Last week, Louise and I went on a little ‘mini-moon’ to Positano, Italy. We’d gone to the UK for a “second wedding” for all of our British relatives and friends, and seeing as we were in the area (Europe), it felt like the perfect time to visit.
3 days is not nearly enough time:
Louise and I had planned to explore the entire Amalfi Coast, Positano, Capri and Sorrento in 3 days, and on paper it seemed pretty doable. Unfortunately we didn’t really factor in how long it would take to navigate the squiggly, cliff-top roads or factor in how much time we’d spend gorging on pasta (because we were eating 5 times per day), so in the end we were forced to skip the Island of Capri and do our best with the time available.
It quickly dawned on us that to fully appreciate the area, we’d need at least a week (with two extra days if we’d wanted to visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum as well). Oh well, it’s just an excuse to come back again right?
Where we stayed
After some research, it was pretty clear that staying in Positano was eye wateringly expensive. We needed an alternative and ended up booking a beautiful little BnB in the nearby town of Sorrento. From Sorrento, Positano is around 45 minutes away. But don’t worry, it’s not a boring 45 minute drive; it’s 45 minutes of incredibly beautiful roads along the Mediterranean coast. You’ll wish it was longer (unless you get car sick).
On a side note, we can really recommend our B’n’B in Sorrento. It’s a beautiful Italian villa surrounded by lemon trees, olive trees and grape vines and it had the most incredible view of Mt. Vesuvius across the bay. You don’t get views like that along the Amalfi Coast. Only downside is that the bnb was down the most narrow/terrifying slope possible. I stalled the car 3 times trying to hill start out of there on the first day. Advanced drivers only!
Check out Residence Villa Rosmary here
Of course, the main focus of our visit was the stunningly beautiful coastal town of Positano. It’s pretty much exactly as it looks in the photos and is something straight out of a postcard. The different coloured villas and hotels built into the cliffs are a wonder to wander amongst and explore, and we spent hours and hours browsing the stores, sitting with coffee and lounging on the “beach” (I put it in inverted commas because it’s a pebble beach that will drive you insane if you’re bare footed).
The food was out of this world, and considering Naples is the supposed home of the modern day pizza, I can confidently say that the pizza here will ruin all other pizzas for you. Even a simple margarita pizza will blow you away. We literally ordered a side of pizza to share with every meal.
The pasta is also pretty tasty, but don’t expect big portions like you might at home. It’s definitely quality over quantity. As with many tourist villages, all of the restaurants seemed to have the same menu and specialize in the same dishes. They pretty much all served gnocchi alla Sorrentina (amazing), ricotta ravioli (absolutely mind blowing), seafood risotto, seafood and a variety of amazing pizzas. The only one I would be hesitant to recommend in that list is the seafood risotto, but you can’t really go too far wrong.
Our favourite restaurant in Positano was Chez Black by the beach, but we also loved Ristorante Saraceno
Customer service in Naples/ Positano
As a whole, we found customer service to be an interesting concept in Positano. The idea that the customer is always right seems to be somewhat alien here, and if you ask for something that the waiter disapproves of, they won’t hesitate to let you know. Here’s one example:
We ordered a 6 Euro Insalade Verde (about $10) from Hotel L’Ancora and were stunned when we were handed a bowl of plain, undressed iceberg lettuce. Obviously feeling that there’d been some kind of mistake, we asked our server for some vinaigrette. After a few seconds and a puzzled look, our server started angrily pointing at the condiments already on our table. “Salt, Pepper, Oil, Balsamico!” Our jaws dropped as he shrugged and walked off.
We seemed to come across that dismissive attitude quite regularly, but perhaps it’s more indicative of how annoying us tourists are than anything else. People seemed to be a lot nicer in the less touristy area of Sorrento.
One thing we really enjoyed in Positano was the dessert. We must have eaten about 10 different tiramisu’s, not to mention a whole bucketload of gelato. I recommend looking out for pistachio gelato.. It’s amazing.
We were a little confused about the shopping in Positano, as all the clothes for sale seemed to be either 9 euros or more than 200. I wouldn’t recommend shopping here unless you have a lot of cash burning a hole in your pocket.
What I would definitely recommend though is buying some limoncello! Positano seems to specialise in lemon related gifts, and the limoncello here is absolutely delicious. Have some as a digestif after dinner or grab a bottle to take home as a gift.
Getting around Positano:
Positano is interesting to navigate, particularly if you’ve driven yourself there. The main street is a one way, and you’ll find street parking most of the way along the loop. Street parking can add up pretty quickly, so we’d recommend parking in one of the car parks for around 35 Euros per day – cash only – and then walking in to town.
At some point, you’ll want to head down to the beach, and the only way down, and unfortunately up, is via hundreds of steps. The panting, sweaty faces you pass on the way down should give you an idea of what you’ll be facing on the way back up. You’ll pass a number of shops until finally you’ll reach the waterfront where the beach and water taxis are located.
If you’re looking to explore more of the Amalfi coast and Capri, then don’t bother renting a private boat from Positano. Take a ferry to Capri and then rent a private boat there. It’s significantly cheaper and will save you a bucketload of cash.
There’s not much more to say about Positano other than get out and explore! It’s an amazing place to roam around for a few days, and probably one of the more relaxing trips we’ve taken in years.
By the way, if you’re thinking of driving yourself around Italy, here’s our experience/tips!
Driving in Italy
Feeling brave, we decided to rent a car and drive ourselves around this time. Driving yourself will give you far more flexibility, but it’s definitely not for the faint hearted.
In Naples, other cars pay virtually no attention to the speed limit or the lane markings, and any road signs are so incredibly small that you’ll have practically passed them by the time you can read them.
Things get even more interesting as you get closer to the coast, when the terrifying speeds give way to impossibly narrow roads filled with dozens of enormous tour buses and yet more of those same nutty drivers you met in Naples. It’s quite an adventure.
Here’s our advice for driving in Italy:
1. Make sure you have decent car insurance,
2. Make sure you check your car for scratches before you leave the parking lot,
3. Rent the smallest car you can get away with.
4. When in Rome, do as the Romans do i.e. drive confidently.
5. Use a GPS to navigate (signs are terrible)
6. Give yourself plenty of time to get anywhere (e.g. getting back to the airport for your flight)
7. Expect bad driving and the unexpected!
If you’re a nervous driver, it’s probably best to avoid driving in Italy and take the bus instead, but if you fancy yourself as a bit of a racer and can drive aggressively, it’s pretty awesome.
In reality, we found that the Amalfi Coast was one of those places that’s best enjoyed at a snail’s pace. Yes, you can save time by skipping the long lunches, the cocktails and the casual evening strolls.. but by doing so you’ll have missed the point entirely. Best to just sit back and enjoy life in the slow lane.