Visiting the Beautiful Amalfi Coast
Just mention the Amalfi Coast and it immediately brings to mind images of this stunningly beautiful coastal region of Italy. Located on the Sorrentine Peninsula in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, the Amalfi Coast stretches for some fifty miles from colorful Positano to its eastern hub in Salerno. Along the way you will encounter some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in the world.
The Amalfi Drive, the only land route to the Amalfi Coast regularly ranks among the most scenic drives not just in Italy but throughout the world. In 1997, the Amalfi Coast was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites for its cultural and beautiful landscape.
For those of you brave enough to get behind the wheel, this is an exhilarating drive to say the least. For those who wish to sit back and enjoy the scenery, there are other means of transportation that will take you on this journey. SITA Buses regularly run up and down the Amalfi coast allowing visitors to get on/off at the destination of their choice.
You can also hire a private driver to do the driving for you although this is a pricey option. For a unique look at the coast there are also ferries that that will take you from Salerno to Positano and out to the islands of Capri and Ischia
Our view from Sorrento
There are thirteen coastal communities along the Amalfi Coast. We visited three of the more popular destinations; Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. We started our trek from our base in the hills above Sorrento. With an amazing view out over the Bay of Naples to wake up to every morning it was hard to fathom anything more beautiful than this view of the bay with Mount Vesuvius standing guard. Little did we know what awaited us?
We opted to take the SITA bus (look for the blue buses) that runs visitors up and down the Amalfi Coast in lieu of driving. We considered doing the drive ourselves but as this was our first visit to this coastal region we decided to save it for another time (hopefully) and hopped on the bus.
It was a short ride over the top of the hills above Sorrento and we quickly found ourselves on the narrow, twisting road that has become this legendary drive. As the bus twisted and turned its way along the coast we quickly understood why this can be a harrowing drive. To drive this route the driver must remain focused on the road at all times, which stinks for the driver as he’s missing all of the beautiful scenery.
If you are traveling east on the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento toward Positano and Amalfi be sure to grab a seat on the right hand side of the bus so you will have a better view. Conversely, if you are traveling west, take a seat on the left side.
The first village you will come to if you are heading from Sorrento will be Positano. This picturesque community is literally built into the hills and makes its way down to the turquoise waters of the Bay of Salerno. Positano is a very popular stop on the Amalfi Coast and for good reason. This place is drop dead beautiful. The dramatic landscape here combined with the beautiful colors of this community makes it a great place to spend some time and do some exploring.
Probably the most famous attraction here in Positano is the Church of Santa Maria Assunta. Built in the 1920’s, the church’s magnificent tiled dome is the centerpiece of this community. While we were here there was a wedding going on in the church which was interesting to see.
Other than the church, Positano is just a great place to shop and walk its streets while taking in all its beauty. There are numerous restaurants, cafes and unique shops to help you wind away the day. For a different perspective take a walk down to the shoreline for a great view of the town up against the mountains. While you’re here take a dip into the warm waters of the Bay of Salerno. From the shoreline there is a path that leads you to the right up to where the old turrets are located. One of these is now a beautiful home but beyond here there is a gorgeous secluded beach if you are looking to do some sunbathing.
Our next stop on our way down the coast was the namesake community of this beautiful coast, Amalfi. Amalfi, while very scenic, is not as pretty as Positano. Much of the town is located at the foot of Monte Cerreto, which at 4,314 feet provides a dramatic backdrop.
The hub of Amalfi is the Piazza Duomo which sits literally at the foot of Saint Andrew’s Cathedral with its dramatic staircase. This late Baroque style cathedral dates to the 11th century and is worth a peak. If you need a break take a seat at the café across from the cathedral and watch the comings and goings of Amalfi.
This region of Italy is famous for it's Limoncello and the terraced gardens and groves along most of the Amalfi coast are dotted with lemon trees. These are not your ordinary lemons. The famous Sfusato Amalfitano Lemons of this region are very long and typically twice the size of other lemons. The Sfusato lemon is much less acidic and sweet enough that you can eat them like any other fruit without the typical pucker face that we are accustomed to when trying to eat a lemon. Be sure to try the Limoncello before you leave!
Farther down the coast is the small but quaint community of Ravello. Unlike Positano and Amalfi, Ravello is located high up in the hills above the Amalfi coast. With this unique vantage point there are great views of the coastline from the main square located just outside the entrance to Ravello. Once inside, you are greeted by the spectacular Cathedral of Ravello which was founded in 1086.
Ravello is also renowned for its beautiful gardens and both the Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo are worth a visit. If you are visiting Ravello during the summer, the community hosts the annual Ravello Music Festival. The festival, started in 1952, is an open-air concert series held at the Villa Rufolo.
If you are looking for a scenic hike there are many trails that traverse the steep hillside here and take hikers from Ravello down to Pontone and eventually to the coastal communities of Amalfi and Atrani. Many visitors make the downhill trek and opt for the bus to get back up to Ravello. Allow a couple of hours to make the one way trip from Ravello all the way down to the coast. If you are leaving Ravello and heading back toward Positano or Sorrento why not make the hike from Ravello down to Amalfi and then hop on the bus for your return trip.
After visiting the Amalfi Coast it is obvious why this stretch of the Italian coastline is so popular with visitors. The scenic beauty here combined with these colorful and picturesque communities make this an ideal place to revel in the Italian lifestyle. Whether you’re here for some R&R, to hike, or to test you’re driving skills on this famous stretch of real-estate you will come away wowed by the spectacular scenery. Enjoy your visit to the Amalfi Coast.
Ciao for now.
Map of the Amalfi Coast
© 2012 Bill De Giulio
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