The Amalfi Coast is a beguiling stretch of coastline, stretching for 40 knows from Salerno in the west to Sorrento in the east. It is home to a smattering of beautiful little hamlets and a tangle of sun-splashed vertical towns that are peppered around its lovely pebbly coves. I spent ten blissful days last Christmas hopping from one quaint town to the other, falling hopelessly in love with this amazing country, its cappuccinos and cornettos, fresh pasta, limoncellos and its jolly lively people, their culture and traditions. Even though it’s popular mostly as a summer destination, this coastline enjoys moderate weather even in the winter. I delighted in exploring the quaint towns decked up in their festive Christmas lights and w/o the crazy crowds. Never have I eaten as well as I ate or slept as soundly as I slept, and never found myself as happy as I was. “It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”
Below I’ve curated a few of my favorite addresses and things to help you uncover the best of this incredible coastline.
How to reach the Amalfi Coast
You can fly into Naples International Airport directly or Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport and take the train to Naples. http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en (tickets starting at 15Euros if you book in advance) Make sure to look at their Offers section, they have some sweet deals.
Naples > Amalfi Coast
You first need to decide if you are traveling west to east or vice versa, i.e., Salerno to Sorrento or the other way around. I chose Salerno to Sorrento; I prefer going from smaller towns to bigger and more popular/touristy towns.
- Rent a car: In the wintertime, the roads are mostly empty, and you can rent a classic car or a Ferrari (whatever your style) and have the road trip of your life. Be warned, driving here is not for the faint of heart. If a thousand hairpin bends, narrow uphill roads and cruising on precarious cliff side roads is your cup of tea, then go for it. On the bright side, however, you will be rewarded with spellbinding views and what might end up being the best road trip of your life. You can rent cars at the Naples airport or in Sorrento. Loosen the purse strings a bit and make sure to get insurance.
- Train: Take the Circumvesuviana train from Naples Centrale station to Sorrento/Salerno. www.vesuviana.it ~90minutes
- Take the hydrofoil from Naples to Sorrento. ~30 minutes. Only available in the summer. You can also sail to Capri and Positano.
Within the Amalfi Coast:
Ride the SITA buses, they are cheap and frequent.
Naples (Enroute to Amalfi Coast)
Birthplace of the pizza, Sophia Lauren and home of the Camorra (organized crime in Naples), you will either love Naples or hate it.
1>Start your trip with a slice of heaven at Da Michele.
2> Take a free walking tour. Contact email@example.com
Where to stay: Stay at this bed and breakfast in Salerno. View from the B&B
Things to see.
1> Visit the looming Castello di Arechi
2> Stroll along the Lungomare or sea side promenade.
3> Admire the stunning frescos and mosaics at the beautiful Duomo.
4> Stroll the streets of Salerno
4>Check out the Luci d’Artista or Christmas lights in the heart of the medieval city.
Paestum ruins and buffalo-milk yogurt and cheese tasting (When in Italy ☺)
1> Discover the ruins of the ancient city of Paestum.
2> Learn mozzarella di bufala farm is made. Trivia: Mozzarella from buffalo milk was born here in Paestum 😀 Note you will have to drive to the farm or take a cab. Sadly the buses don’t go there ☹
Vietri Sul Mare
Not only the are city’s main handicrafts beautiful and functional, historically they helped to protect the city as well. Rumor has it that the inhabitants of this picturesque town threw ceramics at invaders to prevent from coming in. Whatever works eh?
Things to do:
1> Buy souvenirs at a traditional ceramics shop
2> Learn how to make pasta from scratch at an Agriturismo. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the classes or http://www.travelamalfi.com/tours/970-cooking-lesson?lang=en
Maori & Minori
Town of watermills and pasta factories.
Where to stay: Airbnb with direct access to Path of the Lemons.
Things to do:
1> Catch the sunrise during the hike through the Path of the Amalfi Lemons or Sentiero del Limone from Minori to Maori. No better way to kick start the morning.
2> Replenish lost calories at the local pastry maestro Salvatore De Riso. Indulge in their famous ricotta and pear hazelnut crumb cake or Delizie Limone de Riso (Lemons on lemons on lemons)
3> Checkout the pretty Christmas trees at the cobbled square of Maori & Minori
4> Wine and dine at an ancient watch tower (Torre Normanna restaurant) highly recommend trying the local pasta: ricotta gnocchi. #noms
5> Learn the secrets of the local liqueur: limoncello at the limoncello lab, a small family run establishment next to the Duomo.
1> Visit the church
2> Take the walking tour
3> Buy a pair of locally made sandals
4> Last but not the least Path of the Gods
Paths of the Gods
If the gods ever descended upon Earth, this is where you find them. The usual trail starts from Bomerano, winds through the Monti Lattari or the Milky Mountains (called so due to the rich vegetation found here) and ends at Nocelle, a picturesque village above Positano. However, our awesome guide Maurizo took us through the lesser known path starting from the neighboring town of Praiano instead of Bomerano. I can’t tell you how much I recommend doing this. Email Maurizo at email@example.com
Visit the Furore, (fjord). If you are there on first Sunday of July, I heard there is a crazy awesome diving competition.
Where to stay: Stay at La Ninfa, which is a 15-minute walk from the city. However, the free breakfast, views from the balcony and the walk to Amalfi make it worth it. Download the Expedia mobile app and save 50$ on your booking.
Things to do:
1> Valley of the Mills
2> Sunset hike to Atrani
3> Shop for local produce and explore the delightful city centre.
5> Indulge your sweet tooth at the local pastry shop: Andrea Pansa
5> Climb the steps to the impressive Duomo
6> Boat ride to Grotta dello Smeraldo or emerald green caves.
7> Day trip to Ravello ->
This stunning town sits on a mountain buttress 350 metres above sea level, fascinating locals and tourists with its ridiculously good vistas. Things to do: Stroll through the dreamy gardens and grounds of the marvelous Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo
Where to stay: Great prices and free breakfast and upgrades during offseason at Hotel Aminta. Again, it’s outside the city but they run a free shuttle every 15 mins.
1> Check out the beautiful Christmas markets and parades at the city centre.
4> Day trip to Capri ->
1> When you disembark the ferry at the port of Marina Grande, cross the street and take the funicular straight up to Piazza Umberto I.
2> Piazza Umberto at the heart of Capri is a tiny bustling square, with every seat of the four bars packed to the rafters, and the perfect spot for macchiato and people-watching.
This island is chock full of places that have the best views.
3> Faraglioni rocks
4> Via Krupp
5> Villa Jovis
6> Blue Grotto
When the weather gods aren’t acting cranky, you can take a small rowing boat into the Blue Grotto (you’ll need to lie down in the boat as the opening is very narrow). Thanks to the reflecting sunlight, the water appears to take on the color of the sky. If you’re lucky, your boatman might even sing you a song.
7. Take the bus to Ana Capri.
8. Monte Solaro
Hop onto a ski-lift and be whisked away to the top of this mountain, which is 589 meters above sea level. You can also hike there or hike back. A camel laden with diamonds if you guess what I did 😀
No matter where you are, I would recommend starting the day early, early enough to catch the sunrise 😉 Nothing compares to watching the sunrise in a foreign country. Also, the house wine at restaurants is fantastic and cheap. And drink macchiato ALL THE TIME. It helps to learn a few phrases of Italian before you embark on your trip. Base yourself in one or two cities during the trip and visit places around. Use Expedia and booking.com for hotels (cancellation policy on booking.com is pretty good), CouchSurfing (free! Woo!) and Airbnb for B&Bs and a local experience (If you are new to Airbnb, use www.airbnb.com/c/draghavan1?s=8 for 25-50$ off your first booking. I hope this little guide helps you plan your itinerary through the Amalfi Coast.
Viaggio Sicuro and Buon Appetito Amici!!