Thinking about how romantic it would be to drive the Unesco World Heritage Site of Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy? Think again. In this article we’re going to share how driving the Amalfi Coast Road was one of the most hair raising experiences of our lives that within eights hours of picking up the car rental in Naples, a tow truck was taking our car away and I was sat there in tears wondering how we were going to continue our Italian road trip.
Truth is, we decided our Italy road trip had to change and so even though we said goodbye to a very expensive car hire, we changed our entire holiday and took trains instead. This meant we had to cancel airbnb bookings which we couldn’t get a refund for and the expense of our holiday increased a lot.
We don’t want you to make the same mistakes which is why we’re bringing you this guide for why you really shouldn’t drive Amalfi Coast in a rental car.
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Table of Contents
Firstly only one of us could drive
This might not mean much to most of you, but I was the only one who could drive on our Italian road trip because Steve only had a digital drivers licence from NSW in Australia. My licence is from Queensland which is a hard copy I keep in my wallet. Because Steve had a digital licence, they wouldn’t accept it.
I also paid for an International Drivers Licence but Europ Car didn’t look at it when we went to pick it up.
Usually on a trip like this, Steve would do most of the driving in the rental cars we’ve used. I didn’t feel comfortable about it as soon as I saw the driving in Naples. But, I picked up the courage and wanted to continue our planned road trip anyway. Just to be clear, we only found out Steve wasn’t going to be able to drive just two days before we landed in Italy.
We’ve also been on some crazy roads around the world before and even cycled down Death Road in Bolivia. We thought we could drive Amalfi Coast road with no problems at all, but we were wrong.
10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Drive Amalfi Coast In A Rental Car
1. Italian drivers are crazy
You might see people on Instagram act like the Amalfi Coast is a super romantic drive, but you’ll quickly realise it’s far from it.
As soon as we landed in Italy, we took a cab to our accommodation in Naples for the night. I realised that I had no idea how on earth I was going to be able to drive the roads there. Cars weave in and out and they’ll beep at you for anything.
When we were driving along the Amalfi Coast, I had cars behind me and in front of me beeping at me while driving next to steep cliffs on narrow roads. To say it is intimidating is an understatement. I’ve seen crazy driving in Vietnam and India, but Italians are crazy.
2. You won’t actually see any of the Amalfi Coast while driving
One thing that really bothered me is the fact that I felt like I missed out on the experience because I spent the whole time concentrating so hard on driving that I couldn’t really take any of it in or see anything. You have to drive right next to the cliff and the road is so narrow that coming from Australia and being used to driving on the left made it even more difficult.
3. You can’t really stop anywhere
You’re probably wondering why didn’t we stop and take it all in during the drive. I would have loved to, but to be honest, there’s nowhere to stop on along the Amalfi Coast drive. If parked cars aren’t lined up near to the towns on the side of the road you might see a small side of the road to pull into. The problem is pulling back out onto the incoming traffic driven by lunatics.
4. Tour buses are the scary part
I literally have no idea how they do it but you’ll see loads of massive tour buses coming towards you on these tiny cliff side roads. It’s insane how they manage to drive Amalfi Coast but they do it. At one point I had a coach coming towards me that I felt like we were stuck. He was beeping at me, the car behind was beeping at me and there wasn’t really anywhere I could go to let him pass.
Every little budge backwards, the bus drivers would come right at me. It was so intimidating, the only thing I could do was laugh.
5. Try not to run any tourists over
You’re driving on a tiny road right on the cliff and you’ve got the cars coming towards you and behind you as well as the buses all beeping at you, and then you’ve got the tourists aimlessly walking out on the road as well when passing through the towns. It’s so full on, the problem is you’ll want to drive slowly to avoid any accidents but it’s so intimidating that you don’t know how to drive it.
6. Fuel is expensive
Fuel is really expensive in Italy and cost over €2 per litre which is the equivalent of $3 AUD. It would have cost us way more to drive in Italy than to take the train to be honest as the car hire for 12 days cost us $1500 which we didn’t get back.
That’s right, our eight hour road trip along the Amalfi Coast cost us $1500!
7. Parking is impossible & expensive
Parking is really expensive in the Amalfi Coast, let alone hard to find. Our airbnb host offered us parking a few kms away from the apartment for €30 a night. We were also going to Cinque Terre up near Florence which is similar to Amalfi Coast and it was the same there too. I’m not sure how we would have found parking for most of our trip to be honest.
8. Check your rental car for spare tyres
Wondering why we got a tow truck at the end of our Amalfi Coast road trip? Just as we were pulling up to our airbnb in Amalfi, I pulled over onto the side of the road so we could unpack our stuff before trying to find the expensive car park. As I pulled in, I mis judged the curb and hit it slightly. The wheel blew straight away and we had to call Europ Car because there was no spare tyre in the back.
Europ Car wanted to send a tow truck to pick it up, then they would send another car out to us. We realised straight away our driving days in Italy were over and told them not to bother. We read the fine print and it said we wouldn’t get a refund. We decided that we didn’t want to pursue it because although we essentially paid $1500 for an eight hour rental car, we didn’t want it to continue to ruin our trip.
We sat in our airbnb for two hours waiting for the tow truck to turn up before saying goodbye to our road trip.
9. You’ll probably finish with your partner
When I posted about our experience on our Instagram page, we heard from many of our followers who said they literally nearly broke up with their partners while driving the Amalfi Coast. To be honest, I don’t blame them. We nearly did too (the above photo was taken the day after we decided to not let the road trip ruin our entire holiday).
It’s such a stressful experience and while you might wonder what the problem was with blowing a tyre, it wasn’t really about that. The whole experience was so awful that imagine driving through tunnels on a side of a cliff that are only wide enough for one car, while not being able to see if another car is coming.
Imagine driving on the other side of the road than what you’re used to, on a road that’s so narrow, you’ve got car behind and in front of you telling you to hurry up because you’re not driving fast enough.
Even Steve who has driven in so many countries said there was no way he would have driven the Amalfi Coast road at all.
10. Still want to drive the Amalfi Coast?
If you still want to tackle the Amalfi Coast drive, then do yourself a favour and hire the smallest car you can find. We hired a Fiat500 but you can hire even smaller ones. Do not hire a big car whatever you do. You’ll want a car so small so that you can navigate your way around them.
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Instead do this…
You know what, even though our first day was disastrous, we just absolutely loved the beautiful Amalfi Coast in the end. It is an absolutely incredibly beautiful part of the world when you can actually take it all in and not drive it.
So I would recommend doing the following if I were you.
Hire a moped or driver
If you want to still want to experience the Amalfi drive, hire a moped or a driver to take you from Sorrento to Amalfi. You’ll want to do the drive from that direction so that you can see the views as you’ll be driving on the right hand side next to the ocean. A moped would be much easier to get around personally as you’ll be able to stop much more easily, but just be super careful when driving the road and try not to drive in peak hours.
Take the bus
After we said goodbye to the car, we took the bus around and it was awesome to finally sit back and watch someone else handle the driving instead. It also gave me time to take in the beautiful towns and capture some images too. We went up to Ravello and I’m so glad we took the bus as the road becomes even more narrow. I think I would have had a heart attack trying to drive up there.
The only thing with taking the bus is be prepared for the time of the year you go. We visited at the very end of April when it wasn’t too busy. A follower or ours went just a few weeks later in May and said the buses were so busy, they had to wait an hour to get on one to the next town because they were so full. If you’re visiting in the Summer months, I would take the ferry and pre-book.
Enjoy the ferry rides
When we woke up the next morning after an awful driving experience driving the coastal road, we went down to the ferry in Amalfi town and jumped on the ferry to Capri which is absolutely beautiful and a must visit. The ferry ride is incredible because you get to see the road and the breathtaking views of the coastline from a different perspective. You can catch a ferry from the following: Salerno – Amalfi – Positano – Sorrento – Capri.
On the way to Capri, you’ll stop off in Positano to see the panoramic views from the boat (if you’re not already staying there) and that in itself is worth the ferry ride. It is an unbelievable sight and so beautiful, no photo or video would ever do it justice.
If visiting in Spring, bring some warm clothes for the ferry, it’s freezing! The sunshine is warm though when not on the boat. It’s not hot enough for a swim in the beach at the end of April/early May to be honest (especially if you live in Australia).
Once we ditched the car, we felt like we could properly enjoy ourselves. We only spent a few days in Amalfi but I can’t believe we managed to turn around an awful experience into it a spectacular one, becoming one of our favourite places in the world. If you’re looking to do a day trip to Amalfi Coast, jump on a tour. It would be by far the easiest option.
If you’re wondering which town to stay in Amalfi Coast, we would recommend the town of Amalfi. It is stunning and not nearly as busy or as expensive as Positano. We can’t wait to go back and go to the sunrise concert at Villa Rufolo in the nearby romantic Ravello which has spectacular views of the coastline from the beautiful gardens. Now that is a bucket list we can’t wait to tick off!