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It’s the scene of sparkling convertibles cruising the sunny coastline, cliffs dropping into the Tyrrhenian sea, the hum of speedboats riding the waves as celebrities sport designer sunglasses and sip on champagne.
There is all the glamour that this majestic Amalfi coast is famous for, but there is also a quieter side of spectacular high coastal walking paths, classical concerts in magical settings, hillside villages and small local restaurants hidden from the main promenades with simple, delicious local specialities.
The Amalfi coast is a 50 km stretch of coastline along the Sorrentine peninsula that includes the towns of Positano, Amalfi, and the hilltop village of Ravello. The much larger Neapolitan Riviera, also the Campania region, includes Naples, Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii, Sorrento and the islands of Capri and the lesser known Ischia.
To offer the most varied and versatile holidays that include relaxation, and slow paced exploring, visiting classic popular sites such as Vesuvius and Pompeii, walking, cruising, shopping and long leisurely meals with local foods and wines, our Italy programme has a number of options. We’ve selected hotels that take relaxation and contentment to a level that makes it increasingly hard to leave, or others a short distance away from popular destinations.
Choose from two centre holidays, offering different experiences, or see more on our Amalfi coast splendours explorer holiday. We’ve included a choice of perfect day excursions and a guide of festivals and events. The magic of the Amalfi coast, its beauty and history will lead you to new discoveries everywhere.
Sorrento – Overlooking the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius, Sorrento clings to the cliffs overlooking the sea. Its beautiful old centre is a network of tiny streets and bustling shops, bars and restaurants. It’s a short boat ride to Capri.
Positano – Hugging the corniche road around a clifftop coastline the brightly painted houses that disappear into a network of narrow streets, make it one of the most attractive towns. Efficient timetables of ferries and buses make it easy to explore.
Amalfi – Architecturally charming and not overly crowded with a small beach front, here is a feast of surprises surrounded by lemon groves and vineyards.
Ravello – A stunning hilltop village with a famous Duomo and two exotic and magical gardens, one being one of the concert sites during the summer Ravello music festival. The view of the coast far below are breathtaking.
Scala – A picturesque small village above Ravello built in Roman times. The gateway to several walks including to the ruins of Torre Dello Ziro
Capri – This craggy, rugged island has been a magnet to countless civilisations throughout history. Its glamour is legendary and its lure all-encompassing. But beyond its busy centre are scenic beaches, and lovely, quiet walks.
Ischia – Lesser known and less busy, this larger island called the “green isle” has ancient thermal springs, now cultivated into thermal parks with stunning gardens and regal hotels.
Pompeii – One of the Romans most important centres. It covers a huge area, which needs at least a day to explore. Start early and take a picnic.
Mount Vesuvius – the active volcano that once destroyed Pompeii in 79 AD and looms over the Bay of Naples. It takes about 30 minutes to climb, worth it to look in the crater and for the spectacular, panoramic view.
Path of the Gods – a spectacular high coastal route from Bomerano to Nocelle where every step creates a view that surpasses the last: truly memorable and extraordinary.
Limoncello – the drink and liqueur that epitomises the region. Lemon groves dot the landscape while lemons features prominently either painted on the classic local pottery, or as a major ingredient served in numerous dishes and desserts.
Sipping an Aperol spritz, overlooking the dramatic coastline, by the infinity terrace of the Villa Cimbrone is an essential Amalfi coast experience. The gardens although only a short walk from Ravello’s main square, take you through an isolated paradise at the very tip of Ravello’s ridge. There are formal gardens, little pockets of discoveries, ancient towers, water features and absolute peace and quiet.
Villa Rufolo, one of the venues for open-air concerts during the Ravello festival, is another stunning and varied garden. Go when it first opens and you wander through towers and turrets, an elaborate formal garden, rose garden and much more, virtually alone.
Don’t miss the gardens of Villa San Michele on the island of Capri. On the volcanic island of Ischa make time for the Mortella gardens, where there are often concerts. The grandiose 18th century Palazzo Reale at Caserta, with its English garden, lavish fountains and formal gardens based on the splendour and extravagance of Versailles is stunning.
Food and Drink
Pizza, mozzarella and limoncello are the tip of the iceberg here. This part of southern Italy has a very distinct cuisine based on natural resources, fish from the sea and lush fruit and vegetables that lap up the sun and produce sweet, stunning flavours. Pastries, gelato and unforgettable variations of Tiramisu are hard to resist. The top restaurants can be very expensive, formal and rather touristic, so look slightly further afield and find small trattorias and osterias off the main drag. Walnuts are a specialty as are many cheeses such as provolo, caciocavallo and mozzarella. Try crispy crespelle (pancakes) with ricotta or ham. Then there is the pasta, homemade gnocchi, dumplings, olives and so much more.
Try our one day cookery course to make the local pastas and specialties of the region.
The slopes of Mount Vesuvius and other sunny hillsides are filled with vineyards producing the many Campanian wines. Ischia produces a white wine, Biancolla that’s popular. Try Gragnano, a sparkling red wine that’s slightly unusual.
The best beaches in Sorrento are a 20 minute bus ride from the town centre. In town there are a couple of beaches on the lido at the Marina San Francesco. There is also swimming at Marina Piccola and Marina Grande. Positano has a strip of sandy beaches called the Spiaggia del Fornillo right at the ferry port. A larger beach called the Spiaggia del Fornillo is further along the headland. Nearby Priano, 5 km away are places to swim including the beach at Gavitella reached off the main road or a shingle beach at the Marina di Praia. Amalfi has a small strip of sand with sunbeds and swimming near the main town bus station. Much more enticing are some sandy beaches around the headland at Conca dei Marini.
Naples and the Amalfi coast have a mild Mediterranean climate. For walking the best months are spring and autumn before temperatures become hot in mid-June, July and August. In April/May expect temperatures from 18-23ºC. The hottest months in July and August are consistently in the 30ºC.
On the surface it seems as if the Amalfi coast shopping experience is wall to wall souvenir shops. But explore the backstreets and you will find much more on offer. Most towns and villages have regular markets. The one in Ravello for example not only sells fruit and vegetables, but has many stalls with linens, clothing and local produce. There are some lovely boutiques and shoe shops selling classic Amalfi coast sandals. Do visit one of the ceramic factories and workshops that sell the beautifully painted crockery, lovely serving plates that are an area speciality. One of the best is the Ceramic Artistica Solimene one of the oldest ceramic manufacturers in Vietri, which is along the coast from Amalfi towards Minori. The Museo della Ceramica Vietrese located in the tower of the Villa Guariglia also in Vietri has several floors of ceramics, decorative tiles and figures.
Where to Eat
Expensive and overrated restaurants beckon from every corner on the Amalfi coast. But with a bit of research it’s easy to find reasonably priced, atmospheric restaurants and trattoria’s to suit every occasion. There are local pizzerias, oyster and champagne bars and five star hotels with renowned restaurants such as one of the many Michelin starred restaurants, La Sponda in Le Sirenuse at Positano. We have picked all our hotels with their menus in mind to help you have good food at reasonable prices. For days out here are a few local best choices off the beaten track.
Maria Grazia, Nerano
A short drive from Sorrento, in Marina del Cantone bay, on a sunny terrace overlooking the sea, Maria Grazia is a casual beach spot that is hard to leave. Simple specialties include courgette spaghetti, or plates of fresh fish, small squid, fresh local fish, lobster and a delicious anit pasti.
Trattoria da Emilia, Sorrento
Right on the coast this simple trattoria is known as the spot Sophia Loren used to frequent during the filming of Bread, Love and Dreams in 1953. It hasn’t changed much. Expect crisp and succulent calamari, local fish, ravioli and scrumptious desserts while overlooking the harbour.
Il Ritrovo, Montertuso
You can walk here up 1700 steps from Positano or hop on a bus. A shaded terrace overlooks the harbour at Positano while across the road the kitchen throbs with activity. Try the anti pasti and local fish with Salvatore’s recommended wine. We tucked into langoustine tagliatelle, and fresh seabass. You can even have a cookery class here.
Da Adolfo, Positano
This perfect beach hideaway can only be reached by boat. Once there it’s local fish and veg and excellent swimming. Phone first to find out pick up times.
La Brace, Praiano
On the coast road with a lovely terrace this is the spot for a simple pizza while admiring the views. Priano is a few kilometres from Positano on the bus route to Amalfi. There’s a nice beach Spiaggia Gavitella below the village.
Cumpa Cosimo, Ravello
There’s lots of choice in Ravello but if you are looking for good, hearty home cooked food in a family restaurant go no further. Expect meat from the local butcher, home grown fruit and veg and home made wine from the nearby vineyards.
A few days beside the sea at the Hotel Luna Convento is a great combination with the friendly Hotel La Margherita & Villa Giuseppina in Scala.