The deep blue hue the Mediterranean extends in front of your feet. Umbrellas shade the grey sand beach. Lemon trees terrace the hillside above the Italian homes defying gravity and clinching to their foundations. Wading in the water, speedo-clad middle aged men kiss each other’s cheeks before winking at you.
Congrats, you’ve made to the Amalfi Coast. Now what?
The beauty of the Amalfi Coast lies in its natural scenery. The cliffside towns, immense cliffs that tower above the sea, and refreshing blue waters of the Mediterranean. However, the Calambria region of Italy should not be underestimated for the importance of it cuisine, being known for its fresh foods and limoncello. Lastly, as you look north, Vesuvius dominates the skyline and is responsible for the most magnificent and well preserved ruins of a Roman city in the world, found in Pompeii.
First, you will likely find yourself in Naples. Visit Da Michele’s Pizzeria ten minutes from the central train station. At this point, it is considered the best Pizzeria in the world.
Staying in Sorrento: for backpackers the best spot is Seven Hostel located in Sant’Agnello, which is one train stop from Sorrento, which is the end of the line. 23 euros a night, epic rooftop, 10 minute walk from train station and swimming beach. Best pizza is Sorrento is at Franco’s. Best dinners are at the marina district of south Sorrento. Check out 7 Brothers restaurant – best gnocchi I’ve ever had. For a little fancier option, go to Delfino – reservations are needed here.
Getting around: the train, your feet, ferries, and buses are the way to get around. Ferries go to Capri, Positano, Amalfi, and back to Sorrento. Prices are high but there are no other option for the island of Capri, nevertheless the views are great from the ferry. Buses go to all the mainland cities, not Capri, as you can imagine. Buses are pretty cheap but can make your heart race on the roads. Tickets can mostly be bought on board, but sometimes are only sold in the tabachs.
Where to stay outside of Sorrento: Sorrento is good, but get out of there for the true Amalfi coast. Staying in Capri is recommended. The last boat from Capri leaves around 6 PM preventing anyone from staying on the island for sunset, drinks, or dinner.
Staying on the Amalfi Coast outside of Sorrento is also recommended. Positano and Amalfi are the go to locations. However, consider going to Praina and Ravello for a night. Ravello has the best views of the Amalfi Coast (check out Villa Cimbrone) and Praina has a much less touristy feel with a great coastline and more private beaches. For the clubbers out there, Africana, a club built into the cliffside over the sea, is the most well know club in the coastline. Praina is only accessible by bus and is accessible from any of the towns. The choice between staying in Amalfi and Positano is tough. Positano is more touristy and crowded, but more scenic. Neither have much authentic culture. Donna Stella’s Pizzeria is GREAT and in Amalfi, that could swing my vote. For these cities, there are jazz festivals, free night concerts, and fireworks(!) all summer.
What to do: number one in the region is the famed Pompeii. August of the year 79 AD, Vesuvius blew it’s top spewing volcanic ash all over the region. Over a 48 hour period much of region was covered in 16 meters of ash. Pompeii, will not as visually spectacular as other ruins such as the Roman Colosseum, is the most well preserved Roman ruin in the world. You may stroll the streets, baths, colosseum, and forum, audio tour in hand, as if it was 2000 years ago. Nothing has taught archeologists more about Roman life than these ruins – they are definitely worth a visit. My suggestion would be to go FIRST thing in the morning to avoid 1) the heat of the day (if going during the summer) as temperatures can easily reach mid-90’s with humidity, 2) the tourists as buses come from Sorrento, Salerno, Rome, and Naples everyday and it get packed. One more suggestion, during my last visit I learned they restarted concerts in the Pompeii colosseum inspired by a live concert filmed of Pink Floyd in 1971! How cool is that?! Check it out before you go.
For Capri, taking a boat around the island is highly recommended. If you have the budget for a splurge day, renting a boat with a private guide for your group runs 200-300 bucks for about a 4 hour ride, not including blue grotto tickets. You see the whole island at your pace, stop to swim, can have drinks on board, and can fit probably 8-10 people on the boat. The normal tours are also good if you are solo or with a small group and don’t have the budget.
This is limoncello heaven. Whether you like limoncello or not, it is of great pride for the locals of the region. Limoncello is made lemon rinds, alcohol, and simple sugar that sits for up to 4 weeks and is a common after dinner drink. Have a tasting. There are free tastings all over town or more structured tours to groves of you are interested. Bottles are cheap at around $10/liter.
Lastly, take a dip in the Mediterranean. The water and very salty (great for the body), easy to float, and the perfect temperature.