Italy’s Amalfi Coast crams many beautiful sights into its 50 kilometers, with pastel coloured houses nestled against steep rock faces. This UNESCO World Heritage site in the Campania region is considered to be an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape, and I’ve rounded up 5 unmissable places to visit here.
Amalfi gives its name to the whole coast and is a picturesque little town with a lively harbour. The city dates back to Roman times and there’s a legend that Hercules loved a nymph called Amalfi, who died and to immortalize her, he gave the place her name. There are some excellent seafood restaurants directly overlooking the sea. Monastero Santa Rosa is the perfect base from which to explore the area, it’s a former convent that has retained all its charm yet incorporated modern touches like an infinity pool overlooking the sea.
Make time to visit the imposing cathedral, the Duomo di Sant’Andrea Apostolo. It dates from the 9th century and has an unusual Arab-Norman Romanesque style, with striped marble, stone and open arches with a lace-like detailing. Parking is difficult in the centre so be prepared to walk ten minutes from the car park by the harbour or take a boat trip there instead.
This village came to fame in the 1950s after the novelist John Steinbeck sang its praises, saying “It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” Today, it’s a thriving place with many boutique shops and art galleries. The church of Santa Maria Assunta has a rare thirteenth-century Byzantine icon of a black Madonna and an attractive tiled dome.
The lemon sorbet at Covo dei Saraceni is a must try, just be prepared to queue at peak times.
There are wonderful views over the bay from Via Cristoforo Colombo, close to renowned Le Sirenuse hotel.
Perched high on a hillside, Ravello is a quaint, compact town boasting cobbled streets and an impressive bell tower with Byzantine and Moorish influences.
It’s a vibrant cultural centre despite its size, with regular classical music events and a contemporary concert hall designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the famous Brazilian architect. Many celebrities such as Greta Garbo, Richard Wagner, Virginia Woolf and Winston Churchill have explored its winding streets.
The major draw here though is the incredible view over the Mediterranean from Villa Cimbrone‘s Terrace of Infinity and Villa Rufolo. Both of these are gardens open to the public and well worth a look around. Belmond Caruso is a good choice of hotel, housed in an 11th century palace and with a lovely infinity pool where a famous rock star was relaxing when we visited.
Further up the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento enjoys a wonderful location atop a cliff and also has fantastic views over the bay of Naples. Wander around the narrow alleyways in the historic centre bordering Chiesa di San Francesco, a 14th-century church with peaceful cloisters.
There’s a lovely square lined with cafés, Piazza Tasso, where you can while away the time people spotting.
VIETRI SUL MARE
If you fancy a break from the crowds and you’re interested in ceramics then Vietri sul Mare, or Vietri on Sea, is an interesting place to visit. On a quieter stretch of the Amalfi Coast towards Salerno, it’s the birthplace of chef Antonio Carluccio and an internationally renowned centre for ceramic handicrafts.
Dating back to the fifteenth century, these colourful ceramics adorn many of the town’s buildings and make excellent souvenirs. Stay in a historic seafront private villa or its medieval watchtower, available through Carpe Diem, a member of UltraVilla.com, the little black book of the most luxurious holiday residences from around the world.
There are many workshops selling pottery and tiles and the area is a good starting point for the scenic hiking trails nearby.