The Amalfi coast has long attracted the beautiful people and it’s easy to see why- macaroon coloured houses, cafés and restaurants teetering impossibly on the rugged Amalfi coastline, simple but unrivalled seafood and some of the best roads for driving in the world. Here’s why you should reason to make like the jet-set and sun yourself on Italy’s answer to St. Barts…
The coastal roads
The drive along this spectacular coastline is simply breathtaking. It’s not, though, for the faint-hearted. You’ll find steep cliffs on one side and a dramatic drop into the Mediterranean sea on the other. The scenery includes towering bluffs, pastel-hued villages terraced into hillsides, lush green gardens and towering mountains overhead. The narrow roads (which seem to cling to the mountainside) are lined with the odd lemon seller and mopeds zip round every hairpin bend. Although a little scary, it’s both exhilarating and undeniably beautiful and equipped with a sense of adventure and a bit of common sense, you can have the drive of your life. A word of advice, don’t pick a large car to negotiate the coast’s narrow roads, try the quintessentially Italian Fiat 500 instead. With its smart trendy exterior and grippy driving this car could easily handle those tricky coastal roads.
The gorgeous small towns
The Amalfi Coast is known for its picture-postcard gorgeous towns which cling to the steep cliff edge. Make sure you include a visit to Ravello, a beautiful small town perched on steep, terraced slopes high above the sea and Positano, the area’s most photogenic town known for its steeply stacked houses, elegant restaurants and its near-vertical streets. Amalfi itself is also worth a visit and has a scenic seafront setting with many cafes, restaurants and shops to choose from.
One of the most celebrated restaurants on the coast is Da Adolfo. Here you can arrive by boat to plastic chairs and tables and be greeted by Giovanni da Adolfo himself and the cuisine is basically that mornings catch barbequed fresh with a side of spectacular vista. The towns dotted along the coast are legendary for the signatory cuisine- including of course the invention of the pizza. Check out Ristorante Salvtore for a traditional wood-fired pizza, rumoured to be the best on the coast. You may never stock a frozen one again!
The culture and history
Italy is known for inspiring great things, but the Amalfi coast can take the credit for inspiring Tennessee Williams to write ‘Cat on a hot tin roof’ and the Rolling Stones to write ‘Midnight Rambler’. It was the birthplace of Sophia Loren and inspired artists and composers alike, from Turner to Wagner. The coast is also home to Pompeii, Herculanem and Capri- all absolute must-see locations along with the crater walk of Vesuvius if you dare.
The people that live along the Amalfi Coast are friendly, hospitable and warm. It is almost like the place that time forgot, widows sell fruit and cigarettes from tiny stalls or baskets, children play in the streets as mopeds whizz past and old men jostle on street corner drinking espressos. Practice your rudimentary Italian with the welcoming young people in the trattorias and cafes and for a real taste of the local life, venture out after 6pm and soak up the atmosphere.
Irrespective of your holiday requirements the atmosphere remains the same- laid back chic. Whether you spend your days lounging on the many secluded beaches or day-tripping, nothing moves at any speed here. It’s the perfect opportunity to slow down and go with the flow, have some grappa and take a load off at one of the many bars and restaurants dotted along the coast.
As one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, Amalfi is characterised by the juxtaposition of mountain and sea which, makes it all the more characteristic. With towns like Naples, Sorrento, Positano and Capri on its dance card it’s no wonder it attracts visitors from all over the world. John Steinbeck said that the Amalfi coast was ‘a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there but becomes beckoningly real once you are gone’. So invest in a trip sure to recharge those batteries, and once you are back stomping the grey pavements immersed in 9-5 routine, you can revisit the wonders of Amalfi in your mind’s eye.
Written by regular contributor Emma Clair Kelly and photos by Gray.