When it’s time for a break from Italy’s art museums, Roman ruins, and churches filled with Old Masters paintings, sunseekers flock to the Amalfi Coast to hobnob with the glitterati in Positano, drink in the maritime memories of the proud old republic of Amalfi, and get lost in the fragrant hilltop gardens of Ravello.
These pastel fishing villages cling to hillsides or lie in deep green valleys, strung along a dramatic coastline of plunging cliffs connected by the breathtaking Amalfi Drive: a gravity-defying thrill ride of a road stretching from the Bay of Naples to the Gulf of Salerno.
The beauty of southern Italy’s Amalfi Coast is legendary, and has inspired artists, writers, and such illustrious musicians as Richard Wagner. And it’s little wonder why: Here, vibrant, village-strewn cliffs jut into the sea. During the summer, notes of lemon hang in the air and festivals enliven hamlets along the drive from the Bay of Naples to the Gulf of Salerno, making it the ideal time to travel to the Amalfi Coast.
Where to stay
Equal parts culture and nature, this stretch of coastline draws sunseekers to its hilltop gardens, art collections, green valleys, music performances, and the glitzy see-and-be-seen resort town of Positano.
Positano is popular for its central location, its restaurants and jaw-dropping beauty. Despite these charms, some might find the peak season crowds, prices, and stairs overwhelming.
Ravello is an enchanting village perched on a ridge high above Amalfi and the neighboring town of Atrani. Ravello is relatively out of the way and the bulk of its visitors come during the day, leaving the nights gloriously quiet. There are several hikes in the area—even down to Amalfi.
Sorrento is convenient for visitors pairing the Amalfi Coasts with a stay in Naples, situated just across the way. It also marks the start of the 43-mile infamously winding coastal road that runs to Salerno.
Amalfi is the Amalfi Coast’s largest city, but it’s still small enough to feel intimate. It is a convenient base for excursions to Capri and the Grotta dello Smeraldo. Amalfi is romantically situated at the mouth of a deep gorge and its Duomo is impressive.
THINGS TO DO
A trip to the Amalfi Coast can be as busy or relaxed as you wish it to be. More ambitious day trips to Pompeii and Capri are doable – just be sure to leave plenty of space in your itinerary for sipping limoncello and staring at the water.
Spend the day in Capri, being sure to escape the crowds by heading to Anacapri, the island’s “second city,” about 3 km from Capri Town. Ride a 12-minute chairlift ride to the highest point on Capri, Monte Solaro. Tour one of the island’s swankiest residences, the Villa San Michele.
From shopping to sights, there is much to keep you busy in Positano. For a relaxing afternoon, take a small boat to the Spaggia di Lauriot, a small cove perfect for swimming. Da Adolfo, a restaurant just above the beach, should satisfy any midday cravings. At the dinner hour, head up to Montepertuso, a hamlet high over Positano, for fine dining.
From the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii is an easy day trip – especially if you’re based in Sorrento. From there, a Circumvesuviana train makes the 30-minute ride to the Pompeii-Scavi stop, a stone’s throw away from the ruins’ entrance. Expect to spend four to five hours at the site.
Concert enthusiasts will want to make Ravello a top priority. The small town is famous for its classical music festival, Festival Musicale di Ravello. The concerts, many of which are held in the gardens of the Villa Rufolo, have become so popular that the festival season stretches well beyond the summer. While there, you can also browse several of the many ceramic shops.
WHEN TO VISIT
Spring is the best time to visit the Amalfi Coast. July and August are high season for Amalfi Coast travel; temperatures can creep quite high and parking can be a challenge. Fall (especially November) and winter are rainy. The Ravello Festival, an annual arts and music festival, takes place throughout the summer in the town of Ravello.