From the southern side of the Sorrento Peninsula, the beautiful Amalfi Coast runs east to Salerno, with steeply terraced villages of stuccoed houses and seafood restaurants clinging to jagged cliffs. It is best known for its thrilling coastal drive, the 80km (50-mile) stretch of winding hairpin bends that leads from Positano to Salerno with vistas over the shimmering Gulf of Salerno at every turn.
Amalfi itself, so the legend tells, was created by Hercules, who fell in love with a nymph called Amalfi. Their love was short-lived as she died young, but Hercules promised to bury her in the most beautiful spot in the world, and built the city of Amalfi in her honour. History books, on the other hand, tell us that it was founded after the death of Emperor Constantine, in AD 447. Drive or take the blue SITA bus to the pretty villages of Praiano, Positano and Cetara.
Praiano is 10km (6 miles) west of Amalfi. A further 6km (4 miles) from Praiano is Positano, popular with artists, stars and sophisticates, with an excellent if expensive array of restaurants and hotels. In spite of this, it has kept its fishing-village charm. East from Amalfi, Cetara, known as ‘the tuna town’ because of its tuna and anchovy festivals in May and June, has two lovely beaches.
Things to do in Amalfi: When to Visit?
If oppressive, heat and crowded towns and beaches are not what you’re searching for, it’s finest to avoid the Amalfi Coast throughout the summer months. The best times to visit would be in the spring and autumn, more specifically, Might through June and September through October. Winter season stays relatively moderate with little rain and likewise hotels have the most affordable rates throughout the winter offseason. Remember, nevertheless, that some locations may be closed during the winter so it’s a good concept to call ahead to double check if a hotel room or restaurant you wish to go to is open.
Things to do in Amalfi: What to See?
Here are a few popular locations to visit while exploring the Amalfi Coast:
Things to do in Amalfi: Positano
Positano, the first town of any size, is a pyramid of color-washed houses tumbling down the cliffs to a beach where sun-worshippers share the space with fishing boats. Tempting shops sell the town’s famous brightly colored textiles. Bars and restaurants beckon, and boats sail to otherwise inaccessible swimming coves. East lies Praiano, whose cliff approaches are dotted with opulent private villas.
Between here and Amalfi, you can visit the Grotta dello Smeraldo (Emerald Cave), a vividly green sea cave complete with stalagmites and stalactites. Amalfi, tucked between the mountains and the sea, is a cheerful small town whose only clue to its great past as a powerful maritime republic is its wonderful Duomo (Cathedral). Approached up a wide flight of steps, the cathedral was built in the 11th century, its bronze doors cast in Constantinople in 1066. Don’t miss the 13th-century cloister known as the Chiostro del Paradiso (Cloister of Paradise), a peaceful enclave with white-washed interlaced arches.
Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta: This church has a strikingly majestic dome and is the home of the famous Byzantine icon of the 13th century, Madonna di Positano. If you want to head to the beach, Fornillo is the smaller, more secluded one, while Spiaggia Grande is the main beach and will be busier during tourist season.
Those looking to take in the local art scene can check out Franco Sensei, a gallery in Positano where you’ll find works by many modern Italian painters and sculptors.
Things to do in Amalfi: Ravello
Ravello is famous for providing refuge to the people of Amalfi when the Saracens landed in AD 877. The Church of San Pantaleone stands in the square. At the top of the left aisle is a small altar with an ampoule containing the solid blood of the saint, which miraculously liquefies twice a year. To the right of the church you will find the entrance to the Villa Rufolo, dating back to the 11th century, with its beautiful gardens that overlook the coastline and the resort of Maiori. Wagner wrote Parsifal here (1879), and during the summer season the villa is the venue for Wagner concerts. Tickets are available from the villa or the tourist information office to the left of the church. Another villa with magnificent gardens is the 11 th-century Villa Cimbrone.
In Ravello you’ll find the Piazza Duomo with its beautiful bronze doors and painted scenes of Christ’s life. There’s also the Villa Rufolo, a Moorish-style estate with plenty to marvel at. For those travelers who like hiking, Ravello offers some impressing winding mountain paths that offer some incredible, breathtaking views.
Don’t forget to hit the beach! The Amalfi Coast boasts some of the best beaches and most pristine, clear waters in Italy. It’s great for swimming, scuba diving, and boating.
Things to do in Amalfi: Sorrento
Piazza Tasso, the main square in Sorrento, is a quintessential Italian square. Sit at one of the outdoor cafés and drink in the atmosphere around the maze of narrow streets and shops selling bottles of limon- cello, the local liqueur. Decadent, grand hotels perch on the cliffs with splendid views over the sea on one side and lush gardens on the other.
Take time out from the beaches and cafés to visit Palazzo Coneale and its museum. This 15th-century villa has an impressive collection of porcelain, glass, china and paintings dating from the 17th to 19th centuries. The grand cathedral dates from the 14th century and has paintings by artists from the Neapolitan school, a marble archbishop’s throne and wooden choirstalls handcarved by Sorrentine craftsmen.
Take the public ferry or one of the many well-publicized private boat trips from Sonento along the coast and around the bay to Capri (hourly in summer and at least six times a day in low season).
Things to do in Amalfi: What to Eat
The Amalfi coast is abundant with culinary delights. From fresh lemon and seafood to sun-ripened vegetables and fruits, and plenty of meats and regional cheeses, your palate will be dancing with joy! Lemons are discovered throughout the region and appear in numerous dishes, even a traditional favorite of ricotta filled ravioli sprinkled with grated lemon peel. The seafood lover will be thrilled by the selection of fresh catches readily available here. Shrimp, sea urchins, redfish, blue fish, octopus, anchovies, and mollusks are all common menu items. And naturally, cheese lovers need to attempt homemade cheese like mozzarella, provolone, and ricotta.
Da Gemma: You can enjoy traditional dishes on a terrace overlooking Amalfi’s main square in one of the coasts most popular and best-known restaurants. (Adress: Via Fra’ Gerardo Sasso, Amalfi 10 – Tel: 0898 713 45)
Caruso: An elegant, refined and awardwinning restaurant with excellent and imaginative fish dishes and more than 300 wines. (Adress: Via Sant’Antonino, Sorrento – Tel: 0818 073 156)
Tari: This family-run restaurant is an intimate place to dine on quality traditional cookery. Intriguing artworks and vibrant tiles make it a relaxing change from the formality of some gastronomic establishments. Expect some wonderful pasta and seafood creations using the freshest of produce, or simply opt for a delicious pizza for €6. The wine list has something to suit most tastes and includes lots of good local labels. (Adress: Via Capuano. 84011 Amalfi – Tel 089 871832)
Buco: Buco is a former Teatini monastery, right in the middle of Sorrento. The food here marries tradition with innovation, and the service is superb. Of particular note is the fusilli al ragu Genovese (pasta in a lamb sauce). Fish dishes include red mullet served on a bed of orange slices and pecorino cheese. There are pleny of decent wines and some scrumptious desserts, which you can enjoy on the outside terrace. (Adress: Rampa Seconda Marina Piccola 5, 80067 Sorrento – Tel 081 8782354)
La Favorita-O Parruchiano: Dining is quite an event in this cavernous Victorian greenhouse filled with luxuriant foliage and trees. It was opened in the late 19th century by a local priest. Culinary highlights include the traditional Sorrentine peperoni ripieni (stuffed peppers) and ravioli caprese filled with mozzarella, sweet pomodoroni tomatoes and basil. For dessert, try the scrumptious profiteroles, Neapolitan pastries or a choice of gelati and semifreddi. There is a good selection of regional vintages. (Adress: Corso Italia 71,80067 ,Sorrento – Tel: 081 8781321)
The closest airport to the Amalfi Coast is in Naples. From there you can find airport buses that travel to Sorrento as well as train stations. Busses that connect through all of the coastal towns and ferries are also available for travel as well.
Things to do in Amalfi: Where to Stay
Naples, the Amalfi coast and the Sorrento peninsula have something to suit everyone, all within easy reach of Naples, the great classical ruins of Pompeii, and the off-shore islands of Capri and Ischia. Across the Apennines lies the Gargano peninsula, a well-kept secret with pretty villages and comfortable hotels. This is a great place from which to explore south into Puglia. Vibrant Bari is Puglia’s capital, but the best place for accommodation is in the trulli country round Alberobello and baroque Lecce. Further south again in the regions of Calabria and Basilicata, there are some good hotels in Matera and Maratea, and there are many simple, family-run establishments along the coast and in the other main towns.
Hotel La Bussola, Amalfi: In the heart of Amalfi, this excellent- value hotel has traditional decor, airy rooms and is located beside the sea.
Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, Sorrento: An elegant Edwardian hotel with modern comforts in possibly the finest position in Sorrento. An elevator takes guests to the beach and harbor from the garden. (Sorrento)
Imperial Hotel Tramontano: This 16th-century palazzo, opened its doors as a hotel in 1812 and has been the choice of royalty as well as literary icons such as Byron, Shelley and Goethe. The winter garden has luxuriant fronds and antique items; and the lobby has antiques and Old World panache. Most guest rooms have parquet flooring and elegant furnishings. Many of them have magnificent views, and there is access to a private beach and swimming pool.
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