Whether you’re a history buff, an avid hiker or a beach aficionado, there’s no shortage of world-class experiences awaiting you on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
Get ready for colorful fishing villages, so quaint they look like they’ve been plucked straight out of a fairy tale. Ascend the coast’s majestic, rugged cliffs and gaze at the clear blue sea below. And follow paths that take you straight up through forests, vineyards and lemon groves to reach the medieval ruins of a monastery or castle.
Slip some stylish shorts over your bathing suit, lace up those walking shoes, grab your camera and get ready for an unforgettable journey. Below are just a few of the Amalfi coast activities that await you.
1. The Amalfi Drive
First things first: even the drive to the Amalfi coast is spectacular. Prepare yourself for a white-knuckled thrill of narrow winding roads perched at the edge of precipitous, 500-foot cliffs, waves crashing down below. You will be traversing verdant scenery dotted with quaint, colourful villages and medieval towers. Don’t worry, you don’t have to drive it yourself (unless you want to), buses run on a regular basis from Sorrento to Salerno, leaving you free to snap pictures and hold on for dear life.
Towns not to miss on the Amalfi Coast
Known as the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento is the last stop on the Circumvesuviana train line that connects Naples to Pompeii. Not long ago, Sorrento was a stop on The Grand Tour, a kind of coming of age trip for affluent European youngsters. This made it popular with the literary set — Byron, Dickens, Goethe and Tolstoy all vacationed in Sorrento.
The city is known for its small shops that sell ceramics, lacework and woodwork. Limoncello — a popular and delicious lemon liqueur — is produced in Sorrento. Use the picturesque town as a home base for excursions to Pompeii and Capri. Take a stroll through its narrow streets to discover grand hotels, exquisite woodworking shops and restaurants serving simple but delicious Campanian fare.
Positano looks like a frozen avalanche of sun-bleached, precariously perched, terracotta buildings creeping downward toward the coast. In short, it is the cover girl (or poster boy) for the Amalfi coast. There is no shortage of things to do in Positano: meander the winding streets with wisteria-laden hotels and restaurants, shop in Moda Positano boutiques, spend a day lounging on a local beach, or head out on one of the many excellent hiking trails that surround this colourful, quaint town.
4. Amalfi Town
Located in the middle of the Amalfi coast between Sorrento and Salerno at the mouth of a deep ravine, the small town of Amalfi has a storied history. It was the capital of the Duchy of Amalfi during the middle ages and remained an important maritime trading power for many centuries. In the last couple centuries the town’s trade has become mostly tourism. As you meander its historically rich streets, don’t forget to make a stop at the Amalfi Cathedral, where the relics of the town’s patron saint, Saint Andrew the apostle, are allegedly kept. A little less expensive than Positano but with just as much charm, the gleaming white pearl of Amalfi is surrounded by ridiculously steep cliffs and some of the most stunning coastal scenery you will ever experience.
Walking distance from Amalfi, the Grotta dello Smeraldo, or Emerald Grotto, should be high on your list of things to do on the coast. This spectacular natural formation is so named for the brilliant green light that floods through it and reflects up from the water. Unlike its cousin, the Blue Grotto on the island of Capri, the Emerald Grotto is lit up purely from refracted underwater sources that give it an unearthly glow.
Perched high above the sea, the town of Ravello is like a queen gazing down on her people. Founded in the 5th century as a shelter from the barbarian hordes, Ravello is said to rival Positano for style and glamour. Wander among its elegant gardens; enjoy some music in the gardens of Villa Rufolo; grab a drink in the main piazza; take in the view from the Villa Cimbrone… but most of all, enjoy the peace and calm of this beautiful resort town. If you need more convincing, here are just a few of the famous artists who drew inspiration from its winding streets and dizzying views: Richard Wagner, Edvard Grieg, Virginia Woolf, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Leonard Bernstein.
6. Watch the fishers of Cetara
Take a break from the tourist crowds in more popular villages along the Amalfi coast and visit the quaint little fishing village of Cetara nestled by Vietri sul Mare between Maoiri and Salerno. Lounge on the secluded beach of this lesser known stretch of the coast and watch the fishers arrive with their catches of tuna and anchovies. Then head into the village with its sparkling white cliff-perched architecture to enjoy the catch of the day.
At the very end of the Amalfi coast is the ancient city of Salerno, where evidence of habitation dates back to prehistoric times. The city is much bigger than its coastal cousins and is a lot grittier, but it still has a lot to offer. Visit the beautiful Romanesque Salerno Cathedral that dates back to the 12th century and hosts several religious artefacts from the city’s patron saint, Saint Matthew. Stroll along the Trieste Lungomare, Salerno’s well-maintained waterfront promenade. If you don’t mind a hike, climb up to the imposing 8th century Arechi Castle that towers above Salerno and take in unparalleled views of the city and beyond to the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Hiking the Amalfi Coast
8. Pathway of the Gods
A convenient day trip from Naples, you can’t visit the Amalfi Coast without walking part, if not all, of the Sentiero degli Dei, or Pathway of the Gods. The hike starts in the village of Bomerano and ends in Nocelle, just before Positano, totalling 5.5 miles. Imagine human-made terraces with citrus and fig orchards, scrub vines, majestic cliffs and the ridiculously blue sea waters below. In short: it’s the perfect Italian hike.
9. Il Vallone delle Ferriere
Just behind the town of Amalfi is a fairy tale forest of large ferns, waterfalls and ruins of medieval foundries and paper mills (hence the name “valley of the ironworks”). The hike is on the easy side; about four miles long, it begins in Pontone, ends in Amalfi, and takes three to four hours.
10. La Baia di Ieranto
Located on the tip of the Sorrentine Peninsula, the Bay of Ieranto juts out into the Mediterranean Sea from the small fishing village of Nerano, where this hike begins. From here you’ll walk through a wild Mediterranean forest and valleys lined with olive groves to an unforgettable view of the sea and the island of Capri. Next, descend to a spectacular secluded beach where you can soak your sore feet in its crystalline waters. The hike is around four miles long and takes about three to four hours round trip.
11. The Sanctuary of the Madonna dell'Avvocata
From the town of Maiori, take the uphill path to the summit of Monte Falesia, about 2,600 feet above sea level. At the top you will find the Il Santuario Madonna dell'Avvocata built in 1485 and still visited by devout locals every Monday after Pentecost. Make a day of it and wind your way through picturesque vineyards and fruit orchards. Note that this hike is around 10 miles long and not for the faint of heart. But once at the summit, your view of the Bay of Salerno makes this challenging hike well worth the effort.
Besides postcard-perfect towns, sweeping, majestic landscapes and a long raucous history, the Amalfi Coast is best known for its amazing beaches. Plan to pepper your days of sightseeing and hiking with a relaxing lounge on some of the coast’s spectacular beaches. Here are a few of the many Amalfi Coast beaches you might want to check out.
12. The Bay of Sorgeto, Ischia
Located on the island of Ischia about a one-mile walk from the small town of Panza, the Bay of Sorgeto offers secluded, free access to a hot thermal spring. Climb the 300 steps down to the Baia di Sorgeto, slip into one of the rocky pools and enjoy the view. Warning: don’t forget to test the water before you dip — some of the pools are too hot to bathe in.
13. Furore Fiordo
The Furore Fiordo, located four miles southwest of the town of Amalfi, is one of the most interesting and picturesque beaches on the coast thanks to its unique fjord. From the bridge that spans the fjord, climb the steps that take you down the face of the cliff to the secluded beach. Here you can choose to park yourself for the day and enjoy the view, or explore the many trails that take you farther along the cliffs to more spectacular views.
14. The many beaches of Positano
Enhancing its status as the coast’s most glamorous town, Positano boasts many spectacular beaches. The Marina Grande beach, located right in town, is a whopping 985ft facing the archipelago of Li Galli. Lined with chic bars, Grande beach is very much the focal point of Positano’s social life. If you want something a little less touristy but still within easy walking distance of the town, try the Fornillo Beach.
If you’re looking for something a little more secluded, and don’t mind climbing down (and inevitably up) 300 steps, try the Arienzo Beach. About a half mile outside Positano, steps to the beach start at the Hotel San Pietro and let you glimpse the exquisite gardens of luxurious villas in the area on the way down. The tiny beach sits between two cliffs, enjoys the sun longer than any other in Positano, and is divided between private and public areas.
15. Maoiri and Minori beaches
The Maoiri beach boasts the longest sandy beach on the Amalfi Coast. Expect to pay for access to most of the beach, although there is a free beach at either end of the strip.
The Minori beach is a slightly smaller version of Maoiri. If you are looking for something smaller and more picturesque, head to the fishing village of Erchie, where the water is always clean, the beach stays light until late afternoon, and there are lovely little restaurants that serve local seafood.
If you feel like going even farther afield for your lounging experience, head to the Spiaggia Cavallo Morto or “Dead Horse beach”. Only accessible by boat, this small cove tucked beneath an imposing cliff boasts afternoon sun, crystalline waters and a sandy beach.
16. The Beaches of Vietri Sul Mare
Considered the gateway to the Amalfi Coast on the Salerno side, and therefore benefitting from its proximity to the railway, Vietri sul Mare is home to some of the largest beaches on the coast.
If you’re looking for an easy, family-friendly beach, try La Baia, one of the few sandy beaches on Amalfi Coast. If you’re seeking a more picturesque place to lounge, head to La Crespella, where you will sunbathe with a view of a 16th century Saracen tower and the Due Fratelli, the town’s famous sea stacks. La Crespella is a small private beach; you will have to pay and it might be crowded.
What to eat on the Amalfi Coast
Like all regions in Italy, Campania has its own culinary traditions based on the local ingredients. Here are some of the local dishes you’ve got to try.
17. Spaghetti alle vongole
Every region of Italy has its own pasta dish. One of the more ubiquitous on the coast is spaghetti alle vongole, or spaghetti with clams. Though this dish is served in other coastal regions in Italy, it is arguably done best on the Amalfi coast as it is prepared with only the freshest ingredients: toss the spaghetti with some garlic, olive oil, a couple of tomatoes and some clams and voilà! You have a culinary masterpiece!
18. Cuppetiello di pesce
Not surprisingly, the Amalfi coast is known for its amazing seafood. If you’re looking for a hearty but quick lunch during your adventures on the coast, try one of the coast’s most popular street foods — cuppetiello di pesce, which translates to “a cup of fish”. Imagine freshly fried fish wrapped up in a paper cone that you can eat with your fingers. Drizzle a locally grown lemon wedge over the calamari, anchovies or paranza and munch down on it while sipping a beer.
Sorrento is the birthplace of that sweet and delicious liqueur, limoncello. Made with grappa infused with local lemons and sweetened with sugar, be sure to take the time to seat yourself on a terrace and order a chilled cup of the refreshing digestivo. In fact, do it again and again in different places — each bar and restaurant along the coast has its own variation.
20. Delizia al limone
Don’t skip dessert. It’s widely known that some of the best lemons are grown on the Amalfi coast and the Gulf of Sorrento. So naturally, lemons play a starring role in many local dishes, desserts and drinks. One of the most delicious regional delicacies is delizia al limone, a lemon-infused, dome-shaped sponge cake covered with lemon-zested frosting and served slightly chilled.
A feast for all five senses
You can imagine it was difficult to choose only 20 remarkable things to experience on the Amalfi Coast. It is one of the most delightful regions you will experience in a country filled with remarkable places to visit. Don’t take our word for it: book your train tickets to Sorrento and find out for yourself.