I remember when a holiday on the Amalfi Coast of Italy felt like a completely unrealistic dream for two students looking to holiday on a budget. Our initial research indicated that this glamorous holiday destination is typically reserved for the wealthy, the honeymooners and the retired but those dreamy pastel coloured houses stacked up on the cliff top were too hard to resist, so, we made it work! The Amalfi Coast was actually part 2 of our holiday (we spent 5 days in Rome beforehand) and we took no decision lightly when it came to planning the itinerary. I can definitely confirm that the Amalfi Coast’s towns are as beautiful in real life as they look in pictures but more importantly, you can visit them on a budget and here’s how.
Now, this might sound like cheating but hear me out. The main holiday resorts on the Amalfi Coast (Positano, Amalfi, Ravello etc…) know all too well that their views are worth paying for and therefore, prices are sky high. All my research indicated that holiday-makers looking to travel the coast for slightly less should stay in Sorrento, the so-called Amalfi Coast ‘base camp’. However the prices weren’t that cheap and the promise of wall-to-wall tourists was slightly off putting. That’s when we discovered Salerno.
Salerno is towards the east of the Amalfi Coast and it seems to be somewhat well kept from tourists. The town itself is fairly large and is home to a couple of beaches, along with plenty of restaurants and shops. It hardly reflects the glamour of the coast but we found an absolute bargain B&B in the ”Centro Storico”(historical centre) and it was super easy to access all the places we wanted to visit from there. What’s more, we found some of our favourite places to eat in Salerno including a modern, rustic-style cafe with swings(!), a roof terrace pizza restaurant selling every style of pizza you can imagine for just €5 (and they were HUGE), as well as a build-your-own burger restaurant, which we re-visited on our final night. Without staying in Salerno I don’t think we would have been able to make this holiday a reality.
I’d heard plenty of horror stories about the windy, narrow roads of the Amalfi Coast and how they should be avoided at all costs but I couldn’t disagree more! From Salerno we could catch a SITA bus to Amalfi (1 hour) or Positano (about 1h30) for as little as €3-4. Sure, the roads were extremely windy and there were stand-offs at almost every corner but bus-drivers know the routes like the back of their hand and there’s probably no safer driver to have. It’s worth noting, however, that the buses don’t carry on till late in the evening so make sure you plan your day accordingly.
In Positano, the main beach is lined with brightly coloured parasols that lure you in with the only shade as far as the eye can see. Don’t be fooled, these parasols are extremely pricey and those in the know skip the main touristy beach and take the short cliff walk to the more hidden Spiaggia Fornillo beach. Whilst you’re welcome to catch the rays here for free, the parasols on this side are cheaper and the beach-front cafes are a fraction of the cost of their counterparts around the corner. Similarly in Amalfi, there is space to relax on the beach that doesn’t involve paying for access.
This goes for food, drinks and any gifts etc. that you might be looking for. We were always checking out online reviews of restaurants whilst stood directly outside them and we weren’t afraid to ask for the menus from pushy waiters before we sat down. It’s so easy to be lured into a restaurant with an amazing view (and trust me there were many) but rest assured you won’t enjoy the view nearly as much if you are conscious of how much you are spending. In places like Positano, some of the best views are rightly owned by Michelin star restaurants and 5* hotels- don’t get caught out! It’s also worth knowing that the majority of the tourist gift shops sell very similar items and shopping around will help you gauge what prices are reasonable.
It goes without saying that summer days on the Amalfi Coast are HOT! During the day, the towns are a complete sun trap and shade can be hard to find. Bringing your own parasol would be an obvious solution but if that’s unrealistic (like it was for us) then make sure you have the appropriate clothing to cover up, or avoid the midday sun altogether and take some time-out in a cafe/ restaurant.
One of the best money saving tips that we quickly picked up whilst travelling around Italy was to bring your own water bottle and fill it up throughout the day using one of the fresh water fountains around the town. Whilst they are few and far between on the Amalfi Coast, you’ll be grateful of a free cold drink when you find one. I’d also recommend bringing snacks to help you avoid visiting cafes/ restaurants unnecessarily.
– For the shade- we got caught out in Positano when we wondered up a ridiculous amount of stairs in the heat of the day and then couldn’t find a seat in the shade to cool down anywhere. We ended up paying much more than we would have normally to get a drink under a restaurant’s canopy but it was SO worth it!
– For the ferry- we decided to treat ourselves to a boat ride back to Salerno on one of the days and the views of the coast were unbeatable. I can definitely see why the holiday makers not on a student budget favour this option over the bus and if your budget stretches, I can definitely recommend it, even just for one trip.