Sick traffic, a confusion, curves and more curves, and a huge amount of people characterise the Amalfi Coast!
At first you might think this not a very positive view over one of the most wanted destinations of all times, and in the end, that’s what it is. And why? Because not even in paradise everything is perfect!
But the truth is, even its flaws make of the Amalfi Coast a paradise!
The Amalfi Coast was always a part of my top five in Europe, always desired to visit, and so, this fall, in another return to Italy, we decided to include this region in three days of our trip.
Were three days enough? Probably not, if I had more time probably I would’ve visited more cities or villages, but it was enough to absorb the true essence of the Amalfi Coast.
This region is a commute of around 60km, from Sorrento to Salerno, constituted by small villages or historic cities and which natural beauty assured it the title of World Heritage in 1997.
There are several places to visit, we stayed for Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello.
How to get there:
In our case, coming from the charming Cortona (Tuscany), we drove to Sorrento (around four and a half hours), where we made a quick stop to lunch at the memorable Don Alfonso 1980, and then drove again for around another hour until we finally got to Positano, to the beautiful hotel Villa Franca (see).
Driving to Sorrento we were able to see some of the poorest regions in the country, not anticipating the luxury of the Coast. On its side, Sorrento is more like a beach resort, with a big city infrastructure, combining the classic glamor of Italy with an environment like in our Algarve, with lots of people.
We already anticipated some confusion by the traffic and the peculiar way (psychotic, I must say!) of driving of the Italian people in the South – more like, every man for himself!
But we arrived safe and sound (not mentally- their driving skills really messed up my nerves!) to Positano!
If you’re not visiting Italy by car, you have always the option of arriving at the Coast by public transportation. If you’re coming from Rome, you can catch the train to Napoli (1h30 to 2h30) and then look for the Circumvesuviana line that will take you to Sorrento (around 1h), from there you can catch one of the many buses that’ll take you to the coast.
Mistakes not to commit:
In the days to follow we visited Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, and we made a big mistake that I advise you already not to make, we tried to visit Amalfi and Ravello by car! Forget it!
Once we were staying in Positano we were able to do a walking tour of the city from our hotel. As to Ravello and Amalfi we started the day very early and went straight to Ravello (around 1h, without traffic) and it was ok, we were able to park, but if we had arrived a few minutes later the chaos would be installed. When we left Ravello, in the afternoon and tried to go to Amali, the situation was already impossible.
So my tip is the following, if you are staying in just one city, walk around that same one, and go to the others by boat, namely Positano and Amalfi. As to Ravello, once it’s not located near the beach, if you’re going by car, leave super early!
From the hotel Villa Franca we could already see the colourful houses in terraces going down to the bright blue sea, lightly touching it. One of the most beautiful images of the coast is this one, the blue of the sea mixed with the colours of the houses.
I remember a few years ago seeing an image of this village and thinking “I will visit that place!”.
And nowadays I realize it was worth the wait, and how real was that beauty.
Positano is unmeasured seduction, charm, mystery, eternal.
With tales and legends to the mixture, from the proximity with the Li Galli Islands and their mysterious mermaids, Positano was always a place with extreme maritime significance and loved by those who had the privilege of going there.
Li Galli Islands
An authentic refuge of Gods, this small village was the place of wonderful residences in the Roman period and changed its urban form in 1268 when looted by the Pisanos, assuming a more defensive posture with narrow alleys and houses on top of rocks, forts and watchtowers.
Already in the XVIII century it had its peak, thanks to its port and the freight traffic coming from several strategic places, however, after Italy’s unification, the new routes established and the immigration to the USA, Positano went into decline again.
But thanks to the construction of the famous road Statale 163 (previously you could only arrive in Positano by sea or mountain trails) that connects the entire Amalfi Coast, this small forgotten village reborn from the ashes and started to become a true luxury refuge!
The former palaces transformed into astonishing hotels and a tourist elite started to transform Positano and the entire Amalfi Coast into their vacation place. From Steinbeck to Picasso, everyone wanted a bit of this paradise!
What to do in Positano:
Even if you don’t want to spend much time here, just walking around is fascinating. Get lost in the alleys, shop in the most varied clothing stores (like Missoni), linen is king around here, and if you enjoy alcoholic beverages you must taste the delicacy of the coast, the Limoncello.
Enter the majestic Church of Santa Maria Assunta, where you can see an image of the Virgin from the XVIII century of Byzantine inspiration.
Rest a bit at the Spiaggia grande (if you can, to those used to thin sand these rocks scare a bit!), while having the sea as confident and delight yourselves with the mountains and the colourful houses.
Another interesting activity is the path from Spiaggia grande to the more calm and recondite beaches, like Fornillo, the trail is very beautiful, interesting and not tiring, but to the laziest, you can take a boat.
Speaking of boats, don’t miss a ride in one because the view from the sea to the coast is even more wonderful (there are boats leaving Spiaggia grande all the time).
You can also choose to visit the Li Galli Islands and get to know more about the legend of the mermaids and their seductive voices!
From Positano, there are several trails leading to small hidden villages in the mountains, which allow us a majestic view over the blue of the sea. You can start by a trail that goes to the Oasis of Vallone Porto, a place where Nature is queen.
From Positano, and climbing infinite steps, or by car, go to Montepertuso, the city of the Lattari mountains, which separate Positano from the sky. On the top of it you find the Burgo Nocelle, from where you get one of the most beautiful images of the Amalfi Coast.
Use and abuse of this refuge of Gods that is Positano!
Amalfi is a bit more confuse and agitated than Positano, and we went in the end of October, but once the weather was wonderful and there was a religious holiday coming up, the city was completely booked! I can’t even imagine what it’s like in the summer!
By car, from Positano to Amalfi takes around 45min that easily become 1h30. So forget the car, because not only the traffic is exhausting, but also there are not much parking lots, and they are very expensive. And once we are civilised we don’t even think of leaving the car in the narrow streets, where one car barely passes, talk about two and with poorly parked cars on the sides! So you know, the boat is the best option.
Amalfi is the oldest Maritime Republic of the Amalfi Coast and of Italy. Its beauty is unique and still has some traces of its Roman origin, in the Imperial Period.
Its beauty comes from the very close together houses, matching pure white with bright colours, in the blue of the sky torn by the mountain, in the alleys protected by porches, in the watchtowers and in the beach, filled with colourful sunshades that end the emerald blue of the sea.
What to do in Amalfi:
You have to visit the Cathedral, the maximum symbol of the city. Initiated in the IX century, restored several times, giving origin to the imposing construction we see today. Its beautiful polychrome facade anticipates an even more majestic interior. An interior of Baroque style, with a bronze statue of Sant´Andrea in the altar.
Inside we have access to the first ever cathedral here constructed, the Basilica del Crocefisso and to the Chiostro del Paradiso, the former cemetery of famous citizens.
Outside we have the Piazza del Duomo, with the Fontana del Popolo in the centre. Close by, passing by a porch, we arrive at the Former Arsenals, were once were constructed warships. A few meters aside there’s also the Piazzetta dos Doges with typical factories.
Those visiting with more time, don’t miss the visit to Atrani, very close to Amalfi.
If you want to relax, the beach is the best option.
Of the three places we’ve been to, no doubt Positano occupied the dearest space in my heart, but it would be two places in Ravello to take the award home!
The Villa Cimbrone and the Villa Rufolo. Take note of these names, because these are the two musts in a visit to Amalfi Coast.
Ravello is a mix of art, culture and music, it has been the stage for names like Wagner, Miró and Virginia Wolf, among many others.
Historic sources report the presence of noble families, rebelling against the authorities of the Amalfi Coast and moving to Ravello. It prospered a lot in the XI century, breaking bonds with the Maritime Republic of Amalfi. The decline would come soon with the Norman conquerings. And already in the XIX century, it was unified with the diocese of Amalfi. But Ravello never once lost its beauty and elegance.
On the contrary, Ravello became the place of the most important personalities in the world, who completely surrendered to its charm.
What to do in Ravello:
We arrived very early to Ravello; as opposite to Positano and Amalfi, Ravello is not located near the sea, we went by car from Positano and it took around 1h15, there wasn’t much traffic. We parked in a paid spot, and headed to the main square, where the main Cathedral is located.
This is the first visit card of the city, but not the most important.
We then went to Villa Rufolo, located right next to the square. The entrance is paid, but a quite symbolic value for the beauty of the place, 5€.
It was constructed in the second half of the XIII century by the noble family Rufolo, and more fascinating is the architecture, combining Arabic, Moorish, and Arabic-Norman lines.
The entire complex is astonishing, but the ex libris really is the view. Divine, that is for sure!
Here also happens the Wagner music festival.
From Villa Rufolo we headed to Villa Cimbrone, where is located the place that took me to Ravello, the one that appears in Google when you search for the Amalfi Coast, the Terrace of Infinity.
Much likely one of the most beautiful places in the world!
Villa Cimbrone – Terrace of Infinity
This was also for sure the thought of Lord William Beckett when in 1904 he bought the land with just an abandoned house and transformed it into one of the most idyllic places ever. Here we find a mix of styles from different periods, and fascinating archaeological remains.
The gardens are decorated with statues, founatins, temples, caves and plants of several species.
The highlight is the Terrace of Infinity. Honestly, I could spend my life trying to explain what you feel when you get there, but nothing I could say would be enough to describe it, there are no possible adjectives to it!
The spotlight of this trip to Italy, and for sure one of the most idyllic, majestic, divine and perfect places I ever been at.
At Villa Cimbrone is also located a luxury hotel, a restaurant with a Michelin star and here it’s also possible to host weddings, and I must say, the most beautiful place in the world to get married in!
The entrance to the complex is paid: 7€.
Those staying more than one day in Ravello may also visit the Oscar Niemeyer Auditorium, with a completely different architecture from the rest of the city.
This was our experience in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Amalfi Coast, a unique architecture, a peculiar charm, a bustle that as so much of characteristic as of irritating, and an authentic view of paradise you can’t get anywhere else.
It’s perfectly understandable why the locals refer that arriving in paradise won’t be anything of exciting… they’re already in paradise in their own home!
Photos: Flavors & Senses