Family holiday ideas: Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy
February 14, 2016
In this cold February rainy half term weather, is it any surprise that thoughts turn to the summer holidays? We are planning to go back to Italy in September, school applications dependent, and I realised that I never wrote about our holiday last summer. We went to Italy for 10 days – in August. We chose those dates as a good friend was having a 40th birthday party at his place in Umbria and we decided to make the most of the hotter weather and more expensive flights by having a beach holiday in Positano first. Here are some photos, and some links and tips of the Positano part, if anyone is planning their own trip.
Positano is a small seaside town on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. We’d wanted to visit the area for a long time and settled on Positano as it was looked charming and beautiful and we could get there easily on public transport. I read enough reviews of the roads leading to that coastline to know that I’d rather get a train and ferry than terrify myself on those high winding roads.
How did we get there?
As we had plans to also get up to Umbria afterwards, we flew in and out of Rome, getting a fast train down to Salerno and then a ferry across to Positano. I used The Man in Seat 61 as my research start (do you follow that blog – it’s a fascinating insight into Europe by rail) and then we booked the tickets online at Italia Rail. Booking before you get on the train is essential, and booking online was great for the long distance trains, however, our experience then going north from Rome to Umbria meant we had to buy the tickets again, as we couldn’t collect the tickets. We also booked the ferry online and easily picked up the tickets at the ferry terminal at Salerno.
Approaching the coast by ferry was amazing – the weather in Rome was HOT and although the train was air conditioned, we were still suffering a bit from the heat when we got on the ferry. We opted to take only hand luggage and no buggy (and in splendid timing I found out I was pregnant during the few days leading up to our departure). The walk from the station to the ferry was only 10 minutes max but in the burning mid-day sun I felt every step. On the ferry, the breeze and the spray cooled us immediately and we were captivated by the passing scenery.
Positano is pretty much all steps – it is set vertically into the cliff side. Arriving by ferry of course means arriving at the bottom. Thankfully, there are excellent luggage porters who for an agreed fee will drive your luggage up to your accommodation or meeting place, whilst you walk up (or walk up and get the bus). It seems confusing but follow their instructions and it does work!
Where we stayed:
We stayed in a self-catered apartment which had a kitchen and washing machine. We rented it through Summer In Italy which I in turn found as a recommendation from another blogger. We stayed in Casa Valina which had a lovely terrace with sea views, was on the side of the town which easily led down to the nicer beach and was also near to a bus stop so we could get the bus back easily. Bonus – the owner was super friendly and happy to come over and sort out any problems, and even brought Pip some eggs one evening from her chickens.
What to do:
Head to the beach! I am not ashamed to say that we did this every day for 5 days straight – every morning we ate a quick breakfast and then headed down the myriad steps to the beach. We then ate another breakfast and rented sun-loungers where we set up camp for the day, spending most of the day in and out of the sea and napping on the loungers. Each afternoon we walked round to the main town and then caught the bus back up to our apartment, although some days we went straight out for dinner.
I was used to beaches in the UK where you don’t have to rent a sun-lounger to sit on the beach, so make sure you have some suitable money with you. That said, it’s too hot to even step on the stones (we went at the very beginning of August) so I don’t think you’d want to not have the sun-shade. Don’t forget beach shoes and a light towel to put on the chairs.
What to eat:
Lunch: We ate most of our lunches at the beach cafe part of the hotel Il Puppeto which is where we hired the sun-loungers each day. I had read some excellent recommendations and to be honest, I thought they were slightly exaggerated but the food was fine and extremely convenient for the beach. They will also bring you drinks to your sun-lounger.
On our first night, we went to Da Vincenzo on recommendation and liked it so much that we returned on our last evening as well. I couldn’t get enough of the gazpacho with burrata and Pip memorably devoured an entire plate of spaghetti alle vongole, such that M had to order another plate of clams from the kitchen as Pip had eaten all his too.
We ate pizzas at Covo dei Saraceni and also cooked dinner ourselves a few times, buying ingredients from the deli on the way back up to the bus and eating on the roof terrace in the fading light.
We also had some lovely drinks/coffee one morning at Ristorante Il Capitano which has a lovely terrace and views across the town and coast.
What to buy:
Positano is, I read, famed for shopping but I have to say, I wasn’t really feeling it. It is possible to buy some beautiful handmade sandals which I was tempted by, but in the end, I don’t think I bought anything aside from stocking up on some Marvis toothpaste from the pharmacy (does anyone else buy all their toiletries for the year whilst on holiday?) and letting Pip choose a fan. We did buy some excellent lemons, tomatoes and burrata from the grocers which we ate whilst we were there – and if lemon toiletries or souvenirs are your thing, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
What to do in the evening:
We did a mixture of going straight out for pizza after the beach and then returning to the apartment in the dark, putting Pip to bed and then sitting out on the balcony with a drink; returning to the apartment after the beach before going out for dinner, and also cooking dinner at the apartment. I’m sure we could have organised a babysitter if we had fancied an evening out, but that wasn’t really on our agenda that holiday.
Other points of note:
Positano is basically set on a steep cliff, so if you’re bringing a baby with you a baby carrier would be much better than a buggy.
There are literally hundreds of steps to climb up and down to get anywhere, so I would recommend wearing comfortable sandals rather than flip-flops and bringing a good beach bag or rucksack and making sure you’ve everything you need for the day.
It’s hot! Bring a hat and expect to buy a lot of bottles of water.
Buy a walking map from the grocers on the way up to the bus stop – there are hundreds of tiny alleyways, steps and cut throughs but you really do need a map to figure it out!
We preferred the smaller beach (Spiaggia del Fornillo) to the main beach (Spaggia Grande) although it did lose the sun earlier in the evening. That was perfect for us though, as when the sun dipped below the horizon, we simply walked round to the main town, watching the boats coming and going.
Have you ever been to Positano? Do you have any tips to add?