HILLTOP HAMLETS, SAPPHIRE SEAS, CHARMING CLIFFSIDE CAFÉS, AND BREATHTAKING VISTAS: THE SUN-KISSED SPLENDOR OF ITALY’S MOST FAMOUS COAST WILL CAPTURE YOUR HEART AND SEDUCE YOUR SOUL
BY AMANDA MCCOY
Every year, more than five million visitors will make the pilgrim-age to the Amalfi Coast, the 34miles of dramatic coastline that snake through the jagged cliffs of Campania along Italy’s southwest-ern edge. There are 13 seaside villages along the route, each as picturesque as the last, from the pastel-tinted facades of celebrity-frequented Positano to the Italianate gardens of Ravello that have seduced poets and painters for centuries. Though all share commonalities like sweeping sea views, buzzy restaurants and cafés, and historic architecture, each town carries its own distinct persona, offering a mood for every type of vacationer (beach lovers should include a stop in Maiori, for instance, as it’s home to one of the only sandy beaches in the area, while solitude-seekers will revel in the tranquility of Sant’Agata). From the neck-craning verticality of the limestone cliffs to the gem-stone hue of the Tyrrhenian Sea, plus fi elds of vine-yards, olive groves, and lemony yellow wild flowers, the scenery here feels like a page from a storybook.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The Amalfi Coast is set on the southern edge of the Sorrentine Peninsula along the Gulf of Salerno, originating in the town of Nerano and culminating in Vietri Sul Mare.e closest international airport is Capodichino in Naples, about 40 miles north. Though not technically part of the Amalfi Coast, the cli top town of Sorrento is the most popular starting point, set on the northern edge of the peninsula and accessible via train on the Circumvesuviana rail line. Filled with winding narrow alleyways, 14th century churches, and a lively historical center, Sorrento is worth an overnight stay. From there, the only way to access the Amal route is by bus or car, but note that recent restrictions were placed on rental cars to limit the amount of traffic during the peak travel period of July through September. Summers here are hot, with highs hovering in the mid-80s, but cool coastal breezes o er respite from the sun, and many visitors choose to cool o in the sea or their resort villa’s private plunge pool.
A short ferry ride from Positano or Amalfi leads to the shores of this enchanting isle, where the scent of lemon blossoms hangs in the air as visitors explore the flower-lined streets, upscale boutiques, and world-famous beaches. Hire a captain to explore the many rocky coves and emerald grottos by boat, including the famed Blue Grotto, a natural sea cave that, illuminated by the sunlight passing through an underwater cavity, is cloaked in a fierce blue glow. Back on land, dine in the lively cafés that line the Piazza Umberto I, marvel at the superyachts dotting Marina Piccola, satiate your sweet tooth with a slice of Torta Caprese, and dance the stars away at one (or more) of the many swanky nightclubs.
GROTTA DELLO SMERALDO
Though simply cruising the SS163 high-way offers a sensorial feast of natural phenomena, some of the region’s most stirring geographical treasures hide below the surface, including this millenia-old natural karst cave (also known as the Emerald Cave). Located just a few miles outside of Amalfi in the village of Conca dei Marini, the legendary grotto is filled with a salt water lake that, via sunlight passing through the small connecting channel, glimmers in a vivid, almost mystical shade of green. The light also dances along the cave walls for an underground Aurora Borealis effect.
THE PATH OF THE GODS
Work off the parade of Michelin-starred lunches while catching some of the most dizzying views in all of Italy on this jaw-dropping hike, located high above Positano with sweeping views of the Sorrento peninsula. The five-mile trail, set along an old mule route, winds through crumbling cliffs, rolling hills, ancient carved stone homes, hidden caves, and even clouds before culminating in the charming village of Nocelle, where hikers can celebrate their feat with a margherita pizza and glass of Prosecco. There are a couple different entry points, with the most popular being Il Sentiero degli Dei in Bomerano accessible via bus.
WHERE TO STAY
HOTEL SANTA CATERINA
What was born as a humble six-room guest house in 1904 has since become one of the most celebrated resorts in southern Italy, a magnet for celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Kim Kardashian. Located in the town of Amalfi, the storied grande dame has been run by the founding Gambardella family for four generations. Precariously carved into the edge of a cliff (with terraces and elevators cut straight into the rock), the hotel radiates Italian glamour of yore: think hand-painted ceramic tiles, 19th century antiques, marble bathrooms with freestanding tubs, and thick ivory drapes that open to reveal breathtaking views of the bay. Spend the afternoon lapping up the sun in the lively on-site beach club before sitting down to a Michelin-starred feast on the veranda of signature restaurant Il Glicine.
For a taste of the deep-rooted history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site (the Amalfi Coast is one of 55 sites in Italy), slumber in this five-star Ravellore treat with origins that date back 900years. Dwelling on a quiet cobbled street in what was once a private villa for a noble Italian family, the “Pink Palace” opened as a hotel in 1997, and though it was meticulously refurbished for a modern clientele, it didn’t lose its medieval charm. There are 33 guestrooms and ten suites on site, out fitted with grand vaulted ceilings, baroque walnut furnishings, colorful floor tiles, and sea-facing terraces. Tiered gardens cascade down the cli to the 65-foot pool, o er-ing expansive vistas of the coastal hills. There’s also Michelin-starred dining onsite at Rossellini’s, offering a la carte and tasting menus alongside hand-picked regional wines. palazzoavino.com
WHERE TO DINE
LA SPONDAFor those lucky enough to nab a table (be sure to book when reservations open on the first of every month), this Positano icon is dripping in quintessential Italian romance. Vines frame the oversized windows of the main dining room while a sea-facing terrace over-looks the candy-colored cottages of the glamour capital. After sunset, the soft glow from hundreds of suspended candles (which take a full hour to light) illuminate the green linen-topped tables as servers present stunningly plated dishes of roasted veal, grilled octopus, and suck-ling pig. Just when one believes the set-ting couldn’t be any more idyllic, resident musicians Franco and Andrea pick up their guitar and mandolin. lasponda.com
Launched in 1872 from an aspiring young cook’s private home, this Amalfi mainstay is one of the region’s oldest operating restaurants and most popular dinner spots. White tablecloth-topped tables fill the second-story terrace (dinner is also served in the original living room), where founder Gemma’s recipes are still served alongside bottles of vino from the on-site cellar. Fresh fish, delivered daily, is the star of the show, appearing in signatures like zuppa di pesce (fish soup), fritture (fried fish), and carpacciodi tonno (thinly sliced raw tuna). Beyond the sea, the fan-favorite melanzane al cioccolato (eggplants served with chocolate) is a must. trattoria.trattoriadagemma.com
LO SCOGLIO DA TOMMASO
Built into an open-air terrace suspended over the sea in Marina del Cantone, this family-run icon circa 1958 has been serving heaping plates of farm-to-table favorites since long before it became a trendy movement. David Beckham, Sting, and Jennifer Lopez have all dined here. Fresh, seasonal ingredients are the name of the game: all fruits and vegetables are sourced from Lo Scoglio’s three estate farms, and seafood is hand-delivered daily by local fishermen. Dishes like fried eggplant balls, octopus salad, and shrimp with citrus fruit are served on hand-painted ceramic plates.hotelloscoglio.com/en/restaurant