This post originally appeared on Best Western’s YouMustBeTrippin.com’s blog, where I regularly contribute stories. I was compensated for this post but the opinions are mine.
Having logged more than 40,000 miles during a lifetime of epic road trips through the U.S., France and even faraway places like Rwanda, I was recently tempted to turn my 17-day vacation to Naples, Venice and Rome into another road trip.
After a quick inventory of how exhausted we felt from our just concluded annual Hispanicize conference, my wife and I instead opted for a mini Italian road trip that is hands down the most scenic one in all of Europe: The Amalfi Coast.
The Amalfi Coast is located in southern Italy, just nine miles away from Sorrento, the small Napolitan city that is the perfect springboard to day trips such as Mount Vesuvius, the ruins of Pompeii, the ancient city of Herculaneum, the city of Naples or, my favorite place in the world, the enchanting island of Capri.
The thing that will surprise you is that, in terms of distance, the road to Amalfi is shockingly tiny at just nine miles long. But every single one of those nine miles feel like a lot more as each cubit foot of the trip features winding, hairpin roads that will have you tip toeing near cliffs that sometimes drop 500 feet or more right into the gorgeous blue waters of the Mediterranean. For the experienced road trippers, this road is what you would get if you combined Oregon’s Pacific Coast Highway with Hawaii’s Road to Hana.
In case you’re planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast, here are six tips on how to maximize your visit:
Skip the tourist bus and rent a car: Most tourists visiting the Amalfi Coast take the Sorrento tour buses to see it but if you can rent a car, you will enjoy the trip so much more. If you’re already stuck with a bus ticket, ride on the right side of the bus for the best views. The best part of doing the Amalfi trip is the road trip itself and being able to make pit-stops along the way is the most fulfilling way to capture the vistas you seemingly encounter with every turn. If you’re worried that you will get lost and you don’t speak Italian, don’t be. There is almost no way to get lost on this road if you pay attention to the signs. It also infinitely helps that it is a straight drive north to south and back.
For the ultimate ride, consider a moped: If my wife hadn’t been afraid of accidentally driving off a cliff, I would have easily chosen to make the drive by moped as this option gives you even more freedom to roam Amalfi than a car. Moped rentals in Sorrento cost less than cars, and speeding is not a major hazard on the windy road, but at the end of the day my wife kept pointing out that she was not experienced with motorcycles and even a small spill could result in flying off a cliff. Fortunately, I paid attention to her and, in the process we kept dry from a mini rainstorm that we encountered along the road. However, if she wasn’t nervous, I still think I would have chosen an Italian Vespa.
Hit the road early: Even in off-peak travel months like April or October, the Amalfi Coast gets a little congested with vehicles. To maximize your trip and take advantage of the best golden hours of photography, take your breakfast to go and hit the road early in the morning. With a moderate level of stops, including lunch, we completed our trip to Amalfi in three hours. With only one quick stop on the way back, we were stunned to see it also took us three hours to return because of heavy traffic. If you go during the summer, beware that Amalfi gets so congested that locals are restricted to driving their cars on certain days of the week and all trips to and from Amalfi will take more time. Once again, riding a moped would have been a strong advantage under these conditions.
Make Positano a mandatory pit-stop: The small fishing village of Positano rests between Sorrento and Amalfi and is a great stop for some of the best vistas you’ll find along the road, as well as breakfast, lunch or dinner. Make sure you budget one to two hours just to stop and enjoy.
Expect everything to be pricey: The entire Amalfi Coast is pricey so don’t let the sleepy nature of Positano or Amalfi disarm you into thinking you are staying anywhere but a tourist trap. The Amalfi Coast is breath-taking, and the Italians who live in this part of the Italian Riviera (just like those who live in the island of Capri) know it, so get ready to pay accordingly for food, fashion and fun.
Enjoy Amalfi’s best: Except for the impressive Greek-inspired St. Andrew’s Cathedral, which you should budget two hours to visit leisurely, the best things to do in Amalfi are to take in the beautiful ocean-side views, walk, shop and buy some Limoncello, the delicious regional lemon-flavored liquor that is native to Sorrento, Capril and the Amalfi Coast. For dinner, I highly recommend the restaurant L’Abside.
Have you been on any other scenic road trips that you think rival the Amalfi Coast?