If you’re making your way down the boot to check out some of Italy’s gorgeous seaside towns, know that it’s Salerno that makes the best base when visiting the Amalfi Coast. Not Positano, not Ravello, not Amalfi. Salerno Salerno Salerno!
When I first visited the Amalfi Coast in 2019, I spent my week in Sorrento. And while Sorrento is a perfectly fine and lovely Amalfi Coast base, there’s definitely room for improvement. My next visit in 2022 showed me that improvement’s name is Salerno. And my latest visit in 2023 has confirmed this fact even more.
If the fact that I’ve said the word Salerno five times in as many sentences hasn’t convinced you yet, here are 13 of the biggest reasons that Salerno makes the best base when visiting the Amalfi Coast.
1. Salerno is so easy to drive to
The Amalfi Coast is many things: unfathomably gorgeous, delicious, magical, and, as Diane Lane can tell you, also a bit frustrating.
Driving to the Amalfi Coast
To get to the most well-known cities of Positano, Ravello, and Amalfi, for instance, requires navigating an impossible and terrifying route the long way around the mountainous coast. In short, what looks like just a few miles distance on a map will take you hours. And that’s not even considering the number of full-on traffic jams that clog the singular two-lane highway.
Sure, the views are beautiful and the experience is one you’ll certainly never forget. But it’s also unnecessary. Instead, one of the reasons Salerno makes the best base when visiting the Amalfi Coast is because you don’t need to take that dizzying route around the mountains to get there. In fact, you can drive right through them.
Yes, you can drive straight to Salerno from the center of Naples in just 42 minutes on a major highway. It takes twice that to get from Naples to Positano, and that’s only if you’ve been blessed with steady-moving traffic and a skilled Amalfi Coast driver.
Salerno or Sorrento?
This was actually the deciding factor that led us to stay in Salerno on our March 2022 trip to Italy. With no planned destination, my husband and I had just finished up exploring the Herculaneum ruins outside Naples and weren’t sure where to go next.
We were considering Sorrento since we’d been there a few years before and liked it, but we didn’t want to drive over an hour to get just across the bay. Instead, we saw Salerno was also on the coast and just a quick drive over the mountains!
2. Salerno has plenty of parking
If you’ve ever attempted to drive to or around the Amalfi Coast, one truth stands out above the rest – there is NOWHERE TO PARK. Sure, there are small parking areas here and there. But based on the number of people and cars that visit this region, chances are you’re going to be out of luck or out of tons of money.
This is yet another fantastic reason Salerno makes the best Amalfi Coast base – plenty of parking! And when I say ‘plenty,’ I mean Salerno has the biggest parking garage I have ever seen in Italy! And it’s brand new!
Need a rental car? Check out the best local deals here
Salerno is a much larger city than Positano or Amalfi to begin with, so there’s much more parking possibility here. When we visited in March, parking was not an issue at all. There are lots of parking garages, lots of street parking, and lots of parking lots.
Now, Salerno has a brand new and absolutely enormous underground parking garage in the most central of areas. You’ll find 700 covered parking spaces right there under the Piazza della Libertà.
3. You can take the high-speed train to Salerno
Say you’re looking to head to the Amalfi Coast by train instead of driving. Even better! (Big important note here: if you’re prone to motion sickness, you’ll want to avoid driving the Amalfi Coast.)
To get to Positano (et al) from Naples by train will take you almost 2.5 hours. That includes walking to the train station, taking the train, switching to a bus in Sorrento, then riding the god-forsaken SITA bus for 10 stops until you reach Positano.
Read more about riding the SITA bus around the Amalfi Coast in my post on hiking the Path of the Gods from Sorrento. Also, definitely add this hike to your itinerary!
That’s incredibly fast and direct! Salerno is so accessible, and for this reason alone there’s no doubt Salerno makes the best base for your Amalfi Coast trip.
If you want to take the train from any of those cities to Positano instead, you have to go through Salerno anyway! And wow do they take so much longer. Check out train routes to Salerno on the ItaliaRail website.
Looking for more great Italian destinations? Spend a couple of days in Tivoli, the enchanting hidden gem just 45 minutes from Rome!
4. So many beautiful things to see and do in Salerno
The Amalfi Coast in general is known for being one of the most beautiful destinations in Italy. And honestly, before I visited the first time I thought it must all just be hype… but NO. This place really outdoes itself.
But guess what? The insane magical beauty of the Amalfi Coast isn’t relegated to just Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, and the few others you‘ve heard of. It goes, quite literally, above and beyond. And Salerno is no exception.
If you’re thinking about making Salerno your Amalfi Coast base but you’re concerned you’ll be missing out on the area’s beauty, do not fear! This city is just as stunning as the rest. I have an entire post with all the best things to do (and eat) in Salerno, but here are a few of my favorites:
Arguably the most unbelievably gorgeous spot in Salerno is Minerva’s Garden. This 5-level mountainside botanical garden is pure Amalfi Coast bliss.
You’ll see all kinds of plants, flowers, and fruit growing here in an impossibly interesting location. You’ll be treated to jaw-dropping views of the city and coast and get to learn tons of cool stuff about ancient medicinal practices.
Fun fact: Salerno is the location of Schola Medica Salernitana, the world’s first and oldest medical school that’s also considered the forerunner of all modern universities.
There’s a cliffside patio here where you can sip tea in the sunshine. There are lemon groves and views for days. It’s like a dreamy wonderland hidden in the middle of the city.
The street art of the Muri d’Autore
Salerno has a secret hidden within her labyrinth of streets, and that is a vast collection of colorful murals and painted poetry. (This reminded me a lot of the art around Valparaiso in Chile, if that helps.)
Paying homage to local artist Alfonso Gatto, you can find these paintings all over Salerno, but mostly in the city’s oldest neighborhood, the Fornelle District.
Castello di Arechi
High above the already high city of Salerno is Castello di Arechi, the ruins of a medieval castle with roots in the 8th century.
Because these are indeed ruins, a visit here won’t take up a lot of your time. There’s a small museum, some walking paths, and lots of cool spaces to explore. There’s breathing room, cool breezes, and the chance to get away from city life and enjoy some AMAZING VIEWS. Plus, cows and goats.
Visiting a cathedral (or twelve) is a must on every trip to Italy, and Salerno is no different. Nay, here in Salerno this is absolutely mandatory.
Salerno Cathedral (or, Cattedrale di Santa Maria degli Angeli, San Matteo e San Gregorio VII) itself is rather “plain” on the scale of jaw-dropping Italian cathedrals. But, oh man does this place keep a secret. And that secret is its crypt. I’ve done my best here, but photos don’t even do this place justice.
Beneath the cathedral is the crypt of St. Matthew and it is otherworldly. The entire place is just… it’ll leave you speechless. Every corner of this massive space is simply stunning, covered in frescoes that depict the life and stories of St. Matthew, and more.
Also check out my post on Grotta Palazzese, the famous Italy cave restaurant, and what it’s really like to dine there (and if it’s even worth the cost).
5. Salerno Antica B&B is worth the visit alone
Let me tell you about Salerno Antica B&B, the absolute best thing about a visit to Salerno and the #1 reason I will continue to return to this awesome city. (Update: I just stayed there again in May 2023!)
After leaving Herculaneum, we decided to head to Salerno but didn’t have a place to stay. After some quick Google searches I ended up in a Whatsapp chat with Daniele, the owner of Salerno Antica. Since we were already en route, he sent me photos and prices with all the inclusions which immediately sealed our decision to stay there.
The best place to stay in Salerno
Upon arriving, we were greeted at the door and shown to our huge, comfortable, modern room. Then, he brought us a tray of snacks that included the best fresh mozzarella di bufala I have ever had. And I have consumed so much mozzarella di bufala in my day. That right there sold us on extending our visit to Salerno by another day.
He gave us restaurant recommendations and made a huge breakfast for us each morning. After breakfast he gave us a map and prepared a walking tour of the city for us that included the beautiful hidden gems above we definitely would have missed.
If you don’t have a Daniele in your life, check out this affordable Salerno guided walking tour with a local guide.
Daniele and I texted regularly throughout our stay when we had tourism questions and/or needed to find an open restaurant (stat!), and he even called a couple of museums for me when I couldn’t figure out if they were open or not. His recommendations led us to the #1 best pizza I’ve had in all my trips to Italy. (And, no, he did not have any clue what it is I do for a living.)
If it isn’t obvious, I cannot say enough great things about Daniele and Salerno Antica B&B. Do yourself a favor and at least follow him on Instagram and/or Facebook where he posts beautiful photos and the most enchanting Instagram stories. Signed, Salerno Antica’s #1 fan.
Salerno Antica B&B
As a place to stay, Salerno Antica is fabulous. It’s in the perfect location. You can walk everywhere and you’re surrounded by shops and restaurants and just a couple blocks from the water.
The room itself was huge, especially by Italy standards, and with a modern bathroom and shower! Like, a real shower. It had a balcony, a refrigerator, and everything else you could want from travel accommodation. 10/10 highly recommend.
6. Salerno has great food
While you don’t hear that much about Amalfi Coast food beyond lemons, lemons, and more lemons, Salerno certainly knocks it out of the park here. (This is still Italy after all.)
On our first night we had dinner at Ristorante Cicirinella and it was fabulous. Delicious food, delicious wine, adorable atmosphere, great service.
The next day we had a late lunch at Gli Esposito and my husband and I both swear it was the best pizzas we have ever had. And my husband is nowhere near as hyperbolic as I am, so that’s really saying something!
And every snack and breakfast we had in between was equally as good. On our last night we ended up at Banzai for sushi because we were still stuffed from lunch to eat a full Italian dinner. And guess what? The sushi was phenomenal, the service was great, and they even served us free champagne to celebrate International Women’s Day. I mean, really. Salerno is just delightful from all angles.
7. Salerno is convenient for exploring the rest of the Amalfi Coast
The purpose of this post is not to say that even though Salerno makes the best base for your Amalfi Coast trip, that you should avoid visiting the other cities. That’s definitely not my advice since the other cities are absolutely worth visiting.
But you can either do so in the most stressful, time consuming, and sweaty way possible, or the convenient way. Staying in Salerno is the convenient way.
It’s true that you’ll still need to take a bus (or hire a car) to get to the other Amalfi Coast towns. And yes, it’ll be on the same road you would take if you were coming from Sorrento.
But since Salerno is essentially “the end of the line,” that means you’ll have the benefit of going in the opposite direction of the crowds. You just may be able to sit down on the bus instead of standing up in the aisle while some cranky drunk woman shakes her fist in your face.
The bus crowds will be lighter, the traffic will most likely be lighter, and your trip to Amalfi, Positano, or Atrani should be relatively stress-free.
Don’t miss: All the Best Things to Do in Salerno: What to See, Where to Eat, & More!
8. Easily get around the Amalfi Coast and islands
In addition to Salerno offering more convenient driving options to the Amalfi Coast, Salerno also offers a number of ferry options as well.
From Salerno, you can easily take the ferry (an excursion in and of itself) to the towns of Amalfi, Positano, Vietri Sul Mare, Cetara, Maiori, and Minori via the Travelmar ferry service. Salerno is also a great place from which to take a day tour to the island of Capri.
9. It’s easy to see other surrounding areas too, not just the Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is great and definitely worth your time, but it’s not the only thing to see in this part of Italy. Luckily, Salerno is perfectly situated to see everything else too!
For starters, because of Salerno’s convenient location, visits to both Pompeii and Herculaneum are just short, easy drives over the mountains. (27 minutes for Pompeii, 36 minutes for Herculaneum.)
Likewise, the ancient Greek ruins at Paestum are just 45 minutes away. To get to Paestum (one of the area’s biggest attractions) from Positano, you’d have to go back up towards Naples, around, and then down in what will become at best a 2-hour drive.
Check out my post that covers all the easiest day trips from Salerno here!
10. Smaller tourist crowds
Because Salerno is pretty much a well-kept secret, that means tourist crowds are smaller here during the high season, and almost non-existent in the off-season.
The Amalfi Coast as a whole is utterly jam-packed with tourists during the summer. Like, just so stupid crowded it’s almost not enjoyable. But not so in Salerno. Because the city is so much bigger than the well-known Amalfi Coast towns, farther away, and mostly unknown, it will be like having it all to yourself.
That was certainly the case when I was there in March 2022 and May 2023. Besides myself and my husband, there wasn’t a tourist anywhere in sight. This was such a pleasure after ten years of traveling around Italy in the busy seasons.
11. Salerno is more affordable
Another bonus of Salerno’s under-the-radar status is that huge tourist crowds haven’t driven the prices sky-high. Don’t get me wrong, this is still Italy in whatever the heck economy we’re living in right now, but Salerno will reward you with a much more toned-down version of the price gouging you’d experience in the other Amalfi Coast cities.
Also, because Salerno is much bigger than the others and has more of everything—parking, grocery stores, restaurants, lodging options—competition works in your financial favor here.
12. Lots of history here
Besides ancient castles, Salerno also just so happens to be the location where Allied troops first made it onto the Italian mainland in 1943. Operation Avalanche (the amphibious landing at Salerno) would indeed snowball into the Battle of Cassino, then the liberation of Rome in 1944, and eventually Europe in general.
And for five months in 1944, Salerno actually subbed in as the capital of Italy! If you’re interested in Salerno’s World War II history, check out my post on exploring Operation Avalanche.
13. Salerno is quintessentially Italian
All Amalfi Coast towns are unimaginably stunning, but so much of what you see on Instagram is simply for Instagram’s sake. Salerno, on the other hand, felt 100% authentic and like you finally got to experience a quintessentially Italian city. Nothing about Salerno felt phony or like it was trying too hard. It all just felt so real. Without tourist mobs in sight, you get to experience the area’s real day-to-day life.
You see postcard-worthy scenes down every alley you turn… that weren’t actually created for the purpose of photo ops! You shop in stores where the staff doesn’t speak a word of English, and get yelled at by the grocery store cashier for not putting the proper sticker on your produce.
Everything you do in Salerno you do among the locals, because there really isn’t a tourism-heavy influence dictating its every move. Salerno is a real town, not a tourist mecca. Salerno is perfect and beautiful in and of itself, like “celebrities without makeup” who are still somehow cover girl material.
More info for your Amalfi Coast trip
- Where to stay in Salerno? I recommend reading reviews and booking your room here. If you’re not staying at Salerno Antica, that is.
- Don’t forget to pick up an Italy guidebook for your trip.
- This customs and culture guide to Italy is a must-pack item!
- Keep yourself and your belongings safe in Italy with these must-pack safety items.
Which of these reasons convinced you Salerno is the best base when visiting the Amalfi Coast?
Let me know below!
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