Travel Guide to the Amalfi Coast, Italy

By Briana Seftel


The glittering Amalfi Coast is 34 miles of pure bliss. On Italy’s sun-drenched Mediterranean coast, hillside vineyards, fragrant lemon groves and jewel-tone towns combine to make a picture-perfect destination. Planning a trip to the coast with the most? Here’s a guide to help you make the most out of your trip.


What to Know

The Amalfi Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of 13 towns spread across a strip of sun-kissed land. Long a haven for Roman aristocracy and celebrities, the Amalfi Coast was once one of the strongest Mediterranean naval powers in the 11th and 12th centuries. Today, it thrives as one of Italy’s top destinations along with Rome, Florence and Venice.

As John Steinbeck said, “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”


When to Go

If at all possible, avoid traveling to the Amalfi Coast during the peak summer months of July and August. At this time, its towns are swarming with tourists and roads can be painfully congested. Consider visiting in the spring or fall, when the crowds lessen but the Mediterranean climate is still enjoyable. If you’re looking to save some euros, winter travel is a good option, but keep in mind many cafes and restaurants close up shop during this time.


How to Get Around

The road hugging the Amalfi Coast is without a doubt one of the most scenic drives in Europe, if not the world. If you plan on having a car, it’s important to known the roads are famously winding, narrow and challenging to drive. If you don’t feel comfortable driving, you can hire a driver. While not as well-connected as other regions of Italy, the train along the coast will take you from Naples to Sorrento, Salerno or Vietri sul Mare. Upon arrival, take a Sita bus to the nearest Amalfi town.


Where to Eat

On the Amalfi Coast, you can expect all the usual Italian staples like pizza and pasta, but with more of an emphasis on seafood. One dish you must try is scialatielli ai frutti di mare, a type of long, square-sided spaghetti topped with a dazzling array of seafood like clams, squid and shrimp. To top off a meal, try limoncello, a liqueur made from the famous Sorrento lemons. Below are some of our top picks for dining around the region.


Must-See Towns

Positano

Arguably the best known and prettiest village on the Amalfi Coast, Positano is old world glamour. Its pastel-hued houses tumble down to the pebble sand beach, while its wisteria-covered steep lanes are home to outdoor restaurants and shops. Since most of its streets are pedestrian-only lanes, you’ll find walking is the best way to see this colorful village.

Amalfi

A town of great wealth and power during medieval times, Amalfi may have lost its influence as a maritime center, but it still remains one of the most sought after towns on the coast. A can’t-miss attraction in the town is the Amalfi Cathedral with its imposing staircase and richly decorated interior.

Ravello

An elegant town, Ravello is blessed with lush gardens, quiet corners and a lofty setting overlooking the azure Mediterranean coast. The heart of Ravello is the 11th-century cathedral and Villa Rufolo, a 13th-century villa built by a wealthy merchant family.


Capri

An hour boat ride away from Sorrento, the seductive isle of Capri makes a wonderful day trip. Its claim to fame is the Blue Grotto, a sparkling sea cave surrounded by dramatic limestone cliffs. You’ll have to squeeze into the narrow opening to enter the grotto, but you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping scenery. Also worth exploring in Capri is Piazza Umberto and the The Church of San Michele in Anacapri.

Sorrento

Known as the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento makes a popular home base for visitors to the area. With incredible views of Mt. Vesuvius in the distance, it was here that Ulysses overcame the call of the sirens. Get a taste of the limoncello produced here and dine on freshly caught seafood in Marina Grande, Sorrento historic harbor.

If you have the time, consider visiting the lesser known villages of Atrani, Praiano and Cetara.


Top Attractions

Villa Rufolo

Famous for its cascading gardens, Villa Rufolo is surely to be a highlight on a trip to the Amalfi Coast. Built in the 13th century, the villa was home to the wealthy Rufolo family and hosted popes, kings and Richard Wagner, who composed part of his opera Parsifal here in 1880.

Amalfi Cathedral

The pride of Amalfi, the 9th-century Amalfi Cathedral (also known as the Duomo of St. Andrew) is an imposing black-and-white-striped structure blending European and Moorish influences. Ascend the imposing staircase, enter through the 11th-century Byzantine bronze door and admire the lavish interior where the remains of Saint Andrew are buried. Adjacent to the cathedral is a small museum full of treasures including a jewel encrusted miter.

Fiordo di Furore

Nestled in the village of Furore, the Fiordo di Furore (Gorge of Furore) is one of the hidden gems on the Amalfi. This ancient gorge was used as a hideout for bandits over the centuries and today is home to a natural port and beach.

Villa Cimbrone

A historic residence turned hotel, the real draw to Villa Cimbrone is its enchanting gardens. A long pathway leads to the Terrace of Infinity, named because of its dramatic views of the coastline. American writer Gore Vidal described it as “the most beautiful view in the world.”


Tips and Tricks

  • All of the beaches on the Amalfi Coast are pebbled beaches, not sand.

  • Fans of John Steinbeck should visit Le Sirenuse hotel in Positano, where the author stayed in 1953.

  • The region is famous for its handmade ceramics in blue and yellow. Browse the shops and don’t be afraid to haggle for a good deal.

  • If you’re up for the challenge, hike Il Sentiero degli Dei or the Path of the Gods. This 5-mile hike from Agerola to Nocelle takes about three hours.

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