with old-world charm, romantic landscapes, and A plethora of beaches, the Amalfi Coast is One of the most sought-after holiday destinations in Italy, and well worth the trek from Naples or Rome
by Nubia DuVall Wilson
For decades, the Amalfi Coast has attracted some of the biggest names in Hollywood (think George Clooney and Reese Witherspoon) for honeymoons, romantic getaways, and the party scene. Its iconic viewscape of mountains and sea is characterized by a picturesque labyrinth of stairways and narrow alleys that lead to a coastline of pebbled beaches. (Before the coastal road was built, the region’s towns were accessible only via mule tracks and footpaths, which still exist.) This Mediterranean paradise offers a unique mix of laid-back luxury, lush nature, five-star hotels, ancient history, memorable food, and a vibrant nightlife.
Know Before You Go
Located in the Campania region south of Naples, the Amalfi Coast’s 13 towns are connected by the scenic SS. 163 road, built in the first half of the 19th century during the Bourbon period and considered one of the most beautiful roads in Italy. The region’s only railway station, in Vietri sul Mare, connects to stations in Naples and Salerno, which is the first town on the coast. Probably the best way to reach some of the more popular cities, including Amalfi, Positano, Praiano, and Maiori, is by private car transfer from either Capodichino airport in Naples (an hour-and-a-half drive) or Rome’s Fiumicino airport (a three- to-four-hour drive). There are a number of car companies to choose from, and transfer fees start at 120 euros. During high season, which runs from July through August, the area is teeming with tourists and, at times, oppressively hot. For a calmer, cooler visit, come between April and June, when the weather is just warm enough for a dip in the ocean and there are fewer visitors. Most hotels open at Easter (or a few days before) and operate until the Christmas holidays, but small bed and-breakfasts are open year-round. Restaurants serve lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and dinner from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. (later in summer). Reservations for lunch and dinner are strongly recommended, especially for restaurants overlooking the sea.
Where to Stay
Positano, one of the best-known towns of the Amalfi Coast, is a favorite of photographers because of its vertical landscape, mountainside staircases, and whitewashed houses. The town is famous for its handmade leather sandals and linen clothes (“Moda Positano”), its beautiful, centuries-old buildings, the iconic tiled dome of the main church, and the Li Galli islands. Stay at the town’s only beachfront, five-star property, the Covo dei Saraceni Hotel, which offers suites and terraces overlooking the sea, a traditional restaurant, and a pool directly above the bay. The Incanto Suite, the hotel’s largest, features an outdoor pool, a sprawling terrace, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a sauna. The Covo dei Saraceni is convenient to the shopping district. After getting settled, guests might consider a pair of made-to-measure sandals from Safari Sandali in via della Tartan 2 or a Moda Positano in Maria Lampo’s boutique in via Pasitea 16. The ruins of the ancient Roman villas surrounding the Church dell’Assunta offer a bit of history. Spiaggia Grande Beach is the hot spot for the rich and famous and, at almost 1,000 feet, one of the largest beaches on the coast. If you prefer something a bit more sedate, try Fornillo Beach or visit little bays like Remmese or Clavel via the “sea taxi service” on Marina Grande Beach.
Maiori became the favorite setting of the Italian neo-realist director Roberto Rossellini after World War II. The town’s wide promenade is bordered by the Norman Tower on the east and the marina and charming Miramare Castle on the west. In the old town’s center, neoclassical buildings coexist with ancient vaulted houses. Maiori actually has a sandy beach, which is rare along the Amalfi Coast. The nearly mile-long stretch features a full line of bars, sunbeds and deck chairs, and watersports, including scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, boating, and surfing. Stay in the five-star boutique hotel Botanico San Lazzaro, which sits above the bay and offers a restaurant, spa, pool, and suites.
Amalfi, the town that gives the coast its name, is famous for its history and monuments, which led to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city’s gates, narrow cobbled streets and alleys, and small chapels create a medieval atmosphere. Sites of interest include the castle and towers of Pogerola; the Cathedral of St. Andrew, which overlooks the Piazza Duomo; the Amalfi Paper Museum in an old 13th-century mill, and the Natural Reserve of Valle della Ferriere, which has a microclimate where ferns thrive. Stay at the five-star Saraceno Grand Hotel, set on the ruins of an ancient, 11th-century fortress. Guests there have access to a pool, five restaurants and bars, a private beach, and shuttles to and from the city center. The Royal Suite has an expansive terrace with a grand entrance, a sitting area, sunbeds, and sea views.
Renting a luxury yacht along the Amalfi Coast is a rite of passage and a popular option for exploring both it and nearby islands like Capri—not to mention it being a charming alternative to booking a hotel. Bespoke Yacht Charter offers visitors access to every crewed yacht on the market, along with concierge services. Vessels generally accommodate from 8 to 10 guests and offer various types of amenities, depending on the owner. The Farandwide (46,000 euros a week), which sleeps eight in four cabins with en-suite showers, also has a large saloon and dining area with 360-degree views. Watersports equipment, such as wakeboards, waterskis, and kayaks, is included as part of the rental. The Anne Marie (52,000 euros a week) is a motor yacht with a lounge area, spacious deck, fully equipped bar, wine cooler, and formal dining room. It sleeps up to 10 guests (nine adults and one child) in four cabins. The sundeck has cooking facilities and a dining area, and the fly bridge is perfect for enjoying Mediterranean sunsets. Guests give Bespoke Yacht Charter their flight details, and upon arrival at the airport, they are privately transferred to their rental. The yachts typically sail out of the Marina di Stabia, 30 minutes from Naples International Airport.
Where to Eat and Play
Il Faro di Capo d’Orso, Maiori, ilfarodicapodorso.it, $$$
This Michelin star restaurant is perched on a promontory and features a seasonal menu that serves imaginative Mediterranean dishes and specialties from Campania. The wine cellar offers 1,700 vintages. Dine while drinking in views of distant islands, including Capri, and the shores of Amalfi, Atrani, and Ravello.
Ristorante Eolo, Amalfi eoloamalfi.it, $$$
Eolo is located in one of the most picturesque spots on the coast. With an interior decorated with the distinctive ceramics of Vietri sul Mare, Eolo welcomes guests inside in an intimate lounge or outside on a romantic terrace overlooking the sea. The Michelin star restaurant reinterprets dishes of the typical Amalfi and Mediterranean tradition.
Rada Restaurant, Positano radarestaurant.it, $$$
Rada is reached from the beach of Marina Grande, not far from the lively streets and fashion boutiques that have made Positano famous. Its romantic decor is rich with details from the ocean, with sand and shells illuminated by lamps and candles. For an antipasti, try the cuttlefish and peas puree. First- and second-course options include risotto with prawns and lemons, button-shaped pasta with pecorino cheese and Nerano sauce, and grilled lobster.
Music on the Rocks, Positano musicontherocks.it
Beneath Rada restaurant, on the ground floor, is Music on the Rocks. The club, a disco institution since 1972, is considered the heart of the international jet-set circuit. The bi-level club is carved out of rock and accessible directly from the Spiaggia Grande—its main dance floor in a natural cave with rocky arches accented with ambient lighting. Party all night on the Lounge Bar Fly’s outdoor terrace, which offers a panorama of Positano.
Franco’s Bar, Positano francosbar.com
Positano’s newest watering hole is suspended above the sea as an al fresco bar with an old-fashioned, quality-first drinks menu. Its founders think of their bar as harking back to the golden era of drinking cocktails, and they serve no food except small gourmet nibbles like salted almonds and green olives. Classic libations served include the French 75 with Champagne, the Hemingway Daiquiri, the Negroni, and the Old Fashioned.