By Antonella Sacco
When traveling to Italy, a mere mention of the Amalfi Coast invokes a dreamlike vision of lemon trees and crystal turquoise waters. Positano is no doubt one of the most recognized and visited islands on earth. Nestled high up in the cliffs, the famous hotel La Sirenuse overlooks right down to the beach.
Positano is home to about 4,000 people, but attracts about 5 million tourists annually. The hashtag #Positano boasts 1.5 million Instagram posts, making it one of the world’s most photographed sites. No wonder Positano is arguably the crown jewel of the Amalfi.
The isle of Capri still harks back to glory days of old Hollywood glamour. You can replay in your mind Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton sunbathing on a yacht. Sailing the blue grotto is must for adventure-seekers.
Another favorite destination among tourists is Sorrento, a town overlooking the Bay of Naples where a visitor can get a real feel of small-town living. The town is particularly known for quaint artisan shops. Bottles of limoncello are sold everywhere. They can be found in a variety of flavors from chocolate to pistachio and now are sold in easy-to-transport bottles. Artisan-made woodcraft souvenirs and jewelry vendors dot the streets alongside restaurants and churches. Visitors can also find great deals on leather goods such as sandals, pouches and bags.
Although the beauty of these islands along the coast cannot be denied, there are a few off-the-beaten-path destinations that equal in charm. Take Ravello, for example. This lush town is perched high up in Campania with breathtakingly sweeping views. Getting there will entail a long and windy drive up a narrow mountain road that may have your ears popping, but the striking panorama will be well worth the trip. Ravello also holds the title of City of Music. The Ravello Festival is held annually in summertime celebrating orchestras and symphonies. What better way to inhale the perfumes of lemons and Villa Cimbrone Gardens along with sounds of Mozart?
Artists, writers and poets have been making the sojourn to the Amalfi Coast since Roman times. Even the ancient Romans could appreciate the natural foliage and water breezes for millennia. Craft artisans are found everywhere, and there is no shortage of talent and keen eye for design.
Deruta ceramics, named for the medieval town in Umbria that is a major center for the production of the painted, tin-glazed earthenware, hang as artwork on villa walls. Table tops use similar mosaic designs.
Make sure to stop in the town of Amalfi during your travels. It may sound a bit confusing but there is an actual town named Amalfi along the coast. At one time, Amalfi was known as a strong maritime center with a vibrant trade among eastern and western cultures. Byzantine influence is evident today in architecture. Il Duomo Sant’Andrea or St. Andrew’s church stands in the town square. Not for the faint-hearted, the trip to the church has 60 steps leading to the entrance. It’s Moor-style arches and Byzantine influence is worth the trek. Should you be open for ceramic-buying, Amalfi is the go-to place.
Shops all over display and can even arrange shipping anywhere in the world should you be concerned about transportation. We have encountered that quite a few ceramic shops that prohibit photography in the stores. Residents are protective of the crafts and treat their wares with utmost care. Amalfi also has a lovely promenade with many fine outdoor dining opportunities, or just take a walk and drink in the views.
Lastly, the smallest and least-known island on the coast is Procida (pronounced pro-chee-da). That is beginning to change as more tourists are finding out about the locals’ best kept secret. What makes the island attractive is its local feel and absence of tourist domination during summer months. One of the main attractions is the village of Marina Corricella. The oldest village on the island, it is known for its colorful housing and fishing port history. It is traffic-free which allows you to wander around on foot. Built into the rock, views of Terra Murata are expansive and magnificent.
So how exactly can you get to these charming towns and island along the Amalfi Coast? Typically from June to September, round trip airfare to Rome from New York, Philadelphia or Boston could run from $1,000 to $1,200 plus tax. You can find deals with a connecting flight to Naples airport that could run the same price. Rates drop in mid-September but be sure to check the ferry schedules ahead of time if not during peak season. Travel from Rome to Naples today is cost-efficient with high speed trains that can run anywhere from 50 to 100 euros depending on the class of seating. Also, more and more bus companies are becoming available right at Fiumicino airport that are the most economical at 30 euros per person plus or minus.
Once you are set with lodging, a first-time traveler or someone who simply does not want to be bothered with schedules, a bus tour with a set itinerary is best. The tours will hit the normal hot spots and usually include a light lunch. They can run six to eight hours with a price of 80 to 100 Euros (roughly $100). If you’re a traveler who doesn’t like the idea of a bus tour and limited schedules but are willing to pay a little more, a hotel or taxi company can set up an itinerary with a personal driver. You can arrange an itinerary and determine how long to stay in each location. The caveat is that they usually charge the amount of a bus tour for half the time.
Procida, Capri, and Ischia are reachable by ferry at the Bay of Naples. The company to look for is Caremar. They run at regular intervals all throughout summer anywhere from 12 to 18 Euros each way.
The Amalfi Coast is a dream destination but there are affordable and easy options to get the most out of your stay. The views and quiet moments of thousands of years of history will leave a lasting unforgettable imprint. IAH