Through the first two years of the pandemic, my husband and I saved our pennies and dreamed of a trip to the Amalfi Coast of Italy. I can’t even guess the number of travel videos and articles we viewed, planning our “someday” trip.
In May 2022 we landed in Naples to begin our 3-week adventure of several cities in the beautiful Amalfi Coast, Italy. It was a dream come true! Below are a few things we noticed that may also interest you.
Everywhere we looked along the coast of Italy we found inspiring, breath-taking beauty.
We stayed only along the coast, purposely choosing spots with a view of the sparkling blue water. As we walked through cities, we noted nothing was new and shiny, but old structures and homes were etched with centuries of weathering or covered with moss and vines. The Bougainvillea Flowers were abundant, adding pops of color everywhere we looked.
People are friendly but not obnoxious or invasive. Most would greet us with a friendly “Buongiorno” or “Ciao.” If we said it first, they would respond with friendliness that lit up their faces.
One time, an older gentleman passed us, saying something we couldn’t hear. It may have been “salvo,” a common Italian greeting. Our Minnesota brain did not figure this out in time to greet him back, until he was past us.
He stopped and said in English, “Are you just going to pass without saying hello?” We explained that we didn’t understand what he said and were so sorry. He then was quite friendly staying to chat a few minutes about our stay in his city.
Grocery stores or supermercatos, stock very different items than in the US. Due to their size, I would liken them to a corner market in a small US town, not a supermarket. We walked through every short isle several times wondering what we could possibly fix other than pasta.
Local fruits and vegetables were in abundance with fresh fish caught that day. One time, we bought what we thought were two large clear bottles of water. The label had an Italian word written on it, which wasn’t unusual. Parched and needing a drink after a long walk, I realized that we had bought something else, when it stung the whole way down my throat! That was embarrassing.
I confess that most of our meals were not made in our Airbnb stays! We indulged in good Italian food that left a delicious impression on me. I’ve been inspired to make authentic Italian food ever since we returned.
We were surprised to find that not all Airbnbs in Italy have ovens. Most of the meal preparation is done on a stove top. This threw me off for a bit. The stove tops had all the directions written in Italian, of course. I could not get the hang of it and called our host twice to figure it out.
Even then, I never got it working. Apparently, I had to hold one knob for 6 seconds, while turning another for 10 seconds, or was it the other way around? I gave up on fixing morning coffee to sip on our balcony and gladly went to the nearest café for excellent Italian Cappuccino!
We also found out that there is a sitting fee at the café, unless we chose to sip our coffee standing at the coffee bar. I watched from my chair as Italians would stand at the coffee bar, order their perfect small cup of espresso, use a small delicate spoon to stir, then down it like it was an alcoholic shot.
Many older Italian women don’t let their hair go gray. I wondered if the reason I got some attention was due to being an older woman with gray hair. I mean, what else could it be?
The beaches are full of women in two-piece swim wear. I was overdressed in my tankini and swim shorts. Women, young, old, large, small, pregnant, or not, wear thong swim bottoms. Italian men generally wear Speedos. In a way, I respect that! No hang ups or body shaming.
On another note, the water is so clear and refreshing, you can see your feet, as well as rocks on the bottom even in very deep water. The beach was rocky not sandy so using water shoes helped tremendously.
Transportation is available in many forms: train, bus, water ferry, or a private driver. (We opted not to rent a car ourselves).
Which travel option is best? We used them all. Travel is time-consuming and frustrating. The frustrating part? The buses were sometimes full and didn’t let us get on though we’d waited for quite some time. Reading the Italian key for times/places was confusing.
We figured this out eventually, but it left us with many questions, such as,
At the time of our visit, masks were required in all forms of public transportation, but not in restaurants or shops. If we forgot to bring a mask, the driver would not allow us to board. There were no extra masks free for uninformed travelers like us.
One time, after a day at the beach, we waited a long time in the sun and heat for the city bus to arrive. We had forgotten to bring masks to the beach so when the bus finally arrived, the driver would not allow us to board. We had to walk back up insane amounts of steep steps and windy paths to our destination!
Women drive scooters or motorcycles as much as men do. They get their permit for a motorcycle at age 14.
Sometimes we watched horrified as motorcycles took chances on those small cliffside roads, passing the busses who were stalled when larger cars clogged the street. If we met a normal sized car (for US standards) the bus could not proceed.
In such a scenario, the cars were forced to back up around corners on narrow cliff-side passages, until there was space just wide enough to allow the bus to squeeze through. While waiting in this jam, motorcycles would speed ahead weaving in and out of stalled traffic. It was a crazy experience to behold.
In some cities, there are no traffic lights or lines on the road. People would drive every which way. Surprisingly, we did not witness road rage or accidents, just horn honking!
Even if you don’t speak Italian, chances are someone speaks English just around the corner and could help to interpret for you. We tried to learn key phrases before our trip. However, when spoken to in rapid Italian, everything we learned was useless.
The kindness and patience of Italian people helped us through our whole vacation to have a wonderful, unforgettable experience. Yes, you guessed it, we have started to plan our next Italian trip.
Did you notice any of the things I mentioned when you spent time in Italy? When was the first time you visited Italy? What is your advice to others? Join in a conversation and share what you are planning or what you noticed while in Italy.
Your trip sounds amazing. Here is a tip for your next trip. Download the free Google app “Google Translate”. It has a camera option that allows you to point your phones camera at any writing and it will be translated into English. It has been a lifesaver for reading signs, directions, and menus.
That is so helpful! We used the Google Translate but was not aware of the camera option! We will use it on our next trip for signs, menus and directions. Thank you. 💖
Hi, I enjoyed reading about your trip and your experiences throughout this region. We are planning our trip for next year and i was wondering when is the best time to go because obviously we want to enjoy the beaches but i also hear that summer is extremely hot. What time of the year did you go ??
We went the last week of May to the 2nd week in June. The weather was unusually warm (the native Italians said) for that time of year. Yet, it was perfect for us. The temps ranged from 75 to 80’s. The crowds were slim until the 2nd week of June, which was nice. We went to the ocean, swam in the sea, and loved every minute of it!
Hi, I enjoyed your write up about Italy. I lived there in my early 20’s. Naples, can’t wdd as it to go back and explore the coastline again. We would take a small boat over to the Isle if Capri with our Italian landlords and family. Can you share your flight arrangements with me?
I’m sitting in a cafe in Naples now with my 22 year old daughter, her best friend, and my best friend since childhood. We just arrived today after a week-long stay at Hotel Piccolo Sant’Andrea in Priano. I’d traveled to Rome many, many years ago but never anywhere else in Italy. The Amalfi Coast had always been on my “must visit” list and my daughter has been begging me to take her there since she was 12! It did not disappoint. We ate at the most fabulous restaurants (favorites being Un Piano Nel Cielo and Franchino’s) and spent a day at the beach in Positano. One unique add-on to the trip was hiring a local photographer through Flytographer.com. Claudio met us on the beach in Positano and got some amazing professional shots for us. It’s not terribly expensive and worth every penny!
We also rented a large boat (Seawalker) for an 8 hour tour of the coast which included a stop on the incredibly beautiful island of Capri and a delicious lunch at Lo Scoglio. I think our favorite part of the day was visiting the Blue Grotto – truly a magical experience where you pay about 17 € for a local to take you into the cave in a rowboat (the very low entrance requires that all passengers lie flat in the boat to avoid injury) where he loudly sings “Volare” as his voice echos through the cave. The sunlight comes through the entrance and turns the water the most amazing shade of blue.
Although it’s an hour taxi ride from Priano, we decided to visit Ravello – an idyllic gem nestled almost 1200 ft above the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was a beautiful town and the views from the cliffside gardens at Villa Cimbrone might be THE best along the Amalfi Coast (sorry, Positano!).
I brought about 2,000 € as we had some left over from a previous European vacation. Thankfully, most restaurants accept credit cards (love getting those points), but there are quite a few places that only accept cash, e.g., the Blue Grotto, smaller shops and all public toilets – coins only!
I enjoyed reading your post and hate that I just saw it at the tail end of our trip. But I will most definitely be returning.
My biggest tips for those considering the Amalfi Coast:
1. Splurge for the hotel with a view, if possible. And I say hotel (not Airbnb) because we encountered a number of “bait and switch” postings when we tried the Airbnb route. I realize that that’s not the norm, but it made me nervous. Alex our hotel staff were so helpful with taxis, reservations, etc…
2. Pick a time when the weather is cooler. It gets very hot there between May and Downed. Taxis don’t use AC most of the time and many restaurants have tables outside or keep their doors open. A folding fan I threw in my bag at the last minute saved me!
3. Keep small euro bills and coins handy.
4. Make reservations for dinner! And prepare to spend 2.5 to 3 hours enjoying your meal.
5. Don’t rent Vespas unless you already have experience with them! I’d read that it’s the easiest way to get around. So I paid almost $800 to rent 2 for the week. The first time we tried it, by best friend drove hers right into a wall – no damage or injury! But they are extremely heavy, have a sensitive gas handle, and there is only one narrow road that winds along the Amalfi Coast; a road filled with fast cars, huge buses, and lots of experienced Vespa drivers. We called the rental company on day 1 to explain that we did not feel safe driving them and they refused to refund one penny. Lesson learned.
6. Confirm your rate with the taxi driver before you head out. We found a lot of pricing inconsistencies which was quite frustrating.
7. When dining out, be sure to look for servizio, incluso, or coperto on your bill. This is basically a “seat charge” and is similar to gratuity that American restaurants automatically add to large parties. Tipping is not as rampant in Italy as it is in America. If you see one of the seat charges, there’s no need to tip. If the seat charge isn’t present, you still do not need to tip unless the service was extra special.
Sorry for such a long post on this but it’s all still fresh in my mind and I’m only writing things I wish I’d read before my trip. Viaggi sicuri!
Oh my goodness….everything you shared brought the vivid memories back to me! We stayed a week each in Piano di Sorrento, Praiano, and ended up in Maiori. From these locations we visited Positano, Capri, and Salerno.
I loved your post and your enthusiasm for this beautiful part of our world! Truly a trip of a lifetime. Thanks for sharing.
We flew American Airlines because we had flight points that covered both of our tickets. As I say, we saved up for a long time with this in mind. Because we booked ahead of time (5 months before our trip) there were very few available flights, so we took what we could get. The prices went up significantly after we booked, so that turned out in our favor. The only flights available had two stopovers for us. It was a long trip over, and a long trip back! Next time we go, we sincerely want to take a direct flight. At our age, the ticket will be worth it.
We also took a boat to Capri, and enjoyed that beautiful island. I hope you can go back soon.
Thanks for sharing. Husband and I planning on 2023 trip….not necessarily on the A. coast, but lots of real life helpful tips!
You will have a wonderful time! We brought a few hundred dollars in Euros to being with, as some places do not take credit cards. We checked before leaving that our credit card did not charge an exhange fee. It’s all a learning experience, for sure! But one you’ll never regret. ☀️