15 Things to Do in Positano and the Amalfi Coast for a Perfect Italian Holiday
Italy’s Amalfi Coast is a bucket list destination, and Positano is undoubtedly the crowning jewel of the Coast. Even to many Italians, it represents the perfect Italian holiday with its fashionable people, scenic location, amazing food and wine, and in recent years more lively nightlife. There’s certainly no shortage of things to do in Positano for just about everyone and every kind of holiday. Our decision to stay in Positano on our first trip to the Amalfi Coast, as opposed to quieter Amalfi down the road, was based largely on a conversation with our friend Luigi, who’s originally from Naples. When we asked why he would stay there as opposed to all the other places on the coast he leaned back on one leg, turned up his hands in that Italian kinda way and said simply “It’s Positano”. He was right. You don’t have to be luxury travelers to fall in love with Positano. In fact, despite its jet-set reputation, we found it to be laid back, comfortable, and a perfect base from which to explore the Amalfi Coast.
Positano really is a dream. Colorful houses painted shades of pink, white, and yellow appear to cling tightly to the cliff but are in fact very accessible through the narrow streets that snake their way up the steep mountainside. The unique vertical cliffside setting is what gives most of the town amazing views. Medieval Saracen towers dot the coastline and continue to guard the town from invaders from the sea, though these days it’s just the seasonal influx of tourists who disembark daily from ferries arriving from nearby Naples, Sorrento, and Capri. Around the town, you’ll see references to the Sirens, or le Sirenuse, tempting sea creatures who lived in the tiny islands of Li Galli just off the shores of Positano and had ill intentions of seducing with their songs all who sailed nearby. Most travelers to Positano flock to the beaches by day, browse the shops in the afternoon, and hit up some clubs at night or head back to their hotel after dinner with a stroll through the quiet, glowing streets.
However you choose to enjoy Positano, you too will hear the siren song and be tempted to come back for years to come. It happens to us all.
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How to Get to Positano
Positano is one of many beautiful small towns on Italy’s Costiera Amalfitana, or Amalfi Coast, located just south of the Bay of Naples in southern Italy. It’s easily accessible from both Naples and Sorrento, as well as the island of Capri not far from Sorrento. Getting to Positano is pretty simple but does involve some combinations.
Most visitors heading for the Amalfi Coast fly into Naples or if already in the country make their way from Rome or Salerno. The nearest airport to Positano is Naples. Spend a few days there then catch a ferry, train, or hire a driver to get to the Amalfi Coast.
We’ll start by saying that there is no train service going into the Amalfi Coast. The closest you can get by train is Vietri sul Mare west of Salerno, or if coming from Naples, the Circumvesuviana train ends in Sorrento.
But not to worry, from either Sorrento or Salerno you can take a SITA bus. The bus from Sorrento to Positano takes about 45 minutes. We took the bus from Positano to Sorrento after our stay there, and it was quick and comfortable.
Don’t do it! Take a private shuttle if you want car service, but just. don’t. drive. yourself.
If pressed for time or needed privacy, you can hire a taxi or a private shuttle. It’s more expensive but it’s the fastest and most comfortable way to get to Positano.
In the summer, take the ferry: Sorrento to Positano is a quick 50 minute ride. The Naples ferry first stops in Sorrento and then continues on to Positano, but only operates in the ‘high season’. From Capri, it’s also 50 minutes. The ferry from Salerno takes a little over an hour and gives you basically a tour of the Amalfi Coast from the water. And it’s beautiful. The same can be said of the ferry ride from Naples and Sorrento. You get a beautiful view of the coast from the water, a photographer’s delight. On our last trip here we took the ferry from Capri to Positano. It was scenic and so relaxing. Whichever combo you choose, be sure to check schedules and pricing ahead of time. Transportation anxiety can put a damper on your trip, but is easily avoided with good planning.
Things to do in Positano
1. Path of the Gods Hike
Hiking in Positano may not seem like an activity you’d expect to find on the Amalfi Coast. But if you came for the spectacular scenery, then hiking Il Sentiero degli Dei is one of the most remarkable things you can do. Take the SITA bus from Positano to Amalfi and from there you’ll catch the bus to the Bomerano stop in Agerola (ask the driver to let you know when you get to the stop). You can buy bus tickets in tobacco shops, at news stands, and some bars. They are not sold on the bus. In Bomerano you can buy water, snacks, and have sandwiches made for a lunch on the trail. Try Agerola’s famous mozzarella, fior di latte. Add some crusty bread and your beverage of choice for a happy stop along the way. Look for the trailhead marked by red and white signs with ‘02’ on them. The trail is approximately 7 km long and should take close to 2 hours to reach the end of the trail at Nocelle, the hamlet above Positano. This depends of course on how often you stop (and you will stop). The views are so spectacular that it’s hard to leave one scenic view for the next. Even if it’s not usually your thing, hiking the Amalfi Coast is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in what’s truly unique about this stretch of southern Italy’s coastline.
TIPS: Be sure you pack enough water for everyone. Bring your camera. You won’t be able to put it down. This is a rocky trail in places and no place for flip flops or designer sneakers. We recommend wearing good walking shoes or hiking boots.
2. Boat Tours From Positano
There are two ways to book a boat tour of the Amalfi Coast or the island of Capri. You can hire a private operator, which can be expensive depending on the duration and number of stops, but are comfortable and personalized to you. If you like this idea, make some new friends and share the cost. The other way is to book with a ‘party boat’ that will have 20 or so people onboard. You won’t be cramped and it’s a great experience. Most of the boat tours from Positano will have scheduled stops along the way and are intended to be a full day tour. Blue Star Boat Tours offers fun and reliable small group tours of the Amalfi Coast for 8-12 people. No matter which, seeing and photographing the coast from the water and visiting other coastal towns should be in your plans. Make your reservations in advance.
3. Sip Limoncello
Have you had Limoncello, or even heard of Fragoline? For the uninitiated, Limoncello is made using lemon skins without the pith that are steeped in grain alcohol for up to six weeks. The heavily infused and aromatic alcohol is then mixed with sugar or simple syrup and bottled. Once you see the size of Sorrento lemons in the markets and smell their sweet citrus aroma, you’ll know why this drink is so popular here. Limoncello is a traditional digestivo of southern Italy and is served after your meal in a chilled aperitif glass, or, here in Positano and on the Amalfi Coast, sometimes in a small chilled ceramic Capodimonte cup.
Fragoline is another specialty liqueur made from local strawberries, and is sweet and bright red in color. Though it seems less popular than limoncello, it’s delicious especially for strawberry lovers, so ask for it if you don’t see it served. If you haven’t yet tasted Limoncello, you’re in for a treat when you have it on the Amalfi Coast, and you’ll find shops specializing in products made only from the local lemons. You’ll be able to buy it in liquor stores when you get home, but it’s easy to make Limoncello on your own so you’ll always have some on hand. We’ve been making it for years — trust me, it’s very easy to do, and it makes perfect holiday gifts.
4. Visit the Church of Santa Maria Assunta
The centerpiece of Positano is undoubtedly the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, with its beautiful Moorish tiled dome. It’s the main landmark reference for finding where you are and where to go. Inside on the altar are Byzantine treasures dating back to the XIII century, including the Virgin Madonna. Legend has it that the sailors of a Saracen ship, carrying the stolen panel depicting the Madonna, were caught by a sudden storm and heard a mysterious voice inciting them “Pose, pose”, or “set me down”. Maybe it was the Sirens calling. But the sailors rushed to leave the Madonna on the first small beach they found, and ever since, that place was named Positano. Legends or not, the Church is worth a visit and makes for spectacular photos.
5. Take a Cooking Class
Foodies will love learning to cook some of their favorite foods in Positano, like homemade pasta and pizza. There are several cooking classes in Positano that are worth looking into. The Positano Pizza Experience is perfect for pizza lovers, this is where you’ll find the world’s best pizza! Located just out of town and up the hill in Montepertuso, it’s a fun way to spend the day, and then you get to eat what you cook. Ristorante Donna Rosa is not only one of our favorite eateries but they also offer their Donna Rosa Kitchen School so you can learn how to cook some of their Italian specialties.
6. Skirt the Coastline on a Vespa
As you can see above, we don’t recommend driving the Amalfi Coast on your own, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see it on your own at your own pace. If you’re comfortable driving scooters, mopeds, or small motorbikes, rent the classic Italian mode of transportation and see the coast on a Vespa. Scooters give you the freedom to explore the winding cliffside Amalfi roads, as well as the narrow back streets you’d never want to drive down. They’re small, easily maneuverable, and can get around all those tour buses with ease. Or, you can always hire a local guy with a motorcycle to run you down the coast — like Frances in Under the Tuscan Sun on her way to see her hunky Italian guy in Positano!
7. Take the Boat to Da Adolfo Positano
If Spiaggia Grande beach is a little too crowded for you, make a reservation through your hotel to go to Da Adolfo on Laurito Beach. Walk over to the main pier and watch for a small open boat with a big red fish on the mast and the words ‘Da Adolfo’ written on the fish. Trust us, there’s no way you can miss it. You could get to this beach by walking and climbing down the 450 steps to the beach and Da Adolfo Restaurant. But why put yourself through all that when you can enjoy a five minute boat ride to the same place and get to see Positano from the sea. The boat shuttle operates from May to September. Da Adolfo is closed the rest of the year.
8. Buy Custom Made Leather Sandals
Southern Italy is known for making handmade leather Capri Positano sandals that are stylish and sexy worn with just about everything. They’re made from genuine Italian leather and custom made for you while you wait! You’ll see the stores as you walk around town. Stop in your favorite and talk to the proprietor and browse the dozens of styles and leathers they come in. Just select a style, then the leather you like, and they’ll measure your foot for the perfect fit. You can pick up your custom-made pair in as short as an hour or the very next day. They’re one of the most fun things to shop for in Positano and you’ll wear them for years to come.
9. Hike to Montepertuso
Montepertuso is a hamlet in the town of Positano, on a hill in the upper part of town. The name literally means "hole in the mountain", which refers to the ginormous rock structure you’ll see. According to legend this is where the battle between the Virgin Mary and the Devil occurred, and the giant hole in the mountain was made by the index finger of the Virgin. It’s an ideal place for hiking in Positano thanks to several well-worn paths which connect the hamlet of Montepertuso to the Lattari Mountains.
10. Stroll the Positano Streets at Night
Without a doubt, one of the loveliest times of day in Positano is after the sun goes down and the locals settle in. It’s then that the streets quiet down to a whisper. Strolling the streets of Positano at night is one of our favorite things to do. As you wander, you’ll smell the fragrance of night blooming jasmine alternate with the mouth-watering smells of home-cooking. The street lights glow, lovers nuzzle on park benches and walls, and it’s a great way to see the lush side of this beautiful place. Bring your camera to snap the golden illumination around every corner.
11. Take Some Day Trips from Positano
Despite its location, Positano is surprisingly accessible to other locations on the Sorrentine peninsula. And because of its seaside locale, it’s easy to visit other towns along the Amalfi Coast, or even Naples, by bus or ferry. Here are just a few of our favorite day trips from Positano:
The island of Capri is one of our favorite destinations. Known for its beauty, history, and incredible restaurants, it’s an easy day trip from Positano or Sorrento. The ferry from Positano operates regularly from April to October and takes about 30 minutes although operations are usually suspended during rough sea conditions. Once there, you can stroll the narrow streets and cobbled lanes in the town at the top of the island, relax with a glass of wine and people watch, hike to Villa Jovis — home to two of Italy’s famed Emperors Tiberius and Caligula, take an organized tour, catch a tour boat to the Blue Grotto, or shop til you drop. To avoid long queues we recommend booking your ferry tickets online especially during the high season.
The SITA bus from Positano will get you to Amalfi in less than a half hour. The buses tend to get very crowded (as in packed), and once filled the driver can refuse boarding. Another option is to take the open air tourist bus. There are no standing passengers packing the aisle and if it’s sunny, it’s a pleasant ride. We think the best choice is to choose one of the ferry services. For the price difference it’s worth it. You have more options and the boat will get you there in less than half an hour. Amalfi is larger than Positano so a little planning to narrow the places to visit or eat makes the day much more enjoyable.
One thing we highly recommend you add in your plan is to go to the charming small hamlet of Ravello above Amalfi. You can take the bus up the hill from Amalfi. In Ravello, be sure and visit Villa Cimbrone. There is a five star hotel here, but the beautiful gardens, preserved ruins and the view from the Terrace of Infinity are all open to the public. Stop at the little sandwich place on a side street in Ravello and pick up a picnic lunch. You can sit and enjoy it on the grounds of the Villa for a spectacular afternoon. Make sure you’ve arranged for your trip back to Positano beforehand. Or hike the Ravello-Atrani Walk — 1,500 steps down from the town of Ravello to Atrani below. It’s a day trip in itself!
Some travelers opt to go to Sorrento for a day or two after visiting Positano, which puts you closer to the Naples or Rome airports but not quite out of the country yet. Who wants to leave Italy? Not me! You can take a bus or ferry. The ferry boat docks in Sorrento at the Marina Piccola. From there, it’s a short walk up the hill (take the stairs or the lift which costs €1). Check out the main square in town, Piazza Tasso. It’s not a big piazza, but it’s lined with restaurants, shops, and small cafes, and is a great starting point to head into the historic center of Sorrento. Here you’ll find small open markets selling produce, meat and fish, souvenir shops, enotecas, and limoncello shops. There are coffee and pastry shops galore, restaurants, and a number of sites to see in the historic center. Remember, Sorrento is a fairly large city so you need to plan what you want to do and see up to your ferry departure time back to Positano.
Pompeii and Herculaneum
When it comes to historic locations there are few places more famous than Pompeii, and a Pompeii day trip from Positano isn’t hard at all. Take the bus to the Sorrento train station then take the train from Sorrento to Pompeii. If everything is on time, the trip should take just over an hour plus the time between the bus and the train, which leaves you plenty of time to tour the site. You have a couple of options to tour Pompeii. You could set out on your own with map and guide book in hand, but we have to tell you, this is a really big place. To maximize your time and learn the most about the site, a paid guided tour might be a better option for some. No matter which you choose and if your time allows, we can’t imagine visiting this part of Italy without one day at Pompeii. Herculaneum is a bit farther from Positano and smaller than Pompeii. Herculaneum is more restored and some say more interesting. Besides travel, allow yourself 3-4 hours in Pompeii. Choose one or the other for a day trip — both in one day in addition to the trip from Positano would be overkill. You’ll do a lot of walking and the streets are uneven so good footwear is a must. As always, we suggest you make your transportation arrangements and get your tickets online ahead of time.
There’s no shortage of great restaurants in Positano, some with drop-dead gorgeous views, and others tucked away off a hidden side street. Our favorite places to eat in the Amalfi Coast are the small quaint restaurants that serve traditional regional Italian specialties where you might even meet the Chef or their proud mother and have a chat. Here are a few of our favorites, and we think some of the best restaurants in Positano:
Chez Black - Chez Black is a casual restaurant right on the beach, and can get a little touristy. But don’t let that stop you from eating here. The seafood is fresh and well prepared as are the pasta dishes, the atmosphere is great, and we think they have the best pizza in town. For lunch or dinner, Chez Black is consistently very good.
Buca di Bacco - Located in the hotel of the same name, this restaurant is a perennial favorite of ours. Exceptional service and with excellent views, Buca di Bacco should be on your list. It’s on the beach but maintains its elegant atmosphere. We like their menu for seafood and other specialties of the Campania region including the excellent wine list. Besides lunch and dinner, they also serve breakfast. A reservation here is a must.
La Tagliata - If you’d like something a bit different from the usual restaurants, give La Tagliata a try. It’s great food and a nice dose of the local culture, something we love. There’s no set menu or wine list. Rather, you’re treated to the menu of the day made up of usually 5-6 courses of homemade local dishes, and wine is brought to your table to pair with the menu. It’s a beautiful thing. Have your hotel make a reservation and La Tagliata will arrange for you to be picked up. Great ambiance, wonderful scenery, and the food, oh the food. Bonus - they are vegan and vegetarian friendly which can be hard to find on the coast.
Terraza Celé - If you’r staying here at the centrally located Terrazza Hotel Marincanto or nearby, this restaurant with an outside terrace has some of the best views to be had anywhere in town. Add the incredible food and wine list and this is as elegant a restaurant as there is in Positano. We like the soft lighting for a late dinner or cocktail. And it’s quiet.
Ristorante Donna Rosa - Ristorante Donna Rosa is located a bit out of town on the hill in Montepertuso but have your hotel call and the restaurant will send a driver to pick you up. This multi-generational restaurant is run by Donna Rosa and her family, and she’s still the main cook in the kitchen. Try the homemade pasta and the braciole. The food is excellent, the wine list is extensive, and the atmosphere is intimate and cozy. One of our favorites!
Casa e Bottega - This charming little restaurant that serves organic foods is our favorite place for breakfast in Positano. It’s never crowded but not very big so you may have to wait for a table. If you do have a short wait you can browse their gift shop. They have a nice selection of ceramics, glassware, and of course lemon products. You can also have lunch here or try one of their smoothies. We go just for the ice cream. The shop is vegan and vegetarian friendly and a fun and relaxing change from some of the larger places closer to the beach.
Collina Positano Bakery - It’s hard for us top pass up the pastry cart so this bakery fits the bill when we need a sweet and an espresso. Located in the Piazza del Mulini, it’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Have a brioche or a pizza on the lovely outside terrace. The menu includes a very nice wine list, salads, sandwiches, pizza, and some more substantial items if you’re hungrier. We go for the gelato, granita, and fresh baked goodies. They also have vegan and vegetarian menus. If you only try one thing, the dark chocolate and the lemon gelatos are to die for.
Positano is a shopper’s dream, given the variety of interesting and beautiful things available here, both made locally and around the world. There’s everything from fabulous artwork and home decor items, ceramics, jewelry, crafts, homemade liqueurs and food items, gifts for the pampered pooch in your life, and enough apparel to leave you feeling you’re still on the Costiera Amalfitana long after you’ve gotten home. The Moda Positano, or Positano style, was born in the late 1950s when Positano first burst onto the tourist radar, and quickly became a hotspot for writers, artists, celebrities, and other beautiful people.
Today, Positano still epitomizes this style so get into it and dress the part, and you won’t stick out like a tourist (as much). You’ll find many handcrafted items Italians are known for, like leather belts, purses, shoes, and of course those sexy leather sandals. But the Amalfi Coast is known for a few other things as well. They grow an abundance of citrus fruits here and lemons the size of small footballs, so naturally Positano is known for their limoncello, a sweet and delicious liqueur that’s made from the huge Sorrento lemons. Italians call limoncello a digestivo, an aid in digesting your meal, and it really does work. You’ll find limoncello and limoncello cream in bottles of all shapes and sizes, and Positano is the perfect place to buy it. Also look for the handmade ceramics — plates, bowls, and other items made in the Italian majolica style — and specifically, look for the small Capodimonte cups that are common for sipping Limoncello and other liqueurs.
Beaches in Positano
Make no mistake, Positano is a beach resort town and that means getting your feet wet in the beautiful blue water of the Mediterranean Sea. Don’t worry about sand getting into things, because there isn’t any or very much. Instead, the beaches in Positano are composed of rounded pebbles, gravel and small stones. If your feet are sensitive or even if they’re not, consider wearing water shoes. Italians take their beach holidays very seriously so you will find all sorts of amenities at the beach. Along with bright umbrellas, lounge chairs, showers, and sun beds there are restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops.
TIP: If you’re planning to spend the day at a Positano beach, be sure to get there early ahead of the crowds, especially during the high season.
Spiaggia Grande Beach
Spiaggia Grande Beach is the main beach in Positano, and is also known as Marina Grande Beach, or simply Positano beach — and it’s considered one of the best on the Amalfi Coast. This popular beach has both free and private areas and can get pretty crowded. The entire cliffside town can be viewed from here. But for a real treat, go here late in the day, grab a glass of wine and wait for a spectacular sunset.
Don’t want the crowds? To get to Laurito Beach, you can either walk or take a bus to the square near Hotel San Pietro. You then have to climb down the steep steps — all 450 of them — to this small beach. Or better yet, head to the marina pier and take the 5 minute ride on the Da Adolfo shuttle boat. Look for a boat with a big red fish on the mast. You can’t miss it. If you plan on renting a lounge chair or having dinner at Da Adolfo, it’s a good idea to make a reservation. This casual restaurant is just above the beach so there’s no need to change out of your bathing suit. By the way, the food here is fresh and excellent.
This is another small beach that is sometimes called ‘300 steps’ beach. You guessed it. There are 300 steep steps down to the beach, but along the way down there are great views of the Amalfi Coast. Or again better, the Arienzo Beach Club provides a free boat shuttle from the marina pier in Positano. There are both private and free sections to this beach, but you’ll want to rent a sun lounger and maybe an umbrella. The beach club of the same name has excellent food but to avoid any long queue, make a reservation.
Fornillo Beach is another small beach much quieter than the Marina Grande Beach but in the summer months can still draw a crowd. You can take a short boat ride from the main pier, but the 10 minute walk from the main beach between the sea and the cliffs is easy and the scenery is spectacular. There are a lot of steps down to the beach if you start out from higher up in town. There are a few beach clubs here where you can purchase drinks, snacks, or have lunch. Rent beach chairs, towels and an umbrella from any of the beach clubs and you’ll be offered a free boat ride back to town.
Where to Stay in Positano
From high end luxury stays to quaint B&Bs tended by a hospitable local owner, you really have a wide range of options to suit whatever kind of holiday you’re looking for. Some of the best places to stay in Positano are never advertised because they either lack the funds to advertise and therefore rely on word of mouth, or they’re too small to accommodate many people. Either way, small and quaint is always a great way to go for comfortable and affordable accommodations. On the other hand, hotels like Le Sirenuse offer sublime luxury Positano-style. What kind of holiday do you want in Positano?
Hotel Le Sirenuse
Possibly the most famous luxury accommodation in Positano, the style and service touches everything from the lovely suites with jaw-dropping views — possibly the best views in Positano — to the delectable food served at their Michelin-starred La Sponda restaurant. It doesn’t get much better. Check rates and availability.
We found out about Hotel Marincanto years ago from the Fodors travel forum, when a trusted source told us to ask for Room ___ for THE best view of the town at night. As you can see, they were right. Hotel Marincanto also is a terrific value for the location just three doors down from Le Sirenuse. The breakfast is quite good and dining on the terrace at night overlooking the ocean is really special. And you may never want to leave their infinity pool. We loved our stay here! Check more details and availability.
Hotel Poseiden sits on Positano’s north cliff facing south down the coast toward Amalfi. The hotel is super comfortable with a gorgeous terrace for breakfast and dinner. The pool is very nice but what we love most about it is the view! Check rates and availability.
Hotel Villa Franca
Sitting up high in the cliffs, this modern luxe hotel is dreamy. This is a five star hotel that is perfectly located for those romantic views. Find availability and more details.
The Miramare beautifully combines vintage and modern into one stunning hotel. Located on the north cliff just above the ferry dock, the views are stunning. Built in the 1930’s, the hotel still feels retro vintage but in all the right ways. Check rates and more details.
This charming boutique guest house is tucked away off the main road — 70 steps up to be exact. But imagine what that means for a stay in Positano. Owned and operated by a local family who lend a personal touch to the guest experience, this is one of those rare places that will stay with you forever. Check rates and availability.
Hotel Palazzo Murat
This luxe hotel with an elegant and classically Italian style is just steps from the iconic Church of Santa Maria Assunta. The inviting pool and pretty garden setting is literally behind the dome for breathtaking views while you dine. A great location without being too far up the hill. Find availability and more details.