I’ve had the immense satisfaction of checking this location off my bucket list twice before 12 Adventures came into play, so for adventures B12 (before 12 Adventures) I’ll post the stories here along with guides and insights on making the most of these particular adventures. I don’t think the Amalfi coast has seen the last of me either, so updates to come I’m sure. Why Amalfi? Swimming in the mediterranean is like nowhere else. Your body is lighter in the water and no sharks, so for a sea chicken like me it’s heaven. The people are real, friendly and it’s a seafoodie’s heaven on earth.
Links are to my favorite *product/service sites and Trip Advisor reviews. TA is my go-to for travel and where I document all the Highs and lows of my adventures.
When To Go
Just off season. September/October is my favorite, (though I hear spring in nice too) because the weather is still warm and sunny and the rates are really reasonable (flights under $1,000 from San Diego) and their annual Festa del Pesce (Fish Festival) is on the last Saturday and not to be missed. I had the honor of singing at it (bucket list-check) back in 2014 after writing a song about the town from my first visit. Positano.
WHO TO GO WITH
Italy is for romantics. It’s where a tom-girl like me loves dressing up and where the men openly appreciate and flirt with women (harmlessly), so I’d say it’s a perfect place for girls’ getaways, but not so much for honeymooners (saw a lot of ’em arguing there). Leave the Eeyore’s, bean counters, nit picky eaters, drink counters and the control freak/hyper-organized ones behind. Leave the stresses behind and allow yourself to truly enjoy the simple, extraordinaire beauty of Italian life.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Before you travel internationally always:
- Check to make sure your passport is good and not about to expire. Sometimes renewals can take weeks, even months, so don’t risk it. Take a photo of your passport with your phone and a photo copy of it at home where it can be easily found.
- Take at least 2 credit cards or a credit card and a debit visa and let them know you’ll be traveling to where and when. Nothing worse than having your cc declined and going through the hassle of getting your card unfrozen while shop keepers stare at you like your some kind of criminal wannabe. Keep a photo copy of these at home for safe keeping too.
- Get an international cell plan. This allows you to use cool apps like google maps, so you don’t get too lost and other important features on the fly. Wifi isn’t all that great in Europe, so don’t count on it. Txting keeps me in touch with my friends while I’m traveling too. Easier to meet up.
- Download useful apps ahead of time:
- Rome2Rio (shows you how to get anywhere from anywhere)
- Trip Advisor (great tips on things to do, places to stay and eat)
- Google maps (I’d be lost without it)
- Google Translate (on the spot translation – Not everyone on Amalfi speaks fluent English. Most, only broken which to me is great. I come to Italy to experience Italian life. If I want perfect English I’ll go to little Italy in my city)
- I also have my bank app, cc apps, travel site apps like Kayak, Expedia and Booking.com. And I use FB a lot, but whatever social media you use, download that app if you plan to share your holiday during it.
PACK LIGHT AND SMART. It gets old dragging around 50lbs of stuff you’ll probably never wear or use. Here’s what’s hard to find and oh so needed:
Here’s what I suggest packing. Snorkel gear is great, but unnecessary bulk. Just a pair of water goggles will do. There are a few snorkeling excursions where the equipment is included.
- Dresses: 2-3 for day, 2-3 for evening.
- Very light, roll up in a ball rain jacket (if you care about getting wet. It does suddenly rain from time to time there, but you’ll dry pretty quickly)
- Light sweaters (2)
- Shoes/Sandals (3) water shoes (the rocky beaches are hard to walk on and they’re not readily available to buy), casual sandals or flip flops, dressier sandals but make sure you can walk on cobble stone with them, so lower heal, maybe wedges.
- Swim wear – 2 swimsuits, 2 cover ups, 1 pair of waterproof, thicker soled flip flops (beach towels provided or buy one there) and def swim cap. Almost all hotels require the use of swim caps.
- Light or capri pants
- Bug repellents:
- Cinnamon sticks. Place them near bed outlets and doors to patio – ants hate Cinnamon, who knew??
- Vibrating clip-on mosquito repellent works best, bracelets are ok too. Only use spray in your room, not in a crowd.
- Purell to dab on bites you’ll inevitably get. Untreated, they’ll get very red and ugly. Good news is you won’t be alone on that. You’ll see women walking around in $1,000 dresses with huge welts and scratch marks.
- Sun/skin protection: pack your favorite sunscreen, a floppy hat and one more hat according to your style (I love baseball caps) and sunglasses for sure. A nice pair and a beach, I don’t care if they get scratched up pair. really great moisturizer like the BodyShop’s beautifying oil (watch for the frequent deals on their site or sometimes they have ’em for sale ($4) at places like Marshalls or Ross) to counterbalance all the salt water and sea air.
- Universal Power converter and be careful here. There are two types of 2 prong converters. The thicker one only wlrks in more modern areas where the thinner ones work in all hotels, etc.
- Backup phone charger
- Double check with your cell phone provider to make sure you at least have text coverage in Europe, though Google Maps GPS has been a lifesaver for me who gets lost easily.
Do your best to go for carry-on baggage only. Especially if you’re going to fly within Europe. All Euro flights are very strict on how much you can carry on. Those rules change a lot, but here’s Ryan Air’s rules and they are probably the strictest:
What you CAN bring on board
- One small bag e.g. handbag, laptop bag etc. not exceeding 35cm x 20cm x 20cm
- One cabin bag, not exceeding 55cm x 40cm x 20cm in size and 10kg in weight, plus can be carried per passenger who has purchased priority booking or a Plus/Flexi Plus ticket.
If you go over, they will force you to check your bag and the price at the airport is double what it is if you pay before you fly. Like up to $75 per bag vs $35. Oh, and learn the metric system. Nothing they love more than being asked “What is that in inches?” You’re there to experience their culture, not the other way around. Many of the cheaper bags in the US are higher than that and it’ll be mean paying about $50 to check that bag over a measly 1.5-2 inches so, pack light. Plus, dragging your bags up and down the cobble stone streets is a pain in the arse, so ehm…repeat after me, “pack light, pack smart.” As my friend Siobhan K. smartly says, “when traveling all you really need is a phone, your passport and a credit card.”
Ants and Mosquitos are prevalent on the Amalfi coast, so listen up when they say don’t leave any food in your room and use the screens on doors and windows. Also, most beds are small and hard. Just the way it rolls there. If that bothers you, bring something like Midol to help offset/minimize the aches. If you’re allergic to animals, bring your favorite allergy med. Cats are the keepers of most establishments and the reason you won’t see any mice.
LEARN SOME LINGO. Italians love it when you try to communicate in their native tongue. You’ll get a smile for your efforts.
Some of my favorites are:
Come va (komay vah)? = How are you?
Buongiornio~ (big smile) = Good morning~
Bona Sera = Good afternoon/evening
Bona Notte = Good night
If you see something you love, clothing or speciality item, get it. On the spot. Ship it home on the spot whenever possible and grab their card for future orders. The things you’ll find here aren’t exported to where you live and some are only regional. That was a hard lesson for me to learn and probably why I’m always jonesin’ to go back. Examples:
- Rucolino (Arugula based herbal liqueur) – excellent digestive and taste and proudly “The official liqueur of the island of Ischia)
- Limoncello (lemon based digestive liqueur) Positano and Sorrento are the places to get it, though Augostino at Miramare on Ischia has a good batch.
- Finochietto (fennel based digestive liqueur) Sorrento or Capri
- Seafood – all kinds, but Octopus salad is very popular and tasty~
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly into Naples or Rome, then either take the train to Sorrento or hire a driver like Franceso Marrapese. Driving in Italy is insane with all the twist and turns, guard rail-less roads and speed monster drivers. Best leave it to a pro so you can relax and enjoy the view. He can arrange personal tours (wait till you’re over jet lag), is a wealth of info, like…”never have a cappuccino (milk w coffee) after a meal. that is only for breakfast. From Positano you can take water taxi’s or busses just about anywhere. Plus, it’s kind of cool to step out of the airport luggage claim to a handsome man holding up a sign with your name on it…
WHERE TO STAY
Positano and Hotel Pupetto, hands down. It’s got everything you need; beachfront, beach activities, 3 restaurants, reasonable rates and star treatment from the staff. Positano is built on a large, steep hill so many of the reasonably priced hotels are a hike up, way up that hill, where Pupetto is a short walk along a relatively level path. Or Francesco will drop you off at the top entrance where a young man will take your bags down and you’ll need to walk down about 100 cobble stone steps (wear comfortable flats~). Ask the front desk staff to make reservations anywhere and help figuring out transportation to/from day excursions.
- Da Adolfo – cool, beachfront restaurant with lounge area, a short water taxi ride from the main pier.
- Cafe Bruno – small seaview restaurant worth the climb to the top of the hill
- Music on the Rocks – 3 levels of piano/sushi bar, lounge and underground disco.
DAY TRIPS AND EXCURSIONS
- Amalfi/Ravelo – Explore the artful town of Ravelo (buses go from the waterfront), then wander Amalfi square before dining waterfront at Stella Maris and/or Da Gemma.
- Sorrento – Spend a night or two here on the way back to Naples. Great shopping and food walking tour and port to the Isles of Ischia and Capri. We stayed at Chiro’s place, Casa Dominova Bed and Breakfast, who also owns Ristorante Da Gigino (and his brother makes some excellent limoncello) the room was a little harder to find, but nice, apartment style with courtyard where all guests gather for breakfast.
- Isle of Ischia – a walking tour of the Castle by the sea is the highlight. Rabbit is their specialty along with Rucolino. If you stay over, make it Miramare e Castello Hotel and splurge on an oceanfront room with balcony. Say hello to Augustino in the bar for me and ask for an Aparol spritz.
- Isle of Capri – start the morning with a tram ride up to the top (Ana Capri) for a nice walk with stellar views, then load up on picnic goods and bevies at the local, marina shop and spend a 1/2 day private boat tour with Capri Whales di Wendy to the grottos (blue is super touristy, green is much nicer), snorkeling before hopping on the ferry back to Sorrento.
* Unless otherwise noted, all recommendations are based on my personal experience and without compensation in exchange for recommendation.
My ideal route? Go straight to Positano from Naples. Spend the majority of your stay there. Then to Sorrento for a couple nights. Capri only for the day (super touristy), Ischia for a couple nights and stay outside of Naples if you can. If not, stay someplace like Palazzo Caracciolo Napoli MGallery by Sofitel and hit the little pizza joint in the movie Eat, Pray Love or any pizza joint because Naples is known for their pizza.