By Alexis Lardieri
The Amalfi Coast and its southern dwellers thrive on tourism and welcome it with open arms. From the moment you arrive, you are greeted with impeccable service, breathtaking views, and an aura of romance. Once you’re past the 10 hour flight to get there and the ruthless currency conversion, you’ll find you’re surrounded by tiny cafes and bistros that offer an afternoon shot of limencello to take the edge off. A woman who appears to have stepped out of a magazine offers you a cigarette to accompany the liquor. As you take a deep breath to inhale, you capture the aroma of fresh basil, tomato and the world’s most famous pizza. A friendly old man with a coarse beard offers you a ride to your hotel and on the way tells you countless stories enriched with history and a taste of his heritage.
The Amalfi Coast is an unbeatable getaway in a once in a lifetime destination. So, once you’re over your jetlag, BN suggests taking it all in with the following itinerary.
Viewed as the central hub of the Amalfi coast, Positano is a peninsula of rock that stretches for miles with only one road in and one road out. Parking is harder to come by in Positano than it is in Manhattan – cars line one side of the mountain, making it almost impossible for two cars to fit at once. The entire town winds down one long staircase and opens up into a quiet, peaceful beach that spreads its spirits throughout the people. The beach serves as the town square by day and is surrounded by fine restaurants, decadent wine and a world of art. Stray cats and dogs are an everyday occurrence and are invited to stroll along the beach from restaurant to restaurant picking up a small taste of some of the world’s finest food. By nightfall, the moon lights up the sea and the village prepares for their second shift armed with a cup of espresso and a full stomach.
Positano is surrounded by shopping, history, religion and art. Just a five minute walk from your hotel and you’ll have the option to view a captivating art gallery or watch a local craft his own piece right in front of your eyes. Widely known for its historic churches, Positano houses the Church of St. Maria Assunta, which covers the remains of a Roman villa and holds the Black Madonna icon. Amongst the many religious mysteries in Positano, nearby there are daily excursions to Montepertuso Mountain, who’s peak is said to be the fingerprint pierced by the Virgin Mary when the Devil challenged her to cross it.
While in Positano, stay at the Buca Di Bacco hotel. For those of you rolling solo or looking to spice up your nightlife, visit On the Rocks, a local nightclub at the end of the beach that overlooks the water and offers a great chance to meet some of Italy’s finest men. Lastly, rent a boat for the day and be sure to throw your own party while sailing your way to the other side of the coast.
As soon as you step off the ferry, you’ll be captured by a town filled with historical monuments. In the center of the town and on the stairs of the Cathedral, weddings and funerals are the highlights of a local’s afternoon. As a funeral commences, the entire town walks behind the casket of their loved one and all in the square stop for a moment to respectfully bow their heads. As a wedding commences and the bride begins to walk into the church, everyone stops to clap and cheers loudly in celebration along with her. Waiters are busy serving customers and making friendly suggestions. Whether you’re a tourist or not, you’ll get the best item on the menu every time you ask. Restaurant owners stand in front with a smile and a sense of pride when you choose to dine with them for the afternoon.
Amalfi is most widely known for its Cathedral. A huge staircase in the center of town leads up to a thousand years of history, including the Cloister of Paradise, the Basilica of the Crucifix, the Crypt of St. Andrew, and the Cathedral – a sight within itself.
While in Amalfi, stay at the Hotel Santa Caterina, which is a little pricy, but worth every penny! Besides, were talking euros here, so value for the dollar is not exactly easy to come by.
Villa Cimbrone adds a touch of romance with unique garden creations and archways. Photo courtesy of http://www.villacimbrone.com/
Next stop – Ravello, the “garden of Eden.” As you make your way down the coast, you will arrive in what has come to be known as the hidden gem of the Amalfi coast. Here you can forget about crowded streets and tourists bargaining for the best price. This quaint town is filled with locals from all regions welcoming you to take home a piece of their culture and peaceful way of life. A mile long stretch of greenery awaits you in front of the piazza in the town square, surrounded by gardens, small shops and family owned restaurants.
Known for its countless villas, Ravello houses one of the most famous and the most beautiful – Villa Cimbrone. This 14 acre stretch of land is filled with secret gardens surrounded by archways of ancient rock, romantic pathways that lead to incredible views of the entire coast, and a crypt that is delicately constructed and stands at the highest point of the villa. Although all of their gardens are public, Villa Cimbrone also offers a private hotel that once hosted Greta Garbo in the master honeymoon suite.
While in Ravello stay at a villa – preferably Villa Cimborne, but any villa will do. Although the prices for shopping don’t quite beat out those in Sorrento, you can find the finest hand crafted ceramic in countless unique styles. Before you leave, stop to admire St. Francis of Assisi and take another piece of religious history with you.
Capri’s welcoming pier. Photo courtesy of Jane Scandurra
From the moment you arrive, you’ll be mesmerized by the hustle and bustle of this tiny island. Surrounded by boats that range from privately chartered catamarans to local fishermen, you’ll get a taste of Capri’s everyday life before you step off the dock. Although prices are the most expensive here, as you walk further into the town you will come to find what us New Yorkers call “Fifth Avenue.” An endless stretch of designer shops offering the finest clothing and every woman’s dream – shoes. The town square is filled with people at any hour, some looking to venture further up the mountain by taking the Funicolare, a trolley that packs in people by the hundreds. Further up the mountain, you may run into a local church ceremony, be invited to dine with a family who just sat down to eat lunch, or walk the countless botanical paths to discover where they lead.
Among the most famous things to do in Capri is rent a boat and venture off to the Blue Grotto. Halfway between the edge of Positano and the edge of Capri, you will find a deserted cave with a tiny arched opening. Countless boats wait their turn for a chance to see emerald and blue waters that have rarely been touched. Swimming is prohibited, but you can enjoy a fine tune as your tour guide begins to serenade you from the top of their tiny boat.
While at Capri, stay at the Punta Tragara and take the path at the edge of the cliff all the way down to the bottom. There you will find the saltiest water sure to wash away any impurities. On your way down, stop to admire La Punta, the rocks that stand directly in front of the hotel in the middle of the Mediterranean. Before you leave, you must stop for the some of the finest pizza at the Villa De Verde Restaurant where the food is to die for and the waiters provide delightful entertainment.