Where should you book a hotel, on Capri, in Positano, or in Amalfi? Should you base yourself on a stunning island or one of the most charming villages along the Amalfi Coast? These are the first questions you'll have to grapple with when planning your trip to southern Italy, and the right answer differs depending upon your travel style, budget, and group.
We always recommend dividing your time between the island and the mainland, spending at least three days on Capri and three days on the Amalfi Coast (based either in Positano or Amalfi) so you can fully savor both these breathtaking and unique destinations in the southern region of Campania. That said, we realize that not everyone has six or seven days to dedicate to the island of Capri and the Amalfi Coast. Here's a quick overview of the differences between Capri, Positano, and Amalfi to help you narrow your choices if you're pressed for time!
It's easy to reach the island of Capri via high-speed ferry from Naples or Sorrento all year long. There are also direct ferries to the island from Positano and Amalfi from April to October. It takes about an hour from Naples and 30 minutes from Sorrento and Positano to make the crossing.
Positano is located at the far end of the Amalfi Coast just south of the Sorrentine Peninsula and can be reached by car or bus via a panoramic coastal road that winds its way along the water's edge. There are ferry routes that only run during the summer months. Keep in mind that parking is limited and expensive (around ,25/day) if you are arriving by car.
Amalfi, on the other hand, is located almost exactly halfway along the Amalfi Coast, so offers easy access to sights both north and south. Like Positano, Amalfi has ferry routes that connect the town to the islands and other locations along the coastline during the summer months. You can also reach Amalfi by car along the coastal road, though parking can be hard to find and expensive.
You may be surprised to learn that even though it's an island, you can reach Capri more easily than Positano or Amalfi from Naples. On the other hand, you can reach Positano or Amalfi at night by car or with a relatively inexpensive private transfer, whereas to get to Capri after the last ferry has left means taking an expensive private boat transfer.
The island of Capri is divided into two municipalities, Capri and Anacapri, and the entire island is only about 10 square kilometers. The landscape rises steeply from the Marina Grande port past the town of Capri to the peak of Mount Solaro and there are only four roads that connect the towns and various other locations around the island. The town centers and many of the sights along the coastline are only accessible on foot. You can easily get around the island by taxi, bus, or rental scooter.
Positano is called the "vertical village" and it looks like a pyramid of colorful houses lining the coastal cliff directly above the water when seen from the sea. The main road reaches the upper part of town, but you need to walk to get to the water's edge below. There are countless stairs, which are unavoidable if you want to tour the town center.
Amalfi is not as steep as Positano and the center of town is more or less at sea level. The main road does climb gradually up towards the cliffs behind the town, but there are no steps. Instead, to visit the famed Duomo, you'll have to take on its grand staircase.
The towns of Positano and Amalfi are much smaller than the island of Capri and you can visit either of them in about an hour. To see the island of Capri, including the towns of Capri and Anacapri, you need a full day.
Capri only has two beaches in Marina Grande and Marina Piccola. Both are small and covered in rocks and pebbles, but have private beach clubs where you can rent loungers and umbrellas.
The beach in Positano is relatively large for the Amalfi Coast and is located right in the center of town. A short walk down a footpath takes you to the Fornillo and there are small boat shuttles to the nearby Arienzo and Laurito beaches. There are a number of tiny beaches and coves set along the coastline that can be accessed only via boat. The beaches in both Positano and Capri have crystalline water and are perfect for swimming and snorkeling but are not very family-friendly,
Amalfi's Spiaggia Grande is one of the most popular on the Amalfi Coast and the nearby Atrani beach is a great family-friendly choice. Boats regularly depart from the Amalfi harbor to other coves and beaches along the coastline, or you can take on the hike to the beautiful Duoglio beach.
Beach club prices in Capri and Positano can be expensive, averaging about EUR 20 for entrance and a lounger for the day and up to EUR 30 for more exclusive clubs. There are small free public beaches in both locations. Prices for Amalfi beach clubs are slightly less expensive and there are also stretches of free public beach near the town center.
The island of Capri is packed with cultural and historic sights despite its small size and highlights including the Roman ruins of Tiberius' villas, the Axel Munthe house museum, and the medieval charterhouse. You can also take the chairlift to the top of Mount Solaro or head off along one of the many walking and hiking trails that crisscross the island.
Positano is famous more for its unique atmosphere than for its sights and landmarks, and the slow pace, pretty warren of lanes and staircases covered by flowered pergolas, and sweeping views from every corner of the village center are what captivates visitors. Capri was famous already in Roman times whereas Positano was a humble fishing village with very little in the way of art and culture. That said, you can stop into the Santa Maria Assunta church, known for its majolica-tiled dome, and the Domus Romana, the remains of a Roman home excavated directly under the church.
If you want to base yourself on the Amalfi Coast but are a history and culture buff, the storied maritime republic of Amalfi is home to the lion's share of art and architectural treasures along the coastline. The imposing Duomo and adjacent cloister is one of the tops sights on the whole of the Amalfi Coast, and you can also visit the historic arsenals where ships were once built and the paper-making museum that traces the origins of one of the town's most important artisan productions.
No matter which location you choose, you'll want to spend at least a few hours exploring the coastline via a traditional gozzo boat. On Capri, you can sail past the Faraglioni, stop at the Grotto Azzurra, and swim in the countless other hidden caves and coves around the island. From Positano and Amalfi, you can admire the tiny fishing villages perched along the coastal cliffs and sights like the Furore Fjord and Emerald Grotto.
Both private and shared boat tours depart from the port on Capri and the harbors in Positano and Amalfi.
From Positano and Amalfi, it's easy to visit all the towns and villages along the coast, including Praiano, Conca de' Marini, Ravello, Cetara, and Vietri sul Mare. You can also drive or join a driving tour to Pompeii and Herculaneum. Sightseeing on the mainland from Capri is more complicated and expensive.
Capri and Positano are both popular destinations for the international jet set and the vibe is very glamorous in the height of summer, especially in the evening with the day-trippers have left and the yachterati head to land for cocktails and dinner. During the day, these two spots (along with Amalfi) can be overrun by tourists who are on a shore excursion or visiting from Sorrento for the day. You'll find excellent restaurants, clubs, cocktail bars, and nightlife in both spots.
Positano is known for its boutiques selling “pezze”, or linen and cotton resort wear in crisp white or bright Mediterranean colors. Capri is home to some of the most luxurious designer boutiques in the world selling clothing and accessories by top Italian and international labels. Both also have artisan workshops creating handmade sandals, authentic limoncello liqueur, and other local crafts. The shopping in Amalfi tends more towards traditional souvenirs, but you can find high-quality artisanal paper made locally.
Whether you choose to book a hotel or other accommodation in Capri, Positano, or Amalfi, we suggest staying at least two or three nights to fully experience their unique atmosphere after the crowds have left, a treat that you will never get to savor on a day trip.