How to Get to the Amalfi Coast (and not go completely crazy…)

How to Get to the Amalfi Coast (and not go completely crazy…)

 The Road to Positano, SS 163

The Road to Positano, SS 163

I hired a driver to take me to Positano. He was a registered driver in good
standing. His card reads: “Signor Bassani Bassano, Experienced Guide –
all Italy – and Throt Europe”. It was the “Throt Europe” that won me.
— John Steinbeck

Let me tell you a little story about my first journey to the Amalfi Coast.  My friend met me in Rome.  Easy enough. We stayed two nights.  Did our thing- Spanish Steps, Vatican, Trastevere.  Drank too much Frascati, woke up one morning hungover and it was time to take the train to Naples and continue onward to the Amalfi Coast.  Feeling plucky, we decided to take the Freccia Rossa high speed train. We had tramezzini sandwiches and little bottles of prosecco to wag a hair out of the dog or whatever it is they say about drinking more alcohol to cure drinking too much of it. In spite of the fact that we seemed to be approaching our upcoming holiday with the same mental fortitude as a harem of spring breakers in Panama City, I was feeling pretty good about how the day was going.  

I had a vague idea of how to get to the Amalfi Coast. Something about a hydrofoil or a water taxi- it sounded fun, like a scene out of the Talented Mr. Ripley, hopefully without any seafaring murder involved.  So like lambs to the slaughter, we walked out to Piazza Garibaldi in our white linen summer suits, straw hats and sunglasses, towing gigantic rolly suitcases and then collectively we thought OH SHIT! 

My friend looked at me. Perhaps somewhere along the way I had led her to believe I actually knew what I was doing. But then gazing into the morass of Piazza Garibaldi- paunchy men selling lighters, pens, lotto scratch cards with a prominent sinkhole of the unfinished shopping galleria below, I realized that I would have to resort to my old ace in the hole--- a taxi.  When we walked towards the taxi line, the men all jumped to attention.  Preternaturally they sensed we were going somewhere expensive (gee…. I wonder if it was those linen culottes and wide brimmed straw hats we were wearing?).  Of course they were right- we were going to the Amalfi f$°*ing Coast. 

Trying to play it cool, an old trick from my Sao Paulo days, I said, “just take us to the port please,” in a mangled creole of Spanish, Portuguese and some odd bits of Neapolitan dialect I had picked up from the only Renato Carosone song I had ever heard- Tu vuò fà l'americano.

My Paulistano malandragem was no match for this Neapolitan’s furbizia. 

“There are no ferries today!”

“I don’t believe you. You are a liar”

“I’ll show you. I take you to the port.”

Then he proceeded to take us to the one of three ports in Naples- Mergellina, where there were not nor have there ever been in recent memory, ferries to the Amalfi Coast. Now I know that to get to the Amalfi Coast by ferry, you generally have to connect through either Sorrento or Capri.  Ciro, our soon to be squire, was not about to share this privileged information. He sized up our summer whites and silly sun glasses and said charmingly,

“I can take you…...”

One hundred and fifty euro and a few shreds of dignity later, my friend and I were in Positano. 

Five years later and the episode still makes me seethe with convulsive laughter.  Two blond women materialize in Piazza Garibaldi dressed as if they were ready to board a turn of the century steamship thinking they would just wing it all the way to Positano.  That was the day I learned you can’t wing it when pulling a large Samsonite suit case while wearing white linen pants.  I have also learned the following:

1)      There is no elegant way to wear linen and pull a trolley suitcase unless that suitcase is an Hermès steamer trunk and comes with a porter. In which case you are really not pulling anything at all.

2)      Traveling to Positano requires planning!

Since those early days, I have travelled to Positano by every imaginable mode of transportation.  That includes, bus, train, ferry and memorably quite a few hitched rides with Neapolitan pizzaiolos returning home after late shifts on Coast.  Here are my tips, ranked from cheapest to most expensive. Most important, PLAN AHEAD!

SITA Bus 5020 from Varco Immacolato to Amalfi

When you arrive at Piazza Garibaldi you will walk towards Via Nuova Marina to catch the SITA 5020 bus to Amalfi as it does not depart from the Garibaldi train station.  There is a bus that goes to Agerola with a transfer to Amalfi that departs from the Garibaldi Bus Station.  I do not recommend this bus!  It will make you question not only why you decided to visit the Amalfi Coast but also the meaning of life as you barf into your friend’s straw hat. 

The SITA 5020 departs infrequently (and at weird intervals so best to check schedule here) from Varco Immacolato on Via Nuova Marina about a 10 minute walk from Piazza Garibaldi.

The total cost is €4,80 and it takes 2 hours to get to Amalfi. There are stops along the way on the southern portion of the Amalfi Coast including in Maiori and Minori.

If your final destination is Positano, you must switch busses and take the SITA 5070 Sorrento (red and yellow bus) which stops in Conca dei Marini, Praiano, Positano and all the way to Sorrento.  Or If your final destination is Ravello, there is another bus marked SITA 5110 Ravello (blue and white).

Remember to validate your ticket when you board.  Technically if you don’t, random checkers can fine you.  Although if you are a tourist, they rarely do.

TOTAL COST: €4,80 from Napoli to Amalfi or €8,00 for a 24 hour SITA bus pass (get if you must transfer busses to Positano)

DURATION: At least 3 hours and that is only if the transportation gods smile down upon you.

Vesuviana Train from Napoli Garibaldi to Sorrento Station and SITA Bus from Sorrento to Amalfi

This option is only slightly better than the SITA Bus in that it means less time in a bus swerving through hairpin mountain and coastal roads.  The Vesuviana Train also leaves approximately every 30 minutes from Garibaldi Station to Sorrento.  Check the schedule first here. This train gets really crowded in the summer, and just as with the SITA if you have a lot of rolly luggage, a ride on the Vesuviana can be infernal.

The express train (marked DD) takes 45 minutes.  The local train (marked D) takes 1 hour 15 minutes. 

Once you arrive at the Sorrento train station, walk across the parking lot to the sign marked SITA Positano.  You can buy a bus ticket for €3,80 from the tabaccheria in the station or from the SITA seller waiting by the bus stop.  Be sure to tell the seller your final stop.  Often unsuspecting tourists buy an €8 full day ticket. Unless your final destination is Ravello (which means you need two bus tickets), you do not need this multi-ride ticket. 

The SITA 5070 from Sorrento to Amalfi stops in Massa Lubrense, Positano, Praiano, Conca and Amalfi. It departs roughly every hour and takes about 1 hour to arrive in Positano and 1 hour and 30 minutes to arrive in Amalfi.  Check the schedule first here.

This is another curvy, nausea inducing bus so beware.  It is also possible to simply take the ferry from Sorrento to Positano if you are travelling in spring or summer.  I also frequently suggest to just spend one night in Sorrento and continue your journey the following day.

TOTAL COST: €4,10 to Sorrento + €2,80 to Positano = €6,90

DURATION: At least 2 hours and 30 minutes to Positano and again, only if you get lucky on connections.

Campania Express TraiN From Napoli Garibaldi To SORRENTO AND SITA BUS FROM SORRENTo To AMALFI

The Campania Express train departs from Garibaldi station and arrives in Sorrento in 50 minutes.  It is a nicer version of the Vesuviana but actually is not faster the direct Vesuviana train.  The reason to take this train is simply comfort as the unwashed local masses (me!) never take this train.  It costs twice as much.  However, if you have a lot of luggage it might be a worthwhile indulgence.  Note that it leaves infrequently.  Check schedule here first.

Once you arrive at the Sorrento train station follow the directions above for taking the SITA 5070 to your final destination on the Amalfi Coast.

TOTAL COST: €8,00 to Sorrento + €2,80 to Positano = €10,80

DURATION: At least 2 hours and 30 minutes to Positano and again, only if you get lucky on connections.

Airport Bus from Napoli Capodichino to Sorrento and SITA Bus from Sorrento Station to Amalfi Coast

If you arrive at the airport, then this is the option for you.  The Napoli Airport bus departs every two hours from Capodichino and takes about 1 hour 15 minutes to arrive in Sorrento.  It is comfortable, safe and air conditioned.  Check the schedule here.

This bus delivers you directly to the Sorrento Train station so if you final destination is the Amalfi Coast, you will board SITA 5070 to Amalfi, with stops in Positano, Praiano and Conca as in the directions above. 

TOTAL COST: €10,00 to Sorrento; €2,80 to Positano = €12,80

DURATION: At least 3 hours

Train from Napoli Garibaldi to Salerno and SITA bus from SALERNO to Amalfi

Most visitors to the Amalfi Coast stay between Positano and Amalfi.  If you are staying between Vietri sul Mare and Maiori, it makes sense to take the train to Salerno and then the SITA bus towards Amalfi. 

You can buy tickets from Napoli’s Garibaldi Station to Salerno at either an Italo or Trenitalia kiosk.  The minimum cost of the ticket is €4,70 and takes about 45 minutes to arrive in Salerno.  Remember to validate your ticket before boarding the train.

Once you arrive at the train station in Salerno, you walk across the street and take SITA 5120 towards Amalfi.  The cost of the bus ticket is €2,80 and you can buy at the train station tabaccheria.  Be sure to check the schedule before your trip here.

Again, it does not make sense to connect in Salerno unless your final destination is on the southern Amalfi Coast (between Amalfi and Vietri sul Mare).  If you destination is between Amalfi and Positano, you should consider one of the above options. 

TOTAL COST: €4,70 to Salerno; €2,80 to Amalfi = €7,50

DURATION: At least 2 hours and 30 minutes

Aliscafo (Hydrofoil) from Napoli Molo Beverello to Sorrento Marina Piccola and from Sorrento to Positano*

The other option to get to Positano by sea is through Sorrento. When you arrive at Napoli’s central train station, take the Line 1 Metro to Piazza Municipio and head directly across the street to Molo Beverello.  There are no boats to Sorrento from Porto di Massa.

The hydrofoils run every two hours from Naples to Sorrento all year.  *But between November and April there are no hydrofoils on Sundays. Check the schedule here.  This is by far the fastest way to get to Sorrento at only about 45 minutes.  If your final destination is Sorrento, I highly recommend this transportation method. 

However, if you must get to the Amalfi Coast, things get more complicated.  *Ferries run from April through November from Sorrento’s Marina Piccola to Positano.  They depart roughly every two hours and you should always check the schedule first here.  The total journey takes about 40 minutes.  It is comfortable but your layover time in Sorrento could be long depending on your connection.  I suggest this option if you want to have lunch in Sorrento or if you are planning on spending an evening in Sorrento. 

TOTAL COST: €1,10 Metro Line 1 + €12,90 Aliscafo to Sorrento + €19,00 Aliscafo to Positano = €32,90

DURATION: At least 3 hours but if you get screwed up connections this could take all freakin day!

Aliscafo (Hydrofoil) from Napoli Molo Beverello OR Traghetto (Ferry) to Capri Marina Grande and from Capri Marina Grande Aliscafo to Positano or Amalfi*

Long ago there used to be a water taxi company that went direct from Naples to Positano, but then the big ferry companies sued them into submission and they all but disappeared.  So now you have to take two ferries in order to get from Naples to Positano. *And this option is only available from April to early November.

First to get to the port from the Garibaldi train station, take Line 1 Metro to Piazza Municipio. Walk past the castle across the street and you are at the Port Molo Beverello. 

This first option is to take the Aliscafo (hydrofoil), fast boat, from Molo Beverello to Capri. The fast boat to Capri takes 50 minutes.  You will need to check the schedule at the port here or on the departure board at the port to know which ferry line is departing next. Then go to the window for that company and buy your ticket.

The second option is to go to the second Porto di Massa and take the Traghetto (ferry) to Capri. The ferry takes between 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes to arrive at Capri’s Marina Grande.  To know whether to take the aliscafo or traghetto, it is best to consult the schedule first and then decide. 

The ferries from Naples to Capri run all year.  The ferries from Capri to Positano and Amalfi run from April to early November.  Check the schedule here.  It is also worth noting that depending on connection times, this whole journey may take several hours and is actually quite expensive once you calculate the fact that you must take two boats. 

I suggest this option if you intend to stay on Capri for the evening, which is advisable if you have any desire to get to really now the island beyond the day trippers.

TOTAL COST: €1,10 Metro Line 1 + €14,00 Traghetto (Ferry) to Capri; €21,00 Aliscafo (Hydrofoil) to Capri + €18,50 to Positano for a total of either €33,50 or €40,50

DURATION: At least 3 hours but if you get screwed up connections this could take all freakin day!

Private Transfer

So the moral of the story is that maybe Ciro the driver didn’t screw me over as much as I thought he did.  It is actually really difficult to get to Positano from Naples by public transport.  It can be done but requires advanced planning and a pair of pants that are not linen.  If you feel like wearing bespoke clothing and/or do not have a brain for directions (also you are presumably on vacation!!!)- it is best to arrange a private transfer from Naples to the Amalfi Coast in advance.

Avoid taking the taxis from the airport or the train station.  They jack up prices and their cars are less comfortable.  I suggest using Raffaele Esposito’s private transfer company—they can be reached by Whatsapp at +39 338 439 5698. This company is fully insured, has a new fleet of cars and their drivers speak English.  This is the service I use for my own transport needs.

When you are travelling in groups larger than four, it is also often cheaper to travel by private transfer. Reserve cars and vans ahead of time with drivers who speak English and are knowledgable about the region. 

TOTAL COST: Starts at €100 depending on final destination and group number

DURATION: 1 hour and 30 minutes to Positano, 1 hour to Sorrento

Car Rental

I am not going to even dignify this option with a description.  If you are confident enough to drive from Naples to the Amalfi Coast than you should not even be visiting this page.  If you have gotten all the way here, reconsider your decision to drive on the Amalfi Coast! And don’t forget parking is a bitch and costs at least 5 euro an hour.  Happy driving!

Final Notes

Naples has three ports. Beverello, Porto di Massa and Mergellina.  The Aliscafo or hydrofoil runs from Beverello. These are for the fast boats with no cars on them.  The Traghetto or ferry runs from Porto di Massa.  These are the slower boats that allow cars.  If the weather is bad you have to take the traghetto.  The hydrofoil to Sorrento only departs from Beverello.  Boats to Capri depart from each.  I take whichever leaves first usually.  The two ports are next to each other but require about a 15-minute walk to get from one to the other.  As for Mergellina- just pretend it doesn’t exist.  Boats practically never leave from there.

Ferries to Positano only run between April and early November.  In fact, much of Positano shuts down after All Souls Day and there is very little to visit in the winter.  Some people do choose to visit the Amalfi Coast in the winter months.  If you are one of them, I would highly suggest booking a private transfer.  Taking public busses on these long coastal stretches is not for the faint of heart.  I have never suffered from car sickness and yet on the bus from Sorrento to Amalfi I almost always walk off ready to throw-up. 

Consider spending a night or two in Naples.  Too many visitors to the region bypass Naples, running with their (white linen) pants on fire to the Amalfi Coast.  Naples is home to a vast cultural patrimony that historically is far more interesting than what you will find on the Amalfi Coast.  Furthermore, if you are planning on coming down from Rome or elsewhere in Italy to the Amalfi Coast it just makes sense to break your transport up with a night’s stay in Naples.  I wish I had done it that way on my first trip.  And not only will you be missing out on Margherita pizza, underground catacombs and the largest historic center in Europe—you will also be faced with a day of transport that is likely longer than the transatlantic flight it took you to get to Italy.  Do yourself a favor and stay a night in bella Napoli!

Contact Sauced & Found with transport questions, feedback and/or horror stories!