If you’re looking for sun and relaxation while in Italy, you can surely find it on the Amalfi Coast. The Amalfi Coast and its idyllic towns of Ravello, Amalfi, and Positano, are located on the southern side of the Sorrento Peninsula, in southern Italy. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the Amalfi Coast has some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe. Here you’ll find colorful buildings perched on cliffs, winding roads, and deep blue seas; and all of this is just a few hours from Rome.
While I was visiting the Amalfi Coast, I stayed in Sorrento, which is about an hour away from Amalfi. When you tour the Amalfi Coast, you can choose to see it by land or sea. If you choose land, you can hop on a city bus, take a bus tour, rent a car, or hire a driver to take you along the narrow, windy roads. As my family doesn’t have the strongest stomachs to handle windy roads, we opted to take a boat. It seems, from most people’s experience, that both ways to view the coast are equally enjoyed. In fact, some say to travel by car to Ravello or Amalfi and return back to Sorrento on the sea, being able to view it both ways.
Personally, I’m very glad we took a boat tour. Not only was the boat experience wonderful (shout out to our tour guides at Capitano Ago!), but we were able to see swim in the cool Tyrrhenian waters, see the coast in its entirety, and capture breathtaking photos.
While on our boat tour, we stopped at Amalfi and Positano for brief visits. Obviously, a two-hour stay doesn’t allow me to adequately write about the entire town, but as most tourists only visit for a few hours (from cruise ships and land tours), I figured I could share with you the information I gained from my visit.
Amalfi was our first stop on the tour and was already hopping with tourists by midday. Beach goers, tourists, and locals filled the streets. After disembarking the boat, we walked up Via Lorenzo D’Amalfi to find the Amalfi Cathedral, also known as Duomo di Sant’Andrea Apostolo. Around 1206, the remains of St. Andrew, the church’s namesake, were brought to Amalfi. It was here that his remains and artifacts were placed. It is believed that there has been a church on this very site since nearly 600 AD. The church that stands here today (next to the original site) was built in the early 1200’s, although the exterior facade was rebuilt in 1891. Click here for more information on the Amalfi Cathedral.
Although there are other wonderful things to see while in Amalfi, the rest of our visit focused on eating, sightseeing, and shopping. Tourists rule the streets here, maneuvering through the narrow passageways, finding the perfect gelato or pizza. There are many different local merchants to purchase from as well. In addition to the standard tourist souvenirs, vendors sell handmade pottery, jewelry, clothing, and more.
Amalfi, like most towns along this coast, doesn’t have many beaches. Beaches here are small, rocky, or simply a wooden platform next to the water. Private beach clubs and beaches with fees are common here. There are free beach areas around; however, this is usually only a small stretch of sand.
Positano, west of Amalfi, was the second stop on our boat tour, while heading back towards Sorrento. Positano, one of the most photographed places in the world, was as a small fishing village for most of its existence. In the first half of the 1900’s, the area was known as a resort town, attracting wealthy vacationers to the isolation and beauty of the area. With the addition of more roads and the publication of John Steinbeck’s 1953 magazine essay about the area, this quiet fishing village became a mecca for tourists from all over the world.
Pastel colored buildings dot the vertical landscape of Positano, which makes this place especially unique. Homes appear to cling to the side of the cliffs.
Like Amalfi, there are numerous places to dine and shop during your visit. Expect to wait to dock, as there is only one dock for boats to load and unload passengers. The largest beach in the area, Spiaggia Grande, is right by the dock. Most of the beach is reserved or requires payment for an umbrella and chair, but there is an area with free public access.
While you shop the narrow streets of town, keep an eye out for cars. Despite the large crowds of people walking through the streets, cars still travel down them.
Of course, there are other amazing areas of the Amalfi Coast other than Positano and Amalfi. During our boat tour, we saw Italian engineering at work with floating bridges covering wide expanses. Our boat tour took us under the Furore Bridge/Cala di Furore to see the “hidden” entrance of the Furore, that starts at an isolated and walled-in beach.
You will see the Li Galli islands, Capri from a distance, and you may even encounter some friendly dolphins within the sea. There is so much to see when you tour by boat!
Overall, I found Amalfi and Positano to be very similar, yet beautiful towns. During my visit, Positano was much busier and more crowded. Both towns thrive on tourism, so there are plenty of dining options and places to shop. Both cities had limited signs pointing tourists where to go, so you can simply follow the crowds, or head off on your own to try to explore the cities like a local.
The Amalfi Coast is famous for their abundant, large, delicious lemons. Everything and anything is lemon-themed around here; but be sure to check out all of the lemon liquors and limoncello that are sold here. They’re delicious!
Although beaches are scarce, the Amalfi Coast is still a resort area, catering to tourists from land and sea. As a result, you’ll likely find plenty of English-speaking locals or merchants. Also, with this being a tourist destination, keep in mind that hotels, products, and food usually cost more here.
For me, I think the boat tour provided just the right amount of time to spend in each town; it also proved to be an enjoyable, relaxing ride with the best views. Having a couple of hours in each location provided a good basic overview of the area. The best part of these towns is the view from the water, so being on the boat was perfect! If we had spent more time here, we would have been challenged due to the summer heat and all the elevation changes. Endless staircases are a common site in these parts; so if you have bad knees or health issues, mobility may be an issue. If you just want to find a nice resort, sit outside, and enjoy the sun and scenery, then this would be a great place to do it. There are plenty of places to go and things to do if you decide to venture outside your hotel.
The Amalfi Coast is a definite “must see” while in southern Italy.
Happy Travels and Buon Viaggo!!