Traveling around Positano can be daunting; with tiny streets, steep steep stair climbs and weak public transportation, it’s a rough place to just ‘explore’ and stumble upon things. That said, if you have a few plans and set reservations from my recommendations, you will discover more stores, gelato stands and restaurants to add to your list as you walk around.
- More about your oliver guide: Stefanie Schoen
- Trip type: Adult, Group getaway, Beach
- Activity level: easy
to & from
Where to Stay
I would not recommend our AirBnB at all unfortunately. There were ants everywhere and the internet was terrible! I would advise that if you are looking for an AirBnB, pick one closer to the bottom of the hill, near the beach instead of high up. While the view is great, walking up those steps everyday makes for shopping, eating or doing anything without being completely exhausted impossible.
Villa Magia: If you have the funds, I would recommend staying at this private 7 bedroom estate. But if you don’t, no worries, as their patio bar and restaurant are open to the public and literally the most perfect, picturesque way to spend a sunset in Positano. I literally stumbled upon this place on one of my many hikes up to our Airbnb…. I was so out of breath I needed a place to stop, and just walked into basically the most beautiful scene I had set my eyes upon in Positano. This is a private home of a local family, that decided to renovate their space into a boutique hotel with 7 guest rooms, and they really spared no expense. The amazing thing is that it just opened in 2017 which means its still relatively unknown. Our group went there for drinks and aperitivo (a rare thing to find in Positano; trust us, we looked) and the food lived up to the view. We wanted to come back for more drinks and dinner, but alas… ran out of time. If you go here you must let me know! I feel like I discovered it (of course I did not really) but it was such an amazing find I hope to send more people their way!
Where to Eat and Drink
Next2: This was a more upscale restaurant mid way up the western side of Positano. Located on a very active and fun street, there are lots of surrounding restaurants and bars to go to before or after your meal. Our group of six loved our meal here. The food was delicious, the service spoke perfect english and knew how to have a great time, and the vibe was upscale but not snotty. Reserve your table ahead of time and try to be out on the patio- the warm Italian nights are perfect for dining alfresco.
Buca di Bacco: Buca di Bacco is right on the main beach walk and about a 2 minute walk from La Scogliera. It is a full service restaurant, but I recommend going there for the gelato and personal pizzas. We tried 3 different gelato places in Positano and we thought this was the best spot, which for 3 Euros you get two scoops of whatever flavor in either a cup or a cone. Sure, there are slightly cheaper places, but I thought the Fragola (strawberry) here was incomparable. The pizza stand is off to the right, and it’s made to order. For 6 to 8 Euro for a personal margherita or salumi pizza, you can take it back with you to your beach club and enjoy the perfect italian experience.
Restaurant Once Upon a Time: If you are staying somewhere near the top of the Positano hillside (in an Airbnb perhaps?) then this restaurant may be easy for you and for once, not a crazy long hike to get back from after dinner. It was right next to our Airbnb and we were all so pleased with the gorgeous view, the alfresco eating, the highly affordable menu, and the giant portions. We had too much to eat and drink here but it was perfect for a larger group and one of the most memorable restaurants of our trip. If you are not staying close, they do have a private shuttle where they will pick you up and drop you off, so just make a reservation ahead of time with your location and you can eat at the top of the mountain with 9 Euro pastas… Buon Appetito!
Da Vincenzo: This was a highly recommended local spot that is also about a third of the way up the Positano hillside. It has inside or outside seating, and truthfully, both are great. We sat inside which was awesome for the local Italian experience of loud, cowbell banging birthday songs (with the owner running around the room to get everyone involved) to the pizza oven, to the authentic pottery and textiles draped (and for sale) around the interior. Definitely recommend ordering the Beef pasta with Onion Sauce, the Shrimp pasta and the squash blossoms (which are actually amazing everywhere you go). There is also a partner store about two store fronts down that sells the textiles, pottery and aprons that they use in the restaurant, which can be a great way to take home a souvenir that really means something from your trip.
What to Do
La Scogliera Beach Club:
- This was the Positano beach club that we almost passed up on and boy are we glad we didn’t. On our last day in Positano we decided that just relaxing and enjoying the beautiful Mediteranean Sea was the perfect way to end the trip. If you’ve been to Europe before you know that they are very big on beach clubs. The beach itself is pebbly (not sand) and tiny, which means if you are traveling in high season, there is almost nowhere free to sit and lounge, so buying at a beach club becomes almost mandatory. There are tons of beach clubs a boat ride away from the main Positano beach, but La Scoliera is situated right on the main drag, all the way to the eastern end, with navy and white beach umbrellas, and sort of secluded from the craziness of the public beach. In the main beach club, you purchase seats ranging from 15 to 20 Euro person, and that’s all you get. No towel, no free shower, nada. At La Scogliera, you pay 45 Euro per person for beach great lounge chair with cushion, towel, separate table, chairs and umbrella for eating in the shade, showers, clean bathrooms, chilled bottled water brought to you AND… the best part…. floating mattresses in the sea for you to swim to and hang out on all day. Sure, you can order overpriced food and drinks there, but since you are on the main beach, its an easy walk right over to the main drag to Buca di Bacco to grab yourself a pizza and take it back to eat in your shady table and chairs area with your free water. More expensive? Sure. Worth every penny? You got that right.
- Rallo for Custom Leather Sandals: No guide to Positano is complete without mentioning the need to design a pair of leather sandals that are custom made to your tastes, colors, and foot size. There are a number of places that do this in Positano, and I looked at three of the most popular ones, but by far the one with the best selection, great prices and service was Rallo. The small shop is an easy, quick walk from the beach or the Positano bus stop, and the slightly set back shop front is what gives it better pricing. Once you walk in you will be overwhelmed by the options, but just start trying on the samples that they have there and sooner or later you will come up with one (or two, or three) amazing options that are comfortable, chic, and so well made. The process was a blast and seriously a fraction of what the price would be in America. I ended up buying two pairs, one simple summer sandal with shades of brown, and another more frivolous white beaded sandal with a slight heel. They cost 65 Euro for each pair after a little bargaining, but I probably could have gone even lower if we were buying more pairs. I am obsessed with both!
- Antica Sartoria: This is a local Italian chain for embellished beach coverups and embroidered white tunics. Although its a mini Italian chain (you can also find it in Rome), it felt like a Positano staple, as there is one right on the beach and next to the bus stop. Typically I avoid touristy places like this, but even though I avoided it the first day, I found myself coming back the second day and found a great cover up for my boat ride for 39 Euro (a steal for the amount of embroidery). Then, after a third day of intense heat, I found myself back in the store again, searching for even more flowy, easy pieces that will now be staples in my beach vacation wardrobe.
Day Trip to Capri for a Boat Ride:
- While I recommend arranging this ahead of time, there are many stands on the main Positano boat dock where you can speak to companies about hiring a boat to either drive yourself or be driven to Capri, for either 4 or 8 hours. The boat ride to Capri is about 1.5 hours and since there are so many beautiful hidden grottos and swimming holes that only a local/professional would be able to navigate, I recommend hiring someone to drive you for the full 8 hours.
- We were picked up at 9:30 in the morning on the main dock, had a huge lounging boat to ourselves which came with a cooler, wine and ice for use to pack even more food into, and off to Capri we went.
- Our driver pointed out Ravello and Sorrento, heading straight out to Capri for our first stop to see the main port. We decided to forego getting off at this port to have more swimming time, and we headed off to hidden grottos and swimming holes. We skipped the famed Blue Grotto because it was ridiculous tourist packed, the line to get in was too long, and you had to pay.
- Our driver Rafaelo knew of many more similar spots that were unknown to tourists, so we let him take the wheel and steer us to some incredible, beautiful spots.
- We stopped for 2 hours at a restaurant beach club in Capri at 1, and then when we were picked up at 3 it was more swimming time and lounging in the sun. As this part of the world is HOT in August, being on a boat all day was almost the only way to bear the extreme heat.
The cost was 800 Euros which is pricey, but all of us would have done it again. The sights you see from a boat are incomparable, and being able to swim in the open sea with a guided tour was exhilarating. Strongly recommend.
Drive to Pompei:
- Pompei is a 45-60 minute drive from Positano by car (we hired a private car service for the 6 of us) and really is a must-do if staying in this part of the Italian coast.
- While I would recommend having a least 2 hours to walk around the HUGE ruin site, we did a portion of it in an hour and while we wanted more time, it was getting hot out, so we couldn’t stand much more.
- Tips: get there 15 minutes before it opens and be first in line. For the first 30-40 minutes of our time in Pompeii, we were literally alone in the ruins. This was amazing for pictures and just so awe-inspiring. We had a shortened amount of time, but if doing it again I would have bought one of the audio tour guides as I think those are the best for seeing the parts of the ruin site that you want to see, without having to pay an exorbitant sum to a tour guide.
- If you do get a tour guide, you should not pay for more than 10 Euro a person for 2 hours.
- Seeing Pompeii is really an integral part of the Italy/Rome experience, and although I wish we had more time, it was better to see it for an hour than not at all!
Bring extremely comfortable shoes (no heels, nothing that rubs too much) and a great roomy beach bag. Your accommodations may not be close to the beach so going back and forth multiple times a day is difficult and you want to have everything with you. Remember Positano is on the coast and close to Naples, so expect lots of seafood and simple pizzas- this is not the part of Italy with traditional pastas, heavier wines and old world food!
We had dinner at Le Sirenuse because it was it’s an iconic destination and thought it was a must-visit. However, it was extremely overpriced and the food quality and service was not at the level I would have expected. Instead, walk through the lobby to check out the decor of the hotel and grab a cocktail on their rooftop bar, Franco’s. Get there early because it’s small and fills up quickly!