Positano is an iconic, hillside village located on the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy. This picturesque seaside town is known for its magnificent views of the colourful houses adorned with bougainvillea scattered across the cliffside, its quaint cobbled streets, and fantastic array of restaurants.
Having just returned from Positano in late September 2022, here are my tips to plan your perfect escape to this bucket list destination.
When to travel to Positano
Positano’s summer season is June to August where you will experience temperatures in the high 30’s°C. Keep in mind this is also peak season and Europeans summer holidays – so expect LARGE crowds (especially when the day tour boats come in every morning from nearby towns loaded with tourists). Accommodation is also more expensive during this season.
We arrived on the 14th September for a week. This is the tail end of the season and we still found it a little crowded during the days down at the port and main beach when the day tripper boats were in. However, in the early morning and evening, it was much more peaceful and easier to stroll around the village. The roads were less crowded and much more pleasant.
Fornillo Beach, Positano’s second beach, was much quieter and very pleasant during the days as the day trippers don’t tend to venture the 15 min walk across to this beach. The temperatures were a balmy 26-30°C during the days and around 20-22°C at night.
How to get to Positano, Italy
You can reach Positano via Rome or Naples. We opted for Naples as it was slightly closer. You can catch a bus, train, ferry, hire a car or opt for a private car transfer. We chose the private car transfer, slightly more costly but 100% worth the 140€ for the two of us!!
The journey was just over an hour in air-conditioned luxury. The driver knew the area well, travelling to and from the airport up to 5 times a day. He was experienced with the traffic and knew the shortest routes to avoid peak hour traffic and accidents.
After getting off a long international flight from Australia, the last thing you want to do is battle your way to a bus station or port to board a ferry with all your luggage, then stand on a crowded bus or ferry in the boiling sun for up to 3 hours depending on the option you take.
I do not recommend a rental car in Positano either. The streets are incredibly narrow and congested with cars, vespas and pedestrians. Traffic is slow and there is very little free street parking.
If travelling from Australia or the UK, be mindful they drive on the right-hand side of the road. Most rental cars tend to be manuals, which can be a challenge to navigate with the opposite hand, on foreign roads.
Luxury accommodation in Positano
Le Sirenuse – Perhaps the most famous and luxurious hotel set right in the heart of Positano. An icon since 1951, when the former villa was transformed to a decedent, 58 room hotel. No two rooms are alike and all have a personal history emanating a certain Italian charm and elegance.
Le Sirenuse is particularly famous for its expansive views over the picturesque town and church of Santa Maria Assunta.
The hotel boasts a pool, an oyster bar, and a Michelin-starred restaurant and Positano’s most popular bar Franco’s, all with panoramic views across the vibrant town out to the shimmering seas.
Villa Franca – This 5-star hotel commands stunning views from its elevated position above the town. A modern vibe featuring 2 restaurants, an outdoor pool, spa and bar. It’s a 15 min walk to the town centre.
Getting around Positano
There are only 2 roads in Positano, so the best option and only real option is to walk! The town winds down the cliffside right to the main port and beach – Spiaggia Grande, with a few captivating lane ways fanning out at the bottom. Be prepared for lots of stairs, particularly if you head over to the second beach side area in Positano – Fornillo Beach.
There is a local bus that runs throughout Positano if you are staying higher up the cliff, or for those less mobile and needing a break from walking. It runs every 30 minutes and tickets can be purchased at local tobacco shops (Tabbachi) in advance or on the bus for a higher cost. The bus is usually jam packed and is mostly standing space only (this was at the end of the season too!). It only goes as far as the town centre Piazza Di Mulini, where the stairs are unavoidable to reach the main beach.
For a unique Positano experience, rent a scooter / Vespa for around 70€ to 100€ for an adrenaline filled day. This can be done on arrival in Positano – once you establish if you feel confident enough on the winding roads weaving in and out of the traffic.
Positano has 2 main beaches. Unlike Australian beaches the sand is made up of black pebbles that can be difficult to walk on if you have tender feet, and they also get extremely hot in mid-summer! Pack a pair of rubber or water shoes to make your beach day a more enjoyable experience. You can also hire paddle boards and kayaks down at both beaches.
Spiaggia Grande – which is the main beach at the port at the bottom of the hill, in the centre of the town square. In the summer season and into September the beach is absolutely jam packed with sun lounges and umbrellas (with very little space between each). You can hire these for the day for 35€ for the 1st row and 30€ for 2nd row and further back.
Additionally, there is also a small section of the beach where you can put your own towel on the pebbly sand for free.
Fornillo Beach – is the second beach and far less touristy. It is a 15 min walk west, around the bay with some lovely views along the way. The beach is not as large as Spiaggia Grande, and in my opinion is much more peaceful.
Sun loungers are a little further apart and are slightly cheaper at 25€ for the 1st row and 20€ further back. This fee also includes the change boxes and a free boat transfer around from the main port should you not wish to walk the 15 min path. There are 3 beach bars and a few restaurants at Fornillo, so you won’t be missing out on the delicious Italian cuisine.
Fornillo Beach also has direct access from high up the main road for those staying further up on the west side of the hill (near Next2 restaurant and above), via a long, steep staircase and windy lane called Via Fornilllo – for those looking for a work out! It is about a 10 min walk down from Next2, but a little longer coming back up in the heat of the day!
Things to do in Positano
Known for its stunning coastline, most of the things to see and do in Positano revolve around the water. There are plenty of boats and ferries heading out daily in all directions.
Emerald Grotto (Grotta Dello Smeraldo) – Is one of the most popular things to do in Positano. Located between the towns of Positano and Amalfi, the Emerald Grotto is a dazzling vibrant blue cave seeped in historic legend. Sunlight filters through the aqua waters from an underground cave system creating a neon blue effect inside the grotto.
The walls are laden with dozens of stalactites and stalagmites.
The grotto is also home to an underwater nativity scene of ceramic statues. Visit the grotto via an hourly ferry to the town of Amalfi (30 mins) for 18€ then purchase an Emerald Grotto ticket from the port in Amalfi for 7€. The grotto is open from 10am to 4pm daily – expect when the seas are rough.
Capri – Known for its Blue Grotto, designer fashion, high end hotels and restaurants. From Positano, Capri is a 40 min fast ferry ride and an ideal day trip from Positano. Ferries leave from the main port from 9am returning around 3pm daily. Costing just under 40€ for a round trip.
Hire a private boat – Explore the iconic Amalfi coastline on your own private charter. Starting from 500€ for 4 hours from the Marina Grande just next to the main beach Spiagga Grande. Marvel at the coastline from an entirely different perspective.
Local guides can show you some spectacular locations and customise your experience depending on your interests.
Make sure to include some of the highlights of the Amalfi coast including; Fiordo di Furore, Amalfi, Atrani, Minori to name a few.
You can drop into beach clubs and cool off in the deep blue waters, take some snaps under the Fiordo di Furore arc bridge or simply enjoy the scenery along this infamous coastline.
Spend a day at the beaches (outlined above) – Paddle boarding or kayaking the rugged yet vibrant coastline.
Shopping – Teaming with shops perfect for any tourist, the main street winds its way down to the sea with multiple shops, restaurants and galleries lining both sides of the narrow street. From souvenirs to Italian fashion, jewellery, handmade leather shoes, Limoncello and art collections – there is something for everyone!
Hike the Path of the Gods (Sentiero degli Dei) – Ranked highly among the top things to do in Positano, this scenic clifftop trail runs along the mountain ridge above the sea. The Path of the Gods walk has phenomenal views of the coast and is well-worth the effort.
The main section of the hike is a fairly easy 6.5km walk between Boerano and Nocelle. However, if you start from Positano (below Nocelle) or Priano, the trail is connected by steep staircases of over 1500 steps making the walk a little more challenging.
Church of S. Maria Assunta – Located right in the town square in Positano. Take a stroll around the magnificent church and its 18th-century bell tower. Originally built in the 12th century this striking landmark can be seen in many a photo dominating the hillside with its ornate majolica dome of yellow, green and blue tiles.
Inside the church are 5 side arches and chapels and the white and gold walls are adorned with ornate architecture and a painting depicting the blessing of the icon.
Cooking class – One of the many highlights of our visit to Positano was a cooking class with the gorgeous Nona, Maria-Lou at their family-owned restaurant II Ritrovo. Perched high above Positano in the small town of Montepertuso. This restaurant showcases stunning views over the coastline and offers afternoon cooking classes for small groups.
Make your own pasta from scratch using fresh ingredients from their veggie garden. We made Ravioli, fettuccini, stuffed zucchini flowers, fresh fish, multiple sauces and dessert. Each dish was complimented with a local wine and finished off with the ever-popular Limoncello.
The restaurant and cooking experience provides a complimentary shuttle bus transfer from your Positano hotel. (approx. 20 minutes)
Ravello – Is a charming tiny resort town in the Amalfi region. Home to spectacular clifftop gardens, breathtaking views and many quaint 13th century villas and cathedrals. The Ravello Music Festival has drawn many a crowd to the area, held on the terrace of Villa Fufolo overlooking the shimmering waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. An easy day trip from Positano via ferry then taxi, private car or bus.
Valle delle Ferriere – A hike to immerse yourself in nature as you marvel at the beautiful reserve full of waterfalls and ferns, the perfect spot for a swim to escape the summer heat. Perfect half day tour from Positano for nature and adventure lovers who want to get off the beaten track.
The best place to start is in the town of Pontone, and finish near the famous paper mill in Amalfi. The path also takes in the ruins that develop along the river and the ironworks valley. It’s a moderate 2-hr walk suitable for most.
Pompeii – Visit the vast archaeological site in the city of Pompeii a sight to behold. The city famously destroyed when Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE. The city was preserved for centuries under the ash and pumice. Highly recommended for history buffs!
I suggest having a guide show you around to point out the significance and the importance of the ruins.
Limoncello – Sample some Limoncello or better still visit the factory in the nearby town of Naples. A lemon-flavoured liqueur produced in the Amalfi region. Limoncello is one of the most popular liqueurs in Italy.
Best restaurants in Positano
Positano is packed with amazing restaurants and bars. Some with sensational views of the iconic landscape and other Michelin started restaurants tucked away with a more authentic vibe. I highly recommend booking in advance, as most of the popular high-end restaurants book out. Some of our top picks included:
Il Capitano – An unforgettable experience with the most spectacular views particularly during sunset. The open-aired, modern terrace tittering on the cliffside was simply beautiful. The service was fantastic and the food was delicious and more creative than most of the run-of-the-mill dishes in most of the other restaurants in the area, also catering for vegetarians. We considered this to be one of the best restaurants in Positano.
Ristorante Max – A charming, high-end restaurant come art gallery in the centre of Positano main town. Boasting excellent local seafood and attentive service. Whilst the restaurant doesn’t have a view of the sea, the overall ambience, good food and captivating art make up for it.
Le Sirenuse – The infamous ‘Pompeii Red’ coloured hotel that dominates the landscape is considered one of the best restaurants in Positano.
Aldo’s Cocktail Bar and Grill is the perfect for a sunset cocktail inside the decadent exclusive hotel. Boasting stunning sunsets and panoramic views of the much-loved town.
The cocktails we found were reasonably priced considering the view and surroundings. Be early as you will have to queue to get in. The bar opens at 6pm.
Alternatively, dine at their Mediterranean restaurant La Sponda, known to be one of the most romantic restaurants in the world. With impeccable service, large flower-clad windows, the same picturesque views, candles and romantic music, all set the scene for a night to remember. (Note this restaurant carries a high price tag to match the view!)
Franco’s Bar – (a beverage outlet owned by Le Sirenuse) is the most popular bar in Positano. With queues over an hour just to grab a glimpse of the vibrantly coloured, uniquely designed venue and the sunset over the glorious town. The bar opens at 5.30pm so be early.
Frequented by a younger crowd, it is a very small venue with only 4 tables having views of the sea. With exquisite detail that give it a certain edge, Franco’s boasts a neo-Baroque fountain, marine lamps, beach-bar curtains, fancy drinkware and a lone lemon tree in the centre of the bar. It has a funky vibe and music and gets crowded very quickly – so it not the place for a romantic or peaceful pre-dinner drink.
Al Palazzo – This Michelin-starred restaurant whilst it doesn’t have sea views, is set in a gorgeous terrace laden with bougainvillea vines in an almost rainforest like oasis in the very centre of town down towards the beach. With a lovey peaceful ambience and unpretentious feel, we had one of the nicest lunches of our holiday here.
Next2 – Another Michelin-starred restaurant set high on the cliffside, whilst lacking a view, is certainly a fabulous dining experience. The food is a unique blend of Mediterranean flavours featuring inventive twists in Italian cuisine and unlike most of the other restaurants in the area. A nice atmosphere with excellent service.
Il Ritrovo – As mentioned below, a highly memorable experience is taking a cooking class at II Ritrovo. Dining in their enchanting restaurant and sampling your truly home-cooked meal with fantastic views and wine. Located high above Positano in the small town of Montepertus. (See things to do in Positano).
Ironing – There are no irons in hotel rooms in all of Italy! A very strange fact that we could not wrap our heads around. It is against Italian law. So, either take your own travel iron or be prepared to pay to have every piece of clothing ironed during your stay.
Car hire – Be mindful that when hiring a car from most locations around the Amalfi coast, they are manuals, which can be tricky if you are from Australia or the UK and are used to a left-hand drive. The gear box is on the same side but you have to navigate it with the opposite hand. Not an easy feat after at 25-hour flight! Request an automatic or find a location that offers automatics – airports unusually have more automatic stock.
Language – It’s a great idea to learn a few Italian phrases before you go to show some respect to the Italian people. Here are a few good ones to get you started:
Grazie– Thank you
Prego – Your welcome
Buongiorno – Good morning, a greeting that is used until midday
Buona Sera – Good evening, an informal greeting used in the late afternoon and evening
Buona Notte – Good night
Arrivederci – Goodbye
Ciao – Can be used to say Hello and Goodbye (usually repeated twice for goodbye)
A presto – See you soon
Come Sta – How are you (formal) Come Stai (informal, someone you know quite well)
Bene grazie – Good thank you
Power – Italian power plugs and sockets are of type F & L. We found most rooms had a combination of both. You will need a C or E plug. (2 rounded prongs). Standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50Hz. We purchased one with 2 USB outlets within the point itself.
Currency – Euros, however most places accept credit cards. We opted for a free Travel Money Card from Commonwealth bank that allows you to transfer AUD to Euro and can be used like a debit card and topped up as you go. Lock-in the exchange rate and no reload fees and you get an additional card for security. There is a flat $3.50 withdrawal fee for cash from ATM’s.
Group boating tours – These are barely non-existent anymore. In our experience we either needed to hire our own private boat, which was quite costly from 500€ for a half day, or catch a ferry to the various towns along the coast. There was nothing that stopped at multiple destinations or went out for a day tour of the area.
Not stroller friendly – I wouldn’t recommend Positano for young families. The narrow, crowded streets are not stroller friendly and the stairs are unavoidable past the square and down to the beaches. The beaches are rocky without soft sand, so not ideal for toddlers to sit on for hours on end and there is not much else for kids to do in the area. We saw no children in the high-end restaurants or bars either.
Traffic – Positano is has only one road in and one road out. Therefore, traffic is very slow though the town during the day. Make sure you allow plenty of time to make your return flights home. As our drive from Naples to Positano in the early afternoon only took just over an hour, but our return transfer back to the airport at 8.15am took 2 hours as there was a crash on the expressway and Naples gets busy at peak hour.
By Kristi Gomm
Image Credits for Le Sirenuse Hotel & their food & beverage outlets ‘Berchenmacher & Baumann’