You might want to rethink renting a car in Amalfi this summer. If you’re looking for something less crowded and complicated, we offer scenic alternatives along the Italian coast.
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In his travelogue Positano, John Steinbeck called the destination “a dreamy place that isn’t quite real when you’re there and becomes unmistakably real after you’re gone”. This may have been the reason for the arrival of the first tourists to the famous Amalfi Coast in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was still just a string of fishing villages. Today, however, traffic on the scenic coastal route is a nightmare. The road itself is quite strenuous, with switchbacks and narrow streets hugging the cliffs, but add summer traffic and the situation becomes infuriating.
Today, after numerous campaigns by local associations and a petition signed by more than 10,000 inhabitants, ANAS (Azienda Nazionale Autonoma delle Strade), the company responsible for Italy’s national roads and highways, is enacting new restrictions. During peak hours in the summer, cars traveling on the busiest part of the SS 163 (the stretch of the Amalfi Coast between Positano and Vietri sul Mare) will be subject to an alternative license plate system. On even days, cars with plates ending in an even number are barred from the road, while on odd days, cars ending in an odd number will be barred.
Residents of the 13 towns along the coast, as well as taxis and NCCs (cars with hired drivers), public transport and police and emergency vehicles will be exempt, but the rules will be apply to rental cars. The restrictions will be in effect on weekends from June 15 to September 30 and throughout August from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They will also be applied during Holy Week around Easter and the dates from April 24 to May 2, which includes Liberation Day. (April 25) and Labor Day (May 1).
The new rules also completely ban vehicles over 10.36 meters (about 34 feet) long. Motorhomes and vehicles with trailers will only be able to access the road between midnight and 6:30 a.m. Local police are responsible for enforcing the regulations and should issue fines, but the amount of the fines is unclear. The new rules will no doubt cause some confusion, especially for travelers who deal with car rental companies. And while visitors can get cars with the correct license plate numbers, parking is a huge problem. So if you are planning to visit the Amalfi Coast this summer, it might be best to avoid driving and travel by boat, bus or taxi.
“Our clients mainly come from the airport and we organize a private transfer for them. Our reservations department will of course inform the few people who arrive with their own car or a rental car of the travel restrictions and possibly help them organize an alternative transfer. So these travel restrictions will come as no surprise to anyone,” Antonio Sersale, owner of Le Sirenuse in Positano, the iconic hotel where Steinbeck stayed in 1953, told AFAR. “Over time we will see if there will be any improvement in terms of less traffic on the road and of course that is something we would welcome. The main problem with these restrictions is that our staff are commuting from a distance of 50 km – it gets even more complicated and difficult – but they are heroes and will overcome all difficulties.
Alternatives to Amalfi along the Italian coast
Prefer to avoid crowds and traffic? With over 4,700 miles of coastline, Italy is full of attractive beach destinations if you’re looking for an alternative to the Amalfi Coast.
The heel of the boot, Puglia is a favorite summer destination for Italians thanks to its beaches, which has earned them the nickname “the Maldives of Italy”. Valle d’Itria is home to a series of villages that have earned the designation of borghi piu belli d’Italia (The most beautiful villages in Italy), such as Cisternino, Locorotondo and Alberobello, which has also been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status for its well-preserved trulli (distinctive white houses with conical roofs). It is also home to luxury resorts like Masseria Torre Maizza and Blue Flag beaches (an international designation awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education to beaches that meet strict criteria for cleanliness and sustainability) with crystal clear waters and chic beach clubs.
Sicily is another option with plenty of beaches, charming towns, archaeological sites and delicious cuisine. The eastern part of the island is lined with a series of Baroque towns like Syracuse, Ragusa, Taormina and Noto, as well as bustling fishing villages like Marzamemi. Between them are a series of picturesque beaches to explore. To the northwest of the island you’ll find the bustling city of Palermo, famous for its Byzantine chapel and bustling open-air markets, as well as seaside resorts like San Vito lo Capo, gateway to the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro, First Nature Reserve in Sicily; it offers many hikes, sunbathing in creeks and swimming in clear waters.
Islands in the Bay of Naples
If you want Amalfi Coast vibes without the traffic, consider staying on one of the islands in the Bay of Naples, like Capri, Ischia, or Procida. Yes, Capri will also be crowded, but it’s small enough that you can walk or take a taxi everywhere, and when the day-trippers leave in the evening, the island becomes much more relaxed. Ischia, meanwhile, is the largest of the three islands and still feels a bit under the radar. It is known for its thermal springs which have attracted health-seeking visitors since the days of ancient Greece. Procida, Italy’s Capital of Culture this year, also has picture-perfect colorful houses overlooking the sea and is a charming destination for intrepid travelers wanting to practice Italian.
>> Next: The best travel stories about Italy
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