cotton clothing, and other small trinkets and tokens to remember your trip by.
Amalfi – The City That Fell Into the Sea
Although this town is the namesake of the Amalfi Coast, it is smaller and more rustic than its more glamorous sisters. Amalfi has a fascinating history stretching back to before the 6th century BCE, with a massive tsunami destroying the lower part of the town in 1343. The town never regained its former glory as a trading hotspot, but today’s Amalfi is steeped in history and a quiet, peaceful mystery. The Amalfi Cathedral is a must-see, and the beach is relaxed and family-friendly. From Amalfi, you can return to Naples, or continue onward towards your next destination (such as Salerno, shown below).
You can obviously plan a much longer trip, with excursions to Pompeii, the island of Capri, and Herculaneum! This is just a fun, budget trip that lets you experience the Amalfi Coast without first saving up for months. Got any more tips for fellow budget travellers? Pop them in the comments below! 🙂