The second instalment of this series will feature one of the most desirable travel destinations in the whole of Europe – the Amalfi Coast. For some, the thought of travelling to one of the most luxurious places in Italy on a student budget might seem like an oxymoron, however when I travelled to the region a few years ago I discovered a way to do so at a fraction of the expected cost. As there are no public airports along the coast, it is necessary to fly into an airport in one of Italy’s larger cities. The closest to the Amalfi Coast is Naples, where you can fly to directly from Edinburgh from as little as £40 each way.
Naples has rail links to the rest of Italy which is ideal if you decide to branch out to Rome or Florence, or will be staying close by to the airport when you arrive and depart. It is also one of the culinary capitals of the world, is significantly less expensive to stay in than the towns around it, and has easy access to all the main towns along the coast including Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano and Capri. Although not nearly as glamorous as the Amalfi Coast, basing yourself in Naples is both convenient and cost effective. If your budget allows, or if you can find a hotel or AirBnB that is discounted, I believe Sorrento would also be a fantastic hub as it has direct links to most of the towns and cities included in this article.
When I first booked my trip for early July – peak season and prices – I initially booked a hotel in Positano for four nights at a cost of €400. Once I began to compare prices with Naples, I discovered I could stay for longer for a fraction of the cost. The three-star hotel I booked in Naples, Hotel Colombo, cost only €245 for six nights which not only saved us €155 but gained us an extra two nights in the region. It was located directly between the port and train station, meaning access to both the boat to Capri and the Circumvesuviana (train) to both Sorrento and Pompeii were only a five-minute walk in each direction.
Although often overlooked by tourists in favour of its Northern and coastal counterparts, Naples is a beautiful city with some of the best food to be found in the entire country. The world’s oldest pizzeria, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, can be found on an unassuming side street, whilst along the harbour front there are numerous fine dining seafood restaurants. There is a dense population of ornately designed churches and several piazzas from different time periods. I would suggest a day or two would be enough to explore Naples, and to use the rest of your time in the region visiting the nearby towns along the coast and further inland. However, I found the food in Naples to be of not only a better taste but a higher quality than the other towns, so would recommend returning for dinner each night.
To reach Pompeii you can take the local train, or Circumvesuviana, for a flat fare of €3.60 in each direction. Although there are plenty of windows on the trains, as they are older there is no air conditioning so if you’re planning on using them during the warmer months make sure to bring plenty of water for the journey. The train journey takes between 35 and 45 minutes, depending on the time of day, and the station is adjacent to the World Heritage Site. Entry for people aged 18-25 is just €5.50, under 18s go free and over 25s pay €11. You could spend an entire day exploring the vast ruins of Pompeii and will be blown away by the preservation of the site.
Sorrento is also on the line of the Circumvesuviana, and takes around an hour and fifteen minutes to reach from Naples. Again, tickets cost €3.60 each way and the views on the latter part of the journey are incredible. The train offers views of the coastline, the countryside and the imposing Mount Vesuvius. Sorrento is a small, coastal town packed with hotels, souvenir shops and restaurants – many of which overlook the waterfront. It has small, rocky beaches and sheer cliff drops that separate them and the town above. Positano, Ravello and Amalfi are the other most notable towns along the coast on the mainland, and access to them is most easily achieved by taking a local bus from Castelle de Mare (on the Circumvesuviana line between Pompeii and Sorrento).
The boat to Capri from Naples harbour costs €18 in each direction. The boat is pretty expensive, but because Capri is an island, travelling to it from both Naples and the towns along the Amalfi Coast is costly and it helps to bear in mind that if you were to stay on Capri you would be required to pay the boat fare, regardless. Capri differs greatly from the other towns, not only because of its popular shopping attraction, but for its architecture and the landscape around it. I would absolutely recommend walking either up or down to the main town at the top of the island, as you walk past the homes of locals and their enormous gardens overlooking the sea. Atop the island, the buildings are painted lemon yellow or white, with bright flowers growing up their walls and decorating the small, winding streets.
The closest city to Naples is Salerno to the east, costing just €5 to reach in an hour. The city has been under Spanish and French rule and so the architecture of the city is reflective of its diverse past. The city has a cathedral, several large churches to visit and the Longmore walk along the coastline. There are several public gardens throughout Salerno and, compared with Naples, it is a much greener city. Close by are the Ancient Greek ruins of Paestum, which you can also book day trips to visit from Naples itself.
While I hope this has given you a helpful overview, these towns are, of course, the most popular with tourists and there are countless other places to visit in the area to get a more authentic perspective of the Campania region.