When people speak of their trip to Amalfi Coast, they often do so with a unique glitter in their eyes and a hint of nostalgia in their voice. A trip to that gorgeous part of the Italian peninsula is so awe inspiring and I am now one of those people with a glitter in my eyes when I recall the few days I spent there this past August. The dramatic landscape consisting of tall rocky cliffs diving straight into the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean, the narrow sinuous roads lacing around the coast, the white sails of the boats peacefully drifting away, the lazy cats lounging around, the bright flowers standing tall against the infinite blue, the small century-old towns precariously perched up on their stony promontory, and the food are a few of the things that will make you want to go back again, and soon!
If you like driving, you will love driving on the Amalfi coast! Not for the faint of heart, the roads are barely wide enough for two cars to carefully inch-by each other. Now try doing that while driving at 40kms/hr and turning 90-degree corners every 50 meters. Don’t worry though, there are mirrors at each turn to let you know if a car is coming your way, which won’t really help if a bus does, because yes, buses do drive on that road as well, so do the most dangerous of vehicles: scooters that will pass you on the right or the left without any discrimination. And did I mention that you are also stuck between the mountain side and a cliff that dives directly into the Mediterranean hundreds of feet below? Aside from all that, take your time and enjoy the ride. It is truly one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever driven on and I loved every minute of it! Next time, I’m renting a Vespa!
2. Stay at Hotel Villa San Michele
I fell head-over-heels in love with this charming 12-room hotel. It’s nothing fancy and the rooms are very basic but the grounds of the hotel as well as the welcoming owner and staff are some of the best I’ve ever encountered. The hotel’s reception is one flight of stairs below street level and the rooms are all the way down at sea level with views of the big blue that stretch forever. In between are a few beautifully landscaped terraces and common areas as well as the dining room. You will want to take a thousand photos of this little hotel! In fact, I just may have and I could probably write an entire article just on this little gem. Every single level offers a unique vista of the blue below, the hotel’s white washed walls and wrought iron work, the hot pink bougainvillaeas, the lemon trees… There’s a little deck at sea level with a few chairs to lounge on and a metal ladder that allows you to go in the water. I had a very hard time picking only a few photos for this post but you can see many more here.
3. Take a boat ride along the coast and go cave diving!
If you can afford it, I highly recommend renting a private boat (with driver) and taking a ride along the coast. The one we took picked us up right from the pier at Hotel San Michele and took us all the way to Capri for the day. That boat ride was definitely one of the most memorable activities for me mainly because of all the ethereal, crystal clear turquoise waters of the many caves we visited along the way. Go on a week day if you can to avoid most of the larger boats and their load of loud, sun-burned tourists. You’ll want it to be as quite as possible so you can fully enjoy this most magical experience.We stopped at different gorgeous spots along the way for a swim in the impossibly clear waters. We then spent a few hours on the island of Capri where we had lunch at Pizzeria Lo Zodiaco right on the edge of the busy port. The restaurant is a bit touristy (in fact, the whole island is) which of course means that the pizzaoilo will come out in the middle of lunch to put on a very dynamic pizza dough show. Give the sfilatino, a local specialty consisting of a baguette-shaped stuffed pizza dough, a try. On Capri, take the funicular all the way to the top of the hill and admire the Prada-clad tourist sipping on their 6-euro espresso.
4. Taste some mozzarella di Buffalla
About an hour south of where the Amalfi coast officially starts, this area of Campania is worth the detour. This is where mozzarella di Buffala comes from. Strangely enough though, I did not see one buffalo while I was there although I was assured that they were “somewhere out there”. There are though, hundreds and hundreds of “caseificios” or dairy farms. Just drive down SS18 and you will be overwhelmed by the numerous caseificios you’ll encounter. We stopped by Caseificio Torricelle, a very artisanal cheese-making facility. Their mozzarella is great but it’s their fresh ricotta that blew me away! We also stopped by Tenuta Vannulo, one of the oldest (and most touristy) facilities and the only fully organic buffalo farm in Italy. Although we got there late and missed out, you can actually take a guided tour of the facility, witness the modern breeding and milking processes, and most probably spot some buffalo along the way. They unfortunately had run out of cheese when we got there but their buffalo gelato and yogurt were available and really delicious, creamy and rich with a slightly more “earthy” undertone than cow milk but a lot smoother than goat milk.
The cheese-making process at these caseificio starts as early as 4am so it’s important to get there early if you don’t want to miss out!
6. When life gives you lemons, drink some Limoncello
This is the region of Italy that Limoncello comes from. There are lemon trees of every size and shape everywhere you go. Vendors sell the ubiquitous fruit on the side of the road and in every town. Some of the fruit are mainly tourist traps and inedible, especially the ones that are impressively enormous but are mainly pith with dried up fruit inside. The famous lemon liqueur is made by steeping the zest of a specific lemon in alcohol until all the oils are released. The resulting liquid is then mixed with simple syrup to make the liqueur. It is served as a digestivo at the end of a meal. If you like limoncello, pick up a bottle to bring home with you but make sure it’s good quality as opposed to the stuff made for tourists.
I had some lovely meals throughout my stay on the Amalfi Coast, including delicious and delicate pizza on the fly, luscious pastries and most notably sfogliatelle, a local specialty consisting of crispy layers of thin dough and a creamy custard filling. Below are two of the restaurants that made the biggest impression.
Trattoria da Lorenzo (Ravello)
Located high above the coast in Ravello, lovely Trattoria da Lorenzo will knock your socks off! We sat on the terrace admiring the view all around and dining al fresco. The simple family-run establishment will make you feel like you’re part of their extended family within minutes of walking in the door. Da Lorenzo specializes in seafood and their antipasti list is quite impressive! If you’re having a hard time choosing, do as we did and let the kitchen send you wave after wave of whatever delicacies they deem necessary for you to taste. Not one of the many dishes they dent us was disappointing. A place I would definitely visit again if, or rather when, I go back to the Amalfi coast.
Ristorante Next 2 (Positano)
Although it may look like a high-end, modern restaurant, Next 2’s food is definitely rooted in traditional Italian food. Many of the ingredients used in the family-run restaurant are grown in their garden or surrounding land. The gorgeous dishes are plated in a contemporary fashion yet make the best of the simplest local sea and land products. The wine list is well sourced and covers the entire country. The modern decor and lovely terrace add an elegant touch to the restaurant’s charming ambiance.
7. Enjoy the Ravello music festival
Ravello is a lovely town to visit any time of the year but if you can make it there during their legendary annual music festival, one of the oldest in Italy, then all the better. Over the years they have hosted some of the world’s most renowned orchestras, performers, conductors, opera singers, dancers, etc. Open-air stages with breathtaking views of the coast below are set up throughout town to accommodate the various events. They were actually installing some of these stages while I was there but I, unfortunately couldn’t attend any concerts. Make sure to visit Villa Rufolo, Villa Cimbrone and the absolutely gorgeous Oscar Niemeyer Auditorium while you’re there.
8. Find the right beach
There aren’t that many beaches on the Amalfi coast in the proper sense of the term since the coast is riddled with rocky cliffs that dive directly into the water. It is, however, an exceptional swimming and snorkeling spot with crystal clear turquoise water. There are a few exceptions when it comes to traditional sandy beaches, even if it sometimes means trekking down the tall cliffs using metal ladders. You will find some of the best beaches on the Amalfi coast through this site.
9. Get lost in Positano
Yes, Positano is as beautiful as they say. Strike that, it’s actually breathtaking! You’ll get a good view of it if you take a boat ride along the coast and you’ll realize how crazy an endeavour it was to build a town on such an escarpment! However, the end result is absolutely worth it! Get lost in the picture-perfect town, take the narrow alleys, the winding stairs, the tight cat-filled passageways and let them lead you wherever they might because every time you turn a corner, you will gasp with surprise at the view that awaits you. A word of warning though, you must be in shape otherwise you will find yourself ashamed that the little old lady ahead of you is whizzing by why you lean on an old stone wall head pounding, sweat dripping and gasping for air trying your best not to pass out!
While on the Amalfi coast, we stayed at:
Villa San Michele in Ravello, or rather just below Ravello, right on the water. I highly recommend this hotel and it is one of the main reasons why I want to go back to the Amalfi coast (see #2 above).
Albergo Miramare in Positano. I also highly recommend this lovely hotel. The service is impeccable and the views of the Positano bay from the bedroom windows is breathtaking.
Lloyd’s Baia Hotel in Vietri sul Mare. I don’t really recommend this hotel unless you like large, impersonal service. It felt like being on a large cruise ship or in a resort in the south. It is clean and comfortable, the views from the many terrasses are lovely and the exterior elevator that goes up and down the cliff is impressive but the service was too impersonal for me and I do prefer smaller hotels.
I have at least a million more pictures of this most photogenic part of Italy so check out my album right here for more.
A special thanks to Amélie from the Morning by Foley blog who led me to discover Hotel Villa San Michele that was one of the highlights of my trip.