And there I stood, salty breeze in my hair, pastel villages suspended between sky and sea, my heart so so happy. This was not my first visit nor will it be my last as there is something so magical on these cliffs, that l feel under a wonderful enchanted spell. I always want to return to Amalfi.
The Amalfi coast is a long stretch of rugged coastline along the southern Sorrento Peninsula scattered with unforgettable views of the Tyrrhenian sea and old fishing villages pushed into the cliffs. Narrow winding roads connect charming towns that cling to steep mountain cliffs.
For centuries, this area was home to poor fisherman living off the sea. But in the twentieth century this coastal gem was rediscovered and became the playground for directors, movie stars and all types of creative sorts. As the demand for hotels grew, the fisherman became rich. Most of them have now left, but the picture-perfect fishing villages have remained behind.
There is so much to do in Amalfi, but it’s all about the view. You need to live it, breath it, hold it, rejoice and feel gratitude for it, share it with your lover. Toast, eat and awe over it. Sleep, wake and praise God for it. Lay on the beach and just witness it (you get the point). But yes, plan to do them all.
However, make no mistake whatever you do, it must all start with a scenic drive along the delightful and charming coast. If arriving by cruise ship, you will dock in Naples or Salerno and can begin the drive in either of these two towns. Salerno has a lovely downtown area that is easily accessible from the port and if you are visiting Naples make sure to stop in Pompeii.
On our last visit, we used tour services of Amalfi Driver Service. I feel it’s important to recognize good service and our service was excellent. Our driver Gianluca not only provided entertaining folklore and tales but, was up to date on all the celebrities visiting the coast during our visit. A driver is a good idea as these roads can be treacherous even for locals that are accustomed to the cliffs, very narrow roads, and crowds. Plus parking is a nightmare. It makes a lot of sense to get dropped off and picked up thereby spending more time in the villages.
The most famous towns are Ravello, Amalfi, and Positano.
I love sitting outdoors in Ravello, feeling close to the sky. The town is perched over 1,200 feet high on the slopes overlooking the cobalt waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Amalfi Coast. Not as accessible to the Amalfi tourists and less frequented by crowds, this quiet little sleepy town feels all a hush, lending to its reputation for romance. Although the town is small, there are plenty of food options with approximately three dozen restaurants at which to wine and dine.
Meander the streets and you will discover ancient walkways, galleries (lots of painting of the area), and shops. Keep a lookout on the shop shelves for Mama Agata foods. She is a local and celebrity chef (featured on MasterChef UK) who runs her cooking school from her home in Ravello. She bottles up her olive oils, tomatoes, and capers (delish). You can get a hold of her book on her website Mama Agata. Make sure to sneak a peek at her VIP page (James Bond was there...♥).
If you enjoy gardening and vistas, Ravello has magnificent ancient gardens to inspire you. Villa Rufolo’s famous gardens are considered the window to the soul and span over two levels where you can pass the day away indulging in beauty (€ 5.00/adult). As well, Cimbrone is a private five-star hotel originating from the 11th century but, its lovely gardens are open to the public (€ 7.00/adult).
Ravello is best known as the “city of music” famous for its twilight music festivals (since 1953). German composer Richard Wagner fell in love with this pretty little town that inspired the final portion of his final opera Parsifal (he had begun writing it 20 years earlier- so, you can only imagine how inspired he must have felt). The Ravello Music Festival (mostly chamber and piano concerts) is also often referred to as the Wagner festival for this reason. The festival begins in the month of June and weather permitting performances are held outside, on a cliff under the stars ( can you only imagine?) and is just spectacular (as a hopeless romantic that in itself is reason enough to visit).
This is the town that lends its name to this famous coast. Referred to as the pearl of the coast, pleasing Amalfi brings you closer to the seafront. The town is made up of white houses nestled between the mountains and the sea.
Getting around Amalfi is very easy and walkable in 20 minutes. Shops and goodies line the main street of Villa Lorenzo D’Amalfi (local bishop 1029, later forced into exile by the Prince of Salerno… I love tidbits) which runs south from the marina to the main square and continues north of the square. It almost seems unbelievable that this little town was once a maritime powerhouse and gateway to western Europe.
At the center of the town square you will spot the Cathedral of St. Andrew with its unique stone and marble stripes (not traditional of this region). You cannot miss its grand staircase, 62 steep and wide steps announce the Cathedral as the landmark here (don’t wait for the stairs to clear for a photo…it’s a hot spot). Adjacent to the Cathedral, the bell tower in Arab-Norman style (used for defense) is the other landmark stop for your photos.
The town was destroyed in 1343 by an earthquake and tsunami that devastated this small town sliding chunks of it into the ocean – Many of the shop souvenirs will have images of the earthquake as a reminder of the history.
Note to bucket list, “Positano… wake, eat, sleep…repeat”.
This charming little village just steals my heart with narrow streets and alleys leading you somewhere secret bestowing the village with its undeniable charm. Pastel buildings cascade along the hills of this vertical village with a purpose of leading you to the bottom to greet the sea. Awaiting will be 300 meters of pebbly Spiaggia Beach, perfect for pictures, celebrity spotting, and toe dipping.
Everywhere are eateries and cafes luring tourists with the most tempting view. Artists line the streets of Positano enticing with jewelry (I always find the prettiest little bobbles), art and the famous Positano fashion – loose fitting cotton and linen clothing handmade and one of a kind. The town (and the area) is also famous for its lemons, used to produce all sorts of lemony things from soap, perfume, liquor, and home decor (I bought it all).
The famous green tiled dome (glazed maiolica style) of Santa Maria Assunta church is the landmark photo here. Legend has it a Byzantine panel with the image of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, came to rest in this church when one day pirates attempted to try to steal it. They were prevented from leaving by a severe storm until from heaven, they heard the words “Posa Posa” (return it), the Pirates returned the panel, and the storm cleared, permitting clear passage to leave.
The Neopolitan cuisine along the Amalfi coast is scrumptious regardless of where you tuck in for your goodies. That being said, buy your bakies from a bakery and pizza from a pizzeria and you can’t go wrong. Nearly every ingredient served comes from the surrounding hills and the adjacent sea. Seafood is the local specialty, fresh, abundant and delectable. But you will also find a to-die-for selection of local cheeses, buns, tomato sauces, eggplants, olives, herbs and of course lemons.
Restaurants serve up heavenly views whether you are on a cliff or sitting tickled to be so close to the sea. There is a tremendous variety of local wines produced along this coast. For something special look to sample white wines with the famed ancient Roman Falerian grape and for reds the Piedirosso grape. Be sure to complete your feast with a glass of the local liquor, Limoncello.
Buca Di Baco was one of the early hotel/restaurants in the area. It’s close to the beach, with warm Italian hospitality and delicious home cooked Italian fare (like mama use to make). Dinner reservations are highly recommended, and many restaurants allow you to book on-line right from your hotel room.
However you can, I hope you get the chance to be spellbound by Amalfi’s breathtaking coast. ♥