We took a 7 hour road trip along the western coast of Italy during a four day weekend in August. I spent hours mapping out this trip and planning once in a lifetime experiences to fit in along the way. Although it was blazing hot, extremely busy and a little terrifying at times, I want to share this experience with you! I hope you can do something similar one day or at least maybe one of things we did along the way will be something you’ve always wanted to do and I can share with you what I’ve learned. Enjoy!
We first began our journey by driving 1.5 hours from Catania in Sicily to the ferry port in the north-east city of Messina. Since Sicily is an island, we had to board ourselves and our car on a ferry in order to continue to drive on mainland Italy. We did not book our tickets ahead of time and that was a big mistake. I recommend you use the website to book your ticket ahead of time. Yes, this will require specific planning! You want to make sure you get there 30 minutes before the departure time on the ticket. They have a great system for loading you and your cars on and off the ferry, it was actually a really fun experience I don’t think I will ever forget. You can’t be in your car while the ferry is moving so we went up to the top deck and took some pictures, grabbed a snack and a coffee. The entire ferry ride was only 30 minutes and it was a nice little break from driving.
TIP: You might know this but at the time, we didn’t so I’m sharing this info for anyone who might not know — When using Google Maps, put in your final destination. I made the mistake of putting in the ferry port as our destination which left us driving around and asking people which ferry we needed to board that would take us to the mainland. If you simply put your final destination into your phone, Google Maps will tell you exactly which ferry to board. Genius!
STOP 1: Calabria
Our first stop was the city of Calabria, about a 2 hour drive from the Reggio Calabria ferry port on mainland Italy. This town was not super significant since there was not much to do here. I would call it “a stop along the way”, more of a place to rest and relax after 5 hours of driving rather than enjoy the city. If you do the same drive, this is a good town to stop in since it offers many hotels, restaurants, and even a large mall. Other than that, there’s not too much to do or see here. If you do this road trip yourself, I recommend staying in Tropea twice, once on the way to Naples and once on the way home. More on that later in the post, let’s continue!
STOP 2: Amalfi Coast and Positano
We woke up early the next day to drive along the famous and scenic coast of Amalfi. It’s a long and treacherous drive, not for the inexperienced driver! It is a tiny two lane street which winds up and down along the side of the cliff’s edge. But the views are unlike any you will ever see. Not only will you have the view of the Italian coast on your right, but on your left you’ll have an aerial view of the mosaic rooftops of ancient churches. It’s truly surreal!
The road known as “Amalfi Drive” or the SS163 was originally built by the Romans. We drove along here to get to our next stop for about 4 hours. While driving along the SS163 we stopped to take in the views of Positano. Although we didn’t detour into the town, I do plan on going back and making a true holiday out of Positano in the future (to be continued)! This road also takes you directly into the town of Amalfi. If you don’t plan on staying here while on your road trip, at least plan to stop off and enjoy an espresso in the duomo. Va bene!
STOP 3: Fiordo di furore
This is one one of the stops along the notorious SS163. I took this picture from the bridge you drive over along Amalfi Drive. I had no idea if we would see this. It wasn’t planned. But the moment I saw it from my passenger side window I screamed with excitement for my husband to pull over the car! There are turnouts all along the SS163 where you can park your car to see the sights or explore the surrounding areas. If you’re doing this drive in summer like we did, most of these spots will be taken! If you see something you want a picture of, go for it anyway! In Italy, the driving laws are that there aren’t any laws. Truly, people park on the sidewalks and in the craziest places! If you see something you want to explore more don’t worry about following the correct parking procedures or driving laws, just be careful and go for it! When I got this picture my husband pulled the car over to the side but there was no parking. So he turned on the emergency lights for a minute and I ran over to grab this. It’s fine, it’s Italy driving!
STOP 4: Sorrento
After a 4 hour drive along the SS163, we arrived at our stop for the night, the beautiful and charming town of Sorrento. This city comes alive in the warm months and thrives off of summer tourism traffic. They have lidos (docks) built out along the waterfront, making swimming activities easily accessible for everyone who visits. On the lido there is always comfortable chairs with accompanying umbrellas. Many of the lidos have bars and restaurants on them as well. It truly is a summer time destination. The people who work in this city were so friendly and although it was so busy, they were very accommodating and worked to find room for everyone at the lidos and restaurants. If you do this road trip yourself, definitely make sure you stop in Sorrento! You won’t be disappointed.
STOP 5: Capri
The next morning we took the hydrofoil (ferry for people, no car access) from the Sorrento port to the Capri port. Again we did not buy our tickets ahead of time, but we showed up at the Sorrento port and purchased tickets without any issues and boarded the next hydrofoil. If you need to check times or even purchase tickets ahead of time, check this website. We were only in Capri for a short time as our main goal for the day was to see the Blue Grotto and then continue on to Naples. If you are more of a luxury traveler, there are many high-end hotels on the island of Capri. During this time, staying in a 5-star was a little out of our budget which is why we decided to stay in Sorrento and then spend the day in Capri. Due to the close proximity of the cities (Capri, Sorrento, Naples) you can really see a lot in a short time. It’s up to you to decide what you want to see and how much money you want to spend.
Stop 6: The Blue Grotto
I’m going to preface this by warning you that if you get sea sick, bring your Dramamine! While this was one of the most memorable experiences of all time I was not prepared for all that laid ahead. Let me break it down for you so that you are prepared!
If you’re staying on the island of Capri, there will be a line near the port where you can stand to buy your Blue Grotto ticket and then board the boat that will take you to the Blue Grotto cave. Confused? We’re just getting started!
If you’re like us and are not staying on Capri, take the hydrofoil into the Capri port from wherever you’re staying; for us it was Sorrento. So we boarded the hydrofoil at the Sorrento port and took the 20 minute hydrofoil ride to the island of Capri. We left our car in Sorrento so it would be easier to get around. Right when you get off the hydrofoil in Capri you’ll immediately see the ticket stand to buy your ticket to see the Blue Grotto. I want to say it was like €20 per person. However, make sure you have more euro than this because you will have to board a second boat once you get to the Blue Grotto cave. What?! Another boat. Yes, you will have to board a smaller row boat. These boats are the only ones that can enter the grotto caves. We did not know this but luckily our boat driver was super kind and let us borrow some cash so we could both enjoy the Blue Grotto together. Thanks guy!
It is said that the best time to visit the Blue Grotto caves is between 12pm and 2pm because of the way the light from the sun reflects off of the ocean floor. This is what creates that dazzling blue color! Of course this will likely be the busiest time, so breathe, practice patience and be prepared to wait. We waited on the larger boat lingering outside of the cave for about an hour before we could go on the smaller row boat into the caves – but it was so worth it! The row boats only seat two adults so it’s like you’re on a private tour. The person who is rowing your boat will guide you to and from the bigger boat onto the row boat, take you into the cave, row you around for a few minutes, take your picture if you want, and that’s it! It’s really a lovely experience.
TIP: If you’re visiting the Blue Grotto in the summer months, come prepared to wait on the boat in the hot sun. Bring water, sunscreen, and whatever else you might need to be comfortable sitting in the heat for at least an hour. When we got back to Capri and were getting off of our boat, some poor girl fainted due to the heat! It’s no joke – Italian summers are brutal, come prepared 🙂
STOP 7: Naples
After leaving Capri, we took the ferry back to Sorrento and continued on to Naples, that same day! It was only another hour drive from Sorrento and we arrived in the evening. Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures in Naples. We were visiting a friend and with the late arrival time it just didn’t happen! However, if you do this trip yourself I recommend you visit Caffe Sospeso which you may have heard of or seen from the Netflix show “Coffee for All”. Visit the city center and duomo and eat some delicious Italian food!
STOP 8: Tropea
From Naples we began our journey back to Sicily. We only made one stop for the night on the way back after 4 and a half hours of driving – that was in the quaint and scenic town of Tropea. I seriously fell in love with this adorable little town which is why I recommend you to stay here twice if you do this road trip, once on the way to Naples and once on the way back to Sicily. We parked our car in this public lot (which you can actually see in the pictures above) and climbed up many steep stairs to get to the city center where our hotel was located. (Here is the parking lot address: 89861 Tropea, Province of Vibo Valentia). Depending on where you book, most hotels in Tropea will not have private parking due to the small size of the town; so you will have to make due – thankfully there are large public parking areas all around. I think we paid €20 to park over night (roughly 4p-9am).
Near the parking lot is a beautiful sandy beach with the most clear and turquoise blue water I have ever seen. Since we arrived so late in the afternoon, we actually ended up taking a swim after dinner. The water is illuminated by the lights which brighten up the church in the evening so you can clearly see where you are swimming late at night. If you visit during the summer time, expect the beaches to be busy during the day and save your swim for later – trust me the water will be plenty warm and just as beautiful!
There was a lot to do and see in Tropea while we were there for the evening. There were street vendors set up selling food and various Italian souvenirs. There were shops, cafes and restaurants all open to accommodate the summer tourism traffic. Ugh I just loved this place, I think you will too!
Where we stayed –
Since we were only in each town for one night, we did not look for any special accommodations. I booked all of our hotels through booking.com and they were all less than €100/night. When looking for hotels, I made sure they were in the city center or near the ferry port, always planning ahead. Overall, I mainly focused on the cities I wanted to stop in based on how far of a distance they were from one another and what they all offered in terms of tourist attractions I’ve always wanted to see or do. And that’s it – the plan all came together!
What do you think? Will you go on an Italian road trip?
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