Southern Italy’s famous coastline runs from Punta Campanella to Salerno and includes the picturesque hilltop towns of Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. It is home to some of Italy’s finest hotels and restaurants, all precariously perched along a beautiful coast of rugged cliffs and sandy coves. Brave the narrow, winding coastal road and discover the hidden treasures of the terraced towns and villages along the way.
The Amalfi Coast, south of the Bay of Naples, can claim to be Europe’s most magnificent stretch of coast. It’s not just its breathtaking scenery but also the glamorous resorts hidden away on the spectacular corniche that winds its way past lemon trees, olive groves, vineyards and tiny villages clinging on to jagged cliffs that plunge straight into the sea. Every turn along the Amalfi Coast brings you to another legendary destination, be it Positano, Sorrento, Ravello or Amalfi itself. Virtually cut off from the rest of the world until the mid-19th century, when a road was built linking all the villages along the coast, this unique region was first discovered by the aristocratic Grand Tourists of Europe, who made the Costiera Amalfitana an obligatory stop-off.
The first view of Amalfi is unforgettable, with its tightly packed villas and palaces seeming to tumble down the cliffside into the fishing port and shingle beach below. Amalfi was once a maritime power to rival Venice, and its golden age is symbolised by its stunning cathedral: its Arab-Norman facade dominates the Piazza Duomo, the unofficial town centre that is always pulsating with people. When visiting the cathedral, don’t stay too long in the main building, as the highlight is walking around the back into the Chiostro del Paradiso, a magical Moorish-style cloister, with a lush tropical garden, and then down into the opulent Cappella del Crocefisso in a subterranean crypt.
Positano has a unique atmosphere – exclusive, chic, full of fashionistas, celebrities and wealthy jet-setters. But at the same time, this is an authentic Italian family holiday resort, with sunbathers eating pizza on the beach, kids pestering parents for gelati and Milanese women deciding which is the most fashionable boutique this year.
Sorrento may no longer be the exclusive resort it once was – it is now more popular with tour buses and cruise lines than Hollywood royalty – but remains an obligatory stop on the Costiera. Take its pulse with an aperitivo on the terrace of the Fauno Bar on the bustling Piazza Tasso, then wander down Corso Italia, with its tempting boutiques. In the narrow Via Casareo is the beautiful Sedile Dominova, a frescoed terrace where nobility met in the 15th-century – today it is a working men’s club, where pensioners sit around playing cards.
Italy, Food, Food, Italy: when you say one, you hear the other. But the Amalfi Coast is more than you’ve ever dreamed in terms of food. Not only is the world’s undisputed best pizza made in Naples or the world’s best coffee qualities are present in the Naples territory or is it the home of gelato, spaghetti and struffoli- but each village on the coast has its traditional cuisine and specialized recipes
Amalfi you can taste its pezzanta, a local spicy salami or if you find yourself in Atrani at lunch time (or anytime!) try the Sarchiapone, a stuffed cylinder of marrow filled with mince, cheese and cooked in a rich tomato sauce. Afterwards, sample the pasticciotto, a delicate pastry cake stuffed with cream and cherry marmalade. Tramonti is known for its goats meat and the wide variety of sauces to go with it, its mozzarella cheese and needless to say, its world famous pizza. The town of Minori for its pasta, Maiori for its aubergines in thick chocolate sauce, its octopus and linguini and the town of Ravello for its pastries. If seafood is your fancy, Furore has a specialty dish you must try consisting of squid and potatoes cooked in a cherry tomato sauce. Conca dei Marina has a dish of pennette pasta with piennolo baked on rabbit in lemon leaves that will make you want to move to the town while Praiano will also do its best to tempt you into being a permanent resident with its clams, shell fish, sardines and potatoes dish. Lastly, the town of Cetara offers you its anchovies, the main ingredient of most sauces here, the towns’ fishermen being the most expert in the entire Mediterranean in actually catching the fish!
In the Neapolitan tradition the end of a meal always features some cake or pastry and espresso coffee. It’s one of the most ingrained habits for the inhabitants of Naples.
Lemons are widely used in Amalfi coast cuisine for the preparation of main courses, sweets, ice cream, and simple refreshing drinks, such as lemonade. The lemon liqueur is one of the most famous products of the Coast, must always be served cold.
Sheltered by the Lattari Mountains arcing east to west across the peninsula and inland from the Amalfi Coast, and exposed to cool breezes from two bays, the Amalfi Coast enjoys a climate that is among the mildest in Italy; the temperature rarely falls below 10°C (50°F) in winter, or climbs above 31°C (90°F) in summer. Winter is least crowded but is sometimes overcast, and many hotels close from November to March.