First Day on the Amalfi Coast
Whoa. Just whoa. And one more for good measure – whoa! The word breathtaking gets used a lot in travel writing, and I’ve been guilty of using it a bit too much myself. But the views are pretty spectacular along the very popular Amalfi Coast. We spent three days and three nights exploring the area, using the relatively relaxed and centrally located town of Praiano as our base. We stayed in a twin room at Casa Columba B&B, located about 200 steps up from the main road. It involves a bit of a hike after a long day of exploring, but provides outstanding views that make you quickly forget all those steps. Plus who doesn’t need to burn a few more calories while gorging on pasta, gelato and Italian wine?!
I woke up each morning to watch the sunrise and we were sure to home in time to watch the sunset in the evening. On that first morning, I sat on the terrace at the B&B watching the sky turn from grey to purple, to pink and finally to blue. The coast is nothing less than magical and surpassed all of my expectations by the end of day 1.
Getting to Praiano
How to travel between Rome and the Amalfi Coast is one question I see on travel forums all the time. From my pre-trip research and now experience, there is no ‘quick’ way to travel between Rome and Praiano. My route involved a train, a boat and a bus. You could change the boat and/or bus to a taxi, but the cost will go up substantially. With only a couple backpacks, the non-taxi approach worked well for us.
First we took a 2-hour, midday fast train from Rome Termini to Salerno. It’s was a high speed train so it required a reservation which means you’re guaranteed a seat. Alternatively, a regional train never sells out but seating is ‘first come, first serve’ and take closer to three hours. After my mom’s overnight flight, the reserved seat was a must-have for the two hour journey.
Arriving in Salerno, it was an easy 10 minute walk from the station to the “ferry terminal”, which is really a long jetty with a small ticket booth at the end. We didn’t see any signs but after asking what seemed to be a car park attended in a small booth, were told the ticket booth was at the end of jetty.
There’s are a few options for the ferry, with some direct between Salerno to Amalfi, but the next one leaving around 3pm stopped in Cetara, Maiori and Minori, and then onto Amalfi Town. This worked fine for us because we weren’t in a hurry and it came with the added bonus of seeing all the towns from the water.
The journey was smooth and with a fairly empty boat, lots of room to stretch out on after the train ride (and overnight Atlantic flight for my mom).
After a peaceful ferry boat ride, we then arrived into the Amalfi Town craziness with people everywhere! And this visit was in April. I can only imagine how much more busy it would be in July and August …
Disembarking onto the jetty, there were people everywhere and no signage to indicate where anything was. I saw a travel agent across the road so bought a couple bus tickets and then asked a number of people where the bus stop for buses heading to Positano was located. This included a man who looked like a bus driver (who I asked in Italian about the bus situation) and he mumbled something about “la” (there) pointing in the vague direction of Piazza Flavio Gioia. No surprises, it was a long queue and no still no signage. I heard multiple people ask outloud to no one in particular “I wonder if this is the line for Positano / Sorrento??” and someone would say “I think so but I’m not sure!”. Well we were all either heading in the right direction or somewhere else entirely!
About 30 minutes later a bus finally arrived and we managed to get a seat but others weren’t so lucky. I was wondering how we’d get off the bus when our stop came, especially with our bags overhead and people crammed in the aisle of the bus. We came to find out that baggage should be placed under the bus and not inside. The bus ride itself was something to be experienced and I now get why people say to stay in towns with ferry access because the ride is slightly nausea-inducing.
Luckily for us, we arrived at stop #5 in Praiano about 25 minutes later and didn’t have to travel any further. I was already happy with the choice of staying in one of the towns in the middle of the coast to cut down on the time I’d need to spend on the bus. The ride involved a couple of buses meeting each other on corners so one bus had to reverse to let the other pass. I honestly don’t know how the drivers do it. With a rock wall on one side and another massive bus on the other. I kept waiting to hear the scrapping of metal but it never happened. I wanted to cheer for the bus driver after he negotiated backing up about 20m (some of the drivers weren’t moving back to let him reverse so he had to do it in a weird angle). Seriously those guys deserve a medal for their driving skills!
I knew when booking the B&B that it involved a trek up about 200 steps from the main road to the accomodation. Fortunately, they have a “lift” for luggage. I couldn’t figure out what it could be until I saw this little platform on a pulley system coming down towards us. It was the cutest thing ever. We piled out few bags on the trolley and headed up the stairs. With ridiculous views when you turn around, the walk up wasn’t a big deal (though it was a bit tougher after a day of hiking to Positano the next day!)
The B&B has a large terrace where breakfast is served with panoramic views including Positano in the distance and even Capri on a very clear day. Our room was up more stairs and had a share terrace with the adjacent room, though we never saw anyone else on the terrace. The views are seriously unreal. The photo at the beginning of this post was taken from our room’s terrace.
Restaurant – La Strada
Seeing as my mom had travelled from Canada that day and we’d taken the whole afternoon to get to our accommodation, we decided not to venture too far and try the restaurant on street level directly below the B&B. They restaurant has two levels, and the views are only good from the terrace up a flight of stairs. Wow. I saw ravioli on the menu and couldn’t go past it. Pizza would have to wait another day. The cheese covered parcels were finished off with a glass of vino bianco della casa.
Walking back up the 200 steps to the accommodation wasn’t quite as tough as I thought it would be. Though I wouldn’t have said no if an elevator was offered!