Take a trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast
Azure and turquoise seas, colorful homes peppered across the mountains and lemon trees at every turn. It’s not heaven, it’s Italy. Romantic and beautiful in every way, the Amalfi Coast stands out as one of the best examples of a true Mediterranean landscape. And while there is never a bad time to see this gorgeous country, if you had a choice, I would choose the summer, especially if your travels take you to Southern Italy and the province of Salerno.
Similar in beauty (and perfect for hiking through the five towns of Riomaggiore, Portofino, Vernazza, Manarola and Monterosso al Mare) is Cinque Terre, a string of centuries-old seaside villages along the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. I have been fortunate to have explored both dreamy locations, but at the edge of the Sorrentine Peninsula, you will get the very best that Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento and Capri have to offer.
If your journey begins in Amalfi, start by learning about the maritime history of this seaside town. The Arsenale della Repubblica was Amalfi’s center of shipbuilding from the mid-11th century. Today, it is the only well-preserved medieval shipyard in Southern Italy. If you fancy a bit of religious history, visit Cattedrale di Sant’Andrea/Duomo di Amalfi, where Saint Andrew’s, the patron saint of Amalfi, relics are kept. If you’re one for adventure, take a hike up the Valle delle Ferriere to experience four miles of lemon trees, vineyards, waterfalls and alluring views of the city and the sea. Satiate your hunger with a belly full of fresh seafood and a glass of limoncello.
Next up, Positano, the most popular town on the Amalfi Coast. Stay in an Airbnb or bed and breakfast in the mountains if you can and wake up to the loveliest of views every morning. Positano is a beach town with Spiaggia Grande as the main beach and Fornillo Beach as the other area to relax among colorful rows of umbrellas. While many of the beaches are public, you will most likely have to pay for a chair or umbrella, rated by the hour. For lunch, shop for fresh produce among the roadside stands or enjoy a meal alfresco with plenty of options near the sea. After soaking up the sun, take a walk to Positano’s Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta, a storied church that features a 13th century Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary. The church’s majolica-tiled dome can be seen from Positano’s highest point. For dinner, head over to Via Cristoforo Colombo and take your pick of restaurants that offer sunset views of the mountains. My favorite is Ristorante Bruno, where the only thing better than the food is the scenery.
Continuing further down the coast, a stay in Sorrento is a favorite of many as it is the perfect blend of beach and town life. Facing the Bay of Naples on the Sorrentine Peninsula, Sorrento is known for sweeping water views and Piazza Tasso, a café-lined square. Visit the small sandy stretch of beach that is Marina Grande and then take in that same view while overlooking a cliff.
Up for a little romance? The Cloisters of San Francisco are without a doubt one of the most magical and romantic spots in Sorrento and at night, sip an espresso (cappuccinos are reserved for the morning in Europe) and people watch as you listen to live music and street performances in the square. As glass is to Venice, wood is to Sorrento and if you are going to bring back anything from Sorrento, let it be wood. The inlaid woodwork is meticulously detailed and mesmerizing. From picture frames and jewelry boxes to dining room tables and decorative art pieces, the intricacy involved in these pieces are met with hard work and passion from family-owned shops that go back several generations.
In my opinion, Capri is the perfect day trip. Take the ferry over from Sorrento and spend the day on this breathtakingly beautiful and chic island, home to the famed Grotta Azzurra or Blue Grotto. Start at the bottom with a boat tour around the island. There are plenty of companies in the marina that offer tours, but a boat captained by a local is the way to go. It’s less of a tourist ride packed with passengers and more of a private lesson about the town.
On the aquatic ride, you’ll likely pass the Grotta Bianca, Grotta Verde, Grotta Azzurra (you can take a separate tour and go inside the grotto on your own rowboat if you wish) and the faraglioni, Capri’s most iconic sight of three towering rock formations that jut out from the sea. Legend has it that lovers who kiss while passing under the rocks will be blessed with good luck.
Make your way up to the top of Anacapri, which is located on the slopes of Mount Solaro, accessible by bus and then a chairlift. For a few euro, the single-seated cable car ride is a bit daunting at first as you dangle hundreds of feet above the ground, but once the fears subside and you reach the top, reward yourself with gelato, lemon slushies and some of the most incredible photo opportunities you will ever experience in your lifetime. As for shopping, the uniquely colorful Capri watch is a popular buy as are bathing suit cover ups and authentic Italian leather sandals.
The Amalfi Coast is best accessed from Rome or Naples. From Naples, it is about one hour on the local Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento. Take the Sita bus (it’s about €2 per person for a bus ticket) and you won’t be disappointed in the stunning vistas at every turn. As for souvenirs, the Amalfi Coast and entire Campania region is known for its lemons and hand-painted ceramics, so limoncello and ceramic dinnerware or tiles are perfect trinkets to bring home to family and friends.
So grab your sunnies, a floppy hat and the most colorful swimwear you own and embark on the dream vacation that is the Amalfi Coast this summer to live la dolce vita.