Updated: May 26
How we managed travelling with kids from Rome to the Amalfi Coast by public transport and didn't lose our minds, luggage or the children!
“How hard could it possibly be to get from Rome, with its extensive public transport system, to one of the country's most popular tourist destinations?” Umm, pretty hard it turns out...
First up, we were not new to #travellingwithkids when we attempted this. We'd done some overseas trips when our children were quite young, including one to the UK when they were just 4yrs and 7mths old. The trick was to keep it pretty simple - base ourselves with family, hire a car when needed and definitely pre-book accommodation. That adventure pre-dated smart phones and the convenience they bring to travel, including finding accommodation on the fly. We discovered the hard way that rocking up to the tourist bureau at 4pm to find a B&B no longer flies when you have a tired, crying baby!
For this trip in March/April 2016, we were going to England for a family wedding and because Australia is SO FAR AWAY FROM ANYWHERE, one must take advantage of the opportunity to fit more in! We were able to set aside 5 weeks, which went like this: 2 weeks in Yorkshire; 1 week in Scotland; a day at Legoland (this was non-negotiable!); 4 nights in Paris; 4 nights in Rome; 1 night in Pompeii and a relaxing 7 nights to wind it all up in Praiano on the Amalfi Coast. The boys were ages 9 and 6, and we reckoned they were ready to handle this next level of travel.....and that we as parents were up to it also! They didn't disappoint and took most of it in their stride - the waiting at airports, that one dodgy Airbnb, the huge days of walking, running to make our Eiffel Tour booking, the full-body contact experience of seeing the Mona Lisa, the smoking culture in Rome (they did complain about that quite a bit), selfie sticks being shoved in their faces incessantly, etc. But there came a point where I realised we had broken them, and that was getting public transport from Rome to the Amalfi Coast. Below is the end result of that particular journey....
This was a trip made in two parts, as we had a night in Pompeii on the way. The very fast train from Rome to Naples was lovely, although my ears had trouble with the 300km/hr speeds! Things moved MUCH slower on the next leg. We found the right platform at Naples to get the Circumvesuviana train and it was jam packed. The train was super late and we didn't manage to get on, clearly we didn't use our elbows enough and had too much luggage! So we waited some more and eventually another train came, which we squeezed on to. We were like sardines and this is when the kids started to lose their patience. They were tired, and sick of standing and being squished by adults. Eventually seats started to become available and one by one, we got to sit down (it doesn't help that our children generally refuse to sit next to strangers). Not long after we were all seated, a local woman discreetly alerted us to the fact that we needed to be closer to our luggage. A family of gypsies had been busking through the carriages and were now standing by our rather unprotected luggage that was sitting rather too close to the the doors, and we were quickly approaching another station. They got very upset that this lady had said something to us. Some words were exchanged (didn't need to speak Italian to get the gist!) and they quickly got off at the next stop, whilst we kept a much closer eye on our luggage. It was a great relief to finally get to Pompeii where we had a fantastic personal tour of the ancient city.
Unfortunately, the next stage to get to Praiano was not much better. The train trip to Sorrento was thankfully uneventful, it was the bus ride that followed which caused us grief. The next bus happened to coincide with school finishing, so was packed full of mostly teenage kids. Once again it was standing room only and as the bus wound its way up out of Sorrento, our boys were struggling to keep their feet and patience already! I can't remember how long it took, but it felt like an eternity until we were finally disgorged at Praiano feeling very unwell. We recovered at the bus stop whilst waiting for our lovely #Airbnb host to come collect us, as there was no way we were traipsing uphill with all that stuff!
I chose Praiano to base ourselves as it's centrally located and is less touristy than Positano and Amalfi. Plus I found a gorgeous house with killer views for a much better price! (You can read more about it here).
We soon figured out the various bus services in the area. There are the Sita buses that run between the main towns (what we caught from Sorrento) and the Mobility Amalfi Coast buses, which are much smaller and do internal trips. In Praiano, there was one from the main road up to the town square, and then two that did small sections of the coast road (one to Nocelle and one to Positano). The bigger Sita buses were always full (see left - our youngest squished down the front and learning to be cool about personal space!) and considering we were there in shoulder season, I'd hate to think what it's like getting around in the peak of summer. I guess you'd be able to catch a ferry, but this is where being in Praiano was a disadvantage, as they don't seem to stop there. You could of course hire a car, but there was no way we were going to attempt that. That road is crazy, plus we saw the traffic jams of people trying to find car parks in Positano. No thanks!
With sights like these, it really was worth the effort to get there. It is a stunning stretch of coast and photographer's paradise.
The Return Trip
Once our time in Praiano was over, we were hooking it straight back to Rome for our return flight home to Melbourne. Over the week, we did plenty of research to find out if there was another way we could get to FOC sans the Circumvesuviana and came up with nothing (that was affordable anyway). So armed with our experience of the system, we made sure that we allowed plenty of time. We were down at the bus stop by 8.30am and had no issues getting on. There were lots of seats at this time, so we arrived in Sorrento feeling great. With some time to spend, we had a lovely wander around and found the most beautiful spot for our last meal in Italy - pizza of course! The plan had been to get one of the 'tourist' express trains to Naples, but despite paying for that we somehow ended up on the same cruddy stopper. It wasn't busy though, so it was much more bearable! After leaving Sorrento around 2pm, we were at Rome by 6pm and with only a small amount of running to catch the Leonardo Express to the airport, we were checked in with plenty of time for our 10pm flight. A big day that had the potential to go very pear-shaped when you consider it involved one bus and 3 train rides, but the travel gods were smiling on us this time.
Despite the transport dramas, we loved our time on the Amalfi Coast. Would we go there again? Hmm maybe, if we could afford to charter a private yacht! I would actually prefer to go back to Cinque Terre, where we spent some time on our honeymoon. It was so easy to access by train and is just as beautiful. There is also still much of Italy we have yet to see, and I'm pretty sure we'll get back there again because we all threw a coin over our shoulder into the Trevi Fountain :-)