How to Do Italy’s Amalfi Coast on a Budget
Italy's Amalfi coast is the trip of a lifetime for many travelers, but that doesn’t mean that you have to empty your bank account. With a few key tips and tricks, you can plan a vacation packed with experiences to remember and come home with your savings account intact. Here, a few of our favorite ways to save money along the Amalfi—without feeling like FOMO’s kicking in.
Go during the shoulder season.
Even if you are willing to brave Amalfi’s steep, hillside towns during insanely hot hours in the sun, the height of summer—Amalfi’s high season—is never the best time to go if you’re trying to save a buck. This is when the coast is at its most crowded and expensive, especially when it comes to hotel rates and available rooms. Skip the chaos and go in late April, early May, or early September, when lodging is significantly cheaper but temps are still warm enough to take a dip in the ocean—not to mention you won’t break nearly as much of a sweat exploring in the sun (a definite plus in our book).
Skip staying in the “popular” towns.
Tired of seeing all those endless Positano snaps on your Instagram feed? Its popularity hides an underlying problem happening along the Amalfi Coast: over-tourism. If you’re still in the planning stages, consider how you might minimize your impact on these local communities. Maiori, which is located on the Amalfi Coast but a tiny bit past the typically touristic towns, is a great alternative: the hotels are quieter and less expensive to stay in, and the town is still stunningly beautiful. The charming Casa Lady B&B, for example, is considered the best place to stay in town yet only charges €70 a night in mid-September. For a smaller village experience, Conca dei Marini (sandwiched between Amalfi and Praiano) offers the same stunning coastal views; we love the top-rated Locanda degli Agrumi B&B, which runs about €130 a night. And don’t worry about finding your way here: there are ferries and buses that shuttle visitors between towns, so you can avoid the headaches of navigating Italian coastal highways and finding parking as you hop from Amalfi to Ravello.
Make it a day trip.
Instead of checking off every little village in one go, why not turn your town-hopping into a series of day trips? Ferries and buses depart regularly from Salerno; stay in the larger town where it’s cheaper in order to save a few pennies, then pop over to the coastal towns to do your daily sightseeing. This is particularly great if you want a basecamp from which to explore the wider area (Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Cilento region are all a short train ride away) or simply want to keep your plans loose.
Stay off the main streets.
It may seem obvious, but restaurants along the main streets of these idyllic coastal towns—especially those like Amalfi—are a lot more expensive than those tucked away on back streets. Part of the charm of these places is wandering through the winding lanes—it’s worth exploring a little further for places to eat (and rest tired feet) that are less inundated with sightseers, never mind less expensive.
In Ravello, we especially love Cumpa’ Cosimo for its incredible homemade pasta sampler—despite having Jackie Kennedy’s endorsement, the food remains both delicious and cheap—as well as Ristorante Salvatore, which serves excellent pizza in the evenings. In Amafi proper, wind your way through the streets to find the genesis of those delicious cones of fried seafood you keep seeing in Italian hands: Cuoppo d’Amalfi. This is fast food, Mediterranean style.
Pack a picnic dinner.
If you’re looking to save some serious cash, skip the sit-down restaurants and pack a picnic instead. Italian grocery stores—even run-of-the-mill supermarkets—are temples to good eating, where you can stock up on fresh baked bread, mozzarella, prosciutto, and produce to go. La Grande Mela (The Big Apple) supermarket in Amalfi or Supermercati Netto in Maiori, for example, are great places to stock up.
Set on reserving the terrace table at that romantic seaside bistro? Although picnic fixings might seem like more of a lunch thing, packing dinner is also just as smart. Lunch menus are usually cheaper than dinner ones, so go ahead and indulge for your midday meal, then set up an impromptu sunset dinner on the beach to end your day.
Skip staying on Capri—and embrace slow travel.
A night’s stay on the island is super expensive—and you’re not going to be seeing it when your head’s on the pillow anyway. If Capri is a must on the itinerary, we suggest taking the slow ferry there from Naples. The ride is only about 35 minutes more on the water, and you’ll send up saving about €7 (the price of a decent bottle of wine) per person.
Buy your toiletries on the ground.
It might seem counterintuitive, but if you’re traveling with several people, it can often work out cheaper to pool resources for full-size shampoo, toothpaste, and other toiletry products on the ground, especially if you’re not staying in a touristy area. With normal-size Colgate toothpaste at around €.85 a tube and shampoo as cheap as €1.50, it’s worth doing a quick cost comparison; after all, you’d pay around the same for an individual travel-size bottle. Plus, this way, you can try products you might find only in Italy.
Find out where the locals swim.
It’s no secret: fancy beach clubs charge a hefty sum for use of their umbrellas, loungers, and drink service on the sand. The best way to avoid the up-charge? Avoid those beaches altogether. Spiaggia Grande in Positano is overrun in the high season, but if you take a short (and very scenic) pathway, you’ll arrive at Fornillo beach, which, in addition to three private clubs, offers a small free cove that’s still gorgeous to swim at. If you’re in Amalfi and ready to burn off some gelato, hike the 200 stairs to get to Duglio beach, which has a free public beach off most tourist’s radars. In many cases, bringing your own picnic—and, if you’re really organized, a sunshade picked up from Naples or Salerno—still clocks in under the cost of one afternoon renting a lounger.
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