The Amalfi Drive

A quick overview of the drive (by car or by bus) along the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento to Salerno

This white-knuckle thrill ride is one of Italy's greatest wonders, 30 miles of narrow, S-curve roadway strung halfway up a cliff with the waves crashing below, green slopes all around, medieval pirate watchtowers on the headlands, and colorful villages tucked into the coves.

Welcome to the undulating, world-famous Amalfi Drive, otherwise known by its official handle, the SS163. It lies along the south side of the peninsula that forms the southern arm of the Bay of Naples.

How to get to the Amalfi Drive

To get to Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, and the other villages and towns of the Amalfi Coast, you'll need to get to the south side of Sorrento's peninsula, which means your first order of business is reaching Sorrento, a middle-class resort town atop a cliff overlooking the Bay of Naples (on the north side of the peninsula). » more

Sorrento has plenty of hotels and other tourist infrastructure (this is where many bus tours put up to explore the region), but only a fraction of the charm enjoyed by the smaller villages on the Amalfi Coast itself. My advice is to hop on a bus (be sure to sit on the right for the best views) and head out to explore the Amalfi Coast itself. » more

From Sorrento to Positano (35–40 min.)

Bus timetables
If this direct link to the orario (timetables) for the various Amalfi Coast bus lines isn't working, just go directly to the SITA bus homepage (, click on "Linee Regionali," then on "Campania," then on "Orari Linee Campania."
This is a relatively uneventful ride, south from Sorrento and mostly inland over the tall hills of the peninsula to the Amalfi Drive on the southern side of it. The first views of the coast as you come down a hairpin road are pretty spectacular, but the not much else happens until you reach the first major stop—that postcard child of the Amalfi Coast, the chichi resort town of Positano.

This tumble of white and pale pastel houses stairsteps up the hillsides of a tight cove, a charmingly disorderly stack of sea-view terraces picked out with bougainvillea. A multitude of these old fisher homes and summer villas have been transformed into hotels or B&Bs, and though the hoipalloi (us regular tourists) now know about it, too, Positano still exerts almost as a strong pull on the rich and famous as it has since the heyday of the 1950s Jet Set. » more

From Positano to Amalfi (45–50 min.)

About 3km (2 miles) beyond Positano is its sister hamlet of Praiano, also a trendy resort (only much smaller and still little-known) with a majolica-domed church (and an excellent hotel called the Locanda Costa Diva).

Past the village of Furore the bus pops out of a tunnel to ride a bridge across one of the coast's most dramatic gorges, the Vallone del Furore.

At kilometer-marker 24, outside the fishing community of Conca dei Marini, are the stairs (or elevator) down to the Grotta dello Smeraldo (Emerald Grotto). This cavern was formed above sea level, then partially sunk below the water, and the effect of light inside causes the water to glow an eerie green. » more

A detour from Amalfi to Ravello (25–30 min.)

Six kilometers inland—and 1,155 feet up—from Amalfi perches Ravello, a tiny town of crumbling villas whose flower-filled grounds and lush pleasure gardens have become public parks hosting concerts under the stars. » more

From Amalfi to Salerno (60–75 min.)

As you make your way east on the Amalfi Coast toward Salerno, you'll pass though several more small villages—Atrani, just beyond Amalfi, is the cutest—and a few sprawling resort towns—notably Maiori and Minori—with decent (but crowded) beaches lined by low-rise hotel blocks that are favored by Italians on week-long packaged vacations.

The one town most worth getting off the bus for is at the tail end of the coast: Vietri Sul Mare, these days practically a Salerno suburb and chock-a-bloc with studios turning out hand-painted ceramics. » more

The Amalfi Drive ends at Salerno, a busy and bustling—but (for the tourist) relatively bland—working port city. Sadly, World War II bombs were not kind to Salerno, leaving it but a few historic sites, though enough to amuse you in case public transport connections strands you there for a few hours. » more

Tips & links


Local tourist offices: (regional)

Useful private sites: (cooking classes, hiking paths, recipes, boat rentals) (photos, videos, hiking maps) (news)

State railways:
Naples area rail line:

How long does the Amalfi Coast take?

Planning your time: As you can see from the drive-times listed between each town above, you can conceivably drive the whole Amalfi Cost in about three hours. Of course, unless you're continuing on south (to nearby Paestum or points beyond), you then have to get back to Naples—which you can do much faster (40–50 min.) by inland train .

Some people do pack the drive into a long day, never getting off the bus except for the required bus change in Amalfi—perhaps building in enough time there for a quick look at the cathedral. (If that's the way you want to go, it might be best to just book this as a private tour; these full-day tours come with an English-speaking driver, can pick you up in Naples at your hotel, the train station, airport, or cruise terminal, visit Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, and only cost $60—or $97 if, along with the driver, you want a private tour guide as well. » book)

Otherwise, it makes far more sense to spend at least one night on the coast.

If, however, your schedule doesn't have that much leisure time, might I suggest riding the first leg—from Sorrento to Positano to Amalfi—taking a quick spin around Amalfi town, then catch a ferry back up the coast and over to Capri (or just back to Sorrento if Capri's not on your vacation menu)..

If you do decide to drive the Amalfi Coast yourself

If you are determined to take your life into your own hands, you can drive yourself along the twisting, death-defying Amalfi Coast down the SS163 from Sorrento to Salerno.

Here's a hint at how congested the traffic is: locals are allowed to drive only every other day of the week (odd numbered license plates one day, even numbered ones the next). And as the driver, ask your companion to take lot of pictures because you'll be too busy digging your fingernails into the wheel, violently pumping the brakes, and otherwise desperately trying not to end up smushed against the cliffside—or flying off it into the water 80 feet below.

Buses blare their horns when rounding blind, outside curves so you'll know they're coming. When you see them coming on the inside curves, stop before the curve itself so the bus—whose swing in such instances takes up both lanes—can get past. Also be prepared to put it in reverse and back up along with everybody else on the frequent occasions when the bus hasn't enough space and traffic going both ways has to ease back to make room.The Amalfi Drive: by car or by bus? The way I see it, the last thing you want to do is deprive yourself of gawking at every postcard-perfect curve by driving it yourself. Also, vacations aren't meant to be stressful. I drove it once, and since then have always taken the bus, which conveniently leaves every half hour from in front of the Sorrento train station.

On the bus, you get to admire the pretty view (rather than mentally revising your will as you careen terrified around blind corners), plus it doesn't take three burly men and a crowbar 20 minutes to un-pry your fingers from the steering wheel at the end. » more

Sit on the right

Be sure to snag a window seat on the right side of the bus for the best views.

Beware car-sickness

This road sports some serious curves, and the drivers are experts and making all but the most iron-stomached travelers wish there were barf bags on board. Armor yourself by downing some Dramamine before boarding or taking the wheel—seriously.

(Or pop into an Italian farmacia and ask for "Travel Gum," a wonderful medicine consisting of giant round candy-shelled Chiclets in a foil pack. Chew on one of these for about five minutes and your motion sickness will vanish. After about 20–30 minutes, your tongue will go slightly numb. No idea why. but they work a dream and I always stock up when I go to Italy.)

Coming back

Since the ride back hugs the cliff and not the drop-dead views, why not get a different take on the coast and cruise back up it in aboard a fast ferry ( » more

Amalfi Coast tours
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Local tourist offices: (regional)

Useful private sites: (cooking classes, hiking paths, recipes, boat rentals) (photos, videos, hiking maps) (news)

State railways:
Naples area rail line:

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