Top five things to do on the Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is every inch the sun-kissed daydream we all share… Open top vintage car weeping around the perilous twists and turns of the coastal roads, chocolate-box perfect colourful towns clinging to the cliff edges, the aroma of lemon and orange blossom imbuing the warm air and hilltop views that gaze into the infinity of the sea beyond. The Amalfi Coast is everything you’ve seen in old movies and heard from those who’ve already been, it’s one of those places that even (as I discovered) the train guard on the platform of a small town rural station gives an approving nod and a knowing “che bello” when you mention where you’re headed.
There’s no doubt that the Amalfi Coast will sweep you away; expect to be wooed into a love-struck haze. However, as the years pass, so the volume of tourism increases and inevitably shop keepers, food outlets and companies catch on to the unawares visitor and prices shoot up whilst quality dips. Sadly, this is the inescapable impact that popularity and tourism seems to have on the best of places. Nonetheless, the Amalfi Coast retains its charm but requires a little more savvy that perhaps it did several years ago.
An article on this dreamy area of south Italy could become pages and pages, there is simply so much to see and do. Here instead I will choose five things that I consider some of the best things to do and having very recently returned from a trip to the Amalfi, I’ve discovered more to add to the list!
Perhaps the most evocative of the coastline towns, certainly one of the most visited and arguably one of the most quintessentially beautiful. No one forgets their first glimpse of its pastel-toned buildings hanging to the rugged cliff edge as their boat approaches.
Packed with tourists? Yes. Still worth visiting? Absolutely yes. Wandering the boutique lined twittens is a must, but I urge you to resist the fatigue and ache and keep climbing upwards.
Not only is the view well worth it but there tends to be less visitors who make it the further up you get! Via Cristoforo Colombo is where to head. For a sheltered lunch or dinner with a view Hotel Ancora is a great option, or a more casual but stunning viewpoint try any of the cafes with tables right on the pavement. Seeing as Positano is such a looker, a boat trip, or better yet – if you can, rent a boat and get out onto that sparkling emerald sea. Take a picnic, a
bottle of prosecco (not encouraged for the captain of your vessel!) and bob out on the water as you ponder Postiano’s picture perfection! Try Positano Boats or Blue Star Positano for boat rental.
For me this island is a gem. It was love at first sight. Capri’s reputation for being glamorous and sophisticated goes before it, and quite rightly too, as the moment you set foot on the harbour you’ll feel that magic in the air. If you can, go for at least a daytrip – an overnight stay would be ideal. If you arrive or leave around lunchtime, you must go to Lo Smeraldo for a feast for your eyes as well as your stomach, request a table on the terrace overlooking the sea… and enjoy. The town of Capri is a gleaming white maze of shops boasting the best of jewellery, clothing, shoes and local specialties. Mooch around here and also take the cliff edge walkway (signposted) which offers fabulous sea views.
For something a little different and unique for sunset – take a local bus or splash out on a taxi and head to the lighthouse. If you’re early enough have a swim too, then sit at the wooden beach bar and watch the sun set. Capri has many great dining options, a personal recommendation for a great food, service and value balance is Ristorante Pizzeria Verginiello. If you want to get your dancing shoes on – Anema e Core is THE place to go. Expect high
prices, expect an unforgettable night. Live your time on Capri like a star – enjoy!
I have to admit that after a recent first trip to Ravello, I have been blown away by this hill-top town. Perched up high Ravello is somewhat of the lesser known, independent and refined older sister of the seaside towns. Its postcard perfect looks, its setting and its stunning views out across the Amalfi Coast lead the visitor to no doubt as to why this town inspired so many greats – composers, playwrights, writers, painters and photographers.
Rather than ramble on about all there is to love, I’m going to direct you to the jewels in Ravello’s crown – Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone’s gardens are absolute must sees. Villa Rufolo comprises a tower, villa and levelled gardens. Rufolo truly is a magical visit – do check out the video in one of the outhouses to get some history, then indulge your senses in the villa and garden. There is a true timelessness about this place; classical music fills the air both inside and out, the views through the villa’s wooden window frames out to the gardens and coastline beyond are something else.
Allow time to sit, wander and cast yourself back in history as you listen, smell and see. Villa Cimbrone is in fact now a hotel but the gardens are wonderful. An organic mix of manicured and wild, of woodland areas, overflowing rose beds and pathways with billowing greenery from huge old pots. The Terrace of Infinity is as
impressive as the name suggests – a terrace walkway appearing to almost float out over the sea below. For an alternative aperitivo location, sit down at one of the table and chairs overlooking the coast and take a drink from the garden cafe there.
Amalfi Coast walk
For all the wandering, eating and taking in views, there’s something to be said for incorporating some exercise and seeing an area from all angles. Please note that unless you’re feeling admirably strong and energy filled, this walk should be done heading downhill as I’ll describe! There is a simple to follow and enjoyable pathway from Ravello down to, the tiny sibling town to Amalfi, Atrani and then following through to Amalfi itself.
Ask a local where the steps to Atrani are and follow the ancient stepped walkway down the gladed valley heading towards the twinkling sea below and ultimately enter Atrani through the arched passageways that weave amongst its white buildings. There’s something almost pilgrimage-esque about the cobbled path that draws you down and into the central piazza. Atrani is similar to Positano in its compact size with buildings almost on top of one another.
When you’ve refuelled in the piazza and taken a look, or paddle, on the beach, it’s time for the final stretch – round the curve of the coastline to Amalfi. Fear not, this is about 15 minutes and takes you through a rabbit warren of buildings, still following the painted tiles indicating the route. As you drop into Amalfi, you are ready to congratulate yourself!
And Amalfi are almost synonymous. Certainly, in any village on the Amalfi Coast yellow is the predominant colour; baskets overflowing with lemons, football sized fruits drawing gasps of surprise from tourists, offers of limoncello tasting and that unmissable sweet sour scent in the air. Amalfi itself is particularly famous for its lemon groves and indeed, the historical centre is packed with citrus reminders. For a homemade (huge) lemon sorbet served in a frozen lemon go to Sporta Marina on the opposite side of the piazza to the cathedral (identifiable by its blue and white
striped awning). The sorbet is freshly made from just lemons, sugar and water – how they achieve such a smooth creamy texture is impressive! We found this to be a great pit stop post walk from Ravello via Atrani. To really dive in with the lemon tradition why not try a lemon grove tour. Amalfi Lemon Experience are rated highly, and for good reason. This is a morning tour that includes a visit to the organic lemon groves, the family run farm and factory, tasting and trialling of products and the opportunity to buy (or send) lemons for yourself.
Amongst all these places to see and things to do, what the Amalfi Coast should really be all about is stumbling upon that special memory – whether it be a tiny back street off the beaten track of a town, a seat overlooking the ocean below, a local delicatessen hidden up a side street, a moment of still on a hazy summer night or a moment of bustling excitement harbor side.