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Amalfi coast for 5 days!! (where to set base from)

Is Sorrento a good base for a 5 day trip around Amalfi coast? We are looking to visit Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, Capri, Naples (the whole 9 yards). I have read Sorrento is a good base to go around the towns but that it lacks charm? We are looking to just relax and take it the towns.
Any feedback is helpful!!

Posted by
7373 posts

Could you fit a private driver in your budget at about $125 a day or do you prefer to take public transportation?
The answers to those questions factor in where you could stay

Posted by
9171 posts

Sorrento is a good location for the broader area( Pompeii, Capri, Naples and Amalfi Coast) but is not on the Amalfi Coast. It sounds like you want to visit the Amalfi Coast so pick a town there to stay- Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, etc.

Posted by
13802 posts

Technically Sorrento is not on the Amalfi Coast. The Amalfi Coast is the stretch of the coast on the Sorrento peninsula which faces south, from west of Positano all the way to Vietri sul Mare. Sorrento is on the northern side of the Sorrento Peninsula.

Sorrento is generally a good logistical choice because of transportation options: train to Naples, Pompei, Ercolano, ferry to Capri and Naples, buses to the Amalfi Coast proper (Positano and Amalfi).

I personally prefer Positano or the other AC towns, which I find much quainter than Sorrento. From Positano you can just as conveniently visit also Capri and, even more conveniently, the other AC villages via bus (or boat).

However if you want to take day trips to Naples and/or Pompeii, then it’s a longer commute from there, because first you need to take the bus back to Sorrento or Meta di Sorrento, then the train from there.

Your choice.

Posted by
4568 posts

Could you consider splitting your time?

3 nights Sorrento- visit Naples, Pompeii, Capri
then move to Amalfi or Positano for 2

Haven't been yet myself but that's what we are planning to do in May.
(well similar- we are doing 1 Naples, 3 Sorrento, 3 Amalfi, 2 Salerno)

Posted by
2444 posts

I think it is unfair to say Sorrento is not charming. Rather I’d say it is charming yet touristy and not as historic as many of the nearby towns or sites. When I visited the area, I spent 3 nights in Naples, to see the city and sites as well as a day trip to Salerno and Paestum, and then 4 nights in Sorrento, where I made one day trip to Herculaneum and Pompeii, another for a day long Amalfi Coast van tour, and a third day back in Amalfi and Ravello by public bus, with much more time to linger. I skipped Capri all together. If you pick one base for 4 or 5 nights, I would suggest Sorrento. If you decide to divide your nights, I would suggest maybe Naples and Amalfi or else Sorrento and Amalfi. Many people seem to enjoy Positano, but I must admit when I was there on the main sloped “lane” of Positano, I felt like I was on an escalator of a shopping center, but providing my own motor, there were so many, many clothing and souvenir shops.

Posted by
4568 posts

Many people seem to enjoy Positano, but I must admit when I was there on the main sloped “lane” of Positano, I felt like I was on an escalator of a shopping center, but providing my own motor, there were so many, many clothing and souvenir shops.<

Thanks- this made me laugh and glad we chose to stay in Amalfi.

Posted by
15358 posts

To some extent it depends on when your trip is. I've read here and elsewhere that in high season, there are long line for buses, and as one consequence, chances aren't good that you'll have seats with a view. There may also be lines for the ferries. I've never been to the area when ferries were running, but I'm sure the views from the sea are wonderful but I don't know if everyone on the ferry has a view. There are 3 SITA bus lines: Sorrento/Amalfi, Amalfi/Ravello and Amalfi Salerno. The most scenic part of the AC is Positano to Vietri sul Mare. The drive from Sorrento to Positano is mostly inland and not scenic. The drive from Salerno to Vietri sul Mare is short and somewhat scenic.

I've stayed in Sorrento and Salerno. Sorrento is very convenient for Pompeii, Herculaneum and Capri. Salerno is better for Paestum, about as good for Pompeii and Naples. Salerno is connected to Naples, Rome, Florence, etc., by high speed train. To Sorrento, you need the slow commuter train or ferry or bus from Naples. Salerno is cheaper than Sorrento which is cheaper than most (all?) of the AC towns. I thought Sorrento was charming (but I was there in low season, few tourists). Salerno is less so, but it does have more sights and a well-preserved historic center. It also has a large sandy beach and a lovely seaside promenade. Sorrento's center is perched on a cliffside, with a lot of stairs down to the beach/pier.

If you choose to stay in one of the AC towns, take into account that some of the smaller places do not have ferry access, and if the bus is full, only as many people can get on as get off.

Posted by
2021 posts

We stayed in Sorrento to travel to Pompeii and then moved to Amalfi and Positano for several days each. I liked Amalfi better than Positano and it has good access to Ravello which you should visit. Amalfi and Positano are too close together to warrant moving like we did. You can visit the other as a day trip. The ferry is the most pleasant way to move between the two towns.

Posted by
6181 posts

Steff, you need to give the month of the year to get the best answers. All of the good advice you have already received is affected by the massive crowding of this area from May to September. Ferry and bus schedules have high and low seasons, so what you can do and how long it takes to wait for public transportation are also affected. All the destinations (except, maybe Salerno, where I've never been) book up at least six months in advance. In Sorrento or Positano, you can expect to get, at best, your fifth choice of housing.

I'm not sorry we spent five nights in Sorrento. Although I found it a purpose-built, postwar, reinforced concrete resort city (with a magnificent view from the high-priced hotels on the cliffside (we stayed in one, the Ambasciatori, which Rick calls "a worthwhile splurge" - but it's even more expensive than that.)) Having been so negative, I would have to say that Sorrento suffers less from the worldwide trend so visible in Positano and Capri, of the "usual suspects" of multinational luxury goods vendors. I mean, just how many Cartier boutiques do I need to see in my liftime? Even Angkor, Cambodia (because of Chinese tourism) now has them!

I don't like changing hotels too often. But I'd observe that Naples has so much to see (including a daytrip to Caserta palace if you have the time) that you might sleep there a night or two. Even Sorrento is a long ride on the train. BTW, while I am willing to consider that Salerno may be an attractive modern place to stay, I don't accept the encomium of "fast trains." I think what that post means is that the Frecciarossa service sometimes might let you ride direct from Rome or even farther away, to Salerno. A "one-seat ride" is, in fact, worth something. But that does not mean that Salerno is the best place to see Pompeii and Capri from. ("best" is an opinion, of course.)

Having brought up the issue of public transportation, your travel budget is very important. If you need to use the cheapest means to get to the actual AC (your first three cities listed), you are going to spend a average of 45 minutes in line in Sorrento, outside the Circumvesuviana station, waiting for the bus. It's hot in the sunshine. You may have to stand on the bus, too, and only one side has the famous view. Our host, Rick, has noted that those visiting Positano and Amalfi from Sorrento on the same day should see Positano first, because the return bus originates in Amalfi, and in the afternoon, it may be so full that it doesn't even try to stop in Positano. Get my drift?

We hired a private car and driver to see your first three towns, but that runs 240 Euros or more, which not everyone can afford. BTW, we decided to skip the Blue Grotto on our Capri day, because we've seen another grotto in Croatia. This can be a huge time waster, and there is much else to do on Capri. Note that Capri is HIGHLY pedestrianized, and you should expect to walk 2 to 4 miles in a "successful" Capri day. I found the microscopic public busses on Capri to be worthless and to have crushing waiting lines. We took a cab as far as the cab could go, to save time. We walked back (i.e. DOWN) to the ferry on the Phoenecian Steps, but that's too hot and rugged for everyone.

Posted by
624 posts

Based on your interests, I would highly recommend splitting your stay between Sorrento and Amalfi/ Atrani. The real challenge in this area is transportation. You’ll often be trying to get from one place or another and you’ll want to make that part of your day as painless and brief as possible. Stay in Sorrento to cover your Naples/Pompeii (and maybe Capri) sightseeing. Stay in Amalfi or Atrani for your Amalfi Coast sightseeing. I suggest Amalfi as it’s THE transport hub in the AC. Staying there will allow you to beat the crowds to Ravello or Positano. Honestly, those couple hours lead on day-trippers coming from Sorrento, Salerno and Naples makes a huge difference. You’ll find yourself enjoying a coffee on a quiet square in Ravello while a horde of tourists queue up for a bus in the hot sun. You’ll also watch them do the same thing in the afternoon as they scramble to get back to wherever they started, often in a cramped, hot bus stuck in a line of traffic as far as the eye can see. At night, when the day-trippers leave, the AC towns feel much smaller and are easy places to enjoy.

I’d also recommend Capri as a stopover between Sorrento and the AC. Rick Steve’s guidebook gives a detailed breakdown on how to do this. With an early start, I checked bags at the dock, took the hour boat tour (a fun value I felt) and spent the rest of the time up in Anacapri and Monte Solaro. The majority of tourists didn’t make it up there until after lunch when I was on the way out. It was a great way to use that day.

Overall, my best advice is just to try and minimize your day travel, get an early start, and use the ferries over busses. Avoid getting stuck with the masses and the magic of the place is off the charts.

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you all very much!! I will now definitely look into splitting the trip into Sorrento-Naples-Capri-Pompeii and the Amalfi area! How do you get from Amalfi to the surrounding coast towns for day trips? (I would not be opposed to a private driver for one or two days but also don't mind public transit)

Posted by
1036 posts

The hydro foil (boat) runs between Amalfi, Positano and Capri. You can buy tickets right before you board and it’s a great way to get to see the coastline.

Posted by
624 posts

Amalfi has a big ferry dock and bus station right at the dock. Tickets for the ferries are bought at kiosks at the docks, they are easy to find. The day’s schedules are posted above them. There’s generally no need to buy tickets ahead of your immediate departure (except perhaps in peak high season.) The ferry is the way to go. You get great views, fresh air, and can have a drink on the way. There’s nothing like pulling into Positano and Amalfi by boat. The last ferries tend to move out by like 4pm.

Tickets for the bus can be purchased at tabac shops across the street. Tickets are for specific destinations and are pretty cheap. The bus station itself can be a bit chaotic, but somehow everyone gets where they need to go. Ravello is a pretty quick ride and the busses for that are frequent. Ravello is definitely worth the trip too, a real gem. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1148 posts

We agonized over the same dilemma. And what we did was perfect for us.

We stayed in Positano at Albergo California (we were steps from the Sponda bus stop). This trip we will stay at La Fenice which is just a bit of a walk to the bus stop but still doable.
From Positano we took the bus one day up to Nocelle to hike the Path of the Gods into Praino.
Then we took the bus into Amalfi and Ravello and hiked down to Atrani and rode the ferry from Amalfi into Positano - you have to do this !

We loved Positano and did not feel like it was too touristy - it was exactly what you expect the Coast to look like with the cascading buildings !

Then we bussed over to Sorrento to Hotel Minerva - the expansive balcony and great breakfasts were wonderful ! From here we walked into Sorrento to eat and explore and one day rode the ferry over to Capri.

Capri gets a bad rap because of crowds, BUT you just walk out of the funicular and head off to hike the Arco Naturale and Punta Dell'arcera and Belvedere Tragara - there are NO people and the views are spectacular.