Italy’s Amalfi coast is one of the country’s most beautiful regions, boasting vast lemon groves, pretty pastel buildings, sparkling blue sea and dramatic cliff-top views. It’s a destination right at the top of many people’s wish lists, but is renowned for being incredibly busy and expensive. As I’ve just returned from a weeklong trip to the region, I’m sharing my top tips for visiting the Amalfi coast.

Travel in shoulder seasons

I visited the Amalfi coast at the beginning of October and still experienced large crowds. If you are planning on visiting this area, I would recommend avoiding July and August and travelling in May/June or September/October. We enjoyed temperatures in the mid-twenties, plenty of sunshine and a wonderfully warm sea to bathe in—much more pleasant than pushing your way through crowds in stifling hot temperatures.

Ten Tips for Visiting the Amalfi coast - The Wise Traveller - Sorrento

Base yourself in Sorrento

Positano may look beautiful in photographs, but it isn’t the best place to base yourself if you plan on exploring the entire region. The streets are narrow, with lots of steep steps, the hotels and restaurants are expensive and it is completely crammed with day-trippers. Instead, base yourself in Sorrento where you can enjoy an equally beautiful city with more affordable accommodation, more choice of restaurants and fewer crowds.

Wake up early

Whether you want to hike The Path of the Gods, take a boat trip to Capri or explore the ancient ruins of Pompeii, set your alarm for an early wake-up. The best way to avoid the crowds is to be the first to arrive. You can spend your mornings exploring, followed by a late lunch (Italian style) and savour your afternoons for relaxing by the pool or swimming in the crystal-clear sea.

Try all the food

Italian food is delicious! The Amalfi region is known for its pizza, caprese salad and fresh seafood, but make sure you also try a variety of pasta and risotto dishes. When exploring the towns, keep your eyes peeled for tasty street food such as large slices of Neapolitan pizza and warm arancini. Make sure you save plenty of room for gelato!

Don’t hire a car

The roads in this region, especially around Positano and Amalfi, are known for being terrifying. You’re best hopping on one of the very affordable buses that run between all of the towns, leaving the driving to the experienced locals. Not only will this save you from negotiating the steep bends, but you can also  sit back and admire the views.

Ten Tips for Visiting the Amalfi coast - The Wise Traveller - Coast

Budget for paying for your deck chair

All along the Sorrento peninsula you can admire the sparkling water at the bottom of the cliffs – but it’s harder than you think to find the perfect swimming spot. Most of the coastline in the towns is taken up by beach clubs, where you will have to pay a fee of up to €30 a day to hire a deck chair. These prices are reduced at the end of the season – I paid €5 for a day at a beach club in mid-October.

Don’t rely on the buses

The buses are the ideal way to get around and visit the different towns on the Amalfi coast, but in peak season they are likely to be full. Leave plenty of time for queuing for buses, and look into alternatives such as taking the ferry. I took the ferry from Sorrento to Positano and back, giving me the opportunity to admire the coastline and watch the sun set during the return journey.

Take a boat trip

The best way to experience this coastline is by boat. Whether you simply take the ferry from Sorrento to Positano, book a boat trip with swimming stops around the island of Capri or opt for a private hire to enjoy the water at your own leisure, taking a boat trip should be an essential part of your trip. Visitors to Capri in particular should enjoy the views of the island and its grottos by boat, before disembarking.

Ten Tips for Visiting the Amalfi coast - The Wise Traveller - CapriStay overnight in Capri

Capri is notorious for being crowded and expensive – but is much quieter at night when the day-trippers leave. In the evenings, you can enjoy wandering around the island, admiring the pretty streets, swimming in the turquoise water and watching the sunset.

Try the limoncello

During your travels around the region, you will likely spot plenty of lemon trees and huge lemons in the grocery stores. The Amalfi coast is famed for its lemon groves, producing a local liqueur called limoncello. Ask for a limoncello (served as a shot that you sip) after your meal, and visit one of the many shops selling bottles to take home with you.

Emma Lavelle is a UK based writer and photographer and has her own blog Field and Nest.