James shares his experience driving from Naples to the Amalfi Coast.
Visiting the stunning Amalfi Coast in Italy had been on my list for a long time, and each time I heard a friend was going - it moved further up my list. We had spent a lovely 4 nights in Nice, and the night before we were to fly to Naples I had a sporadic thought - 'should I have just booked a transfer instead of driving from Naples to the Amalfi Coast?' The reviews I read online said that driving from Naples to the Amalfi Coast was a difficult and confusing drive, and Italian drivers made it even harder. I am SO glad that I ignored those reviews. Landing into Naples airport we joined the couple of other people waiting for the quick shuttle to get to the Budget rental office. We went through the paperwork at the Budget depot and soon we were in our Volvo V40 and programming 'Sorrento' into the GPS. Within minutes of starting to drive I had completely forgotten about the reviews saying it was difficult to drive in Italy, and next thing I knew I was confidently cruising down the highway on the 55km journey to Sorrento.
The highway getting out of Naples is pretty standard - it was great to be able to set the cruise control, because it gave me a little more freedom to catch glimpses of the surrounds. I felt goosebumps on my arm when I saw a sign to Pompeii - and made a mental note to do some research about the area when we got to the hotel. Not far from the Pompeii exit, our GPS was telling us to exit the highway - even though the road signs were saying to continue. We listened to our GPS and found ourselves in the cute and quaint backstreets of Castellammare di Stabia.We couldn't help but think we had definitely taken the longer way by getting off the highway - but we were so glad it happened. It was so much more interesting than highway driving! And, we were able to stop for a toilet break, and walk around the town whilst trying some delicious Italian pastry treats.After we left Castellammare di Stabia we came across a popular tourist spot called Belvedere di Sorrento (translation being 'bel' meaning beautiful, and 'vedere' meaning view - quite fitting). You absolutely cannot miss it - the views over Sorrento are striking as soon as you approach it as it's the first cliche view of the Amalfi Coast that you will come across. Definitely stop here and take it in - these views are going be the norm for your stay along the Amalfi Coast.
View from Belvedere di Sorrento
Sorrento is a beautiful and stunning city. It's quite large and serves as a ferry stop for people coming from Naples, so a lot of tour groups stay here - and I have to say that we found it a little too busy and touristy. We did a quick drive around the town and headed off - we were so excited to get to Positano!The drive from Sorrento to Positano was one of the most exciting drives I have ever done. I felt like I was in a rush to get there, but at the same time I was very happy just driving around the roads and taking in the stunning cliffs and rolling green hills as we navigated around the edge of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Every time we came around a corner, it was another postcard view and we were just constantly saying 'wow'.The roads are narrow, yes, and there are many other cars and bikes on the road, yes - but at no stage did I or my partner feel scared or out of our depth. We were SO glad that we didn't book a transfer or shuttle bus!We settled into our hotel in Positano and set off to enjoy the town. Positano remains my favourite place in the world. By basing ourselves in Positano we were able to do short drives to Amalfi and Ravello. Amalfi is another main town on the coast, with the same pretty coloured houses scattered up the hills, and every day there are fresh produce markets and stalls everywhere, which gave it a very local feel.
Bustling town of Amalfi
On another day we did a drive up the hill to a small musical town called Ravello, where we wandered the streets and settled at a restaurant with the most beautiful view out over fields of produce & vegetables, and green tree tops to the sea.
Lunch at Ravello
After 3 nights in Positano and 3 nights at a gorgeous boutique hotel in Praiano, I was very sad to drop our little Volvo V40 back to the car rental depot at Napoli airport. I was however SO happy and thankful that we did have a car to explore the Amalfi Coast at our own leisure. There is so much that you can only see and find by getting off the beaten track and just letting yourself drive. By leaving the tourists behind, you can stumble on small local villages that tourist buses and airport transfer services just don't go. And that's what travelling is about, right?
View of Positano from the water
Spectacular Amalfi sunset
Our sleek ride - Volvo V40