The rugged southern shore dividing the Bay of Naples from the Gulf of Salerno is a restful and picturesque area. Miniature towns shelter in precipitous coastal ravines and tranquil seas calmly lap the shores of quiet pebbled beaches. The Amalfi Coast is a great relaxation spot from which to enjoy coastal Italian culture.
Amalfi Coast © Giuseppe Pepe
Stretching between the towns of Postiano and Vietri sul Mare, near Salerno, the area is renowned for its breathtaking scenery and towering mountain cliffs that plunge into the Mediterranean Sea. Precariously perched and threatening to tipple into the sea, the small town of Positano is a great attraction for tourists with its cluster of multi-coloured houses and remarkable setting. A cliffside stairway provides the perfect vantage-point from which to admire its glorious sea vistas.
Four miles (6km) down the coast is the quaint town of Praiano, framed by caves, castles and sharp cliffs. A stroll from here towards Amalfi will take you to a ramp leading to Marina di Praia, a 400-year-old fishing village nestled in the embrace of a tiny ravine. Another notable stop between Praiano and Amalfi is the Grotto dello Smeraldo.
The busy seaside town of Amalfi basks in the glory of its longevity as the first Sea Republic of Italy, and as the hometown of Flavio Gioja, the inventor of the compass. It is referred to as the 'pearl of the coast' and has a bit of everything for the weary traveller. A pebble's throw away from here is the quiet village of Atrani. Its tranquil beach rests languidly on the water's edge against a superb backdrop of mountains.
Further down the coast is Minori, notable for its lemon exports, a gentle place with villas and beaches to explore. The quiet town of Ravello retains the charm prized by Bocaccio who dedicated part of his famous work, the Decameron, to the town. The coastal road that twists its way between the rocks affords glimpses of small villages, bays and inlets, and a journey along this southern route will take travellers to towns of worldwide fame as well as to lesser-known spots of equally enchanting beauty.
Amalfi © Alpha 350
AmalfiThe town of Amalfi sits elegantly against a backdrop of steep cliffs and thickets of lemon trees. Terraced buildings climb down to the shoreline, their pastel hues enhancing the fairytale allure of this Italian seaside retreat. A centre of rich historical significance, Amalfi was once one of the great maritime republics which thrived off trade and rivalries with Pisa, Genoa, and Venice. The Piazza del Duomo (the Cathedral Square) is the main hub, and is dotted with cafes, gorgeous boutiques, and romantic restaurants. A promenade allows visitors to gaze over the picturesque marina and beyond to the memorable emerald waters. The main beach is the Marina Grande, a sheltered beach at the foot of the town. It's a shingle beach, as is common along the Amalfi Coast. Those seeking sand must head out to the villages of Minori and Maiori. While for many visitors a trip to Amalfi is all about soaking up the sun with a drink in hand, there are also some attractions for those looking for a more cultural experience. The 9th-century Amalfi Cathedral is a breathtaking example of Arab-Norman Romanesque architecture. The town is also home to a couple of museums, including the fascinating Museo della Carta and the Arsenal of the Maritime Republic.
Sorrento Peninsula © Tango7174
CapriCapri has long been a favoured destination for celebrities and the super-rich. It is believed to be Homer's mythical land of the Sirens, and was home to the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who ruled his empire from a cliff top villa. Visitors can still see its ruins. The island is now most famous for its dramatic landscape, smart hotels, and the expensive boutiques and restaurants of Capri Town. Visitors can escape the crowds by heading up Mount Salero, an hour or two's walk or a 12-minute ride on a chairlift. A boat trip is also a wonderful way to enjoy the island. Most tours stop at the famous Blue Grotto, where visitors pass through the caves in small rowing boats. The island of Capri sits in Italy's Bay of Naples and is a popular day trip from Sorrento and Positano. It's best visited outside the peak summer months.
Maiori © pululante
Maiori and MinoriLacking the glamour and crowds of its more famous neighbours, Maiori is instead famous for having one of the largest beaches on the Amalfi Coast. The beachfront hotels make Maiori ideal for those who love the sea, while the fishing town's long history means there's plenty to discover and explore. History buffs should visit the dominating Castle of San Nicola de Thoro Plano, for a personal tour by the castle's owner. Maiori is a great spot for foodies, and some wonderful restaurants line the promenade and the main street, Corsa Reginna. Depending on the time of day, visitors can enjoy a cappuccino, gelato, or the locally produced limoncello liqueur. The tiny nearby town of Minori basks in history, being the oldest town on the Amalfi Coast. It has numerous historic sites, most notably a 1st-century Roman maritime villa. Maiori and Minori are both good bases from which to explore the Amalfi Coast. Amalfi and Ravello are a short drive away, and Positana can be reached in less than an hour.
Positano © Pug Girl
PositanoDespite the invasion of tourists over the summer months, Positano retains the authentic character that enamoured artists and writers, including Picasso, Escher, and Steinbeck. Pastel-coloured houses and bougainvillea-draped hotels are connected by steep roads and steps to a boat-filled harbour below. In the town centre is the cobbled Flavio Gioia square, which is surrounded by boutiques, bars, and restaurants. Rising above is the 11th-century Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, with its beautiful golden dome. There are two main beachs in Positano. Just below the town centre, Spiaggia Grande is the most popular. Its expanse of dark sand is packed with deckchairs and sunbathers. Boat trips and watersports can be arranged at the harbour. Spiaggia del Fornillo is Positano's second beach, and is worth the easy ten-minute stroll from the centre. The pebbly shore slopes gently into the beautiful warm, azure waters of the Mediterranean. Those looking for more than a beach holiday can explore some of the lovely hiking trails found in the surrounding Monti Lattari mountain range. Sorrento and Amalfi are a short drive away, and there is a daily ferry to Capri from the harbour.
Ravello © Flickr/Toastbro
RavelloTypical of the picturesque towns along the Amalfi Coast, the small hilltop village of Ravello clings to the coastal foothills and steep rocky cliffs above the town of Amalfi. Houses climb rocky slopes, green with olive trees and lemon orchards, while emerald waves lap against the sands of Castiglione Beach. Much of Ravello is catered towards tourism, so foreign visitors will not struggle or feel out of place. Reached mostly from Amalfi by driving along the winding bends of the Valle del Dragone, it really comes into its romantic own during the evening when golden lights brighten the darkening hills. Its views are some of the best in the Mediterranean, with famous American writer Gore Vidal praising the vistas from his perch at the classically stunning Villa Cimbrone. Here, visitors can explore its gardens and vineyards, as well as gaze out from the famous Terrace of Infinity. As mentioned, it's close enough to the town of Amalfi to make for a comfortable holiday base. While perched a little way up from the beaches, they've never further than a short drive away. Time is spent strolling around its old avenues and buildings, admiring the verdant gardens or sipping on Ravello's beloved white wines. Villa Rufolo serves as the unofficial town centre, its centuries-old windows and domed towers looking out onto the cathedral square. Ravello cuisine is dominated by fresh ingredients found either in the hills above or the waves below, typically Italian and offering pasta, pizza, gelato, and a host of dishes containing the area's famous lemons and limoncello, a lemon liqueur.
Sorrento © Flickr
SorrentoThis sophisticated seaside resort is in the heart of the Neapolitan Riviera, on the South West coast of Italy, and is alive with holiday makers over the summer months. Lively bars and restaurants, and chic boutiques line the cobbled streets. The town is perched on a clifftop, and is not famous for its beaches. Although there's a small beach at the harbour, Marina Piccola, most bathers swim off the rocks or from wooden jetties, or laze around their hotel swimming pool and enjoy the stunning views of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. Sorrento is a popular base for exploring the local area. It's an hour's drive from Naples and a short distance from the stunning towns of Amalfi and Positano, both easily accessible by bus or ferry. Many visitors will also make a boat trip to the island of Capri, the mythical home of the Sirens, or to expore the ruins of Pompeii, 40 minutes away by train.