The Amalfi Coast (Costiera Amalfitana) is a stretch of coastline that goes from Sorrento to Salerno. Packed with wealthy tourists in the summer it becomes an affordable and relaxing retreat in the spring and fall. Blessed with the natural beauty of mountains, cliffs and the sea, the Amalfi Coast is one of the most beautiful places in Europe. The Amalfi Coast is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
The Towns of the Amalfi Coast:
Sorrento – Sorrento sits high on the cliffs overlooking the bays of Naples and Salerno. Walking the streets in the summer you will feel like you have walked in the summer version of carnevale. Don’t even think about driving here in the summer, traffic is horrendous. Making matters worse there are no traffic lights in the center of the city.
Positano – Positano is considered the most picturesque of all the towns and is the one most of us are familiar with from pictures and posters. The brightly colored houses of Positano cling to cliffs looking like they are going to tumble into the brilliant turquoise sea at any moment. Positano is known for its beautiful beaches (composed of both sand and pebbles), expensive shops, chic tourists and the number of steps you are likely to have to climb to get anywhere.
Amalfi: Amalfi has more history associated with it than any of the other little villages. Having been founded in the 9th century it once rivaled Genoa and Pisa for military power. Overlooking the Bay of Salerno, Amalfi has a distinctly Moorish feel. About 3 miles west of Amalfi you will find the Emerald Grotto a cavern known for its light effects and chamber of stalactites and stalagmites many under water.
Ravello: Sitting on what looks like a balcony, Ravello has long been a haven for artists such Richard Wagner, Greta Garbo and D. H. Lawrence who wrote Lady Chatterley’s lover here. Located higher on the cliffs than the other villages, the writer Andre Gide once said “Ravello is nearer the sky than the sea”. Take a break from gazing at the sea and enjoy the beautiful gardens of the Villa Cimbrone. Many people consider Ravello the most beautiful town in Italy, though I don’t know how or why you would even try to choose.
Salerno: Salerno is the urban city sitting at the southern end of the Amalfi Coast. Having suffered the effects of earthquakes and heavy fighting in WWII Salerno is not nearly as charming as the rest of the area. It is, however, less expensive than the smaller villages and towns on the coast and can be a great base for exploring the area.
Other smaller towns and vllages dot the coastline. Nestled between their more famous neighbors they offer a quieter, more relaxing atmosphere.
Getting to the Amalfi Coast is a little more difficult than getting to the towns of the Cinque Terre which has a local train servicing the area and prohibits cars in the actual villages. A bus runs along the Amalfi Coast from the train station in Sorrento to Salerno and back. If you are traveling by train from Naples you can take the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento or a train directly to Salerno and then a bus to the villages. It is also easy to hire drivers to take you along the coast if you prefer. As pretty as the road is it is a challenge for drivers with steep drops and narrow sections and a white center line that is virtually ignored. In the summer traffic jams are the norm. If you like boats, your best option is to take one of the boats that operate out of Naples and go to Amalfi, Positano, Capri and Salerno among other places. The boats operate in season only.