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Is it really dangerous to do the Amalfi Coast drive yourself

9 posts
Is it really dangerous to do the Amalfi Coast drive yourself


I am visiting Amalfi in May and am considering renting a car in Sorrento and doing the drive to Salerno myself. However I've heard it can be very scary for tourists - see the blurb I found online below. Is this really accurate? It seems a little dramatic to me.


If you do decide to drive the Amalfi Coast yourself...

If you are determined to take your life into your own hands, you can drive yourself along the twisting, death-defying Amalfi Coast down the SS163 from Sorrento to Salerno.

Here's a hint at how congested the traffic is: locals are allowed to drive only every other day of the week (odd numbered license plates one day, even numbered ones the next). And as the driver, ask your companion to take lot of pictures because you'll be too busy digging your fingernails into the wheel, violently pumping the brakes, and otherwise desperately trying not to end up smushed against the cliffside—or flying off it into the water 80 feet below.

Buses blare their horns when rounding blind, outside curves so you'll know they're coming. When you see them coming on the inside curves, stop before the curve itself so the bus—whose swing in such instances takes up both lanes—can get past. Also be prepared to put it in reverse and back up along with everybody else on the frequent occasions when the bus hasn't enough space and traffic going both ways has to ease back to make room.

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1. Re: Is it really dangerous to do the Amalfi Coast drive yourself

Check by yourself on youtube, there are many videos about the Amalfi Coast drive. I find it mostly boring by car, as it is a never-ending stop&go.

If it was so dangerous I guess you'd read about many car crashes on the web, did you?

New York
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2. Re: Is it really dangerous to do the Amalfi Coast drive yourself

It is an intense drive demanding driver pay very close attention and be ready to respond quickly to when buses need to back up and maneuver to allow cars to pass, etc - it is a narrow two lane road and clogged up with giant buses and hordes of cars (and, motorbikes) during high season - which May is already (though not yet as packed as June-Sept) -

I drive it still - but, only in off season. I love driving it but then I love driving curvy, winding roads but will never drive it again in high season - too much of a misery of sitting in traffic, smelling fumes from the buses and cars, etc - nothing much fun about it then (except for very very early in the morning before all the cruise ship tours/and other buses/traffic descend on the area).

It's up to you but given the traffic and difficulty in finding, and high cost of parking - I'd skip and use the ferries - they will begin running as of April 1 (weather permitting) - much more civilized, pleasant way to arrive and enjoy the coast - in my opinion.

Up to you, of course. You can look at youtube to see some videos of the drive -

Edited: 7 years ago
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3. Re: Is it really dangerous to do the Amalfi Coast drive yourself

We don't know the source of your quote, always useful to indicate source with a link.

This will provide some news reports on the road.


We don't know where you are from. If not from the EU you will need an International Driving Permit. We don't know if you are accustomed to driving on the right side of the road. We don't know if you have driven in Italy. There is, as in other countries, a distinctive style to Italian driving involving assertion and accommodation and experience in significant traffic in modest spaces and understanding that a millimetre is a miss.

We don't know if you drive a manual transmission car, which nearly all rental cars in Italy are.

This is practical information about driving in Italy


I know that in your other TripAdvisor discussion Bonjours has encouraged you to do the drive. I don't know what month he drove it. I know he comments very frequently here. I don't know how many times he has driven in Italy.

If I had not driven in Italy before I would probably nominate this as the least appropriate place to begin. I drove this road in 1969 and in 1979. It's busier now. This is how the road looked by bus in early March 2011


Traveling rural roads by bus in Italy I have greatly admired the skills of bus drivers, departing late, arriving early, imagining that they might go home and sit with a nice cup of tea and watch a Formula 1 race to relax...while other cells in my brain are wondering if like airline pilots they have regular medical checks. This is a pretty advanced driving situation to join. I'm sure in the tourist season you would not be the only inexperienced driver on the road. I raise my hat to the professional drivers in the tangle.

Driving the road in May will be crowded. If you are an experienced driver wanting an unusual driving experience it may suit. But you will as mentioned have to work hard. If you seek a scenic driving experience the driver will not get to see much. If you are a couple who tend to any kind of mutual fractiousness in difficult driving situations then this is not a good situation.

You indicated in other discussion that you plan to stay many days in Amalfi after Capri. How will you transfer?

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4. Re: Is it really dangerous to do the Amalfi Coast drive yourself

Italy09, you have not mentioned your home country and state or province in your profile. It would be helpful because it might give us some hint of your orientation (... as in the case of ultraconfident American drivers ... ) towards driving.

Although many of the guardrails would be considered "inadequate" in my own country, the U.S.A., I don't think the A.C. drive is life-threatening IN DAYLIGHT. It is vacation-threatening because it is so crowded and slow. In your other post you mention pulling off the road to take a photo. Have you ever been on any U.K. roads that are two-way, but consist of only 1.25 lanes? The A.C. drive is two-way, two-lanes, but has very, very limited opportunities to pull off. Indeed, one problem with navigation is that people (and their hired drivers) who discourteously pull-off at points where there is not space to completely exit the travel lane that they were in.

In May, I would guess that driving from Sorrento to Salerno and back would result in roughly 6-8 hours spent on the road, not counting any sightseeing. It cannot be predicted with any degree of precision. We passed several construction sites with flagmen and closed lanes! Now, I don't dispute that a car is very handy for visiting, for example, Paestum. But you haven't mentioned Paestum. A car is NOT handy for visiting Pompeii or Herculaneum. The Circumvesuviana is handy for that.

We did hire an expensive car and driver for an eight-hour visit to the A.C. from Sorrento, about 240 Euros. We got exactly what we wanted, with no worries about parking, towing, or navigation. One reason we were comfortable with this large expenditure was the long, long lines we saw every day in Sorrento for the SITA bus to Positano (change of bus required to go any farther.) I am not telling you how to spend your money, but only suggesting that you make a realistic decision, with both your eyes open.

Edited: 7 years ago
Los Angeles...
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5. Re: Is it really dangerous to do the Amalfi Coast drive yourself

Dennis, you outdo yourself (again):

"If you are a couple who tend to any kind of mutual fractiousness in difficult driving situations then this is not a good situation."

Brisbane, Australia
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6. Re: Is it really dangerous to do the Amalfi Coast drive yourself

I've driven a couple of times - first time in a Passat wagon and didn't get a scratch... surely worth some level of citation...) and been driven, and found pluses and minuses for each.


the freedom of choosing when and where to go

the feeling of being in control


there can be a lot of traffic

the traffic doesn't always comply with any sense of decorum or highway code

Sita buses emerge around corners and are bigger than you and are not going anywhere other than forward

scooters zip every which way like flies on.... well, whatever flies are attracted to....

parking is incredibly difficult to find at times and the driver can sometimes need to walk a coupe of kilometres to fetch the car

your life is in the hands of someone who may regard the 150m sheer fall your wheels are touching as a minor impediment to their mobile phone call

did I mention the traffic?

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7. Re: Is it really dangerous to do the Amalfi Coast drive yourself

I think much depends on how you feel about driving and how comfortable you are driving a standard shift car. Yes, Italy is not an easy country to drive in but... You have to realize as an American, driving in Australia the first time was not a piece of cake. We did this in August and drove all over from Brisbane, Melbourne and back to Sydney. In the October, we left for Wales to visit some horse farms in some of the smallest towns in Wales. THAT was hair raising! Since then, we have been back to Wales eight time and Australia to drive the Great Ocean Drive backwards from Adelaide to Melbourne and then back to Sydney.

From Sorrento area, I drove to Paestum (evening layover) and then drove the Amalfi Coast backwards. It wasn't easy but other than one experience with a big bus, I didn't think it was life threatening. My husband and daughter got to enjoy the drive more than I and I was very thankful when we pulled into our hotel just outside of Amalfi proper. Would I do again? Yes, without a doubt. Am I planning to do it on my next trip to Italy? NO.

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8. Re: Is it really dangerous to do the Amalfi Coast drive yourself

Thank you all for getting back to me. Here are some answers to your questions, and a few new ones.

First, my husband and I are in our mid-30's and from the US. This will be our first trip to Naples and Amalfi, but it's our third trip to Italy - we've spent 10 days in Venice, 5 in the Cinque Terre, 4 in Florence, 5 in Rome, and a few hours in Milan. My husband commutes into a city every day and is a confident driver in traffic, but neither of us have any experience with driving in Europe. We've never rented a car on our trips and have relied only on public transportation. Also we would not be comfortable with a manual, so we'd need to rent a car with an automatic transmission.

Dennis A, here's how we're transferring between locations:

Airport to Naples hotel - taxi arranged by Naples hotel

Naples to Capri - taxi to sea port, then ferry

Capri to Amalfi - ferry (both hotels are right on the water, so there is no inland travel)

Amalfi to Naples airport - taxi arranged by Amalfi hotel

We do not intend to rent a car for our entire trip. If we did it at all, it would only be to do the drive one time, and then we'd return it. However, based on what you guys have described, this does not sound like an enjoyable experience at all, so we've decided not to do it.

I found a transfer service on Viator that will take us from Sorrento to Amalfi for around $100. The listing doesn't say anything about stoping for photo ops, but it doesn't sound like there are that many rest stops anyway, and I imagine the driver would be willing to pull off the road a few times if we asked him too. This transfer sounds fine and would take care of the Sorrento-Amalfi part of the drive, so now I need to figure out the Amalfi-Salerno part of the drive (to be done on a different day).

We want to drive east/south down the coast so we have the best view from the car, so if I were to book a driver to take us from Amalfi to Salerno, what is the latest we could return to Amalfi by ferry in May on a weekday? The current ferry schedule says the last ferry is at 3:30pm, but I'm not sure if that's the last ferry year-round, or only in the off-season (since it's currently November). Could we take one around sunset?

Regarding the traffic, I assume that will be bad for any driver, including the public busses and private driving services. How many hours should we plan on for the Sorrento to Amalfi portion of the drive, including stops for taking photos? We'd like to do it in the late afternoon, during the beautiful evening hours, leading up to sunset. Also, any thoughts on which town would be the best to stop for a sunset?

For the Amalfi to Salerno portion, we'd like to do that in the late morning around 11am, so how much time should we build in for that? Does anybody have any suggestions or recommendations for a driver service?

Thank you again so much for all of your thoughts!! It is extremely helpful.

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9. Re: Is it really dangerous to do the Amalfi Coast drive yourself

That all sounds wonderful. Will you be nine days in Amalfi, as you wrote elsewhere? I think you'd have lots of time then for impromptu organisation, not least with regard for the weather.

As regards the summer and winter timetables you should see an end date for the winter timetable and then look for the orario estive, the summer timetable.

Your plan to travel to Amalfi should be beautiful, weather permitting. I have never done that but I imagine you in many ways can do better along the coast by sea than by road. Perhaps the ferry stops in Positano. You will pass nearby I expect, anyway. Lash yourselves to the mast and block your ears against the sirens. :-)


When you are in Amalfi you will find that from the great bus park by the tiny port that amazingly there are buses for destinations other than just along the coast, to places in the middle of the peninsula and beyond. Real local services.

I can't answer all your questions but do urge that you not program it all in advance. The best things can be the surprises. :-)

10. Re: Is it really dangerous to do the Amalfi Coast drive yourself

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