Published on: 15 January 2016 | Last updated: 13 January 2020
This tour takes in some of the most glorious stretches of Italy’s coast: starting with the Costiera Amalfitana (Amalfi Coast) and then the Costiera Cilentana part of the Cilento national park. It finishes with a short, but spectacular, section along the coast of Basilicata and into Calabria.
For much of the way the route follows the roads that were built in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, carved out of the rocky cliff faces, to provide transport links to remote communities that were previously only been reachable by sea.
Along the length of the road are groves of lemon and olive trees, on terraces that go down the cliff face to the edge of the sea. There are also more than 50 defensive watchtowers built to protect the coast against pirate raids.
At a glance
Moderately challenging.The route is moderately challenging in that there’s a fair amount of climbing along the way, but none of the climbs are very long or steep.
The busiest section of the route is on the Amalfi Coast between Sorrento and Salerno. The roads after that are relatively quiet, but are likely to be busy in the peak tourist season in August. I’ve suggested ways to deal with the traffic on the Sorrento-Amalfi section (see the first article in this series), but if you are inexperienced or nervous in traffic you might want to think about avoiding this section.
Almost entirely on asphalt-surfaced public roads.
When to go
The ideal times to do this route would be early and late Summer, avoiding August and the peak tourist season. This is partly because of the temperature, but also because the roads will be quieter.
Map and altitude profile
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|Sorrento to Salerno||76 kms|
|Salerno to Agropoli||47 kms|
|Agropoli to Acciaroli||35 kms|
|Acciaroli to Palinuro||52 kms|
|Palinuro to Sapri||49 kms|
|Sapri to Praia a Mare||32 kms|
|Praia a Mare to Scalea||18 kms|
The Nastro Azzurro (Blue Ribband) road between Sorrento and Amalfi is rightly well known as one of Italy’s most scenic coastal roads, but there are long stretches of the rest of the route that are every bit as dramatic, but with less traffic.
In between the Amalfi and Cilento coasts there are the remains of the Greek city of Paestum, the finest ancient Greek site on mainland Italy, and definitely a match for any of the ancient Roman sites.
You can, of course, go south to north, but to my mind, it works best going north-south, as you are riding on the side of the road closest to the sea and with the best views.
Places along the way
The star of the show is definitely the landscape, but nevertheless there are plenty of charming and atmospheric places to enjoy. Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi are the best-known destinations, but there are plenty of other charming and atmospheric places along the way.
Salerno is the largest town along the route (and provincial capital). It has a charming centro storico with some impressive medieval aqueducts. Its archaeological museum gets good reviews; its star exhibit is a bronze head of Apollo. Salerno was home to Europe’s first medical school (founded in the 9th century), and also the scene of the Allied landing in Italy in September 1943. A critical first step in the liberation of the continent it has been overshadowed by the Normandy landings that took place in June 1944.
The remains of the ancient Greek city at Paestum are one of Italy’s best sites from the classical world.
Maratea (not to be confused with Matera) isn’t particularly well known outside Italy, but for Italians, it’s one of the hottest (or do I mean coolest?) tourist destinations.
There are some beaches on the Sorrento and Amalfi coasts, but the best bets are further south on the Cilento and Basilicata coasts. Among the 15 beaches in Italy to be awarded the prestigious 5 Vele (five sails) from the environmentalist organisation Legambiente and the Touring Club Italiano, there are four along the route: Pollica, Acciaroli and Pioppi, Camerota and Maratea.
Getting there and back
Getting to Sorrento is tricky. It is possible, to ride from Napoli. However, it is tricky to navigate out of the city and then the climb from Vico Equense to Seiano is on a narrow and busy road — definitely not the best introduction to riding in Italy. I really wouldn’t recommend this if you have only just arrived or if you are an inexperienced rider.
Although I haven’t used this service myself it looks to me that the best option is to take the Alilauro boat service to Sorrento. (Update: thanks to Chris C for getting in touch to confirm that it is indeed a good option). This boat leaves from the Molo Beverello. The service runs every two hours - but note that the service doesn’t run on weekends or holidays. The fare (in 2020) is €13.20 plus 6€ for your bike. For information on times and fares go to alilauro.it: Napoli-Sorrento timetable and fares. You can also book online, but if you do, don’t forget to print out your ticket.
There is a train station at Sorrento (on the Circumvesuviana line. According to the local cyclists’ organisation Spacca Napoli Bike, you can now take bikes on these trains, but this is at the discretion of the capo del treno, and if the train is busy you may not get on. The train to Sorrento also stops at the Pompei archaeological site, so it’s probably a good idea to time your journey to avoid the rush of tourists heading for Pompei. The Circumvesuviana trains leave from the Porta Nolana and Garibaldi stations and not the main Napoli Centrale station.
The route ends at Scalea where there’s a station (official name: Scalea - Santa Domenica Talao) where you can get a regional train back to Napoli.
I rode this route as part of a longer ride from the border with Lazio south through Napoli and then continuing on to Tropea in Calabria. If you are planning to do this route as part of a longer route, then it’s definitely do-able, but you will face a couple of long very dull sections from the border with Lazio to Pozzuoli, north of Napoli, and south from Scalea to Pizzo on the Calabria coast.
For other options in the unspoilt Cilento national park check out the laviasilente.it.
I did this route in two parts, with a tour of Sicilia in the middle - making use of the regular ferry service from Salerno to Palermo in Sicilia operated by Grimaldi Lines.
Places to stay
Hotels and B&Bs
Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi are also the main tourist centres for the area, but there are a number of other centres along the way. You shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding a hotel bed. Prices on the Amalfi Coast are higher than elsewhere in the region, and in Italy generally, but if you book ahead you should still be able to find somewhere at a reasonable price, especially if you avoid the big-name tourist centres.
Find and book places to stay with Booking.com
Booking.com area pages:
About these links
If you use these links to book accommodation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.
I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirmation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accommodation.
I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the opportunity to let me know if there’s a problem.
Many properties offer free cancellation but it’s a good idea to check the conditions as these vary from property to property.
There are a number of hostels on the coast between Sorrento and Salerno but after that, there aren’t any until you get to Praia a Mare. However, there are a lot more reasonably-priced accommodation options —including renting a ‘bungalow’ in a campsite.
There are a couple of campsites in Sorrento that are convenient for the route as well a couple of other campsites along the Amalfi coast, that aren’t so easy to get to from the route.
There are plenty of sites around Paestum. There are a fair number of sites further south, but bear in mind that these may only operate for a relatively short summer season (eg opening in June or July).
Transport and services
Train stations along the route include Salerno, Paestum-Capaccio, Pisciotta-Palinuro, Sapri, Maratea, and Scalea.
General tourist information
- discoverbasilicata.com is an official tourist information site for the Basilicata region
- aptbasilicata.it is the older, but still useful, official site for Basilicata
- turiscalabria.it is the tourism information site for Calabria
- promozione.cilentoediano.it is an official site for the useful Cilento national part. It’s useful but it’s only in Italian
- parks.it: Parco Nazionale Cilento has lots of useful information in Italian and English.
- greenme.it: Le 10 Spiagge Più’ Belle Del Cilento
- touringclub.it: Qual è il mare più bello della Campania?. The top ten seaside resorts in Campania according to the Touring Club Italiano.
Maps to print out or view offline
The zip files contain pdf files packaged together for convenience. If you are using a tablet you may find it easier to download the individual sections.
Show map download links for individual sections
Southern Tyrrhenian Coast A4 maps
- Southern Tyrrhenian-Coast: Part 1 (Sorrento — Salerno): A4 maps
- Southern Tyrrhenian Coast: Part 2 (Salerno — Acciaroli): A4 maps
- Southern Tyrrhenian Coast: Part 3 (Acciaroli - Sapri): A4 maps
- Southern Tyrrhenian Coast: Part 4 (Sapri - Scalea): A4 maps
Southern Tyrrhenian Coast A5 maps
About the maps
The maps are in two versions: A4 portrait format - for printing and maybe also for viewing on an iPad, and A5 for smaller tablets and smartphones. (A4 and A5 are international paper sizes).
Links open in new windows unless you ‘save as’ etc.
- The Southern Tyrrhenian Coast gps files
(.zip file containing 4 gpx track files and one waypoint file)
- Italy Points of Interest
POIs are like waypoints, but while you can usually only store a limited number of waypoints on a device, you can store thousands of POIs. These files include information about campsites and hostels, bike shops, train stations, drinking water sources as well as warnings for tunnels and roads where bikes are banned. Please check the ReadMe file for instructions. Updated April 2018. The file format is only compatible with Garmin GPSes .
Articles in this series
- Southern Tyrrhenian Coast overview
- Southern Tyrrhenian Coast Part: 1: the Costiera Amalfitana from Sorrento to Salerno
- Southern Tyrrhenian Coast: Part 2: the Costiera Cilentana from Salerno to Acciaroli
- Southern Tyrrhenian Coast: Part 3: The Costiera Cilentana from Acciaroli to Sapri
- Southern Tyrrhenian Coast: Part 4: Basilicata and Calabria from Sapri to Scalea