If you’re in southern Italy, you should not miss a trip to the Amalfi Coast. The gorgeous, craggy coastline has several pretty villages that will charm the pants off of you. (Let’s hope you’ve got a bathing suit on under there.) If you’re short on time and/or you happen to be with little ones who have short attention spans, then I’ve got an excellent day trip for you.*
*Keep in mind that the villages on the Amalfi Coast are not stroller-friendly, so if you’ve got mini bambini, you can either bring them in a baby carrier or wait a couple more years for those little legs to grow because this trip requires a good amount of walking and the ability to handle stairs.
The first thing you need to do is get to the port town of Salerno. It’s accessible by train, but if you happen to have a rental car like we did, you can park at a lot called the Parcheggio Vinciprova (Viale Unità d’Italia, 84127 Salerno). It’s 3 euros for the whole day and about a 7-minute walk from the ferry terminal. That’s right. You’re taking a boat!
If you’re thinking it would just be easier to drive to your destination on the Amalfi Coast, you might want to read this first. Bottom line ____← (I drew it for you), the roads are very tricky to navigate, parking is a nightmare, and if you have anyone in the family who gets car sick like we do, you’ll probably want to avoid the windy road/barf bag scenario and enjoy a relaxing ferry ride instead. Worried about getting sea sick? The ride is short and if the weather is nice, the water will not be choppy. If you’re still apprehensive, it’s worth it to invest in some Sea Bands before your trip. These acupressure bracelets work to alleviate all types of motion sickness and they’ve really helped our kids.
Go to the ferry landing, buy your tickets and you’re off. Sit on the top level of the ferry and take a selfie that’ll highlight a lifeboat, some wake, and a bit of the coast behind you.
If you’re lucky, a nice American couple will ask if you want them to take a photo, and then you’ll have an image featuring a little more of that Amalfi coastline magic.
Don’t forget to bring windbreakers on your trip, because once the ferry captain puts the pedal to the metal – or moves the nautical lever in the “fast” direction – it gets windy and chilly!
Check out that coastline. There are plenty of sea caves, impressive villas perched precariously on the rocks, and pretty port towns with sun-drenched, sorbet-colored buildings.
Has a half an hour gone by already? That means you’re almost to your first destination: the town of Amalfi.
As you exit the ferry you’ll notice an American-themed café that sells gelato in front of you. Do not even think about stopping here because, 1. There is no such thing as American gelato, and 2. In just a minute you will find a bunch of amazing dessert options in the Piazza Duomo. Take a walk around and let everyone pick their favorite place for a sweet treat. You can try the town’s famous lemon ice, granita di limone, or maybe you’ll opt for a gelato-filled cannoli!
When you get thirsty, head to the town’s “Boobie Fountain” (not the official name) and fill up your water bottles there. Or just stick your face under the flowing stream of acqua like everyone else does.
Next you’re going to want to explore the gorgeous cathedral on the piazza that makes people gasp in awe and manages to direct their attention away from the Boobie Fountain. The Duomo di Sant’Andrea was begun in the 9th century and features a fascinating Norman-Arab-Byzantine facade and a fancy crypt for good old Saint Andrew.
In addition to the splendid interior, there are plenty of relics in glass cases to look at and there is a peaceful cloister to walk through – or for kids to try to play tag in until that idea gets squashed by Mom.
As you leave the cathedral, make sure you take a photo on the steps. You’ll want to remember this unique facade. If your kids are with you, maybe they’ll surprise you by giving their best Zoolander faces instead of smiling.
Make a right and continue down the town’s main street to check out the shops. If you can handle any more sugar, Nino & Friends will offer you all kinds of candy samples, including delicious white chocolate limoncello balls. Just up the street there’s a tiny gallery with ceramic artwork showcasing the humble donkey, which has become a symbol of the Amalfi Coast. Donkeys carried lemons, jugs of water, wine, and other heavy loads between the coastal towns, keeping people nourished and connected over the centuries. Pop in to see the colorfully painted ceramic pieces and to learn the story behind the useful ciuccio (“donkey” in the local dialect).
Go just a bit further down the road and you’ll find the Fontana de Cape ’e Ciucci, meaning “Donkey’s Head Fountain,” in the Piazza della Spirito Santo. Donkeys with heavy loads arriving from the nearby mountain village of Pogerola used to stop here for water. Fun fact, but what’s interesting about it now is that the rocks above are riddled with several tiny figurines depicting Neapolitan life in the eighteenth century and it features an underwater nativity scene! There are so many sweet little details to take in.
You may want to end your exploration here or walk the winding streets a bit more and stop for a beverage. Just make sure you’re aware of the ferry schedule because you have more places to go and things to see!
For 3 euros and 15 minutes of your time, you can take the ferry to the nearby town of Minori. There’s a small beach and a pretty church near the ferry landing, but I couldn’t tell you much more about Minori because we hightailed it to Il Sentiero dei Limoni, the Path of Lemons.
I know it seems like I’m mentioning donkeys a lot, but I thought you’d be interested to know this is the path they used to take between the coastal towns. (I’m guessing the stairs weren’t there at the time.) On this 1-hour walk to Maiori, you’ll see lemon groves, cliffside neighborhoods, abandoned shoes, plenty of gorgeous views, and – you guessed it – some donkey artwork.
There’s even a wall covered in morning glories, one of my favorite flowers. You should snap a picture here, especially if your top matches the blooms. And if your spouse or significant other has food stains on his shirt, no problem. Pose like you’re at the Homecoming dance and cover that up!
You’ll be feeling pretty awesome at this point. The views are breathtaking, the flowers and lemon groves make everything smell nice, cute cats will suddenly start snuggling up to you…
But get ready, because the best is yet to come. As you approach the next town, Maiori, you will see a white house with a small sign in the window offering fresh-squeezed lemonade for 1 euro. Ring the doorbell and you will be greeted by two adorable Italian boys with sweet smiles and a flair for customer service. They’ll take your order, ask if you want a little or a lot of sugar and bring you cups of the most refreshing, delectable lemonade you’ve ever tasted.
It was so good, we turned around and went back for more!
The deliciousness of this adventure doesn’t stop here. As you round the corner, you’re going to get some eye candy in the form of a church called Santa Maria a Mare. Its yellow and green tiled roof is stunning. Those tiles are hand-painted, by the way!
Let’s say your child wants to spit water from the nearby fountain out of his mouth while you take a photo. If there’s no one around and he’s watering the plants, just let him. The final expression is worth it!
The Santa Maria a Mare church is named for a statue of Mary that washed up on the beach of Maiori in 1204. Stop in to see the pretty ceiling, artwork, statues, and other religious artifacts. Afterwards, take the stone steps down and you’ll discover the town of Maiori. It’s a lovely place to be at sunset. Walk along the water until you reach the little white booth. This is where you buy your ferry tickets for Salerno.
You and/or your people may be feeling peckish. Don’t be afraid to grab pizzas to-go across the street at Acquachiara for the ride home. If your ferry happens to be the last one of the day and you see it pulling away from the dock 3 minutes early, start screaming, “Noooooo!!!” and run towards it, pizza boxes in hand. They’ll reverse it for you and let you on the boat, because Italians are nice people who care.
Sit on the top level of the ferry again and snuggle each other tightly as you head back to Salerno in the moonlight. Notice the lights from the small towns dancing on the waves and remind yourself how lucky you are to have had this experience.