Around 5 million people visit the Amalfi Coast every year to see its UNESCO world heritage landscape, culture, delicious cuisine, and follow in the footsteps celebrities of the past and present. There are many things to love about Amalfi Coast (100 beaches, anyone? It can also be one the most expensive and frustrating places in Italy. It’s not about going to places your friends or guides tell you to, but rather finding the right Amalfi Coast town for your style of travel.
Although the Amalfi Coast has been a place where people have lived side by side for hundreds of years, there are surprising differences between the towns. Are you more drawn to the bustle and bustle of Positano, or the quiet, relaxed vibe of Conca Dei Marini. Do you prefer a large, sunny beach like that on Maiori or the tranquility of Sant’Agata in the mountains? Check out our guide to Amalfi Coast towns before you book your hotel. It will help you determine which town suits your style and budget for your Amalfi Coast vacation.
Sorrento, the official start point of the Amalfi coast, is also the most accessible town. This is both a blessing as well as a curse. It places Sorrento on most day-trippers’ Amalfi Coast itinerary, which means that its population explodes during summer high season. *
This accessibility has a positive side. Sorrento is the ideal place to stay on Amalfi Coast if your goal is to make day trips to Naples or Pompeii. Because the roads are narrow and few, it is more difficult to make such excursions further along the coast. Long traffic jams can result from an accident or breakdown, which could cause delays that will cost you precious time. It may be the busiest Amalfi Coast town, but it isn’t crowded for a reason. The location of the hotel makes it an ideal base for a broad-ranging vacation that allows you to visit many of the nearby sites of interest.
Stay here, if: If you’re looking to get to know Amalfi Coast better; where everyone speaks English; a location that is convenient for day trips and easy travel within the region; you don’t want to spend too much time at the coast; you like a mix of traditional atmospheres and modern conveniences; you’re happy to day-trip to Naples or Pompeii; and you don’t mind crowds.
It is worth noting that Sorrento is much less crowded in spring, winter, and fall.
Sant’Agata & Nerano
Sant’Agata, short for Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi, is a charming hill town nestled between two gulfs. The Bay of Naples has the impressive Mount Vesuvius while the Bay of Salerno boasts the Li Galli Archipelago. This tiny hill town is a short distance from the coast and offers a stunning view of Capri. You can visit the nearby ancient Greek Necropolis and the Monastero del Deserto Carmelite monastery, which has attracted travelers since Goethe’s visit in the late 19th Century.
The fishing village Nerano is just down the road. Its beaches are located in the middle of the Punta Campanella Natural Marine Reserve. The clear, rocky waters and rocky seabed make it a popular spot for scuba divers. But be aware that according to Greek mythology, the sirens sing here to lure Ulysses off course. Sant’Agata and Nerano are also culinary delights. You can taste regional specialties such as the Sant’Anna tomatoes and Monti Lattari Cheese, or if your preference is for something more local, Nerano’s famous spaghetti with zucchini pesto.
Stay here, if: If you’re looking to discover the Amalfi Coast and indulge your senses; if you’re staying in Sant’Agata you’re happy to be off the coast; you’re open to price options that range from affordable to luxurious; you’re not afraid to be out of the heart of the action along the Amalfi coast.
Positano is best known for its pastel-colored houses, which cascade down the cliffs to the sea. It is a beautiful view, but it can also be strenuous to climb back up. It’s not the “vertical city” they call it for nothing. Be prepared to walk a lot!
Positano is still a very popular Amalfi Coast resort, even though it requires a lot of effort to get around. It is centrally situated, has a beautiful sandy beach and is alive with nightlife, especially around the glamorous bars, restaurants, clubs, and other seaside venues. It is also known for its high-end shopping. However, because of its popularity, you will have to deal with high season crowds and high prices. Positano hotels can be among the most expensive on the coast. It is the most popular place to go on an Amalfi Coast Vacation. Our Insiders’ Guide has more information about beautiful Positano.
Stay here, if: If you are looking for luxury vacations with some A-list celebrities; you like to shop; you prefer a sandy beach to rocky beaches; you love the nightlife and want to spend a lot.
Praiano and Conca dei Marini
The tiny Praiano and the even smaller Conca dei Marini, located halfway between Amalfi & Positano are often overlooked. Praiano, which is quieter than its sister towns on the Amalfi Coast, is often considered to be the most romantic town. This is due to the stunning views that stretch from the Bay of Positano and the island of Capri. It is also a beautiful beach that receives full sun from sunrise to sunset. This is a great feature for visiting Italians, who love to lounge on the leather handbags and enjoy the colors and textures of the sun. Praiano is also an excellent base for hikers, as the Sentiero di Dei trail starts here.
Conca dei Marini only has a few hundred inhabitants who live in cottages on the cliffs. These cliffs form the famous Grotta dello Smeraldo, or Emerald Grotto, which is a submerged cave that emits a beautiful, if eerie, light. Conca dei Marini is one of the most small towns along the Amalfi Coast. However, it has its own dessert: the Santa Rosa sfogliatella. This unusual treat is somewhere between cake and pastry. It was created in a monastery in 1600. The recipe has been kept secret for over 150 years. Conca dei Marini holds a festival in August to celebrate it. But, even if you are unable to attend the festival, this one treat is worth trying.
Stay here when: If you want continuous beach time, you don’t have to be close to major transportation hubs. You just want to enjoy the small-town vibe; the best spot to get away from it all; you’re on your honeymoon; hiking is something you love; the nearby sea caves are a must-see.
Amalfi & Atrani
Amalfi, the largest town on the coast, is also the most visited. This is the ideal place to stay if you want the luxury and beauty that Positano offers without the high-end prices.
There is something for everyone in the town, including great beaches (sometimes sandy), interesting culture, and a rich history. Amalfi, which has been a major maritime power in the region since at least 6th century AD, is rich in historical interest and stunning medieval buildings. It is also located in the middle coast, just 40 minutes from Sorrento and 40 from Salerno. This makes it an ideal base for day trips to Capri and the smaller towns to the east and south. You won’t have easy access to other places like Naples or Pompeii.
Atrani, a tiny town just a few miles from Amalfi, clings to cliffside. It is the smallest town in southern Italy. However, their history and lives are closely linked to Amalfi. The two share even beaches. Just across the street is Atrani, a sandy beach. You can easily hop between the three main beaches of the two towns during the day, and then explore the historic center in the evening.
Stay here, if: Your goal is to have an energetic day. You want to be close to the Amalfi Coast to make it easy to travel to other coastal towns.
Ravello, a small village perched on a cliff overlooking sea, is located back from the coast. Because there is no direct beach access, many visitors only stop here during the day. This allows those who stay for the evening to enjoy tranquil nights with few people and stunning views. Ravello is a romantic spot on the coast. It’s a popular choice for those looking to experience all of Amalfi and Positano without the crowds. You can take a break from the breathtaking views to admire the lush gardens and luxurious villas Ravello is famous for.
You are looking for peace and quiet, don’t want your Amalfi Coast home to be crowded with people; you’re not interested in being on the beach directly; you’re happy to have a nightlife but you love taking beautiful photos.
Maiori and Minori
Maiori is the home to the largest beach on Amalfi Coast, as well as many other beaches that can only be reached by boat. It’s generally a bit less charming than other Amalfi Coast villages, but it’s also less expensive. The beach is flat and sandy, with lower prices and easy access to restaurants and hotels along the shore, making it an ideal destination for families with young children. Parents don’t need to worry about lugging beach toys around, and children don’t have the responsibility of navigating pebble and rock beaches.
Maiori is also known for its ancient Roman settlement. It is home to many spectacular ruins, including the Villa Marittima Romana which is one of the most important Roman archaeological sites along the coast. You can explore the town by taking a boat to the Grotta di Pandora or other beaches that are only accessible by boat.
Nearby Minori has a more pleasant microclimate than other towns along the Amalfi Coast. It is blessed almost every day with a gentle breeze and enjoys a cleaner microclimate. Although the beach can be a little cramped and can feel crowded, it soaks up the sun throughout the day. Minori is known as the “City of Taste” because its terraces are home to lemon trees and vineyards. But the real star of the town is its pasta. Minori is a pasta capital since the 16th Century. Today, its fresh and well-made pasta is renowned across the country. Minori’s restaurants can be found on all Amalfi Coast itineraries for true gourmands. Minori and Maiori remain curiously quieter than the more popular towns along the Amalfi Coast.
Stay here when: Your children are traveling and you’re looking for a family-friendly environment. You don’t want to be in clubs or VIP bars.
Cetara and Erchie
Cetara, which is still a fishing village, is home to one the Med’s largest tuna fishermen fleets. Cetara is also the oldest school on the Amalfi Coast. It is also known for having the best seafood along the coast. However, the question of whether this is true or not is still up in the air. This is the place to go if you are looking for good seafood on your Amalfi Coast vacation. When it’s available, try the famous Colatura di Alici (a sauce made from fresh, local anchovies and thought to have originated in Roman times).
Cetara is just beside Erchie, a small hamlet that has a Norman tower and two beaches. Legend says that Hercules, a Greek migrant, founded the town.
Stay here, if: If you are looking for an unspoiled atmosphere with no tourists along the coast; a passionate seafood lover; a fascination with ancient Greek history; and you want to be relaxed without all the tourists.
Vietri sul Mare
Vietri sul Mare, which is only two miles from Salerno, is technically the last small village on the Amalfi Coast. Vietri sul Mare, like all towns along the coast has great food and stunning views. But its true claim to fame is its rich ceramics heritage. Vietri sul Mare is home to majolica, a brightly colored earthenware pottery from Italy. The entire town is covered in beautiful ceramics. Vietri sul Mare doesn’t cater to tourists. It is a simple town without any nonsense. Visitors will find less to do, but more amenities.
Stay here, if: If you don’t want all the tourist trappings; you are a fan of fine ceramics and don’t have to be around celebrities; you’re just looking for a relaxing holiday at the seaside.
Although technically it is not an Amalfi coast town, Salerno lies at the end 43-mile highway and bus route we started in Sorrento. It’s a wonderful place to stay. It’s a transportation hub that is connected directly to Rome via train. This makes it much more accessible than the Amalfi Coast towns.
Salerno’s small size makes it less charming, but it offers a diverse mix of bars, pubs, and restaurants near cathedrals and castles. The centro storico of the city is alive with activity. When you aren’t lounging on the many beaches of Salerno, you can also visit the Medieval Cathedral.
Travel tip You can book train tickets through ItaliaRail if you plan to travel through this region by train. This is TrenItalia’s tourist-friendly version. It offers English-speaking customer support and a few perks.
Stay here, if: If you are looking to travel to Rome or Pompeii by train; you need to be close to the station; you prefer convenience; you like the mix of city life and small-town charm; you are a pro at public transportation; you don’t want Sorrento to be too touristy.
We would love to hear from you if you have any questions or suggestions about the town.
Continue reading: How to get to the Amalfi Coast