I never realised how stimulating it is to write an itinerary until we started travelling in New Zealand a couple of years ago. Prior to that, I merely tagged along. So when we decided to travel to Italy this year, I volunteered to plan our itinerary, with the help of Farrah, who provided me with a spreadsheet of places to see and restaurants to try. Although it took me longer than I expected because I had to do some research on the most realistic travel times, best routes, etc, I found pleasure in writing our itinerary because I learned so much in planning our journey to Southern Italy.
As our main destination was the Amalfi coast, we decided to stay 4 days there. Then we spent 2(and a half)days in Puglia which was a very good decision because Puglia is a truly magnificent place and shouldn't be missed.
Day 1 - Praiano
It was a good thing that we chose to stay in the fishing village of Praiano for the duration of our trip to the Amalfi coast. You probably will hear more about Positano, but I prefer the less colourful and popular Praiano because of its laid-back atmosphere and the fact that it is less crowded. Its narrow maze-like streets and steep steps provide a beautiful sight of traditional Italian houses and their colourful gardens, if not the stunning coast. Praiano is located in the centre of the Amalfi coast, hence very accessible to the neighbouring towns.
Places to see while in Praiano include Parrochia di San Gennaro, La Gavitella Blu Bay and Marina di Praia where the Torre a Mare is located.
Day 2 - Amalfi Town and Ravello
Amalfi town seemed to me like the main public transport hub of the Amalfi coast. I could sense the busyness of the place even before we reached the main centre of town. We also knew straight away that Amalfi was not the town that we wanted to spend a lot of time exploring. Not this time, anyway. A visit to the Duomo di Amalfi Sant' Andrea Apostolo (Amalfi Cathedral), a quick stop at a famous street food place and a quick walk along via Lorenzo D'Amalfi was enough for us to appreciate the place.
Ravello on the other hand, is definitely one of those unexpectedly beautiful towns that you should visit at least once in your lifetime. The enchanting villas and their expansive views of the breathtaking coast was the highlight of our visit to this blissful place. I wish we could have stayed the whole day there.
Day 3 - Tour around the island of Capri
Not only a once in a lifetime experience but also the most expensive day trip I have ever done to date- only because we decided to hire a private boat. A 40 ft boat at that for just the three of us.
I didn't think getting off the boat was worth it as from memory of 9 years ago, Capri town can be very busy and ridiculously pricey. Honestly, I had better appreciation of the island from the water.
Day 4- Pompeii
If there is one other Italian place (on my list) that is worth visiting over and over again, it would be Pompeii. I first visited this UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009 but only spent two hours exploring the area I think. Well, I realised during this trip that two hours is really not enough. We spent more or less than five hours this time, but still didn't get to see everything.
Day 5- Alberobello
I don't know why I haven't heard of the truly amazing Trulli di Alberobello before, but it was the most unique experience during this trip. Trulli are traditional cone-shaped houses found in the region of Apulia, most commonly in Alberobello. It was very touristy when we went, but it's a place that you shouldn't miss. We drove 4 hours from Salerno, but Bari is the main city closest to Alberobello.
Day 6- Matera and Altamura
Altamura was the only town originally on our list to visit before heading to Bari. However, whilst doing my research, I found out that the ancient city of Matera is also nearby so I decided to include it in our itinerary. In fact, I wrote it down as priority over Altamura after seeing breathtaking photos of the city. This is also where Passion of the Christ was filmed. Man, this city is something else. I have never seen anything quite like it. The whole place is enthralling. A must see definitely.
Day 7- Minervino Murge
We only visited the stone town of Minervino Murge as a stop-over for lunch on our way back to Naples airport, but it was worth the detour. The place was intriguingly peaceful and there was no single tourist in sight (except us). A sleepy town indeed with its own unique character. We only spent 3 hours there but I believe we had an authentic Italian experience nevertheless.
The closest international airport to Amalfi Coast is Naples. I booked our flight via British Airways quite late actually. We flew on the 11th of August and only booked our flight on the 30th of June. But still, I believe that the price was reasonable at £208 per person, plus £60 for one check-in luggage return. Of course, I was looking for the cheapest possible flight and therefore booked the outbound flight from Gatwick at 1445 and inbound flight from Naples at 1915. If you don't mind travelling late and you are looking for a cheap flight, then this is ideal.
The most challenging part of planning our itinerary was perhaps finding the best place to stay. We wanted our base to be in a quieter area, yet accessible to all the places that we wanted to visit. I both used airBnB and booking.com to find our accommodation. I will write more about them separately and will link them here.
Casa Aurora (airBnB)
Via Umberto I, 48,
Palazzo Scotto (booking.com)
C.so Trieste e Trento30
Both accommodation provided us with everything that we needed -clean and spacious apartments, amazing views, wonderful hosts, accessibility and convenience, and delicious food (from Palazzo Scotto at least).
At first J wanted to experience driving around the Amalfi Coast, but changed his mind after reading some reviews. I'm glad we decided not to drive because it seemed like parking was impossible in the centre of towns, the roads are scarily narrow and winding, and traffic can be quite bad especially in Positano and Amalfi. Not to mention Italian drivers. So in the end, we decided to take public transportation in the Amalfi Coast and drive in Puglia instead.
Car rental (Salerno to Puglia) via AVIS in Salerno was €462.00 for 3 days. It took us 4 hours to get to Alberobello, then approximately 3 1/2 to 4 hours from Alberobello to Naples Airport.
We used the Local Bus to get around Praiano and to travel to Positano. From what I noticed, they do not have a specific route as such. You tell the driver where you want to go and they will take you there. It is helpful to know the number of your bus stop to avoid going round and round. Tickets can be bought from the driver.
SITA Bus (€2.40)
SITA Bus is the bus that links Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi. We took this bus to Sorrento when we visited Pompeii. It can get very busy so be prepared to stand up throughout (or at least half way through) your journey. In our case, we managed to find seats in Positano as majority of the people in the bus got off there.It is air-conditioned though, so it's really not too bad. Tickets must be purchased at a nearby Tabaccheria (Tobacco Shop) beforehand, otherwise you will not be able to get on the bus.
Taxi (€35 to €120)
We used taxi a few times during our trip to the Amalfi Coast. From Naples airport to Praiano, we used Amalfi Car Service for €120. I wouldn't really recommend taking a taxi as it is quite expensive (will write more about our experience soon), but if your priority is convenience and you have the extra cash, then why not? It is of course cheaper if you have someone to share the cost with.
I have been to Italy a few times already, but I must admit that I had the best Italian food experience during this trip. It's always an advantage to have a foodie in the group, but it's the best if all of you actually love food because then it is easier to find places to eat at. We actually had quite a long list of restaurants that we wanted to try- from street food to Michelin-starred to a cave restaurant in the Adriatic sea. In short, I am very happy that we were able to go to most of the restaurants on our list. On top of that, we also got to try some restaurants recommended by a local. One thing though, some of the restaurants don't have a website or even if they do, they don't have a menu so we chose the restaurants based on reviews and recommendations from tripadvisor and travel writers.
La Moressa -Piazza Moressa, 1 Praiano
Would recommend: Spaghetti the Ancient Way
La Brace - Via Genarro Capriglione, 146 Praiano
Would recommend: Grilled Orata Fish (Catch of the Day), Grilled Squid
Ristorante M'ama - Via Umberto I, 72 Praiano
Would recommend: Seared Tuna, Seafood Risotto, Tagliatelle with Squid Ink
Kasai- Via Umberto I, 84 Praiano
Would recommend: Trofie el pesto, Tartufo Pasta, Mixed grilled seafood, Cozze con Pomodoro, Polpette
Couppo D'Amalfi- Via Supportico dei Ferrari, 12 Amalfi
Would recommend: D'Amalfi, Calamaro
Ristorante La Sponda- Via Cristoforo Colombo, 30 Positano
Would recommend: Fish dishes, Chicken (that came in two servings)
Hortus Porta Marina- Piazza Porta Marina Superiore, 1 Pompeii
Would recommend: Napoletana
Il Poeta Contandino- Via Indipendenza, 21 Alberobello
Would recommend: Fava bean puree with Cavatelli pasta and seafood, bread selection, Orecchiette with turnip, dried tomatoes and walnuts
Ristorante Borgo Antico- Str. Palazzo di Citta, 46 Bari
Would recommend: Grigliata mare con scampi, gamberoni e polpo arrosto
Ristorante Hotel Grotta Palazzese- Via Narciso, 59 Polignano a Mare
Would recommend: The Gran Carte Menu (yellow fin red tuna tartare, kobe beef, beef fillet)
Osteria Cantina Brandi- 7, Calata Brandi, Minervino Murge
Would recommend: Whatever they offer on the day, definitely antipasti
Whilst other people who visit the Amalfi Coast do tour of all sorts such as the popular Lemon Tour, Food Tour, Cooking Tour and Wine Tour, we only did one tour- The Boat Trip Around Capri Island. It was basically an all day tour from Praiano with a couple of stops for a swim. We booked our private boat with Positano Boats. To me, this is the best way to see the Amalfi Coast and to explore Capri island. It saves you from having to go to Sorrento then taking the boat from there, which can be very stressful especially during peak season.
This trip was undeniably the most expensive trip I have ever done so far, but I can also confidently say that it was one of the best trips of my life and therefore was worth every penny that we spent.