arwin wasn’t kidding. And if you’ve been to the Amalfi Coast via the SITA bus during tourist season, you’ll know exactly how serious he was. But if you haven’t, and are planning on it, you’ll need help.
Don’t fret. I’ve compiled a step-by-step checklist to help keep you out of trouble at high tide (this also works in low season, though think twice before boarding a coastal bus on a rainy day). We’ll start at the source, the bus station in Sorrento, which is located directly in front of the train station.
- Get to the station early. It doesn’t matter which bus you choose; chances are it’ll be packed with people who were trying to grab the previous one. Arriving early helps with plans and morale.
- Buy them before getting on. The bus driver isn’t selling, so don’t ask. The best bet is to buy at the train station — it’s close and it’s usually stocked. Get roundtrip tickets if you’re coming back. You don’t want to chase down a bus without a ticket.
- Get a cold bubbly drink. When swerving around the precipitous curves, you might think this is a well-spent €2.
- If you’re alone, pretend you know someone in the front of the line. If you’re caught, position yourself near the second door as if you had a friend there. If you’re in a group, spread out and work both doors. Once you secure your spot, politely show latecomers the end of the line. People will inevitably try to cut in feigning ignorance or flaunting it. Expose them and persevere. When the doors open, push. Do it gently but with purpose. Oh, and never forget to say scusi.
On the bus
- Because there are two entrances and only one validation box, getting onto the bus is a free-for-all. Stay calm. Left unchecked, people flood through the back door, gobbling up all the seats while some idiot is trying to figure out how to stamp his ticket in the front. If you’re in the front, you’re stuck. You’ll have to wait. If you cheated your way through the back door, enjoy the spoils of victory. If you have a friend in the front, save him a seat.
Front versus back
- If you enter through the front you risk losing your seat to a ruffian scurrying in through the back. But at least you can validate your ticket — there are no validation machines in the back. Fines start at €38, so think twice. If you enter through the back, you’re almost guaranteed a seat. The problem is stamping your ticket. With a normal warm-weather load, the aisle is packed, making it tough to edge forward for your stamp. It’s your call; it’s your ass.
- If you’re standing for the ride, check the stairwells. If they’re empty, they’re as good as the real seats. Just don’t push on the doors. Standing doesn’t mean you have to cry. The first stop is Positano, 30 minutes away. Most people get off there, so if you’re continuing to Amalfi you’ll get a chance to sit eventually. If you’re afraid of heights, always look left. The drop is to the right. If you’re hot, do not try to open the roof exit air. The bus driver will yell at you. Get out your bubbly drink while cool and place it on the back of your neck. If you’re on your feet, put your things in the overhead compartments. This way you have two hands to hold on with and more aisle space. Whatever you’re holding on to for balance, never let go. Sudden stops are truly sudden, and common.
- Two stops, actually; but the mean drivers never tell you. It’s the second stop that most everyone wants — the town of Positano. Always throw in a centro or cittá when asking where to get off.
- This is about 45 minutes from Positano. The bus usually empties out after Positano, so grab a seat and enjoy the view. If you don’t have your return tickets to Sorrento, get them here. There’s a bar across from the bus stop that sells SITA tickets.
- If you’re going to Ravello, pick up your tickets at the same bar in Amalfi. Buy a round trip. Ravello buses stop under a white canopy to the left of the main bus stop (facing the sea, close to the beach.) At times, buses are unmarked, and there are two routes. Ask locals or the driver before hopping on the wrong bus. To get on this bus you need to be lucky. To find a seat you have to ruthless. Don’t worry about validation. Most ticket machines don’t even work.
- There’s only one word to describe the scene at the Amalfi bus station late in the day: pandemonium. There’s no method to the madness and not much you can do about it. Fight the crowds, find the correct bus, maneuver your way to the front of the line. From the chaos, you’d think a gold bar awaited for the first 10 boarders. Return by daylight. Your stomach won’t appreciate this ride in the dark. Good luck. Oh, and if you want to avoid the buses altogether, there are ferries from Sorrento to both Positano and Amalfi. But it’s not half the fun.
Bus and water transport