Ridiculously stunning coastline? Check. Picturesque towns? Also present. Fresh, handmade pasta and creamy gelato? Si, naturalmente. If you’re in search of the good life, Italy’s Amalfi Coast is where you’ll find it. Days spent here become things of magic as you start to wonder – somewhere between your second and third Campari – if this might just be the most beautiful place on Earth. The only thing which may dampen your appraisal is a gnawing sense that you’re not experiencing the destination at its most authentic; that, perhaps, you’re getting the shiny tourist version while the locals are elsewhere, having more fun. Well the good news is you’ve come to the right place because we’re about to give you the know-how you need to make the most of this spectacular spot, one local secret at a time.
These days the area is connected by the 25 mile-long Strada Satale 163, a spectacular piece of bitumen that takes 1000 curly bends around the iconic coastline, passing through deep gorges, along high cliffs, between olive groves and beside towns so pretty you’ll want to hang photos of them in your living room. All the while the aquamarine water sits out to one side, each of the region’s 100 beaches bordered by colorful umbrellas and leathery-looking locals working on their tans.
So yes, if you were wondering, this is one of the world’s most beautiful stretches of road. The only problem is it’s also very narrow and traffic jams up easily thanks to the high number of one-car-at-a-time hairpin bends. One way to avoid this is to visit outside of peak season, which takes place in July and August. Another way is to move between the towns on foot, following the very same paths the locals used to take before the road was built in 1852.
The walk from the town of Amalfi to Pontone and the Ferriere Valley is a truly wonderful way to explore the area’s hinterland and see a side of the region not many visitors experience. The Ferriere Valley is lush, green and full of fresh water streams which offer some of the most secluded swims in the region. Pontone is also a great spot to find yourself, its 225-meter elevation providing spectacular views down to the coast and its one and only restaurant serving up long lunches worth writing home about.
The other track we feel we need to mention is Sentiero delgi Dei or Path of the Gods, which traverses seven miles between Bomerano and Positano. As well as taking you through beautiful gorges and past vineyards and orchards, the path gives you the most breathtaking panorama on the whole Amalfi Coast, positioning you so you can see all the way out to the isle of Capri.
Before you fill your water bottle and put on your joggers, we should warn you that the trails can be tough going thanks to the area’s mountainous landscape. But take it from us: any steep climb can be overcome when there’s mouthwatering Italian food waiting for you at the other end.
And boy, is there a lot of salivating to be done on the Amalfi Coast. As well as gelatarias, traditional pizza shops and delicatessens bursting with balls of fresh buffalo mozzarella and salty salami, there’s an abundance of exceptional restaurants to enjoy, all without breaking the bank. The general rule for finding where the locals eat – and avoiding tourist prices in the process – is heading out of the towns’ main squares, even just by a few hundred meters.
In Amalfi, if you follow the main street up away from the beach to where the crowd thins out, you’ll come across Trattoria Dei Cartari, where local owner Antonio serves up some of the best seafood and pasta alla genovese you’ll find. A little further up on the other side of the street you’ll come across Ristorante Il Mullino, a family-run gem of a place that also serves home-made limoncello, the region’s famous citrus liqueur.
In Ravello, a criminally beautiful mountain-side town which sits well above the hustle and bustle of the coastal strip, try Cumpà Cosimo, where you can enjoy a quintet of homemade pasta dishes for €15. Yes, that’s four different types of carby goodness, lovingly made by Nonna for less than a 20.
Back down beside the sea in Minori you’ll find sweet haven Salvatore de Riso, where you can enjoy ridiculously creamy gelato and the finest pastries on the coast. We strongly recommend going all out and getting both the creamy delizie di limone and deliciously moreish ricotta and pear tart. While you’re in town you should also take the time to taste-test the freshly made pasta at Ristorante Giardiniello, especially the fresh scialatelli which is a thick local version of the better-known fettuccini.
There are a number of restaurants along the coast that can only be reached by boat which, in our humble opinion, is kind of cool. By far the best of these (and the one where you’re likely to find all the locals on a sunny day) is Da Adolfo, which sits in a little cove to the east of Positano. Look for the boat with the big red fish at the town’s bustling wharf and jump on, preparing yourself for the relaxed atmosphere and gastronomic glory of the restaurant, which looks almost shack-like from outside. Obviously seafood is the star but pescaphobes can enjoy themselves too, happily munching away on freshly-made pastas and home-cooked desserts.
While the scenery and the food are undoubtedly highlights of the Amalfi Coast, the local culture is also something worth exploring. Like most Italians, Amalfi locals enjoy late starts, siestas and sunset aperitifs; something we’re sure you’ll be able to get on board with. During the summer months, chances are you’ll find them sprawled on the glorious beaches between the time of their first coffee right up until the sun sets.
Praiano’s Cala della Gavitella is a particular local favorite, thanks to the fact it enjoys full sunlight all day long. You’ll never have to move spots or change your angle to ensure an even tan and, if you do feel like swimming you have the choice of the open ocean or Fontana dell’Altare, a stunning natural swimming pool nestled at the mouth of a cave. Once the sun starts to dip, the best place for a relaxed apertivo is Gran Caffé in Amalfi which makes the most of its ideal cliffside location with a perfectly curated drinks list. This is the place we mentioned earlier, where you’ll enjoy multiple Camparis and decide that this really must be the most beautiful place on earth.
Dreaming of the Amalfi Coast? Check out Italy’s coastline on this dazzling 8-day small group tour.
Want to see Amalfi, but by boat? This beautiful 7-day cruise should do the trick.
Image Credits (top to bottom): Intrepid Travel x2, iStock x3, Da Adolfo Facebook Page