Cruising the Amalfi Coast!
The scenery in the Amalfi Coast is as beautiful and breathtaking as friends had raved, and we were giddy to arrive in Sant Agata, the small town close to Sorrento that would be our home base for exploring the area over the 9 days. We were the only travelers staying at the 7-unit gated vacation apartment complex, so it was quiet and luxurious to have the property to ourselves. Called La Campanella the place had a beautiful pool and lounge area overlooking the sea to one side and towards the town of Massa Lubrense on the other, plus a garden of lemon trees growing the region’s famous giant lemons, olive trees lining the driveway and cascading rosemary in the flowerbeds around the pool.
We read everywhere that the one must-do experience on the Amalfi coast is the drive along the coast from Sorrento to Amalfi, either as a passenger on a bus, or driving in a car. We were warned against taking a car into the little towns as finding parking is a difficult challenge, but we were there after high tourist season so it wasn’t too busy. What was more of a challenge was the drive itself. We’d learned by now that Italian drivers are maniacs and wild cards on the road, but driving with them on these winding, cliff-hanging roads was crazy! It’s every man and woman for him/herself and they try to pass other cars every chance they get on roads that are barely wide enough for two cars. The roads are so winding the practice is to honk before every corner to warn oncoming drivers, which means you pretty much hear excessive tooting on the road at 3 second intervals. I was hard pressed to find an Italian without dings and dents on his car. The tense (but fun!) ride is worth it for the heart-stopping views along the coast as you pass the beautiful pastel towns of Positano, Priano, Furore and Amalfi built up from the sea and into the hills, looking out onto shimmering blue water.
The best way to tell the story of this coastal paradise is through photos, although they don’t really do it justice.
We drove to Ravello, a village perched on a hilltop just past Amalfi to visit the Villa Cimbrone gardens.
View from Villa Cimbrone gardens in Ravello
Views from lunch
We had an awesome sunny lunch at Delfino’s at the Marina Grande in Sorrento. The best seafood risotto we had on the trip! At least three groups of friends had recommended the risotto so we had to try it…amazing!
We loved the little town of Priano. It was much less touristy, and felt more authentic. We stopped there to watch the sunset, while the neighbourhood kids played in the piazza in front of the church. After sunset we enjoyed some great regional wines (Primitivo and Aglianico) at Vivaro Wine Bar. We highly recommend this spot! The owner Gennaro knows his wine, and knows his way around a kitchen. He served us two delicious pastas on the house while we enjoyed our wine–the first was a spicy ravioli dish and the second was a delicious fresh pasta vongole with clams.
Sant Agata/Massa Lubrense
After eating out quite a bit for almost three months, we enjoyed settling in to our own routine in our kitchen at La Campanella. Every day at four o’clock we enjoyed an aperitivo of Aperol spritz, or a glass of wine and made our game plan for dinner. We made homemade gnocchi with homemade pesto one night (Mitchell’s turned out far better than mine!). Another night we made a squid pasta dish with the encouragement and instruction from a few of the locals. It had to be Spaghetti No.5 (on this they were adamant!) with sauteed squid, garlic, chilis and tomatoes. The fishmonger also gave us the local special recipe for Pezzogna d’all Aqua Pazza (Fish in Crazy Water). Pezzogna is a local fish, and the recipe is very simple and delicious. Salt the fish all over, drizzle it will olive oil and put it in a pan with water, garlic and tomatoes. Traditionally the water would have been salt water right from the sea.
We tackled a few amazing hikes in Massa Lubrense. The coast here is protected as a marine reserve and rich with ruins from a few thousand years ago. We hiked to one point with a fantastic view of the Isle of Capri, and a narrow, steep, natural crack in the coastal rock that led down to the water.
Ancient stairway to the ocean built in the rock
Rusted ship mooring
View of Capri
Also nearby were the ruins of an ancient villa built by Greek aristocracy looking out over Sorrento. We watched local fisherman cast their lines (not one catch in over an hour!), and wandered through the rubble and the ancient natural baths of the villa.
View of Sorrento
Baths in behind the ancient villa
Probably the most aggressive and rewarding hike we did in this area was to a small secluded beach at the recommendation from a local. It was a steep hike for 2km straight down a sketchy and rocky path to blue water, a pebbly beach, magnificent rock face and a view of Capri at sunset. The water was chilly but we still went in, on October 19th!
We visited Positano on two different days. It is a picturesque, secluded, pastel town built into the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast and deserves all the praise it gets for its beauty. I’d say the most visited and touristy of the Amalfi towns, with every other shop selling either the infamous Limoncello or brightly coloured ceramics, and bustling with tourists even in late October when the other towns were quieting down. We made our way down the steep cobblestone streets to end up accidently at the tail end of a wedding procession en route to the church down by the beach. We stopped at Chez Black on the beach and enjoyed a fresh Sorrento mozzarella caprese salad, and fried anchovies, that we shared with the resident stray cat.
For our second visit to Positano we rented a little zodiac to check out the coast from the water. This was a highlight! Mitchell was a skilled captain for what was quite a bumpy ride at first! The views were awesome…I think I took 150 photos on this two-hour adventure. We stopped in a quiet bay at Maiora to soak in the sun and share a bottle of bubbly. Blissful moments in paradise!
View of the town of Atrani from our boat
In the bay at Maiori, blissfully bubbly-fied
Paris to Positano is complete!
The Amalfi Coast was a stunning end to our stay in Italy. It’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever visited!
Here’s a link to more photos from the Amalfi Coast:
Amalfi Coast Photos