One of the best beach holiday destinations in Europe is to head to the famed Amalfi Coast. Italy with kids is one of the best places to travel with kids because of the great mix of culture, history and activities as well as food even the fussiest eaters will enjoy. From Pompeii to Capri, beach to archeological sites, Italy with kids is not complete without visiting the absolutely charming Amalfi Coast.
A visit to the Amalfi Coast offers families a chance to experience legendary Italy, between the beauty of the region’s enchanting terrain, the freshness of its culinary traditions and the wonder of its archeological sites. Families go with a beach holiday in mind but leave with a sense of the timelessly elegant stature of Italy’s ancient culture.
Positano, Capri, Naples and the archaeological excavations at Pompeii are the most popular destinations to visit yet, for families, day visits to these more crowded areas while staying in some of the more kid-friendly and less crowded towns (and islands!) is preferable (such as the island of Ischia, a more family-friendly and less expensive alternative to Capri, or the Amalfi Coast towns of Praiano and Minori).
The Destination: Amalfi Coast With Kids
The region surrounding the Amalfi Coast extends from the Bay of Naples to the peninsula of Sorrento along to the famous “Costiera Amalfitana” [in Italian] which is dotted with seaside towns set in the dramatic cliffs along the sea: Positano, Ravello, Amalfi, Praiano, with noteworthy hamlets and fortifications in between ending finally at the Gulf of Salerno. Each area boasts archaeological sites such as Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Greek temple complex at Paestum where kids’ imaginations can run wild exploring ruins once occupied by famous Roman statesmen and emperors, Cleopatra, heroic adventurers of the ancient world and, according to myth, gods and goddesses.
Activities in the Amalfi Coast With Kids
From the port of Naples, families can take the major ferries or hydrofoils to most of the coastal destinations or islands, whether for a day trip or a longer stay. Plan for plenty of beach time a la dolce far niente (“sweet idleness”) at some of the charming beach clubs all along the coast or in famous bays on the islands such as Ischia Ponte or Marina Piccola on Capri.
During the summer, the Amalfi Coast hosts a number of exciting festivals typically celebrating the town’s saint’s day with a historical procession or tournament, fireworks and feasting. Among the most spectacular of these are The Festa di Sant’Anna and Praiano’s Luminaria di San Domenico.
The Festa di Sant’Anna in front of the medieval castle Castello Aragonese on Ischia every July 26 when a procession of boats parades in the bay in front of the island castle. The boats are decorated fantastically as floats in a competition, ending with a dramatic fireworks show that concludes with an a fiery boom, as if the castle is on fire.
Praiano’s Luminaria di San Domenico is a week of illumination in this beautiful town during early August when the piazza in front of the town cathedral is lit with thousands of votive candles and becomes the stage for nightly theatrics involving all manner of fire and ending, of course, with fireworks.
The archaeological excavation at Pompeii will inspire the whole family through a firsthand glimpse into the sumptuous daily life of an ancient Roman seaside resort. For families with older children, a hike up Mount Vesuvius, still an active volcano, is a great adventure with the bonus of magnificent views of the Bay of Naples.
The complex of ancient Greek temples inland at Paestum, south of Salerno on the plains, should be on the itinerary for those with a little more time to explore. Pack a picnic to enjoy among the ruins dating back to the 6th century BC, including the Temple of Hera, Temple of Neptune and Roman forum adorned with a Doric column portico, one of the most intact of its kind today.
For families who prefer more scheduled activities, the locals take great pride in their cuisine which makes for very fun cooking course possibilities in the area, known as the birthplace of pizza and for the lemons that seem to spring forth from paradise. In the tiny town of Minori, whose hillsides are famously adorned with terraced lemon groves that scent the breeze, children can explore the region’s history and culture with the Arte al Sole art workshops and cooking courses for kids.
[For more travel tips on things to do in Italy with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story Florence Insider.]
Food For Kids in the Amalfi Coast
The food typical of the Amalfi Coast is a dream for families: the area is famous for lemons, pastries, artisanal chocolates, pizza and fresh pasta. The summer festivals usually also have market stalls set up during the celebrations with rows of sweets, pastries, local delicacies and fried fish. The region is known for fluffy fried pastries with a hint of lemon zest or the infamous cannoli (a rolled, fried pastry stuffed with sweet ricotta fillings). One of the most famous pastry shops, or pasticcieria, is Andrea Pansa in the main piazza in front of the cathedral in the town of Amalfi. Enjoy an afternoon coffee break at one of the typical outdoor tables set up for people watching.
[For more travel tips on healthy food for kids while on family holidays, see the suitcases&strollers interview with a nutritionist here.]
Wherever you are staying on the Amalfi Coast, a boat ride to a cove for lunch and a swim is a dining must. Families with kids will enjoy the famous beach at Santa Croce restaurant. A boat for the beach club and restaurant leaves from the dock in the town of Amalfi (it is a blue boat labeled Ristorante Santa Croce) or private taxis can be organised from the docks in Minori, Praiano or Positano. For a light lunch the snack bar at the beach club serves simple sandwiches, pizza and ice cream all day. The swimming here is just perfect for kids complete with a grotto, of course.
Try pizza from practically anywhere along the coast as in this territory; it’s the ingredients that make it exceptional: the particular flour regionally milled just so for the crust, the fresh tomato sauce, soft mozzarella and sweet basil. For dessert, parents can enjoy a digestivo of limoncello, a classic of the area, while the kids can cool off with a lemon granita.
Family Friendly Accommodation in the Amalfi Coast With Kids
In the town of Amalfi the 5-star classic Hotel Santa Caterina is a family-friendly paradise with a safe beach club perched on the sea that also has a central seawater pool, cabanas, showers and a snack bar. The lifeguards will bring out a variety of toys, water sport equipment or floating devices for the kids. Whereas many stairs must be climbed to reach the sea in general in the Amalfi Coast, at the Santa Caterina, guests descend to the beach club area in a glass elevator with views beyond imagination. The customer service here is impeccable.
In Praiano, the family-run Hotel Tramonto D’Oro is centrally located in the middle of town with convenient parking perched just above the cathedral and the stairs down to the famous beach clubs at La Gavitella. The hotel’s infinity pool is large and fun for kids with expansive views looking back toward Positano. The dining in the hotel is superb and very kid-friendly, with the option of half-board to include dinner and breakfast with your stay. The hotel’s rates are very reasonable for the quality and service and they offer a larger number of triple and quad rooms comfortable for families than is typical in this area. The staff are very kind to children and happy to help with any needs. This is an amazing spot to stay during the Luminaria di San Domenico as the terraces of the rooms and the restaurant look over the cathedral where the festivities take place.
Just below the hilltop town of Ravello, the strip of coast known as the Marmorata, near the tiny village of Minori, is particularly appealing for families with children. Less crowded with safe coves for swimming and less boat traffic, this peaceful area is a dream.
The Best Western Marmorata offers great value for families with parking and a pool and small beach club, as well as family rooms that can accommodate a family of four.
The Practicalities of Amalfi Coast With Kids
The Amalfi Coast can be reached by arriving in Naples via train or air. Inter-Europe flights from other destinations in Italy or Europe on Ryan Air and Easy Jet are very economical, and the airport is convenient to the town of Naples.
[For a list of family friendly airlines compared, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
From either the central train station or the airport, families can rent a car and drive to the Amalfi Coast (for the driver new to the area one should plan on at least 1.5 hours). The drive is not far, but it is windy, with lots of hairpin turns and traffic.
There is also the option to schedule a hired driver to take you to your destination or take a taxi to the port of Naples and then take a ferry or hydrofoil to your Amalfi Coast town of choice. In all events, parents should be prepared for either car or sea sickness en route.
[If your kids are prone to kids travel sickness, see the suitcases&strollers handy travel tips for how to plan for road trips with kids.]
You will not necessarily need a car once you arrive on the coast as parking is scarce (and expensive) and driving along the coastal road is not convenient. Local buses serve all of the towns along the coast very well, yet can be crowded. The best option for getting around is the local ferries (traghetti). Each town has a centrally located tourist office where you can obtain the public transportation schedules and purchase bus or ferry tickets and there is also typically a ticket office at the dock. Your hotel concierge can assist you with these as well.
Because of the nature of the topography, generally you will need to descend and ascend stairs to access the beaches along the Amalfi Coast. If you are traveling with infants or small children plan to do your beach excursions without a stroller.
For a humourous list of travel tips on Italy with kids by a suitcases&strollers mum, see the suitcases&strollers story Dos & Don’ts In Italy (For Kids)