Category Archives: Amalfi Coast

The Wildest Ride in Italy

Driving on the Amalfi Coast

Living on the Amalfi Coast means learning to live with the Amalfi Coast Road. This twisty road—the only one along the stretch of the coastline—offers an intoxicating blend of captivating views, tight spaces and treacherous turns. For many travelers it is a lasting memory, sometimes amazing, sometimes frightening, but always memorable. As it’s the only road, it means that getting around on the Amalfi is an adventure – for locals and visitors alike. It also means that if you plan to get around on public transport that you are in for quite the ride on the local buses.

When I’m on the bus and hear gasps from first time visitors while the bus careens around yet another curve, I often think of John Steinbeck, who wrote an essay about Positano for Harper’s Bazaar in 1953 that put the Amalfi Coast on the map for many Americans. Before writing about Positano, however, he had to get there. Then just as now it was along the Amalfi Coast Road. Steinbeck arrived with his driver, “Signor Bassani Bassano, Experienced Guide – all Italy – and Throt Europe,” who gave him a good and proper introduction to driving in Italy.

“To an American, Italian traffic is at first just down-right nonsense. It seems hysterical, it follows no rule. You cannot figure what the driver ahead or behind or beside you is going to do next and he usually does it. But there are other hazards besides the driving technique. There are the motor scooters, thousands of them, which buzz at you like mosquitoes. There is a tiny little automobile called ‘topolino’ or ‘mouse’ which hides in front of larger cars; there are gigantic trucks and tanks in which most of Italy’s goods are moved; and finally there are assorted livestock, hay wagons, bicycles, lone horses and mules out for a stroll, and to top it all there are the pedestrians who walk blissfully on the highways never looking about. To give this madness more color, everyone blows the horn all the time. This deafening, screaming, milling, tire-screeching mess is ordinary Italian highway traffic.”

Buses on the Amalfi Coast

In a place as transportation challenged as the Amalfi Coast, we don’t just have “ordinary Italian highway traffic” here. We have the cacophony Steinbeck experienced all condensed into a road, as he described it, “carefully designed to be a little narrower than two cars side by side.” Add in a zillion buses and the curves and you’ve got yourself the wildest ride in Italy. Steinbeck’s description of his first drive down the Amalfi Coast road is still one of the best I’ve ever read. While I suspect it might be a little more challenging to hit a chicken now than it was in 1953, you probably wouldn’t have to try too hard to make it possible.

“We squirmed and twisted through Naples, past Pompeii, whirled and flashed into the mountains behind Sorrento. We hummed ‘Come back to Sorrento’ dismally. We did not believe we could get back to Sorrento. Flaming like a meteor we hit the coast, a road, high, high above the blue sea, that hooked and corkscrewed on the edge of nothing … And on this road, the buses, the trucks, the motor scooters and the assorted livestock. We didn’t see much of the road. In the back seat my wife and I lay clutched in each other’s arms, weeping hysterically, while in the front seat Signor Bassano gestured with both hands and happily instructed us: “Ina da terd sieglo da Hamperor Hamgousternos coming tru wit Leeegeceons“. (Our car hit and killed a chicken.) “Izz molto lot old heestory here. I know. I tall“. Thus he whirled us “Throt Italy“. And below us, and it seemed sometimes under us, a thousand feet below lay the blue Tyrrhenian licking its lips for us.”

The bit about Sorrento always makes me laugh, which surely wasn’t Steinbeck’s sentiment at the time as he sat weeping hysterically in fear in the back of Signor Bassani Bassano’s taxi. And the poor chicken.

Driving on the Amalfi Coast

Daily life and getting around are intertwined with the Amalfi Coast Road here, and it’s no surprise that there are stories—and a lot of them—that I’ve heard over the years. If you think that riding the bus on the Amalfi Coast makes you feel queasy now, you should hear the stories of back in the 60s when the buses were filled with cigarette smoke. When she was young, my husband’s sister would get sick to her stomach the day before thinking about the bus ride to Salerno! Or another friend who still can’t stomach alici (anchovies) after a childhood spent taking the bus through Cetara when the heady scent of alici wafting through the bus windows would combine with good old fashioned motion sickness. Bleck. Or the man in Amalfi who ages ago used to drive the bus to Naples and ran his own courier service delivering packages—and even chickens—back and forth. Again the poor chickens.

Traffic on the Amalfi Coast

While you might think it’s madness, it actually works. That’s the amazing thing. Well, besides the fact that the Amalfi Coast Road even exists. A road along the coastline didn’t exist until the 1830s when construction began. It took nearly 20 years to build, bulldoze and tunnel the road along the coastline, now officially called SS 163. Before 1850 the only way to get around the Amalfi Coast was by walking along the maze of stone pathways that connect the villages or to take a boat. Public transport? Um … your own two feet. Although you could hire a donkey to get to where you needed to go, which is what Wagner did when he visited Ravello in 1880. It’s not unusual during the summer months to still see donkeys giving a hand to visitors, but these days they’re hauling suitcases and not German composers.

City Sightseeing Bus Amalfi Coast

Getting around on the Amalfi Coast has always been an adventure. Even after the first road was built, there were still many villages that didn’t get road access even until the 20th century. In a day and age when we rather expect multiple options for public transport while traveling and precision with schedules, the Amalfi Coast is a reminder that not all places can be tamed. This is a place with an incredible natural landscape that we must adapt to in order to experience it to the fullest.

Getting Around by Bus Amalfi Coast

So when you’re squeezed into a bus zigzagging along the coast or hauling your luggage up a long staircase, remember that it’s just daily life on the Amalfi Coast. And if you’ve got a bit of a sense of humor, like Steinbeck, it’s also part of the fun. You’re taking part in a long tradition of traveling on the Amalfi Coast. Just pack your patience, some good motion sickness medicine and get ready for an adventure!

PS: Planning on getting around the Amalfi Coast by bus? The local SITA bus company has just been released the summer schedule this week, and timetables and routes can be found at their website www.sitasudtrasporti.it. For a more comfortable ride with audio commentary available in multiple languages, consider the City Sightseeing buses.

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italy-blogging-roundtable

Italy Blogging Roundtable

I’m pleased to be joining a wonderful group of Italy writers in a monthly series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month we write about a theme, and you can read about this month’s topic – Public Transport – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

Italy Explained6 Reasons You Should Travel by Train in Italy

ArtTravHow Not to Let Public Transportation Ruin Your Holiday in Florence

BrigolantePublic Transportation: Getting to Assisi from Rome and Florence

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Amalfi Coast Ferry Schedule 2016

Amalfi Coast Ferry Schedule 2016

While the twisty Amalfi Coast Road is justifiably famous, my favorite way to get around is on the ferry. You get to avoid the traffic and all those curves while at the same time getting a first class view of the coastline from the sea. I receive a lot of questions about using the ferries on the Amalfi Coast, so I’ll cover as many as I can here for the 2016 season.

 

Where do ferries depart for the Amalfi Coast?

The most extensive ferry service on the Amalfi Coast is run by Travelmar, with a line that connects Salerno, Amalfi and Positano. They also feature a service that connects Maiori and Minori with Amalfi. The company Gescab offers ferry service connecting Amalfi and Positano from Capri. Sometimes during peak summer season there is ferry service to the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento. It was offered in 2016, but I will update this post when I find out 100% that there is ferry service from Sorrento for this season.

 

Where do the ferries stop on the Amalfi Coast?

Ferry service on the Amalfi Coast is primarily focused on Amalfi and Positano. However, there is also a smaller boat service between Maiori and Minori to Amalfi so travelers can connect to other boats to reach Positano, Salerno and Capri.

Taking the Ferry to Positano

When do the ferries run on the Amalfi Coast?

There aren’t set dates for the ferry boat service along the Amalfi Coast each year. There are some general guidelines, but they are weather dependent. Ferry service usually begins on the Amalfi Coast each year in time for Easter, which kicks off the tourist season. Services run through the autumn until the end of October or beginning of November, depending on how long good weather holds out. If you’re planning on visiting in the early spring or late autumn, it’s best to have a plan B in case the ferries aren’t running due to rough seas or bad weather.

 

What is the ferry schedule on the Amalfi Coast?

The Travelmar website is available in English and you can check out the ferry schedule here. They also have an app linked to from their website that you can download in advance. Gescab has their schedule for ferry service between Salerno, Amalfi, Positano and Capri here.

Positano Ferry Amalfi Coast

How much does the ferry cost on the Amalfi Coast?

Prices vary depending on the length of your journey and the company. In general, on Travelmar the prices are €8.00 per person between Amalfi and Positano and a bit more from Salerno all the way to Positano. You can find all the Travelmar rates here.

 

Can I buy ferry tickets in advance on the Amalfi Coast?

Yes! Both Travelmar and Gescab offer online ticketing in advance via their respective websites. You can also book in advance on the Travelmar app.

Ferry to Positano

Where is the best place to sit on the ferry?

All of the ferries along the Amalfi Coast have two levels of seating. The upper level is open on the top of all the boats while the lower area is closed off. The view from down below can be just as great – as long as you’re on the correct side of the boat. And the view from the top is also better if you know which side of the boat to snag a seat on. In general, if you’re heading from Amalfi to Positano or Capri, when you get on the boat head to the right side. If you’re going from Capri or Positano to Amalfi, when you get on go to the left side. That way you’ll be on the side of the coastline for the journey. But no worries if it’s crowded and you can’t get the best seat. You can always move around on the ferry and even go out front or stand at the back and watch where you’ve been. I’m always moving around and taking photos. (Yes, even after nine years here!)

 

Is it a problem to take luggage on the ferry?

Not at all! Many people do. Just be aware that you might need to pay a small extra fee for each piece of large luggage and you’re responsible for lugging it on and off the boat.

 

Can I take a ferry to Ravello?

Well, you’d have to catch the special flying ferry to reach Ravello, because it’s situated about 1,200 feet above sea level. But, no worries, you can simply take the ferry to Amalfi and then continue up into the mountains to Ravello via bus or taxi.

Amalfi Coast Boat Service

Alright that last question was just for fun. (Although I have actually been asked that numerous times!) Are there any other questions about taking the ferry on the Amalfi Coast that I’ve missed?

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5 Incredible Aerial Videos of the Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast Travel Aerial Photo Atrani

It’s those quiet winter months on the Amalfi Coast when everyone is dreaming of the sweet scents of spring and those lazy, hazy days of summer days to come. This is the time of year when comments start pouring in on Instagram and here on Ciao Amalfi from people around the world dreaming about upcoming vacations to the Amalfi Coast. So since we’re all in the mood for a bit of travel dreaming, I’ve put together a collection of the most stunning and inspiring aerial videos I’ve seen of the Amalfi Coast. Set them full screen, sit back and get ready to dream!

 

Aerial Footage of Sorrento, Capri & Positano 

Be prepared to be swept away by this incredible aerial video that starts in Sorrento, continues to Capri and then goes along the Amalfi Coast to Positano. The view on Capri as the video rises over Monte Solaro is breathtaking! The peak of Monte Solaro is the highest point on the island of Capri and visiting there one of my favorite things to do on the island. You can easily reach the top from Anacapri thanks to a super fun chairlift. (Read about it here.) I’ve never seen anything that comes so close to capturing that incredible vista or the feeling of standing up there, peering over the edge with the sea breeze blowing in your face.

 

Aerial Drone of Positano by Alfonso Longobardi

With sweeping views over Positano and the ever so catchy “Volare” by Dean Martin to accompany it, this is a video I could watch over and over again. It’s no secret, I have. However, if someone who knows Positano even better than me could let me know which hotel is having that wedding in the video I would love it. (Is it L’Ancora?) I shared this video last week on the Ciao Amalfi Facebook page and got such a great response that it inspired this blog post!

 

Amalfi Coast Boat Rental Highlights from Exclusive Cruises 

My good friends over at Exclusive Cruises made this fabulous video that captures how much fun it is to rent a boat on the Amalfi Coast. I particularly love the scene that pans up the Duomo of Amalfi. And, yes, you simply must experience the Amalfi Coast from the sea on your next visit. Exclusive Cruises can show you how!

 

Amalfi Coast Aerial Video from Salerno to Amalfi

I shared this aerial video from Salerno to Amalfi a couple of years ago, but it’s too good not to share again. It covers Atrani and Amalfi especially well. So combined with the other videos in this blog post you can take an aerial tour from Salerno along the Amalfi Coast to Sorrento and even Capri!

 

Drive & Drone Along the Amalfi Coast

This beautiful video was created by Citroën, so naturally it features the Amalfi Coast drive as well as incredible drone footage. Love the aerial shot of the Marina di Praia beach in Praiano!

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Winter Weather Layers

Amalfi Coast Travel Winter Weather Ravello

A grand sky scene in the above Ravello

The first week of this new year has come and gone seemingly in a haze. Mostly because it has been rainy and grey with low lying clouds that actually do make it hazy. At least outside my house! As I write, big clouds are blowing by thanks to strong winds from the sea. Classic winter weather on the Amalfi Coast. Winter also means big, dramatic skies, which is quite a sight to see. Here are some of the scenes that caught my eye this week.

Amalfi Coast Travel Winter Weather Clouds

A mix of sunshine and clouds above Amalfi

 

Amalfi Coast Travel January

It’s not very often that the sky above Amalfi steals the show

 

Amalfi Coast Travel Winter Sunset

A cloudy winter sunset in Amalfi

 

Amalfi Coast Winter Travel January

Walking along the pier in Amalfi at sunset

 

Amalfi Coast Winter Travel Scala

Looking down on Amalfi from Scala with big clouds and a spotty sea

Nicki down the coast in Positano has shared some beautiful winter weather photos here. What is winter like where you live?

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Ice Skating in Amalfi

Amalfi Ice Rink Skating

There is a fun addition to the festive atmosphere in Amalfi this year with the arrival of an ice skating rink. Yes an ice skating rink in Amalfi! The kids in town have been enjoying trying it out on these warm December days. There are even cute little bears they can push around to get used to the ice. It certainly isn’t a natural experience on the Amalfi Coast!

Amalfi Coast Ice Rink

The ice rink is set up along the lungomare with beautiful views of the harbor and Amalfi. Even if you’re not one to take to the ice, you certainly can’t beat the view!

Amalfi Ice Skating Rink

The ice rink in Amalfi is open until January 6th, 2016.

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