You’ve seen pictures of the Amalfi Coast and maybe you have dreamed of taking this classic road trip. It is one of the most beautiful places in Italy! You would be forgiven for thinking that it would all cost too much, however, it doesn’t have to be the case. It IS possible to see Amalfi Coast “on the cheap”. Read on to see our top tips for the Amalfi Coast on a budget.
The Amalfi Coast
Officially running from Positano to Vietri Sui Mari, the Amalfi Coast is a tourism gem in a country stuffed full of amazing sights. Fly to Naples and you are just a short drive away from blue sea, green terraces and pastel buildings cascading between the two all highlighted by the Italian sunshine. This 40 kilometre shoreline is the stuff of dreams.
How to Travel Around the Amalfi Coast on a Budget
Driving the Amalfi Coast
Driving in Italy can be challenging for first-timers, but having a bit of knowledge, you’ll be zooming down the autostrade in no time!
Car Rental Tips
- Book Early – Car prices only increase over time, so don’t wait for a last-minute deal because it will cost you….yes, we learned this the hard way.
- Go Small – Not only will choosing a small car be budget friendly, but you will really appreciate it when squeezing through the twists and turns of the Amalfi Coast’s tight roads.
- Pick up from the Airport – It is much cheaper to book a car from Naples airport than in Sorrento. It could cost you twice as much per day, so if you are planning to travel along the coast over a few days, take the car for the whole time.
- Get on Google – Hop on the internet and quickly check if there are any secret local spots for free or cheaper parking. It saved us a few pennies here and there with only a minute or two of work.
- Arrive Very, Very Early – Parking spaces fill up quickly, especially in popular spots like Positano and Amalfi. Arrive later in the morning and you’ll only be left with the expensive car parks. We even saw the price of a place we were parked increase by €1 per hour ten minutes after we parked.
- Park at Strange Times – In several towns around the Sorrentine peninsular, parking is free for a few hours in the middle of the day. This means you can park up, have a nice long lunch and not have to worry about paying for the car. This doesn’t work in popular beach towns.
- Avoid the Autostrade – Prices go down, the further you are from the main road. We saved €0.10 per litre by buying our fuel in the centre of Sorrento!
Public Transport Tips
- Catch the SITA Bus – Running the whole way along the Amalfi Coast, and up into the hills, the bus costs less than €2 per person. With parking costing up to €7 per hour in Positano, you could save a fair amount! Don’t forget that you can’t buy a ticket on the bus. You need to purchase them from a tobacconist, newsagent or bars/cafes.
How to Stay in the Amalfi Coast on a Budget
Prices on the Amalfi Coast only increase over time. It is just too popular to have late room deals. Our advice is to book your room as soon as you decide that you are travelling to Italy. As ever, we suggest booking a room with free cancellation. That enables you to look for the best deal possible whilst having something booked in your back pocket.
Visit During Shoulder Season
During the summer high season, prices skyrocket. You will not find a bargain between July and August as Europe is on its summer holidays. However, if you visit in May/June or September/October, you will find cheaper rooms, plenty of sunshine and fewer crowds overall. Choosing the later shoulder season means a warmer dip in the Mediterranean as it is warmed all summer.
Do Not Stay in Positano
Positano is the main attraction on the Amalfi Coast and the hotels know it! You will be hard-pressed to find a good value deal here, and so we urge you to visit as a day trip, or a stop along the way instead. Even parking can be a small fortune so make this a bus trip and you’ll save a fair amount.
There are some wonderful alternative destinations for your accommodation, and here are a few of our favourites:
Agriturismo – Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi
Head into the rolling hills around Sant’Agata Sui Due Golfi and you will discover the beauty of the countryside. Connect with the area through a farm stay somewhere like Agriturismo Fattoria Terranova. Spots like this are great value and offer a very different experience to most hotels on the coast.
Pronounced A-JE-rola, this hilltop town is the home of the fior de latte (mozzarella style cheese) that you will see on menus the whole way along the Amalfi Coast. Room prices here can be 25% of those in Positano. The drive up here can be rather hairraising but you will save a small fortune. If you are travelling by bus, you can catch the line from Amalfi once an hour.
Follow the twists and turns up the Valley of the Dragon to the small but perfectly formed Ravello. With splendid views across the valley, the main square exudes charm. Every summer it plays host to a music festival and the collection of classic villas provide a stunning coastal panorama and welcome sea breezes.
Whilst not technically part of the Amalfi Coast, Salerno is the large town at the eastern end of this coastal stretch. It may lack the small town charms of the dinkier settlements to the west (I mean, it has a large industrial port) but it does have a lovely cathedral, a nice old town area with little streets lined with cafes, and most importantly, a much smaller hotel price tag.
Why not think about an alternative to a traditional hotel. AirBnB offers private rooms and whole apartments for a fraction of the costs of a hotel. You will probably have to self-cater (although some do offer breakfast) but you will probably have some proper fridge space so it is very easy. Some other small benefits of an AirBnB:
- Nobody to tip
- No hotel taxes to pay
- The chance to meet locals who can give you great advice
How to Eat on the Amalfi Coast on a Budget
Dine Out at Lunch
We have a habit of having a packed lunch and then eating dinner out, but by switching up that schedule, you can save a lot! For example, L’Antica Trattoria in Sorrento has a stellar reputation, and dinner there costs you upwards of €60 before drinks. However, the Discovery Lunch (Mon-Fri) is a very reasonable €20 a person.
Take It Away
We often have a small tax on a menu that is not noted anywhere and by no means official. The “view tax” can be overcome by grabbing a takeaway.
Nino’s Pizza, Ravello
For example, getting a pizza in Ravello’s main square is going to cost you €10 or so, but five minutes all away you can grab a takeaway from Nino’s Pizza for just €5. We brought it back, grabbed a seat on a bench in the square and enjoyed our 50% saving with smug, tomato-smudged grins.
If you take a stroll north up Via Lorenzo D’Amalfi, you will see people clutching cones. These are not full of gelato however, but seafood. For €8, you can get a large paper cone full of squid, calamari, prawns or catch of the day, breaded and fried in delicious salty batter. Grabbing one of these and taking it down to the beach to nibble on means you’ll have a great sea view and not pay extra for the privilege.
Avoid picking a restaurant that is right on the seafront or main square. These are invariably slightly more expensive than similar establishments just a few blocks away. Wander up the backstreets and look for spots spilling over with locals. Anywhere with a steady stream of single people coming for a takeaway is usually a good bet.
Claim That Bread
When eating out, you may be surprised to see that the bill includes a “bread and service charge”. This is both a tip for the staff and the price you are paying for that carby addiction. Don’t sit and absently-mindedly chomp through it. Allocate a slice for mopping up any delicious sauce left from your dinner and then keep the rest of the basket. Added to the meal below, you can’t go wrong. Just remember to take some airtight sandwich bags to keep that bread fresh.
Purchase Yourself a Picnic
Find a deli and go to town! From the creamiest local mozzarella (fior de latte) to perfectly marbled cured pork and breadsticks rich with olive oil, you can’t go wrong with a basket full of these Italian classics. We had several meals of cheese, olives, ham, lupini beans and found that dipping bread into a pot of ricotta worked rather well (especially with the olive marinade dripped over the top).
If you have a fridge in your room and you can find a bottle of Lacryma Christi or prosecco, enjoy it ice cold, in the sunshine and you won’t feel at all deprived.
Where to Splash the Cash
We are not suggesting that you go without. There is a spot that we heartily encourage you to indulge. In Minori there is a beachfront patisserie owned and run by Italy’s most famous pastry chef, Sal de Riso. Whether you come for the patisserie or the gelato, you won’t be disappointed. Choose your sweet treats in the main restaurant, complete with gleaming counters full of rainbow delights but then take a seat on the promenade and enjoy your choices by the beach. I thoroughly enjoyed my €8 gelato plate complete with white fig, prickly pear and melon sorbets, cinnamon and almond biscuits. Every bite was worth every penny!
Activities on the Amalfi Coast on a Budget
There are plenty of blog posts out there that list some of these as free things to do but do remember that you are paying for parking or public transport to reach these places.
Hike the Sentiero degli Dei (the Path of the Gods)
Steps, steps, steps. After several servings of pizza and gelato, you might feel the need to get a little exercise. This hike will not only get those important steps in, but you can take in some of the most stunning views on the Amalfi Coast. For a slightly easier hike, start from Agerola rather than Nocelle. This means you end the descending 1500 steps instead of climbing up them! The whole walk takes around three hours. It is reasonably well sign-posted, just follow the red and white markers.
Swim in the Azure Mitigliano Bay
This beach of boulders is not the most comfortable beach to lie on, BUT it is beautiful! Steps lead down to the water where you can bob around or take a little snorkel adventure. If you are feeling brave, you can even leap from the rocks in a couple of spots. There is a small cafe with toilets so you have everything you need.
Soak Up the 360 View at Chiesa San Costanzo
The view from this abandoned monastery is amazing, there are no two ways about it. You won’t be able to see the view all at once, but take the small stroll up to and around the building and you will be richly rewarded. There are few free parking spaces on the way up the super thing road that leads up to it.
Gaze at Capri from Termini
There is no way around it, Capri is an expensive destination. The ferry alone will cost you at least €65 return per person. We decided not to visit and to spend the money on three meals out instead. One of these was at Trattoria Eughenes in Termini. It is free to park at lunchtime and the food here is great. Just two minutes from the restaurant, this viewpoint takes in the nearby blue mass of Capri.
Cruise along Amalfi Drive
Jump in the car and drive from west to east, hugging the coastal wall, maximising the world-class views. The only thing about this drive is that it is very windy, and the traffic can be a touch unpredictable so the person behind the wheel will need to concentrate. If you are doing public transport, make sure you get seats on the seaward side so you can enjoy the vistas.
If your budget won’t stretch to a superyacht (and ours certainly didn’t) you can still take to the water. Travelmar runs a ferry that between Positano and Salerno with stops along the way. This won’t cost a fortune and means you can enjoy the scenery and the sea breeze. We took the tiny hop from Maiori to Minori after completing the Path of the Lemons.
Wondering what that is? Well, it’s the next point.
Walk the Path of the Lemons
The Path of Lemons is a very pleasant, hour-long hike that runs between the towns of Maiori and Minori. It starts with 15 minute set of stairs but levels out after that, passing along pleasant stone paths through green lemon groves and attractive flowers. Towards, Maiori, you will see the striped domes of the church of Santa Maria a Mare. It is worth a stop to pop inside, if only to escape from the sun briefly.
Check Out the Churches
Italian churches are always worth a look. They are usually quite ornate and have world-class art adorning the walls. Along the Amalfi Coast, the towers and roofs are usually bedecked with a bright Mallorcan tiled dome. These reflect the sun and beckon local worshippers and curious tourists alike.
When we first booked our trip to the Amalfi Coast, I tried to convince Mr Fluskey that we could do it on a budget, whilst simultaneously utterly doubting myself. As the days slipped by in a haze of sun, sea and seriously blue skies, it became clear that it was possible and we wanted to share how we did it.
Exuding glamour and dripping class, the playground of celebrities, the Amalfi Coast seemed a little unobtainable before doing some research. I did some internet searches and thought that with some careful choices, and a little backpacker savvy, we may be able to play with those big boys.