With the windows down and the sun flooding the car, I sat on the edge of my seat like a kid on christmas morning. As we rounded the corner of what felt like a grand prix race track, the cliffside city from my dreams came into view. Cascading citrus colored buildings draped in greenery and bright flowers popped against the cerulean sea below.
The charming city of Positano has been on my bucket list ever since I saw Diane Lane escape there in Under the Tuscan Sun. After doing hours of research on how to get there, where to stay, what to do, and where to eat… I’ve decided to share my findings with you in this detailed travel guide on Positano. I hope you enjoy it enough to visit and see this wonderful place for yourself!
You can get to Positano a few ways but the closest city with mass transport is Naples. So you can fly or take the train into Naples and then from there you have a few choices.
Via Shuttle- This is probably the most cost effective way to arrive, I did it on the way there and it was a dream. I booked a reservation through Positano Shuttle and the driver was waiting for me when I arrived at Napoli airport. Typically you share a large Mercedes van with other passengers around the same time, but my reservation was at an odd time in the day and they had a reverse pickup in Positano, so I paid €46 for a private van! Not saying this will happen every time but even sharing the ride to Positano for €30-€50 is amazing and a great option.
Via Taxi- For those with a large group or ones who don't want a shared ride there are taxis available at both the train station and the airport that will take you to Positano. You can also prearrange a private transfer through numerous companies with cost ranging between €90-€200 depending on the type of vehicle/timing and traffic.
Rent a car- For those who want to take their time on the way there, rent a car. The road from Sorrento to Salerno is called “the road with 1000 bends” and is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site with tons of places to pullover and take in the beautiful views/snap a few breathtaking photos of the coastline. Renting an awesome car and taking on those hairpin turns like James Bond would've, is an amazing way to start a trip to the Amalfi Coast. Having a car is also nice, as it also gives you the flexibility to explore neighboring towns like Praiano, Amalfi, and Ravello as day trips. I would've honestly done this option, but I'm a classic American who can't drive a stick shift, so my dreams of flooring it around the coast was sadly short lived.
Via Ferry- I found the ferry system to be a bit cumbersome to be honest, as there is no direct route from Naples to Positano. You have to first get a boat to Sorrento and then another boat onward to Positano. But this is a good option if you are looking to avoid traffic, want to see the coast by sea, or would get super carsick on the windy SS163 road. Ferries are very limited from September until late April, with a different summer schedule published every year in May.
Via Helicopter- for those wondering if they can just chopper to the coast, this is also a bit more complicated than it seems. There are options to take a helicopter transfer for those so inclined, however it will cost you a pretty penny and isn't a direct transfer as it’s impossible to land in Positano due to steep landscape and lack of landing space.I called a few places just to get an estimate… Rides go from Naples to Sorrento and then you’d have to arrange a car or boat from there. Prices vary depending on the company but are typically around €1000-1500.
What to Do:
Hike to a More Secluded Beach- There is a small but sweet little hike you can take from the main beach in Positano, up and over to another small cove beach that is virtually untouched. There is also a less crowded beach a bit further down with open loungers and a shack bar serving cold beers, mixed drinks, and small bites. You can find the small stone steps that lead to the path on the furthest rock wall all the way to the right, when on the main Positano beach (facing the ocean). Hike up the small stairs and up to a path that takes you around to the other side of the cliffs, I loved laying out here on my own knowing crowds of tourists were just around the cliffside.
Cooking Class at Buca di Bacco- I signed up for a cooking class at the esteemed Buca Di Bacco, as the forecast was meant to be stormy, and it ended up being one of my favorite memories from the trip. It was an absolutely fabulous experience. You arrive to the restaurant's large, open kitchen around 3:30pm and are given a glass of champagne and a goodie bag which includes your apron, cookbook, and gnocchi board. From there you are magically transformed into a proper italian chef (or at least I like to think so hehe) learning to make the classics like fresh pesto gnocchi, eggplant parmigiano, and individual margarita pizzas. The class hosts between 8-12 people, and has one master chef walking you through the recipes and two sous chefs that help expedite the small tedious requirements (like bringing the water to a boil, and putting pizzas in the oven). Once you’ve finished preparing this crazy large meal your entire class sits together on the patio of the restaurant and enjoys the day’s accomplishments over bottles of red and white wine. It is honestly so fun yet informative and is a great way to spend the afternoon. Prices for the cooking class is €120/pp and includes all the food, drinks, and gift bag. I compared this class to a couple others I saw in Positano, including one at Max Restaurant and this one was still the best class I could find.
Day Trip to Capri- With so much to see and explore, a day trip to Capri is absolutely necessary if you are staying in Positano for longer than three days. There are large highspeed ferries that go to Capri from Positano almost every 30 minutes in the summertime and allow travelers to spend the day how they please. I personally recommend a guided small group tour by boat as they take you to all the sites including Tiberios Jump, the natural arch, the white, green and blue grotto, Villa Malaparte, the lighthouse, Marina Grande and more. This is nice as you don’t have to think or organize how to get to and from the grottos once on land. Another option is to organize a private boat for hire to explore the wonderful island of Capri at your own pace. It’s all just a matter of preference and budget.
Take in the Views with a Sunset Cruise- I indulged in this excursion on my last night in Positano. I was so sad to be leaving and wanted one last memory of the coastline during the golden hour. So I booked a private sunset cruise and was absolutely delighted at how spectacular the views were. They drive you around the various small islands and coves, and explain small facts about the castles, buildings, and geography. Although I was by myself for this one, the setting is extremely romantic and would be an amazing thing to do as a couple. They offer beer, wine, and prosecco on board as well as small snacks.
Drinks at L’Africana- This infamous cave club is a great place to checkout on a Friday or Saturday night. Arrive right before the sunset and take in the surrounds with a cheeky cocktail and be prepared to dance the night away. This club opened in 1960, and is known for its great music nights. It is located in Praiano, which is a 20 minute drive from Positano, however the club does offer a shuttle service, and there is also a small marina, so it’s also possible to arrive by boat (I got invited to go to L’Africana by boat as my sunset cruise was wrapping up, so cool!).
Day Trip to Ravello- Nestled up high above the Neapolitan Riviera, Ravello is a romantic oasis filled with charm and glamour. The views of the mediterranean coastline from this stunning vantage point strictly can’t be beat. Wander aimlessly through the gardens, terraces, and pergolas of a city visited by Jackie O, Greta Garbo, and Tennessee Williams. To get there take a short ferry (in summer season) to Amalfi and then a bus up, 20-30 mins depending on traffic, to Ravello.
Where to Eat:
Casa E Bottega- This charming designer shop and eatery serves up organic local foods perfect for a light lunch or snack in between the overloading of Italian carbohydrates. This cafe offers great vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options which can be far and few between in the smaller cities in Italy. Whether you opt for a fresh squeezed juice or a glass of rose, the light and bright interior, combined with the to-die-for healthy options, Casa E Bottega is a must-visit.
Champagne and Oysters at Le Sirenuse- The Champagne and Oyster bar at Le Sirenuse is a great place to sip on some bubbly while watching the sunset. Take in the sweeping views of the city while you munch on tartar, olives, and oysters. The best time to go would be during “happy hour timing” however at this classy establishment, you unfortunately won’t be finding ANY happy hour pricing... yet that view is worth every penny.
Da Vincenzo- This was where I went to eat the first night in town and I absolutely loved it. There was quite a long wait, but was made to feel much shorter thanks to the complimentary prosecco they give out to guests waiting for a table. Once seated, I ordered the zucchini blossoms as a starter and then indulged in their Tubetti ai Totani (a tubular pasta in what was similar to a vodka sauce) it was the best introduction to the cities rich cuisine. I also feasted my eyes on other tables orders of large lobsters, seafood pasta dishes, and fresh fish which also looked very delicious. Try and wait it out for an outside table to watch the cliffside light up once the sun has set. Truly magical!
Chez Black- This is a great beachfront restaurant that requires a reservations in advance. Chez Black is know for their rich pastas with “Positanese” sauces, their fish soup, quality meats, wide wine selection, and delicious desserts. It is also a great place to people watch during lunchtime, as it runs right up against the beach. Open for both lunch and dinner.
Gelato at Caffe Positano- Caffe Positano was my favorite place to get gelato, because the flavors were limited but very fresh and the two scoops came with a small cone on top! I loved it. I stopped here every time I walked from Casa Teresa to the beach, which was often. Thank goodness this city has so many steps to counteract my constant intake of gelato.
Where to Stay:
Casa Teresa- My first two nights in Positano, I rented a quaint apartment with a private balcony at the sweet and understated Casa Teresa. This family run place was in a great location, an easy 15 minute walk down the hills to the main beach. They have a beautiful terrace covered in potted plants with a beautiful view and the walls of the casa are covered in colorful flowers. The apartment was reasonably priced given Positano’s expensive nature, and there was a solid complimentary breakfast spread each morning. If you are on a slightly tighter budget, a bed and breakfast like Casa Teresa is the perfect way to still have the view and the charm without the pricetag.
Eden Roc- My last two nights I spent at Eden Roc Hotel and it was beyond stunning. I stayed in a Junior Suite that had a very large terrace that overlooked the entire bay, complete with a jacuzzi tub and whirlpool bath. The location was slightly closer, with the main beach only a 10 minute walk from the other direction. The food at the hotel was great, this was where I had that scrumptious prosciutto and melon, and bolognese with a view (pictured above). The rooftop pool was a bit dated, so I ended up just laying out on my private terrace. Overall, the customer service was amazing, they were the ones who helped me arrange my private sunset cruise, and the rooms were spacious and comfortable. This is a great option if you are a sucker for a mind blowing view with a jacuzzi on a terrace, I mean come on… what’s not to love. The slight jump in price was definitely worth it for a stay at the Eden Roc Positano.
Le Sirenuse- If your budget allows, this place is the absolute cream of the crop in terms of where to stay in Positano. Think of walking in through the large white doors into an open lobby, where a white-gloved butler hands you a glass lemonade as you checkin, and the mediterranean breeze is blowing in from the sea through the open french doors all around you… yes… now you are starting to get the feeling of Le Sirenuse. There are three options for dining within the hotel: La Sponda, which is an incredible Michelin-starred restaurant serving up local recipes and ingredients. The Champagne Bar & Grill which is what I mentioned earlier for oysters at sunset, and Franco’s which is a bar on an al fresco terrace serving up specialty cocktails and wine. Getting a room at this swanky hotel is quite challenging, as it is extremely popular for honeymooners and couples, and is typically booked almost a year or more in advance.