My spontaneous trip from Naples to Amalfi via Sorrento introduced me to one of the most stunning, underrated and unique parts of Italy.
After three weeks of backpacking in Italy with friends, we had already covered the country’s most popular tourist destinations: we floated down the Venice canals, gazed at the Sistine Chapel ceiling and traipsed through venerable museums in Florence. So with a few days left in our trip, we flipped through our guidebook for inspiration and ultimately decided to explore the Amalfi Coast.
Over the course of three days, we made our way from Naples to Sorrento to Amalfi, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable journeys I’ve ever experienced.
Historical Charm in Naples
Naples was our gateway to southern Italy. It’s a gritty, fabled city that many visitors skip altogether. Those who give it a chance will find a colorful town brimming with undiscovered nooks, kids playing soccer in twisty streets and some of the best pizza in the world. In fact, this seaside city oozes character. I felt like I had stepped onto the set of The Godfather, and after navigating the crowds in Rome, Florence and Venice, it was a relief to stroll through an area where I felt like I was shoulder to shoulder with local Italians instead of other tourists.
Naples is reputed to be the birthplace of Italian pizza, so fittingly, my most visceral memories of the city involve eating at century-old pizzerias. When it comes to Napoli pizza, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele is about as traditional as it gets. The famous hole-in-the-wall restaurant features a cozy dining room with views of chefs pulling fresh Margherita pizzas from huge, wood-fired ovens. It’s a popular spot, so get there early and expect lines down the street.
Eating aside, Naples also boasts several historic sites that are worth a visit. I was especially curious to see il Duomo, a 14th century cathedral that houses a vial of blood from Naples’ patron saint, San Gennaro, reputed to liquefy during a special ceremony a few times a year.
Coastal Splendor from Sorrento to Amalfi
From Naples, we hopped onto the Circumvesuviana train for the 1.5-hour trip to Sorrento. The seaside resort hub somehow manages to feel both bustling and relaxed, with its beautiful hotels, café-lined piazzas and beaches strewn with sunbathing Italians and brightly colored beach umbrellas. We spent half a day casually wandering through the city, but we didn’t have time to linger: we had to catch the bus to Amalfi.
The most economical and efficient way to make the 20-mile journey from Sorrento to Amalfi is by public bus. These roomy coaches make multiple trips a day, taking riders for a scenic — and somewhat harrowing — drive along a cliffside two-lane highway. I got a giddy feeling in my stomach every time I looked down from my bus window. The scenery was so stunning, the cliffs so dramatic, the tiny towns nestled into the rock so picturesque and the water so aquamarine, I could barely pick my jaw up off the floor.
It was one of the most beautiful scenes I’d ever witnessed, and I immediately felt like I’d been let in on a spectacular secret. But if you’re wary of heights, there’s no shame in closing your eyes for the trip and taking a nap. You can also travel from Sorrento to Amalfi by ferry (try the Alilauro ferry if you’re booking ahead), by renting a car or by booking a driver service for the day. Whichever way you go, this unique coastline is worth exploring.
Picturesque Beauty in Amalfi
My Amalfi experience consisted of sipping limoncello (one of this citrus-growing region’s famous products), enjoying a seafood dinner and visiting the Museo della Carta, a fascinating museum housed in an ancient paper mill. But you could also simply head up one of the town’s narrow alleyways that wind into the cliffs — and get lost among little white houses and terraced lemon groves.
Our little coastal detour may have only lasted three days, but it was more than enough time for the Amalfi Coast to cement itself as one of my favorite destinations in the world.
Naples is also a great jumping off point to visit Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, which you can do in a day trip via the Circumvesuviana train line. The trains leave frequently, and you can book tickets online or in person.
Discover the guided group tours of Italy available through the Marriott Vacation Club Destinations® Program.