— AMALFI COAST, ITALY — Glamorous romantics, playful beachgoers, and wistful scenery lovers are enticed by the stunning grandeur of the Amalfi Coast. Suitably named “The Land of the Sirens,” travelers from around the world, including Italians on holiday, are lured by the hypnotic Tyrrenian Sea.
Diamond-encrusted waves splash onto rocky shores of 13 picturesque seaside villages. They cling to the chiseled cliffs of the Lattari Mountains. Each town offers its own set of unique treasures. Explore the famed beaches of Positano, the farm-and-sea-to-table cuisine of Ravello, the posh fashions of the island of Capri.
The footprints of local and international legends are also revered. The Amalfi Coast served as a muse for famous opera composer Richard Wagner, inspiration for John Steinbeck, and a sanctuary for Jaclyn Kennedy.
Amalfi has long been a fancied vacation and wedding destination for celebrities and the rich and famous. Stories and news of Amalfi’s most adored VIP, Sophia Loren, can be found in charming photo galleries and via local tour guides.
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1. Follow the Blue Ribbon Road
Highway 163 is a dizzying ancient Roman-built road (a UNESCO World Heritage site) carved into the rocky edge of a high mountain range. It meanders from town to town in an almost corkscrew fashion up and down the coast.
If you enjoy the thrill of soaring heights, high speeds, and rollercoaster-like sharp turns on a narrow two-way road, then a 1.5-hour bus ride or a 45-minute car service are the way to go. The highly experienced local drivers will safely transport you to any of the major towns from Naples. Driving yourselves is NOT recommended for the faint-hearted, short-tempered, or scenery lovers as the unpredictable road and traffic can be challenging to maneuver. All eyes and ears need to be firmly on the road despite the gorgeous scenery unfolding in your periphery.
Booking a driver is well worth the price. It allows your tourist senses to be open and available to the thrilling landscapes and serene seascapes with every hairpin turn. You can negotiate a reasonable price that may include a two-hour stopover to visit the ghostly ancient ruins of the volcanic ash-ridden city of Pompeii.
To avoid this white-knuckling experience entirely, consider a one-hour journey from the comforts of the fast and efficient Italian train system. Another great option is booking a scenic 40-minute ferry ride and take in the panoramic views of the Sorrentine Peninsula.
2. Legends & Lores
The magic unfolds while strolling through the footpaths of each town. Symbols of local myths and legends are embedded with mystical statues in the squares, alleyways, and paintings on stone walls.
This “Land of the Sirens” got its name from Roman poets and ancient Greeks who believed that sirens once caused havoc by calling out to the sailors at sea with their alluring song. Tour guides can tell you enchanting stories about these dangerous mermaids, the howling werewolves of Ravello, the seductive witches of Praiano, as well as the gods, goddesses, and nymphs involved in giving the towns their names.
The locals have annual feasts and fests to celebrate religious miracles graced by the celebrated patron saint, Mary. The famous tale of the Black Madonna (whose statues you will see all over Positano) includes treacherous pirates converting to Christianity after being saved from a deadly storm by Mary’s voice emanating from her painting.
3. Sea & Be-Seen Beaches
Beaches of this seascape, including the island of Capri, are more smooth-pebbles versus soft sand. Beach shoes or sandals would be a plus for added comfort. Every beach has its unique scene and new perspective to experience this dramatic coast.
You can choose small and secluded beach spots, large and popular marinas, and everything in between. The hottest destination for local and foreign beach goers is Positano, particularly its grand beach called Spiaggia Grande. Swanky bars and delicious restaurants surround the vibrant umbrella chair-lined beach. You can bring a towel and relax near the water for a quick afternoon tan.
On Positano and the island of Capri, most beach enthusiasts spend the day lounging in style at the numerous beach clubs called “lidos. Lidos offer amenities for rent. Beach chairs or sunbeds with colorful umbrellas, beach service with signature cocktails, private shower/bathroom access, and fresh Amalfi cuisine. Music, and water activities such as kayaks, snorkeling, and cliff jumping are pure Amalfi.
Try Arienzo Spiaggia and Fornillo Spiaggia in Positano and Marina Piccola, Marina Grande, or Bagni di Tiberio in Capri.
4. Explore Amalfi Coast Grottos
In Capri, book a circle boat tour that includes an excursion to a grotto. These hidden caves are accessible by small dinghy boats and their experienced boatman. The most famous is the mystifying Blue Grotto of Anacapri. It is an adventure just to get there. A ferry to a 4-person dinghy transfer is required just to pass through the opening.
The boatman will expertly pull the rope line leading into the narrow hole while he ducks. All passengers must quickly lay on their backs to clear the entrance. The walls of the cave and the surrounding water glow with various shades of brilliant blues, per the angle of sunlight and time of day.
Another less-known but equally enchanting cave is the Emerald Grotto which can be accessed by boat or car from the village of Conca de Marini. The sunlight reflects a jeweled green hue off the sparkling water.
The stalactites and stalagmites extending from the ceiling and floor are illuminated by the green glow. The locals have designed an underwater nativity scene with statues made by local ceramic artists. The experience is like discovering hidden treasure in a cave.
5. Stroll Villas & Gardens
Among the hills just outside of the village of Ravello is the historical Villa Cimbrone. The theme of this villa is pure serenity. It has a thousand-year-old history both as a distinguished dwelling for aristocrats and a famous forum for the elite, including artists and politicians.
It is now an exclusive hotel retreat for the rich and famous. While parts of the villa may be open to small groups during non-peak season, the gorgeous English-style gardens are available for all visitors. Each section represents different emotions. It is a place to find your moment of peace and tranquility.
The Villa San Michele, once owned by a famous Swedish author and physician, has been transformed into a museum and garden influenced by artifacts from ancient Romans and Greeks. Its grounds include shaded pergolas with fragrant flowers and vines dripping overhead. Majestic columns and low stone walls pose as guard rails from the sea. This private park was built as a bird sanctuary while its Egyptian sphinx statue stands guard of the grounds.
The Roman emperor, Tiberius, once made Capri his haven. He had 12 villas built here during his reign, the most prominent being Villa Jovis. It is a long climb to the archaeological site. Still, the Roman architectural corridors, the juicy stories of the emperor’s debauchery, and the lookout points are worth the visit.
Other popular tourist attractions include the Villa Lysis. It’s a majestic palace with lavish gardens and storybook views.
Once owned by a scandalous poet and industrialist, the lush geometrically designed gardens and fairytale-like cloister of Villa Rufolo in Ravello are sure to take your breath away.
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6. Amalfi Coast Life is Full of Lemons
Aside from the captivating scent of the coastal sea breeze, the towns of the Amalfi Coast bear another fresh and alluring fragrance that further draws from this theme of serenity. It is the scent of lemons.
Kissed by the sun, lemons are the sacred fruit of these lands. The Italians, here, have a multitude of beautiful excuses to use its liquid gold juice and leathery peel in everything, including soaps, candles, lotions, perfumes, and oils. Not to mention tasty sweets such as rock or gel candies, lemon sorbet served inside a lemon half, Delizie al Limone cake, and the highly coveted after-dinner cordial, limoncello.
Bushels of giant lemons as big as your head can be found at the local fruit stands during peak season. Stop and ask a vendor to scratch one for you. The potent peel will send out an immediate therapeutic scent to your senses.
7. Admire Cathedrals
The Amalfi Cathedral, with its deep jade and ivory striped façade, golden mosaics, and a thousand-year-old carved bronze door, is the centerpiece of the town of Amalfi. Many locals like to gather on the steep wedding-cake-like staircase leading into the main square. Inside, you will find treasured relics, an altar created from the sarcophagus of a prior Archbishop, a wooden plank of a doomed pirate ship, and story-telling paintings of the town’s hero, St. Andrew. From the church’s portico, enter a paradise garden lined with magnificent Moorish-styled arches suitably called the Cloister del Paradiso.
If your time is limited, walk to the town centers to admire the colorful façade of Amalfi’s Cathedral and the soaring bell tower of Ravello’s church. The shiny green, blue, and yellow tiles of the majestic dome of Positano’s cathedral on the beach are a welcoming treat to the artistic eye from the outside.
The Amalfi coast is rich with spectacular landscape and seaside views from every corner and level of elevation. The scenery from the sea, alone, is what postcards were made for. Have your camera ready on a boat trip to explore the colors of dramatic coastline.
- Find yourself lost in the landscape of Ravello’s staggering stoned villas and terraced gardens that seem to have been carved out from the rocky cliffs.
- Look up from the pebble-stoned beaches of Positano to the preserved jewel-themed homes, restaurants, and boutique hotels cascading down the hillsides.
- Give yourself moments to stop, turn every direction and breathe in the serenity of the land and sea. You will understand why this has been the land of escape for centuries.
For aerial views
- Hiking enthusiasts can enjoy a three to five-hour clifftop trail on the Path of Gods, a 4-mile scenic walk between Bomerano and Nocelle.
- The gardens of Villa Cimbrani flow into the Terrazza dell’ Infinito (Infinity Terrace), a loft made-for-mediation view.
- Fly through the air on a single-person chairlift to the 1900-foot summit of Monte Solaro in Anacapri.
- Follow the zig-zagged walking path stopping at every hairpin turn for a different view on the Via Kruppe in Capri.
9. Bring your Sea Legs
Italians will tell you there is no better way to be part of the action than boating on the Tyrrhenian Sea. The VIPS enjoy coasting along the Gulf of Salerno in polished wood luxury yachts, streamlined speed boats, and perfect-for-sunsets sailboats.
For everyone else, a charming boating experience would be a sail aboard a traditional “Gozzo” boat around the island of Capri. A skipper is included in the rental. Imagine lying on the padded sundeck, enjoying a small picnic, and soaking up the radiant Amalfi sun. The skipper can sail you to the perfect swimming hole where you can jump in for a cooling splash.
10. Savor Amalfi Coast
What better way to sample the sea than to order Amalfi’s specialty dish, Scialatielli Ai Frutti Di Mare. It’s made with the freshest seafood the ocean has to offer and long thick box-shaped stands of spaghetti topped with fragrant basil and pecorino romano cheese.
Another popular seafood pasta dish is the Spaghetti Alla Vongole prepared with freshly landed clams, juicy cherry tomatoes, garlic, and Calabrian chili pepper flakes christened in white wine and olive oil. Fresh off the boat, samples of the daily catch are drenched in batter and deep-fried to crispy golden perfection on the piers. For the exotic sea-foodies, you will find sea urchins and mollusks expertly prepared as well as appetizers with delicate anchovies and buttery octopus.
Restaurants take pride in perfectly pairing each dish with the famous wines of Ravello. Tall glasses of citrine-colored sparkling Aperol Spritzes decorate the café bistro tables during happy hour. Here, no meal is complete without sipping on limoncello. It is a digestivo after all.
11. Shopping Therapy
Glamourous people like to buy in glamourous shops on the glamourous island of Capri. If the lifestyles of the rich and famous do not match yours, don’t worry. Capri is still a fun place for window shopping, people-watching, and celebrity sightings. Eye-catching and extravagant displays attract attention to brand-name designer shops, fancy boutiques, and exquisite fine jewelry stores down the Via Camerelle (their version of “Rodeo Drive”).
It can pay to shop like a local. The most exquisite hidden gems are found in the off-the-beaten-path specialty shops.
At Carthusia, a perfumery, you’ll find secret formulas mixing Capri’s flowers and herbs were once written by ancient monks. Perfumes of the Amalfi Coast are laced with the sea and make perfect souvenirs.
Strolling down promenades and alleyways, you will pass many artisanal ceramic shops selling vibrant designs of tableware and home décor. Ceramiche Cosmolena in Ravello has been around since the 1950s and offers a great selection of the most beautifully designed and eccentric ceramics coveted by chefs worldwide.
By avoiding the tourist-crowded months of June, July, and August, you can easily grant yourself days of serenity and indulgence, just like the ancient Roman emperors. Spend your days strolling through the serene villas and gardens or hiking the hillsides on the carved rock footpaths and spiraling staircases leading into each town.
Try lounging under a ruby red umbrella on a smooth-pebbled beach. Gaze out at the shimmering sea peppered with triangular boats bobbing to the lull of the cerulean waters while sitting at a bistro table of a local seaside café.
Enjoy a feast of the morning’s catches, just-picked vegetables, and hand-rolled pasta served with a sparkling drink. In the afternoons, enjoy an authentic Limone gelato while hanging your feet off the edge of a centuries-strong stone ledge letting the seawater sprays regenerate those traveling legs. Let your imagination drift to the mythical mermaids lounged on the rocks rising from the lagoon or the fisherman who once tottered up to their jewel-colored hillside homes after a long day at sea.
To learn more about the Amalfi Coast visit – Amalfi Coast.