The Amalfi Coast is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It’s also home to some of the wildest bus routes on Earth.
Stunning coastline. Sheer cliffs. Eyewateringly pink tourists. The inimitable setting for films like The Talented Mr. Ripley, Tenet, and Luca (kinda). It’s recognizable on sight. It’s the Amalfi Coast.
There are many cities on the Amalfi, and all are easy and expensive to get to by water – whether by yacht or ferry. After taking and paying for a ferry to Capri, I figure yachting might be the most cost effective method of the two. While his transport looks better on Insta, Leonardo DiCaprio will never know the adrenaline thumping joy of exploring the Amalfi Coast by bus.
Campania, the Italian region comprised most famously of the Amalfi, Vesuvius, and Naples, has the highest percentage of bus drivers who thought rally racing would simply be too boring of a career and said “can I get a bigger vehicle on a smaller road?” They now work for SITA Sud, the Navy SEALs of Italian public transit.
The Amalfi is not messing around. The sheer cliffs from earlier? 300-400 feet up. The width of the road? Mostly a car and a half. The only thing separating you from a Final Destination movie death is a 3″ thick concrete barrier and the nerves of lead currently deciding whether they want clams or roast in their primo piatto while wheeling your bus around the hairpin turn somehow inside another hairpin turn. This is some incredibly dangerous road, up there with the planet’s most.
“But Cameron, what about that Death Road in Bolivia that kills a bunch of people each year?”
I don’t actually want to die, yeah? The Amalfi Coast by bus is a circus tiger to the Bolivian’s jungle tiger. If anything, I feel 100% safe on a SITA Sud bus. Not because these bus drivers view my life and the lives of all passengers on board as sacrosanct. I’m not even sure they’re even fueled by self preservation. I’m simply convinced that the humiliation of getting a singular scratch on their bus is so great that they would run their grandmother’s Vespa into the Tyrrhenian Sea before defiling their noble steed. (Mental sound cue: a long fading buzz and a tiny splash.)
I can’t even figure out what the pecking order is for bus drivers. We took a bus to Nerano for a dinner at Lo Scoglio, famed family seafood restaurant visited by Stanley Tucci in Searching for Italy. On the way there, our bus driver confronted another bus driver on a one-bus-wide ridgeback road down into town. Our driver made the other one back up down a quarter mile straightaway and an entire curve which scattered the cars behind like the most panicked cockroaches when the light goes on. Our driver then proceeded to verbally berate the other driver before dropping us off at our very tasty, very pricey dinner.
Be prepared: it takes a considerable amount of time to get a very short distance on the Amalfi Coast by bus. Sorrento to Amalfi (city) by road is 40km/25mi and it takes 2.5 hours to get there. Unless you’re from LA, 10 mph is typically unbearably slow, but here anything higher feels like tempting fate. You’ve never noticed how much buses lean around curves until you’ve driven the Amalfi Coast.
Hot tip! Board as close to a terminus as you can. Routes get very full during tourist season, and 2 hours is a long time to stand up on a bus. Plus, your teetering feeling will only be that much worse. The best stops for a high seating chance are the Sorrento train station, the farthest east stop for Positano (ask for the marina), and the main Amalfi city stop.
If headed west (Sorrento to Positano to Amalfi), the left side of the bus offers unbelievable views. If headed east (Amalfi to Positano to Sorrento), go with the driver’s side. If you’re skittish and afraid of heights, choose the opposite as listed above and/or close your eyes and/or take a ferry.
Purchase 24 Hour Unlimited Ride Passes for the Amalfi Coast for 10 euro or single ride tickets for 2,40 euro from the Sorrento train station or at tobacco shops. Why tobacco shops? I don’t know! But it’s the Italian way. And you wouldn’t want to question your bus driver, would you?