The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline in the Campania region of southern Italy. But, unlike the common image of a coastline, here, it is at the edge of steep mountain cliffs, giving this coast a very unique and dramatic character. It’s got colourful historic towns dotting the entire coastline, each town literally carved into a mountain and leading to the coast. There are so many things to do on the Amalfi Coast.
Lush plantations of lemons, olives, vineyards, and forests grow above the towns adding to the picturesque views, which keep changing with every twist and turn of the roads. The area is painted with lots of natural wonders, islands and a blanket of the most beautiful blue colour of the sea that is possible. So, get your sunscreen, be prepared to climb a lot of steps and say Ciao to this gorgeous part of the world.
Where to Stay & How to Move Around
We reached Naples from Rome, and from there we took a train to Salerno, which is the start of the Amalfi Coast. The coast then stretches on to Positano and then Sorrento. We chose to stay in the city of Amalfi, primarily because it’s in the middle of the coast and also because we went off-season and the prices were not that crazy. The other place people commonly choose to stay in is Positano, which is closer to Naples and Pompeii and is a very pretty and artsy city.
We had considered doing a self-drive trip, but after reaching there were very glad we decided against it. The road that connects the coastline is called the nastro azzuro or “the blue ribbon”. It’s named after the colour of the water and the ribbon-like long and twisty-turny nature of the road. The most people get sick on this road, so even if you have a strong stomach, it’s best to carry some motion sickness pills. The best way to travel around is to use SITA buses. They run regularly from town to town and are very safe and comfortable. The other option is to use ferries, but they turn out to be much more expensive.
Beaches, Limoncello & Food
The beaches of Amalfi are not very large and sandy; they are typically at the end of cliffs and are pebbly and rocky. The few sandy beaches that exist are quite crowded, busy and expensive. We went off-season, so we were lucky to find empty beaches, which was amazing. However, the water temperature was not very inviting, although from what I heard, the water is as cold as 18 degrees even in peak season.
The best way to enjoy the beach in Amalfi is to rent a beach chair, take a few dips and then relax with a glass of Limoncello. The region is big on lemon and citrus in everything including chocolates and soaps, and Limoncello is their signature drink – if you find it very strong and pungent, try a Limoncello cocktail.
We spent an entire day doing nothing else but this, and when we wanted a break, we just went to one of the many restaurants, ate some amazing Italian food along with Limoncello and then back to the beach. A perfect day!
Other ways enjoy the beautiful waters is to do cliff jumping and diving which is possible at many points. Or, you can take a ferry ride and ask your captain to allow you to jump into the middle of the sea. You can also go swimming in many caves along the coast. Just rent a boat and let them know what you want to do. However, we did not attempt any of these activities.
Wine & Cheese Tasting
While this may not be the most popular thing to do while visiting Amalfi, wine and cheese tasting was one of my favourite experiences during my stay there. The coast has some of the prettiest boutique vineyards – on top of the cliffs with panoramic views of the coast. Our wine tasting session (at Real Trimonti) was accompanied by a full cheese pairing as well as one of the best home-style meal we ate on the trip.
The owners Luigi and his brother served us personally and we even went olive picking on their farm after the long afternoon of wine and cheese. If you are heading to Amalfi, do take out an afternoon for this experience – it’s a surreal one and you won’t get to experience it anywhere else easily.
The Musical City & Ancient Villas in Ravello
Ravello also known as the “city of music” is situated on a hilltop and has a long history in music. It even hosts an International Music Festival every year. It’s a very pretty little town, which made me feel transported at least a 100 years back in time.
Ravello is also famous for its villas – Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone. These are old villas built by wealthy merchant families and have most mesmerizing views of the coast. The gardens are at various levels and a treat to visit. These huge villas are built in the Moorish architectural style and are an experience to visit.
The Emerald Grotto
Very close to Amalfi city is this grotto (cave), which is very easily accessible by a flight of stairs down the road. Because of the way the cave is structured and the light filtration, the water inside the cave looks emerald green. You enter the cave on a raft, which takes you in, and slowly the magical colours are revealed.
There are stalactites and stalagmites, which are thousands of years old, all over the cave and water dripping from the roof. There is also an underwater installation based on local myths, which makes this whole experience extremely mesmerizing.
Day Trips from Amalfi
The Island of Capri is connected with Amalfi and Positano by ferry. It’s an island frequented by the rich and famous, and you can see luxury in everything there- from the designer shops to the fancy yachts and fancier villas. Capri a relatively large island with lots to do, so choose whether you want to go on a day trip or spend a lot of money to stay a few nights there. We chose to do the day trip – hopefully one day we might go back to live the Capri lifestyle.
Pompeii & Mount Vesuvius are also close by and can be visited from Amalfi. However, we chose to visit during our stay in Naples, as they are connected by train from there. Pompeii is huge and has so much history and so many stories, my tip would be to take enough time to explore it well.
I always had the idea that you have to be extremely rich to visit Amalfi Coast, but thankfully it’s possible to do it without deep pockets. The trick is to plan it well and avoid the peak season. In fact, during off season, the experience gets better without the crowded roads, the noise, and millions of people. Instead, you get a chance to enjoy the calm warm water, the quaint white washed villages and towns, the beautiful views and vistas, all these things to do on the Amalfi Coast, without getting stuck in jams. Here are some other ways to avoid touristy crowds.