Whoever said that the good things in life are for free obviously hasn’t been to Amalfi coast ;-). To be honest, Amalfi was never on my agenda, what with it’s reputation of being ultra-expensive, and supremely glossy. But as I started researching to put together my itinerary, I realized that there is more to Amalfi than meets the eye. And there IS a way to experience this spectacular coastline in Southern Italy without making a big dent in your bank.Below are my top 5 tips, to enhance your experience and save a few bucks –
Timing – Summer may not really be the best time
Timing is everything when it comes to Amalfi. It will have a tremendous impact of your experience, and your wallet. July-August is peak season so expect soaring prices and a LOT of people. We visited the coast during Easter holiday, and the bigger towns of Amalfi and Positano were really busy, presumably with local tourists but the smaller towns were nice and quiet, which made for a very personal experience. Weather is a bit unpredictable during this time, we had one day of rain, which made it a bit chilly (meaning that you will need a jacket), the rest of the days were warm and sunny (you could move around in a t-shirt comfortably during the day). So March end is definitely a decent time to visit, the weather starts turning for the better, the place is not overwhelmed by tourists and prices are under control. Another good period is post summer, around September- October, when the tourists are gone and prices are decent. But if you are bent on having a summer holiday, planning/booking much in advance can be your only saving grace.
SITA bus – Get ready for the ride of your life
SITA bus is your lifeline on Amalfi coast, if you want to save a few bucks and have the ride of your life :-D. I will explain why. Our first stop in Italy was Naples. For getting to the Amalfi coast from Naples, you have two options – either you take a private transfer (a car) or use the SITA bus which runs all along the coast. This is a critical choice – the car will be faster since you go non-stop but is more than double of what you spend on the bus. We took a bus from Naples to Sorrento, Sorrento to Amalfi and then a local bus to Atrani. I will admit, this can be a bit trying and time consuming but I would still recommend using the SITA bus, the money you save is not too significant (we are talking around euro 60 for a couple one way) but the experience is something else. The road has barely enough room for 2 vehicles, so you have a mini adventure every time the bus driver and the opposite vehicle are trying to get past each other. Many times you will find yourself dangling on the cliff. Add to this honking, aggressive bus drivers eyeing every oncoming vehicle as if it’s driver is an idiot, and this makes up for a very entertaining ride. The views are of course to die for. SITA is cheap, convenient and a great way to see all of the coast. In summers, you will also have the option of ferries but they were very limited during our time there.
Coffee/tea – order at your own risk
Let me give you the background first – I love having a cup of tea in the morning, it’s something I can’t do without, whether I am travelling, going for work or doing anything majorly important or not, everything in my life can wait till I have my morning cuppa. While I like the Indian style tea best, which is strong and boiled with milk and sugar, on a holiday I can “make do” with separate tea made with tea bags, hot water and creamer/milk/powder. This is quite a compromise to me, but one that I am willing to make while travelling and I have come to assume that I will always find this option wherever I go, AND that it will be a free one. In Amalfi, both the properties we stayed in did not have kettles in the room. This gave me a mini panic attack but I was reassured when the owner told us that we can order the same in the morning and it will be served in our room. Anyway, when I called in the morning, the lady at the reception didn’t speak any English and could not understand me. So I decided to go to the café and ask for my tea. I met the owner and he didn’t really seem too happy with my request, as it was breakfast time and the staff was busy. Upon persisting, he agreed to give me the tea, but since no one was free, the only option was for me to carry it to my room. A pot of hot water, milk and some tea bags on a very heavy tray, which I wasn’t too happy about since I was half sleepy and very grumpy. So much for a cup of tea! The next day was a repeat performance. Additionally, one evening we came back from a long walk and it was raining and we were asked if we would like some coffee which we thought was quite nice. It was made right in front of us and we carried it back to our rooms. When we checked out, we were handed over a pretty expensive bill for the tea/coffee (~15% of our stay cost). I was quite mad about this because A) they never told us this would be charged and B) if it was charged (and so expensive), it didn’t feel fair that it was all self-service. Anyway, lesson learnt. Ask before ordering AND, carry your own kettle.
Wine lovers – pratice restraint
We all know that Italian food goes extremely well with wine ;-). Most cafés and restaurants had quite an extensive list to choose from and it was really tempting to order a glass to go with luscious pastas, pizzas and more. However, if you end up doing this at every meal, and cannot stop at one glass, you will be paying through the roof. I should tell you that what you pay for a glass in Amalfi is what you pay for a full bottle of local wine from a general store. Take your pick.
Don’t stay in Amalfi town and Positano
Even if cost is no matter to you, I would still strongly recommend to stay in one of the smaller towns and villages. It is a more authentic and peaceful way to experience the coast, and you can always go to the main town during the day (on the SITA bus of course). I visited both Amalfi town and Positano, both were beautiful and I know this is a controversial statement but Positano really put me off. It was over crowded and a bit too glitzy for my taste. We landed there right after a trek for lunch, and instantly felt out of place, in our track pants and sneakers. Our meal was rushed and super expensive. There was no space to even stand, it was quite maddening. I am glad that we stayed in Atrani and Nocelle, there are hardly any hotels here, mostly family run B&BS, it’s cozier and more romantic, for significantly less money.
In my next post, I will publish a full itinerary of my Southern Italy trip of 4 days in Amalfi and 2 days in Naples.