This year we visited two of the most popular spots in Southern Europe where tourists flock every summer – Santorini and Positano. We are not the type of tourists who LOVE going where everyone else is going. But, like most people, we still want to tick off those places, even just to see for ourselves if they’re really worth it. So if we have to summarize our impressions from both places – Santorini lives up to the hype, Positano – not as much.
We’re going to be completely honest with you – Positano is a bit of a pain overall. Yes, it’s BEAUTIFUL, one of the most spectacular places you could visit. We know you’ve seen all the perfect shots from that famous Positano beach. And yes, the view is totally worth all the trouble. But we also don’t see a lot of people talking about the inconveniences, the crowds, and all the other drawbacks. So we’re here to break them down for you without sugarcoating it.
Getting to Positano can be an adventure on its own. When we visited two years ago we flew into Rome as we wanted to spend a couple days there first. From Rome we took a train to Naples and from there a taxi to Praiano, where our hotel was located. This time we drove to Salerno, planned to drop off our rental car there and take a taxi to Praiano.
Getting a taxi is generally a good idea. The roads are so impossibly narrow, there is no parking anywhere and having a rental car is a nightmare. Except, once we got to Salerno and started looking for a taxi, we realized it would cost about 150 Euro. For reference, that’s how much we paid for our rental car in Puglia for 3 days! Add to that the same amount on the way back, plus another 50-70 Euro for taxis every time you want to move between towns within the coast… And going the taxi route started to sound incredibly expensive.
Luckily, it turned out we had a free parking spot at the place we were staying at in Praiano. So we ended up keeping our rental car for a few more days. But chances are, this is not a reasonable option for most people as parking is incredibly hard to come by in this area.
The bottom line is, just getting to Positano will cost you! Here are some sample rates that would get you around the coast and to Positano:
- Taxi from Naples to Positano – about 200 Euro
- Train from Naples to Salerno – 10-15 Euro/person
- Taxi from Salerno to Positano – 120-150 Euro
- Ferry from Salerno to Amalfi – about 10-15 Euro/person
- Ferry from Amalfi to Positano – 8 Euro/person
- Taxi from Amalfi to Positano – about 50-70 Euro
One little tip if you are planning to take a ferry: keep in mind you will most likely need to climb a couple hundred stairs up the coast with your luggage! There are no regular roads to take you from water level to the main road in most towns. So you will either have to carry all your stuff up a steep climb or pay someone to do it for you.
Your transportation woes won’t end once you get to Positano. If you are lucky enough to be staying in Positano itself and don’t have any plans of leaving the town, then you don’t have to worry about it. But if you are staying in one of the neighboring towns and want to visit Positano too, things get more tricky.
There are public SITA buses running along the coast with a convenient schedule and ticket price of only 2.5 Euro. Just a couple of years ago these buses were a convenient way to get around but with the amount of tourists Positano is seeing these days, things have changed. There aren’t nearly enough buses to accommodate the demand, especially during high season. So unless you are at the first stop, you will often have to wait for a few buses to pass by before you can get on. The lines are often a few blocks long with people waiting for hours. We tried getting on a bus from Praiano to Amalfi one day around noon and saw 4-5 buses pass by with no space at all. We gave up.
Even if you are able to get on a bus, you could still get stuck in traffic for hours. This also happens quite often due to the very narrow roads and congested traffic. Taxis between the towns can cost you anywhere between 40-100 Euro one way. And even if you do have a rental car like we did, you will still have a very hard time finding a place to park it.
Book Way In Advance
As soon as you know when you will be in Positano – book your accommodation! This place gets booked out months in advance and during peak season it’s usually completely full. Most hotels in Positano are very expensive due to the limited supply. But there are still a few somewhat affordable options if you plan ahead. Here are some that won’t break the bank:
Staying at an Airbnb is also a great option – in fact it’s what we prefer to do in this area. Make sure you ask if your apartment comes with a parking spot and how many stairs you’ll need to climb to get there. Trust us – it’s important!
If you haven’t joined Airbnb yet, get $40 off your first stay here.
Know Your Stairs
As we already mentioned, stairs are a big deal in the Amalfi Coast. Most of the towns here have just a couple of main roads that pass through and everything else is narrow roads and stairs up and down the cliffs. This may not sound like an issue but you’ll know why it’s important when you have to climb a hundred stairs to get back to your place after having some pasta and a couple glasses of wine! Carrying suitcases around is also not fun.
This is also one of the main reasons we don’t recommend Positano for families with children or older people. You will have a fair share of steep inclines to climb, sidewalks are virtually non-existent and in most places space is limited and the lines – long.
What To Pack
Comfortable shoes. See the section above! You will walk around a lot and climb a lot of stairs. Heels and wedges might not be the best idea.
Flip flops you don’t care too much about. It’s easy to forget this one especially when you don’t have a lot of space and just want to pack a bunch of lemon print bow sandals. Don’t bring your nice slippers to the beach! The beaches in this part of Europe are not very sandy. You will be mostly walking on very uncomfortable little pebbles that get quite hot in the sun. So you will need a pair of rubber flip flops you can wear right till the edge of the water and wouldn’t mind getting wet.
Sunscreen. This one is obvious but Positano can get really hot in the summer and you’ll end up spending a lot of time in areas with no shade. Make sure you’re protected.
Beach towel and umbrella. You probably won’t bring this in your suitcase but be sure to buy a beach umbrella and a towel once you’re in the area. Sunbeds at the beach in Positano will cost you a cool 20 Euro per person!! There is a small public area of the beach where you can bring your own and if you come with a bigger company this makes the most sense.
We don’t mean to paint a gloomy picture but this is a reality of the Amalfi coast. The same picturesque seaside cliffs that give the area its charm are also the reason why there is just not enough space for everyone. Not enough parking space, not enough buses and not enough taxis to accommodate the thousands of tourists that flock to Positano every single day. Don’t get us wrong, you will still have an amazing time. The views will stun you, the architecture will charm you, the food will be delicious. This is just to warn you about the fine print.
Our honest opinion? Positano is a place you must visit at least once in your life. But we personally would not go back over and over. We would prefer to explore the less popular towns in the area or other less touristy areas in Italy like Puglia.