Someone has said, ‘a journey cannot be undertaken without money.’ This is all right, but you don’t have to be stinking rich even if you are planning a holiday to one of the most celebrated places on earth. What you need is a clear travel plan before you set off on your journey— carefully choose the places you would like to visit, find out a decent place to stay, and see what is the cheapest way to get around. And this is what we did when we travelled to the ultra-expensive Amalfi Coast, Sorrentine Peninsula and Naples lately. In our 10 days trip, we identified the places which can be easily covered on a limited budget, and we zeroed on: Mt. Vesuvius, Herculaneum Excavation Site, Pompeii Excavation Site, Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, and Naples. Let’s find out what to do and what to ignore when travelling in Campania, especially Amalfi Coast on a shoestring budget.
Sorrento: Sets atop the consolidated volcanic ash locally called tofu, this small yet beautiful town overlooks the magnificent Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius. This is one of the most preferred places by travelers to stay and explore the adjoining areas: unspoilt country side of the Sorrentine peninsula in the south; the Amalfi Coast in the east; and legendary sites of Pompeii and others in the north. We stayed in Sorrento for eight days and did our day trips to all nearby areas every day.
Day 1 and Day 2: On day one and day two, keep your focus on Sorrento and visit Piazza Tasso, Marina Piccola, and local markets. Undoubtedly, Piazza Tasso is the heart of this picture-perfect town inviting locals and travelers to revel in its delightful cafes and bars. From this square originates the town’s main shopping street, Via San Cesareo. Vene Russo on the main street is the best place to buy Limoncello – the region’s proudest agricultural product made from Sorrento lemon peel. Alternatively, you may also head to factories; located in the narrow streets, they offer tasting samples as well. Once done with the main square, head to Marina Piccola to for a while and watch the world go by. Here the water of the sea is so clear that you can easily see the fishes.
Day 3: From Sorrento to Herculaneum (Circumvesuviana Stop: Ercolano Scavi) and Mt. Vesuvius: We bought day tickets from local tobacco shop at Sorrento Train Station. Tickets are available in any tobacco shop but plan to buy early since the shops close between 1pm and 4:30 pm.
- Day ticket Circumvesuviana € 6.30 pp
- Tickets to Vesuvio Express to Mt. Vesuvius € 10 pp
- Entry fee at Mt. Vesuvius € 10 pp
- 3 day pass for Pompeii, Herculaneum and Oplontis, Stabia, Antiquarium of Boscoreale € 20 pp
Souvenirs are sold on top of Mt. Vesuvius and light snacks are also available. Weather on top of Mt. Vesuvius can change drastically within a few minutes better to be prepared with adequate clothing to withstand cold.
Day 4: From Sorrento to Pompei (Circumvesuviana stop: Pompeii Scavi): It is better to loan audio guide than hiring local guides. Please remember to carry your passport/driving license or your credit card for loaning audio guide. It is advisable to carry light snacks and water since you’ll be walking for long duration. Day ticket Circumvesuviana € 6.30 pp
Day 5 to Day 9: From Sorrento to Amalfi, Positano and Ravello: In case you are planning to visit Amalfi coast for three days, it is better to buy the three day bus pass which will cost € 18 pp otherwise 24 hour pass for € 7.60 pp. Plan to make at least one journey from Sorrento to Amalfi / Positano using water taxis/hydrofoils (when in season), for excellent views of Amalfi coast.
Amalfi: Ceramic art and Limoncello ceramic bottle souvenirs are very attractive and a must buy on your list. If you are visiting in winter, plan to attend festival at Il Duomo. Walk around the quaint tunnels parallel to the road and explore the winding steps.
Positano: Make your way down to the beach surrounded by shops on cobbled path. You may want to visit La Pergola for fine dining experience by the sea or Paradise for its lovely dessert and wholesome pizza slices for affordable prices.
Ravello: Walk around the Main Square and visit Pascal Ceramics for exquisite collection or visit Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone for breathtaking views of Amalfi coast. On Sundays, please note bus schedule as there are fewer buses running between towns.
Day 9: We deposited our luggage at luggage deposit (around € 6 for 12 hours) inside the car park near train station and visited Positano. After our return, we collected our luggage and took Circumvesuviana to Naples (one way € 4 pp).
Day 10: We visited Naples National Archaeological Museum and hired audio guide for € 10. Visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum is not complete without visiting this museum. Materials recovered from these sites are on display along with limited access to the (ill) famed Secret room. These objects along with the excavated cities have provided us with the wealth of knowledge of people who lived at the time of eruption. Watch YouTube (Pompeii: The Last Day-History channel) before you visit Pompeii, this will help you connect with the inhabitants and their life. We took Alibus from Naples central to Naples Airport (€ 4 pp).
Things to avoid when travelling on a shoestring budget
Visit to Capri Island: The trip from Sorrento is costly and not worth considering the amount of time available and places to visit. These days it is more of a shopping destination for top brands.
Blue grotto: It’s a rip off. 2 mins boat ride will cost around € 15-20 which is in addition to the ride out to the site paid separately as part of a tour or on its own. Watch the YouTube video instead.
Emerald Grotto: On your way from Sorrento to Amalfi you’ll come across grotto des esmeraldo-emerald grotto. This is an even bigger rip off. You can see the emerald water even before you board the boat and that’s all there is to it.
Don’t visit Naples unless you are flying early and need a place to stay. It is dirtier than any city we have seen. Its garbage problem is unimaginable.
Don’t buy ceramic art work from the first shop you see. There are many options, shop around and bargain for a good deal. Amalfi has better choices.
Details given below are from our trip and you may customize according to your duration of stay. Our stay selected based on trip advisor using booking.com:
Sorrento Relais—6 Nights
Casa Dominova—2 Nights
Sweet Sleep, Naples—1 Night