The Amalfi Coast is Italy’s glittering Mediterranean gift to aesthetes and adventure-seekers alike. Along this 50km stretch of UNESCO World Heritage coastline, mountains plunge into the sea in a dizzying vertical scene of rocky crags. Colourful hotels with quintessential vaulted roofs cling to cliffs, and lush woodland bursts across the hilltops.
It’s on the southern side of the Sorrentine Peninsula, just below Naples, in Campania. The most famous of its iconic towns are Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, though there are many other picturesque towns and stops that you don’t want to miss! We’ll describe them all in this Amalfi Coast road trip itinerary, as well as where to pitch up, plus the key things to know about this route before you head off.
Driving a motorhome along the Amalfi Coast
The first, and probably most important thing to know about an Amalfi Coast road trip is the driving situation for motorhomes.
You may have such faith in your motorhome manoeuvring skills that you want to navigate the hair-raising south Italian roads in your vehicle. But this coastal road in particular, the Strada Statale 163 or ‘road of 1,000 bends’ is something the most steely-nerved drivers might avoid reckoning with. It pitches over the sea, squeezing past the front stoop of watchful residents and through narrow-mouthed tunnels. So, you may instead agree with the general consensus: that driving the Amalfi Coast is an exercise best left to the experts. There are seasoned, licensed bus drivers that shuttle up and down it (as well as kamikaze scooter motorists who race along without a thought for self-preservation).
In fact, driving the coastal road is currently banned for motorhomes until 10pm at night. If night driving sounds even more daunting, luckily, there are several other options for travelling along its length and some fantastic campsites in ideal locations that make a good base for doing just that.
Driving to the Amalfi Coast is relatively easy from Naples. Head to Sorrento, and when you arrive, you can park up and continue your adventure by bus on a regular service to Positano and Amalfi (this is also a cheap option). Otherwise, you can travel from Sorrento by boat, and there are also regular services from Positano to the most important locations on the Amalfi coast. This is, of course, a slower option, but it’s a spectacular way to take in the coast and its architecture from the sea, beating traffic jams and hopping on and off the boats as you like. Unfortunately, there isn’t a stop at Ravello as it isn’t on the coast. A final option is renting a small vehicle from one of several car hire companies in the ‘Corso Italia,’ which is opposite the Circumvesuviana train station in Sorrento (rates are about 50eur for 24 hours). This option gives you full independence of your itinerary, but what we have outlined here could be done any of these three ways!
Just bear in mind that the schedules for all forms of transportation will vary greatly depending on the season. Make sure to confirm routes and times before you arrive! As a loose guide, high season is usually between April and October, with peak season being July and August. Low season, with less frequent transfers, is November to March.
It might be worth navigating reduced services during low seasons for the reduced traffic and crowd this period brings.
Here’s a map of the Amalfi Coast road trip itinerary to give you an idea of distances and show you where our recommended campsites are.
Naples to Sorrento
The drive from Naples to Sorrento is straightforward along the A3 and SS145, and only takes an hour. However, you may wish to stop at the ancient towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii en route, to visit some historic sites. These include the archeological site of Herculaneum (N.B: this is closed on Wednesdays) or the ruins of Pompeii, preserved by the deadly ashfall from the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79.
You’ll arrive in the town that, in Greek mythology, was home to the sirens who famously lured passing sailors onto the volcanic coastal rocks with their beautiful songs. Sorrento still lures many in, but it’s the panoramic views of the Bay of Naples, the sunny weather, food and easy holiday atmosphere that bewitch visitors.
You can watch the passersby with a cocktail on the Marina Grande whilst you catch your breath ahead of the rest of your trip. You could discover the chic old town along pedestrian-only walkways (which you may share with the occasional scooter), or walk 2km west, following via Capo, to Bagni Regina Giovanna for a decent swim in clean, clear water. Also, tucked away behind the Piazza Tasso is the Vallone dei Mulini, an ancient valley that originates from the release of water following the eruption of the Campi Flegrei about 37,000 years ago. A mysterious disused mill nestled under leafy foliage adds to the atmosphere, itself being about 700 years old, and is a worthwhile sight to see.
If you do decide to leave your motorhome in Sorrento, go for the Villaggio Campeggio Santa Fortuna. It’s just along the via Capo, too. This family-fun site has hilltop sea views, and the motorhome pitches are mostly on hard earth under the shelter of fragrant olive, oak, and lemon trees. There’s a swimming pool, restaurant, grocery store, bar, and serviced sunbathing area on the cliff top, as well as the small, aforementioned beach is a short walk away. They also, usefully, offer pick up and drop off to local public transport services.
Electric grass and earth motorhome pitches are £23.87 per night.
Via Capo, 39, Sorento, Naples, Italy 80076.
Sorrento to Positano
The Amalfi Coast is dotted with numerous little beaches, with the most famous being found in Positano. Positano had a moment of glory in the 12th and 13th centuries, when its merchant fleet was based there and rivalled Amalfi’s trade centre. However, centuries of decline forced three-quarters of the population to emigrate to the USA in the mid-1800s. When John Steinbeck arrived in 1953 and wrote his famous article for Harper's Bazaar, he described a small, pretty, fishing village known only to a few, mostly local, cognoscenti. But he let slip the dream of la dolce vita, and jet setters who discovered it by the 60s. Now, it’s only home to 4,000 souls, but you’ll struggle to find a free beach lounger on the Spiaggia Grande unless you book in advance (there’s also a free beach area where you can lay out your towel).
Positano has also been described by Paul Klee as ‘the only place in the world conceived on a vertical rather than a horizontal axis.’ It might be hard to tell what’s more dizzying; the sheer gorgeousness or the pull of gravity!
You might be excited to head to the next stop on the Amalfi Coast road trip, but your Positano memories will likely last a lifetime, so revel in the experience while you can. As John Steinbeck once said, ‘Positano bites deep; it is a dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you've gone.’
Positano to Amalfi
A tucked away, though still popular, swimming spot is the Grotta dello Smeraldo - literally the emerald grotto - in Conca dei Marini. It’s accessible by boat via frequent tours from Positano or from a car park on the road above, en route to Amalfi. Just beyond this headland is the towering viaduct that crosses the Vallone di Furore, giving a bird’s eye view of the fishing village below. It’s the location of the annual Mediterranean Cup High Diving Championship. Furore sits in the hills above the gorge, and beyond that is the fertile plain of Agerola. You might have tasted some of the delicious cheeses produced by Agerolese cows by this point, such as the Provolone del Monaco and the fior di latte Agerolese. Another good reason for venturing up there, if you can, would be to visit Marisa Cuomo’s Gran Furor Divina Costiera winery. Quite a mouthful, but if you want a mouthful of much-lauded DOC Costa d’Amalfi wines, and to taste the ripe, rich flavours of sea and sun, it’s worth it.
In Amalfi, you’ll likely be met by flocks of tourists who descend upon the Piazza del Duomo. This impressive, Norman-Arab style cathedral is dominated by the flamboyant, striped façade, interlaced arches and a set of magnificent bronze doors. Sip Aperol from Mar di Cobalto on the beachfront, or refuel and absorb the sweet seaside experience with a ‘delizie al limone’ from the charming old Pasticceria Pansa. Their creamy, lemony cakes flavoured with juicy local fruit are truly legendary. As is the local limoncello which gets pulled out from the freezer to top off any authentic Amalfi feast!
There are a few good ways to escape Amalfi’s crowds if you’re willing to use your legs. You could take the stepped footpath that ascends the hill over to Atrani, which is an atmospheric little fishing village unreachable via the main coastal road. It has a recommendable trattoria (restaurant) to make the walk worthwhile, called A’Paranza.
For a longer hike and spectacular coastal views, consider hiking the Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods). The entire walk would take about 3 hours, running 7.8km. It isn’t hard but be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and hats with you; as there’s not much shade. From Amalfi you can reach Agerola via bus and then hike the path high above Positano in the direction of Nocelle, which runs slightly downhill in this direction for an easier route.
Last, but far from least, stop on the Amalfi Coast road trip itinerary is the austere, aristocratic Ravello. Sitting 350m above sea level on its own mountain buttress, it’s removed from the touristic hubbub below. Potentially the refined cousin of glamorous Amalfi and Positano, it has palazzi that still ring of their elegant pasts, and villas and gardens that are the stuff of your wildest daydreams. The romance and magnificence of Ravello have made it a muse for a long list of artists; writers, painters and musicians. The gardens of Rufolo are unmissable, and they inspired Richard Wagner’s 1880 opera Parsifal.
If you wanted to take a more rustic, peaceful start and finish to your Amalfi Coast road trip, you could drive with your motorhome from Pompeii to Tramonti, Salerno. This drive is only an hour from Naples, too. You’ll hike up into the mountainous Campania countryside, high above the Amalfi Coast. Here, we recommend pitching up at the Agricampeggio Mare e Monti. This site is a working farm and vineyard, which uses the rich Campania soil to make a fine vintage as well as producing walnuts and other vegetables. Campers can sample the produce in the dining room, or sign up for cooking classes on site. They can also learn more about the wine by joining one of the free organised tours around the centuries-old vineyards, and with a small extra charge, a wine tasting session to sample the site's DOC Basileo wine.
At the very least, you’ll enjoy great views of Lattari mountains and the Amalfi coast. The small, simple site is 5 minutes’ drive from shops, bars, and restaurants in Tramonti and 15 minutes from the beach at Maiori for sea dips or boat trips to other coastal towns if you want to see the sights along the coast in the opposite direction.
The Tramonti Hills
This is a good route for driving the Amalfi Coast if you just want to dip into the touristy sites along the coast and enjoy the bracing countryside with hill walks and beach days, as well as a proper experience of rural life in abundant Campania, alongside all the glamour of this part of the Italian coastline.
Electric grass and earth motorhome pitches are £25.57 per night.
Via Trugnano 3, Corsano, Tramonti, Salerno, Italy, 84010
Before you go
Before you take a motorhome to the Amalfi Coast, look at our recent blog on driving in Tuscany with a motorhome for details about what you will need to bring with you, and other crucial info for road tripping in Italy! You can arrange motorhome hire in Italy or take your vehicle abroad.