[AMALFI COAST, ITALY] — The whole Amalfi Coast is a string of towns south of Naples, roughly starting from Sorrento on down.  Each town has its own charm and personality. Not a big fan of Sorrento, more of a modern city that cruise ships and tour buses visit and it’s the last train stop, so that’s as far as most people go.  Keep going down farther, starting at Positano.  This is my guide to Positano and the Amalfi Coast and why you should go here in Positano and and all the best things to do in Positano.

You Should Go Here In Positano — I consolidated several posts into one comprehensive guide in one place, so it’s a giant post and dense with information.

I’ve been to the Amalfi about seven times. Many times before digital cameras were invented. So I scraped up all those older posts together, added some new stuff and now you have a nice little Positano Shoebox of Information.  

Get A Lay of the Land

Positano is almost all about tourism, hotels and restaurants and amazing views, not much else going on except lemons and pottery with lemons on it. You come to rest and look out over the sea, then eat. This isn’t the place to get a feel of a quaint, laid back Italian village. Positano is more like a tall, elegant Italian cruise ship, built into steep mountains, with the most amazing views you’ve ever seen. Like a cruise ship, it’s here to meet your every need and serve you up a good time. And it has also become extremely crowded with tourists, so be prepared.

It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth, which is why it is so popular. But because it’s so crowded and mostly tourists — it’s probably gotten too expensive for most Italians, so it’s mostly Americans and Brits — I think a week here would be a little much, which is why I’ve made some recommendations for other nearby towns so you stay a few days in each place to break it up with enjoyable moments and not suffer from Tourist Fatigue.

Positano from Le Sirenuse
positano from air

All of Positano is built on a steep mountains rolling into the sea, centered around a V shaped cove, with one busy main road — the only road, a white knuckle highway that goes from Sorrento to the town of Amalfi — that zigzags from the top of the town to the bottom, then back up again. The beach and main Centro commercial/restaurant area of the town is at the bottom.  Steep steps connect each level serving as shortcuts.  Here’s a google map I made that has everywhere I talk about mapped so you can get your bearings.

Positano is like Stadium Seating™️ — with the Italian seaside as the movie. Hotels stacked up in rows up the mountain, with killer pools and amazing views of the sea.

The key to understanding Positano is about where you are on that zigzag road.  At the top, you have drop-dead views, overlooking the stunning things below. At the bottom is the Centro, where most of the restaurants and shops are. The rule of thumb, for the most part, is the higher up, the cheaper the hotel, but the better the view. So during the day, you sun on your pool, then take the shuttle bus or walk down the hill to eat, shop or go to the beach. Or take the shortcut steep steps down or up. That’s the lay of the land.

positano from beach

Getting to Positano

You’ll definitely want to rent a car for your trip, or better to hire a car and driver to bring you here, it’s worth every penny to have their experience and allow you to enjoy the view, not the giant tour bus about to run into you. If you took public transportation from Rome or elsewhere, you’d be on train after train, then bus after bus. I’ve done it, don’t.

Once you’re parked, you won’t want or need to move it — you can explore the rest from the sea. The drive along the narrow cliff-hugging roads is white-knuckle…and you’ll remember it for the rest of your life. (Especially the motorcycle in your rear mirror.)

road over positano
That’s the highway above the Centro of Positano. A twisty, cliff-hugging two lane road that snakes its way through town.

There’s a car park (Car Park Ana) at the top of the road, before you go down into Centro Positano. That’s where you park if you’re staying at one of those hotels mid- or at the top. You park there then walk to your hotel, dragging your luggage behind. There’s another big car park at the very bottom, at a hairpin turn, before the road heads up back the hill. That’s where you park for visiting the center or staying at a hotel down low.

Once you park you car, you really don’t want to take it out again unless you are leaving. That’s why it’s often wiser/easier to hire a driver to bring you from wherever. They know the crazy scary roads along the coast and can deal with all the big buses and impatient motorcycles.

view of Positano hotels

Steps. You will think about steps a lot.  There are cool steps that cut through each layer of town, down to the sea, like at a stadium. You can follow the mellower descending road, with its narrow sidewalk, down into town. Or take the stairs as shortcuts, you’ll figure it out in no time.

But then there is a lot of Up on the way back after a plate of lobster linguini and a few negronis. Bring some cute, but functional footwear. So everyday, you’ll think to yourself “Should we take the road up?”

You’ll get it. It’s cool.  It’s a touristy city, but not bad for one.  The best part is that the scary drive along the coast and tight turns, limits a lot of tour buses. No harbor means no cruise ships.  So it all kinda works. Delightfully.

You Should Stay Here in Positano

Le Sirenuse — The Best Hotel on the Amalfi Coast

Save up all your money so you can stay here. Even borrow it. It’s expensive but worth every penny and you will think about your room, the view, the pool, the food and all the waiters for the rest of your life. Here’s another post I made about how incredible Le Sirenuse is.

Le Sirenuse best hotel pool
breakfast on terrace Le Sirenuse

Villa Tre Ville

I don’t know where the hell Villa Tre Ville place came from or when exactly, but it has been the talk of nearly every luxury travel magazine and everyone I follow on Instagram. It was Italian director Franco Zeffirelli’s private house for decades and is now considered THE place in Positano. One of the villas dates back to Roman times.

Villa Tre Ville Positano instagram

Small, discreet, luxe and over the top 5-star, with the best views back to Positano. They have 15 suites or so, with a feeling of staying at a friend’s very nice villa. With an amazing terrace bar and restaurant. I think it might now be the most expensive place on the Amalfi Coast. I believe you can book a table at the restaurant if you’re not staying here. I’ve never been, but if you go, let me know how you like it. Here’s the Conde Nast Traveller review.

Il San Pietro

view of Il San Pietro Positano from water
Il San Pietro — It’s also a legend on the Amalfi Coast. I’ve never stayed here, just have had dinner. It’s right outside of town and you look back at Positano, one of the best views. Note the swimming pool at the base of the mountain, you take an elevator through the rock down to the sea.

Hotel Miramare — Hang Right Over the Water

I really liked this place. It’s like the Goldilocks hotel, in both location and price point. Family-run, views right over the sea below. Here’s another post I made for more about the views from Hotel Miramare.

sea view room Hotel Miramare Positano
Can you imagine waking up to this view from your room?

Ravello — Palazzo Avino

Ravello is a thousand feet or more above Positano and the Amalfi Coast. And a great stay to bracket your Positano stay with a day or two here. It’s a famous town, both for its former famous writer residents and its can’t-be-beat views over the entire coastline. To read more, here’s another post I made all about the amazing Palazzo Avino. And a post I made on why you should stay in Ravello.

Palazzo Avino Ravello dining terrace view

Praiano — Hotel Onda Verde

Praiano is the second or third little town down the twisty road, just outside of Positano and it’s the coolest. You feel like you are a world away from frantic Positano, yet it’s only a short cab ride away. You see just the top of it from the roadway and it trickles down the rock, mostly only visible from the sea. They chiseled elevators and tight paths to take you down. The Swedish woman who owns it is just the best and very helpful.

Rooms are scattered on different nubs of the hill, some like little treehouses, on their own. What’s best is you are way removed from the crowds and noise of Positano and can just pop over when you need to, then come back to the calm, overlooking a small fishing cover. You can leave your doors open and watch the octopus fishermen push out in the dark with their bait lamps, singing to the moon.

Hotel Onda Verde from air
From their website

I stayed here a very long time ago and it was a dream (you can see scans of my old prints, before digital cameras). It was spartan then, but spotless. The couple has since really upgraded the whole place, the rooms, the pool, the restaurant. Everything. They are now a four star hotel. I’ve had friends stay here for a week and they just raved about it. Here’s their website. (The top four photos are from the hotel website, so show the updated rooms).

We stayed at Hotel Poseidon when were were looking to get married in Positano and loved it, almost had the reception here. (unfortunately, that marriage didn’t last long. 🤣) Great pool overlooking the edge, right off the main road so it’s easy to get to. They have a private van that does continuous circles down the hill and up.

The Hotel Villa Franca is another great hotel we stayed, but I didn’t take pictures. They are constantly evolving and upping the ante. Their restaurant is now Michelin-starred, so you can eat here if you’re staying somewhere else.

Casa Cosenza

Just right across the walkway from Miramare is Casa Cosenza. If you’re looking for a more affordable place, stay here. When I stayed here long ago, it was super clean and spartan, it looks like they’ve really made a lot of improvements. It’s more of a traditional BnB than a hotel. The building goes back to Roman times, built in 900AD. It has the biggest terrace in Positano, right in the middle of the hill, with a prow that throws you right out over Positano. Grab your cappuccino, pull up a chair to the railing and you’ll have one of the best views in town.

You Should Do This In Positano

Which Way to the Beach?

When I was younger, I used to bitch about paying at beach clubs. Now I appreciate them. There really isn’t a giant beach in Positano or much other area to roost by the sea other than the main beach — it’s all mountains. The main beach has one major concessionaire and all color-coordinated umbrellas. It’s a rocky beach, no real sand, so the loungers are really necessary. Just get there early.

Positano beach club chairs
Positano beach club

Rent a Boat and Get Out on the Water

One thing a lot of people miss when they visit is This. The view from your hotel or the one meeellion steps up the hills is quite something and most people are content with that. But really the best views are from the water, looking back.

View of Positano from water

When you’re out on your own boat off the Amalfi Coast, bobbing and weaving to the sing-song of the gentle waves, you almost feel like you’re filming your own sequel to The Talented Mr. Ripley. You gotta boat. An animated, perfectly tanned Italian skipper. The babe in bikini and cute hat. Crisp vino. The views. Roll camera!

Make sure you get on a boat and go up and down the coast, poking in to deserted rocky beaches that hide beneath the high cliffs. Schwimbobbing in the mellow waves, all in your own time. You can hire a cap’n or they have cool little wooden runabouts you can rent for cheap and drive yourself, which I like the best. Putt-putting along the shore, in awe of the azzurro sea and the sheer cliffs, with Moretti La Rossa in hand.

Hike the Sentiero degli Dei — The Path of the Gods

If you like hiking and are in good shape, you might want to tackle this beast that runs the ridge high above the coast, lots and lots of steep steps woven between terraces of lemon trees and fresh gardens. I have a good Instagram friend who is a fitness nut and ran this every day during her stay. It’s way up there and a challenging hike, so read up on it before you go. Here’s a post from the Positano tourism page, with pics that show why it’s worth it. Here’s TripAdvisor’s take. And if you’re an AllTrails person, here’s their suggestions. And Lonely Planet’s recommendations.

positano mountains
PathofGods recommendation
Someone posted this recommendation several years ago and I’ve seen lots of friends who have done it and raved about the views.

Or you could just take a bus or taxi up to Ravello and get nearly the same views.

Get Out of Town — Walk Up to Montepertuso

Look on the map and you’ll see a narrow twisty road heading out of Positano and straight up the mountainside to a little village called Monterpertuso. The font on the map is probably bigger than the town. There’s a lot of Up. You’ll also see a landmark called Il Buco di Montepertuso a hole in the wall. Legend has it that the Virgin Mary was in a fight with the devil and put her finger that created the hole. Every year there’s a festa in celebration of that moment and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to watch the procession. There’s also a steep hike up to there.

You Should Eat Here In Positano

Positano at night

Lo Scoglio

Lo Scoglio is another place that I haven’t been to but has really blown up over the last decade. It’s down the coast and you drive there or take a boat from Positano. When I say rave, I mean RAVE. When you see posts from after people have visited it’s like they just met the Pope. Tons of TV shows have shot here including Anthony Bourdain and Stanley Tucci. And everyone raves about how wonderful the service and the owners are. You have to go here. Please report back to me.

Read this Conde Nast Traveler article about the meal that changed their lives. And this, in Bon Appetit, who rave about the few ingredients like in my Il Pirata section below.

Da Adolfo — An Italian Beach Shack

Da Adolfo boat
(Photo from their website.)

I was sitting and roasting at the beach club in Positano, mountains rising on three sides. I kept noticing this little fishing boat with a goofy little red sign pulling up the pier, then a handful of people get on and it goes putt-putting around the corner. A half hour later it came puttering back, dropping off a different set of people. Nobody was paying for anything or handing over tickets. This went on for a couple of hours. “Where is that boat going?” I couldn’t make out the sign, an odd whale-shaped red fish, swinging and bobbing from the waves, so I got closer to the pier on one of its return trips: Da Adolfo. Bagni e Ristorante Laurito. I had no idea what any of those words meant. (This happening before we had the internet on our phones.) I woke up my girlfriend from her shady nap: “Hey, want to get on that boat and see where it goes? I think it’s a restaurant somewhere.”

The boat puttered up, I asked the boatman “Ristorante?”, he nodded and we stumbled into the boat and we disappeared around the huge rocky cliffs. We pulled into this big open bay with a narrow beach, cliffs soaring on all sides. A humble cinder block building sat alone, with some beach chairs scattered along the rocky beach. Da Adolfo has become famous around the world, you can be walking down the street in New York or London and see it’s iconic t-shirt. A simple Italian beach shack. You can only get here by a steep walking trail or by boat. You can also hang out on the beach and take the boat back to Positano. Here’s a wonderful story about Da Adolfo from Le Sirenuse’s wonderful journal. Here is Da Adolfo’s website.

La Sponda and Bar at Le Sirenuse

This is where you wear your Going Out clothes. Get a nice shower, break out the fresh-iron linen and head up the steps. Here’s a link to their website. (Photos below are from their website)

La Cambusa

When you google restaurants in Positano, you almost always see the colorful La Cambusa blue bowl in a high percentage of them. It’s been around for decades and is really excellent. It sits right at the end of the beach, across from Buca di Bacco.

Buca di Bacco

Buca di Bacco is a famous place on everybody’s Best Of lists. It’s right by the marina and beach, always busy. They even have a hotel if you want.

Buca di Baco

Il Pirata in Praiano — My Fave

This is the meal that changed my life in 1996. I was here with some friends after a Rome school reunion. We were staying at the little Hotel Onda Verde in and there was a teeny little restaurant right on the water underneath the hotel, right on the water. Il Pirata (The Pirate). We avoided it at first… it was just some bamboo and plastic chairs clinging to the rocks right on the water. While we were eating, a fisherman pulled his boat right up to the railing and whistled. The cook comes out of the kitchen and the dude hands over a few octopuses and several whole fish. That’s when we knew we were in the right place.

It was one of the best meals all of us every had. Simple stuff, like muscles. bruschetta and pasta. This was the first meal that made me realize the importance fresh ingredients can make in a dish. Before, I always thought “more was better”. But this meal taught me that with the best ingredients, you only need two or three to make an amazing meal. This picture has been in on my fridge ever since.

UPDATE: They’ve continue to make this restaurant even better. Gone are the plastic chairs, added to the terrace. They’ve really made everything better. So much so that Travel & Leisure featured them on the cover of their Food Issue a couple of years ago under “World’s Most Amazing Restaurants With a View“! Praiano is just a few twisty turns from Positano and easy to get to. Go here and you’ll remember it.

— Last visited in June 1996, June 1998, June 2000, July 2004, May 2006 June 2012; Updated Post June 2024 —

More Information on Positano

Here are some other great restaurant recommendations from Le Sirenuse’s fantastic web page. Go to every one. Here’s a recap of Anthony Bourdain’s trip to southern Italy.

I made a special Google Map plotting out all the places I’ve talked about, so click here. You can zoom in, tap links to hotels and get a lay of the land. You should also be able to save it to your phone for when you go there.


Here’s a list of the best hotels on the Amalfi Coast from UK Conde Nast Traveller. Here’s the TripAdvisor page for Positano. Here is the official Positano tourism website. And Travel & Leisure’s Positano page. And the NY Times 36 Hours on the Amalfi Coast. This is a beautifully written piece from the wonderful Italy Segreta about celebrities and the Amalfi Coast. Here’s Conde Nast Traveller’s Guide to Positano. And the US CNT version of the story on the Amalfi Coast.And a CNT UK’s list of the best hotels in Positano. And here’s an article on going all the way up the Amalfi Coast in the Wall Street Journal.

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