Jaw-dropping beauty, homes like precious gems in a glistening crown over the rocky headlands… verdant green hugging the chalky white of sheer cliffs, harbors with bobbing boats on sparkling turquoise waters… this is the Amalfi Coast, where sultry evenings and sun-kissed sands are the norm. For travelers from around the globe, it’s love at first sight.
From road trips and hiking to wining and dining; from the famous handmade paper, thick and textural, called bambagina; from Vietri ceramics to Sorrento’s handmade pasta – the Amalfi Coast is the place to spend not just one day, but a whole lifetime.
The only challenge is where to begin. And if getting a good feel for the lay of the land – and the little hidden gems along the way – is your main priority, then embrace Amalfi like a local and rent one of the incredible apartments or holiday villas available. Once you’re settled, take along this list of Top 10 Amalfi Towns to help plan your unforgettable adventure.
A regional cornerstone, Naples is chock-full of history, passionate street scenes – of the romantic and revengeful variety –pigeon-filled piazzas, pizza (lest we forget), shopping districts, superstitious rituals, handcrafts and souvenirs as far as the eye can see… and energy that reverberates like the waves of the sea, along the Amalfi shores or shining bright in the Bay of Naples. Naples also offers quick access to the tried-and-true visits to Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Vesuvius. Don’t miss it.
Laid-back and brimming with the quirky and the quaint, Sorrento’s nostalgic ambiance sets it apart. With a vibrant old quarter and ample shopping, you’ll find concrete examples of Sorrentino charm: embroideries, wooden jewelry boxes, and dolls in tarantella costumes. Check out the Basilica di Sant’Antonino, the Duomo des SS Filippo e Giacomo, Marina Grande, and the Piazza Tasso. Don’t forget that just beyond thetourist-laden streets lies a lovely peninsula with ample breathing room, forested hills, Roman ruins, monasteries, and relatively untrodden terrain.
Amalfi salutes you with seascape views, Saint Andrew Cathedral, classic alleys, secluded corners, hidden squares and many left-over vestiges of the area’s paper-making tradition. The Duomo di Sant’Andrea boasts bronze doors in the Byzantine tradition, while the famed “Cloister of Paradise” beckons next door with its odd combination of Roman and Arabic design. Refresh with a walk through the hovering hills, preferably Valle dei Mulini (Valley of the Mills), a welcoming nature trail with flora, fauna, and glimpses of the famed stone paper mills.
Adored for sweeping views over vertiginous croppings of houses, Positano grants access to the Sentiero degli Dei, Path of the Gods, a hiking route connecting Agerola, Praiano and Positano along hushed paths and stunning heights; you’ll also find Byzantine symbols like the Black Madonna at the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, ancient towers like “Torre Trasita” and “Torre Sponda” to remind the modern-day vacationer of Positano’s pirate-besieged past; and of course yards of colorful fabrics in the many boutiques. The Spiaggia Grande along Positano’s bay is especially spectacular for its tantalizing restaurant options.
Yet another stroke of beauty tucked into a tango of cliffs, seas, farmlands, coves, caverns, languid bays and natural, peculiar rock formations: Praiano’s picturesque scenes include pastel-painted homes, bursts of friendly bright-colored geraniums along the narrow pathways; sun-kissed terraces, and the citrus-saturated salty breeze. Praiano points of interest include La Praia beach, Saracen Towers, the Church of St Luke and its majolica dome, the Monastery of Santa Maria, and expansive views taking in the Sorrento Peninsula and distant, distinct forms of Capri.
Monuments, villas, history, and artisan crafts ranging from ceramics to coral jewelry – Ravello is a charming, soulful element along the Amalfi Coast strand. With a stunning landscape and equally stunning celebrity patronage, you will find plenty of wow-factors and warm reminders of why southern Italy is so irresistible. Many artists and writers have left their creative mark on Ravello, offering incentive to pen your own sonnet or paint your own homage to this lovely little town. Villa Rufolo, Villa Cimbrone, the Cathedral, and many smaller churches all merit an appreciative glance.
VIETRI SUL MARE
Synonymous with ceramics, and with museums commemorating the same, Vietri sul Mare expresses itself in the bright yellows and blues that splash across traditionally handcrafted local pottery. The church of San Giovanni Battista even sports a tiled dome, and elsewhere in the town, walls are branded with the classic glazed tokens of a highly-prized ceramic heritage. If you just can’t get enough, go for sensory overload on Via Madonna degli Angeli, a pedestrian-only street dedicated to individual pottery boutiques, all with slightly different versions of common hand painted motifs.
Capri glitters with celebrities and star-struck tourists, dazzling “blue grottoes” – the underground caves glowing with azure shades of the Mediterranean –quaint cobblestone streets, undisputed, imminent glamour, and rewarding hiking trails. Breathtaking gardens delight the senses, along with Capri’s famous handcrafted perfumes, incorporating local essences such as wisteria, roses, honeysuckle, and bougainvillea. I Faraglioni’s limestone formations tower above the shimmering, sunlit ocean surrounding Capri; and scenic cliffs, as always, offer a reassuring chance to get just one more glimpse of the staggering views.
Known as “The Emerald Isle” to locals, Ischia is one of the rare regional gems that has managed to escape mass tourism while maintaining a booming clientele for world-renowned healing hot springs. The island is actually a volcano – and like her big sister Vesuvius, she’s still active – but don’t let a little lava-flow keep you from venturing across the bay. Ischia’s diversity starts the moment you get off the boat: check out the Aragon Castle, designer boutiques, countless thermal spas, and the little village of Lacco Ameno – home to an archaeological museum and host to the internationally-acclaimed annual Ischia Film and Music Festival.
A historical backdrop for Ischia, Forio offers many locally-steeped peculiarities, a must for anyone wanting to truly understand the island’s folklore and heritage. “Soccorso” church, literally perched on rocky outcroppings and hedged by crashing waves, is one of the island’s most highly-photographed places. Forio sunsets look like they were planned out by a Hollywood studio, and the selection of beaches ranges from family-friendly to more hip. After sunbathing, test your courage with cliff-jumping; or go for a hike and horseback ride to the top of Mt. Epomeo. Admire basket-weavers and live bands, peruse the many boutiques for locally-produced ceramics, and don’t forget to try the food specialties including roast rabbit.