Positano Italy (and the Amalfi Coast)
Positano always looks amazing in movies and on tv – beautiful and romantic, a hilly beach destination with stunning views and excellent food. In all of my Italy travels though I had somehow never made it to Positano, or anywhere on the Amalfi Coast. It was time to change that.
The Summer of Revenge Travel
Important to note: we traveled to Positano and the Amalfi Coast in June 2022 – the summer when everyone is making up for two years of cancelled travels and heading to Europe. We booked most things well in advance, and it wasn’t enough – we should have planned even better (see below). We booked our our Vrbo in Positano 11 months in advance, our European flights nine months in advance, transfers in Italy and our day trip around the coast six months before our trip, the train from Naples to Florence three months before, and our LAX parking and Positano restaurants roughly a month in advance.
Traveling To and From Positano
Our entire European adventure: we parked at the Parking Spot at LAX (where we’ve parked every trip for 20+ years), and then flew Lufthansa from LA to Frankfurt and on to Santorini. We spent three nights on Santorini, took the ferry to nearby Naxos and Paros for seven nights, and then ended our Greek travels in Mykonos – our least-favorite island, but they usually have the best flights to the rest of Europe. We then flew Swiss Air from Mykonos to Florence via Zurich, spent a week in Florence, and took the train to Naples where Joe Banana Limos (silly name, excellent company) picked us up at the train station and drove us to our Vrbo in Positano. After five nights they picked us up and drove us to a hotel in Naples for a night. Lines were longer than normal everywhere, and especially bad going through passport control and then entering the Z gates in Frankfurt with our return connection, but overall no problems or delays. My advice: get to the airport early, avoid US connections if you can (so many problems this summer), make sure you have long connection windows, and be patient.
Where We Stayed in Positano
Le Sirenuse looks amazing, so I wrote to them 11 months in advance to ask about the best room option and pricing for a family of five. Their quote: €7,498.70 per night. Per night! That was an easy NO. Palazzo Murat quoted €1,380 per night. Villa Rosa quoted €625 per night for two rooms, but they said the rooms may be on different floors, which isn’t ideal. So I turned to Vrbo and found this villa for €724 per night – still high (we’ve rarely paid that much anywhere), but it’s peak season in a very popular destination, and we would have three bedrooms, four bathrooms, a kitchen, laundry, two large private patios and overall plenty of space. There are a lot of great Positano listings on Vrbo, at different price points, so definitely consider that as an alternative to a hotel when traveling with kids.
The villa is towards the top of Positano. At first we didn’t like being that high up the mountain, since it was a longer walk to the center town and the beach (15 minutes or so). Positano is all about stairs and the walking isn’t easy – especially for my wife who’s still recovering from a broken knee. We averaged 60-70 flights of stairs climbed a day according to our iPhone health apps. However, given how crowded the city was (mid-June), we were glad to be away from the masses. Our favorite thing every day was walking up to Bar Internazionale for two cappuccini and pastries to take back to the villa for breakfast. We were usually the only tourists in there and the views were amazing, so we could fully appreciate Positano outside of the crowded shopping streets.
What To Do in Positano Italy and the Amalfi Coast
This isn’t a definitive Everything to Do in Positano post! As with everything else on my site, this post is about what we did, and what I wish we had done differently. Your experience may be completely different.
Take a Day Trip Around the Amalfi Coast
Our second full day in Positano we took a day trip around the coast. Paulo from Joe Banana Limos picked us up in a Sprinter van at 10am and for 8 hours or so took us along the coast. We had espressos at a small bar with a great view, stopped at a lot of overlooks, had plenty of time to roam around Amalfi and Ravello (including an excellent lunch in Ravello), got pastries in Minori, and got a very good feel for the area and where we would want to return to. Paulo was an excellent guide and driver, and I appreciated that he kept insisting we take family photos. In one day we doubled the number of good photos we have of us from the past three years!
We didn’t love Amalfi, but it was also very crowded. We liked Ravello a lot more, and would be tempted to base there on future trips. Our amazing lunch was at Pizzeria Vittoria. We tried to go to Mimi Ristorante (which had been recommended to us) but it was closed the day we visited.
I highly recommend doing a day trip to get a feel for the coast. If your kids get car sick, be aware that the road is very curvy. Dramamine worked well for our kids.
Go to the Beach
There are two primary beaches in Positano – Spiaggia Grande near the center of town, and Fornillo Beach about a ten-minute walk west. The beaches aren’t about soft sand – if you’re not walking on rocks, you’re on very course black sand. Large sections of both beaches are taken up by chair rental operations. Living in California and visiting Hawaii fairly frequently we weren’t tempted to head to the beach for hours at a time and pay €10-20 per person for a chair and umbrella setup, but we did enjoy going down every afternoon to swim. We always walked down the stairs from from the villa to Fornillo Beach and then turned left towards town and based in the little cove to the east of the beach. It was never crowded, and we loved spending about an hour a day there just swimming. Afterwards we walked to town, got gelato (always right by the ferry), and then walked back up to the villa along the road, largely avoiding stairs. Note: sandals and flip-flops don’t work well for all the stairs. Even though it would have been nice to have flip-flops at the beach, we wore good walking shoes down and up.
We’re not major shoppers, but my wife and girls enjoyed looking in the stores in town and along the road back up to our villa.
Rent a Boat
We wanted to rent a boat for a day (or a half day) and go along the coast for swimming. I had corresponded for months with one company which kept telling me to contact them closer to our trip to book. When I wrote to them the week we arrived before they said we should talk later. Then we arrived and I contacted them to book and they said they’re fully-booked until the fall. Ugh. This year is apparently far worse than ever before, and it doesn’t seem to be possible to just show up and get a boat anymore. So book far in advance if you want to do that.
We could have taken a ferry over to Capri, but we heard mixed things from friends and family, so once our rental boat plans disappeared we opted to relax and spend more time in Positano. Our kids always appreciate downtime, and it’s their vacation, so we never pushed anything. Our villa was a great place to base.
Positano Italy Restaurants
For breakfast every day we got fruit from the little market by the Chiesa Nuova and coffee and pastries from Bar Internazionale, and we did a little cooking at the villa. Lunch was generally take-out – after a lot of sit-down lunches and dinners throughout Greece and Italy it was nice to not be in restaurants. There’s a good take-out place down in town near the beach (Positano Paradise Factory) and a couple halfway up the hill – Latteria at viale Pasitea 67 and Take it Easy at viale Pasitea 158.
For our five dinners I booked three well in advance based on TripAdvisor reviews (all in the $$ range) and then we ate at two others based on recommendations of locals. Dining isn’t inexpensive in Positano. None of these are fancy restaurants or the most expensive, and we ordered similarly every night – 3-4 bottles of water, 1-2 starters, 4-5 main courses depending on how hungry we were and how big the portion sizes at nearby tables looked, two glasses of wine (or a half-bottle) and maybe two desserts. Since we were never offered complimentary limoncello (come on Positano, if restaurants in Florence do it, you can too), we finally ordered two our last night at Mirage. Our dinners, from favorite to least-favorite, were:
One of our best meals of our trip, and the best in Positano. They had an amazing view as well. The risotto, shrimp and pastas were all excellent, as was service. Highly recommended. €163. TripAdvisor.
Along the busy main street, and no view, but great food and service. Our pizzas and pastas were excellent. We called for a reservation just a couple of hours before. Not sure if it will be that easy as Positano gets more crowded, but it could be a good option if you’re turned away from restaurants that are fully booked. €92. TripAdvisor.
La Taverna del Leone
Michelin-listed La Taverna del Leone is located a little outside of Positano. If you don’t have a car you need to take a taxi, bus or walk. We didn’t see any available taxis and there was a huge crowd waiting for the bus, so we walked – 3.5km total from our villa. We were able to get a taxi back. Dinner was good – excellent service and very good food. My son said his steak was one of his best meals of the trip. We also had a calzone, shrimp, seared fish, and pasta. €179. TripAdvisor.
Il Grottino Azzuro
Up above Positano, close to our villa. I loved my ravioli, but everyone else was meh about their dishes. The pasta with potatoes and meatballs weren’t quite as good as TripAdvisor reviews make them sound. Very good apple tart. Great service overall and we were able to get in without a reservation. €122. TripAdvisor.
C’era Una Volta
Fairly disappointing given the TripAdvisor reviews. My pappardelle alla Bolognese was good, but my wife’s pork fillet wasn’t, and my daughter’s penne all’arrabbiata was far hotter than arrabbiata dishes usually are. You may have a much better experience – just wouldn’t suggest ordering the pork. €84. TripAdvisor.
Naples was our gateway to and from the Amalfi Coast. We were only there a few minutes between arriving on the train and being whisked to Positano by Joe Banana. Our flight back to the US left at 6:40am, though, so we spent our final day and night in Naples. We stayed in the middle of the historic center at Santa Chiara Boutique Hotel. We loved the hotel setup – a two-room suite with lofts in both rooms that could have slept six – and our meals. Lunch was at Lombardi A Santa Chiara and was probably the best pizza we’ve ever had (€50). Excellent pasta as well. Dinner was at Michelin-listed La Locanda Gesu Vecchio and was amazing as well (€89). Our kids didn’t love walking around Naples – it was a crowded Sunday and there’s graffiti everywhere. In retrospect it would have made more sense to fly from Mykonos to Naples for the Amalfi Coast, then take the train to Florence and fly out of there. We could have avoided the Naples stop – and the additional hotel. But overall it worked out fine and the meals made the stop worthwhile.
Positano Italy and the Amalfi Coast – Summary
We love Italy. We didn’t love Positano and the Amalfi Coast. A lot of that was because of the crowds. As with pretty much anywhere, it would be more enjoyable to visit in the spring or fall, but our school break schedule doesn’t allow for that. The locals said that this June was the most crowded they’ve seen, and they expect July and August to be far worse. Beyond the crowds, though, Positano and the Amalfi Coast aren’t super kid-friendly (or post-knee-surgery-friendly) with all the walking and stairs, and we’re not a beach destination family since we have better beach options close to home. The Amalfi Coast in undeniably beautiful. And of course this is 100% just my opinion – I know others who love Positano and feel like the Amalfi Coast is the best part of Italy.
If you’ve never been to Italy, I’d prioritize Florence, Rome and Venice for a first trip, and then maybe Cinque Terre (stay overnight), the Dolomites or Tuscan hilltop towns for a second visit.
Get travel insurance! When we left for Europe the US was still requiring Covid tests in order to return, so there was a chance we could have been stuck in Europe for an additional 10 days. Luckily the US did away with the testing requirement in mid-June, but even then we were glad we had insurance. Travel is chaotic right now. I’ve never seen longer lines at airports. There are many stories about lost luggage. There is a good chance your trip will not be seamless. We have an annual family travel insurance policy through G1G.
If you’ve been to Positano Italy and the Amalfi Coast with kids and want to offer up your opinion, please do so below! When I posted on Facebook I had a lot of people telling me that they similarly thought visiting was a hassle and not worthwhile, but many others spoke up about their amazing Amalfi Coast trips. All opinions welcome.