Amalfi Coast, Italy
This part of Italy that winds down from Sorrento, where the sea meets the sky, roads wind around rugged towns and striped umbrellas and boats dot and bob below. It must be one of the most spectacular spots in the Mediterranean to explore and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding natural beauty. The place of endless blue horizons, dotted hidden caves and enclaves filled with azure water, where you walk cobbled streets eating pesce fritti, and everything Amalfi embodies summer and La Dolce Vita.
Our Ultimate favourite Eco Gypsy hideaway on this coast is Villa Scarpariello Relais (www.villascarpariellorelais.it) that lies on a winding corner in Mamorata di Ravello. An ancient castle set on the cliff it has the most magnificent views through ancient arches from the rooms and a tiny private rock beach to leap into the deep blue sea. It is eclectic and comfortable and full of a charm and character of old Italy that is hard to recapture. Still family run there is an intimacy when staying here and is perfect for the whole family or romantic getaways. Step off the rocks straight onto a gozzo, a traditional wooden speedboat for shopping and dinner in Amalfi or Positano, or take an open top car up the hill to the picturesque Ravello.
It is a small Bed & Breakfast winding around the coastline, the spacious, traditionally decorated apartments, suites and rooms are situated in such a tranquil, verdant and historical setting, this must be one of the most unique and enchanting small hotels that has played host to The Kennedys and other stars who are in the know about this enchanting historical hideaway. Waking up to the sun reflecting on the water, and coffee on bougainvillea strewn terraces.Although not the most luxurious, it is a totally relaxed, low key and serene spot on this increasingly bustling coast away from the razzmatazz and social media masses to just soak in the captivating beauty of this area.
La Sireneuse, Positano(www.sirenuse.it/en)must be one of the most celebrated and celebrity packed hotels in the area but is again a beautifully preserved and family run establishment of impeccable elegance and Italian style perfectly curated into this iconic establishment. Beautiful and jewel coloured it is like a ruby dotted with an emerald and sapphire pool, yet the interiors are the epitome of muted minimal chic. Light and airy rooms face onto the turquoise waters and the mosaic of coloured houses dotted up and down the hills of Positano.
The feeling is of being a guest in a grand but unpretentious home. It opened in 1951 and has been attracting both the Italian set and international global gypsies who favour this beautiful seaside town as a summer bolthole.
Full of the air of sophisticated romance and the sweet aroma of their in house perfumery, this is the place to explore the heady sun kissed glamour of this tiny jetset town and soak in the views on its elegantly ornate terraces in one of the regions most famous restaurants and soak in the sea view.
Naturally this coastline is home to some of the best seafood in Italy and the selection is fresh and bountiful. Alsobeing just a stones throw away away from Naples is also still the best region to eat pizza, so make sure you have at least one ‘real’ Italian pizza.
The Michelin recommended Rada, Postiano(www.radarestaurant.it)is a like a rocky outcrop and is renowned for being not only one of the best, but also most scenic restaurants along the coast. Absolutely exquisite seafood is served is idyllic understated surroundings with warms breezes blowing in and waves lapping below. A newly added sushi area has added an international twist and takes advantage of the fresh fish literally on the doorstep. For Italian food lovers delicious and innovative seafood dishes like the squid ink tagliolini with sea urchin or simple fresh grilled tuna with salad. The captivating setting and flawless cuisine make it a must visit.
For pizza lovers Mimi Bar Pizzeria, Ravello is considered to be some of the best on the coast. A very inconspicuous small family run place it has local prices and some of the best pizzas on the coast. The traditional Margherita is faultless and dripping with melting mozzarella and fresh basil. There is a small outside terrace that winds round the steps and is a great place to indulge in the most traditional of Italian dishes. There is also a great variety of other dishes for those who are not pizza lovers. Another speciality here is their homemade limoncello so be sure to try this other authentic alcoholic aperitif from local lemons.
For a truly traditional experience then whilst strolling the streets of Amalfi you will see lots of street side windows selling fried mixed seafood of fritti misto mare that you eat out of a wrapped paper cone with a stick. The most famous is Cuoppo D’Amalfi where you can choose from squid (calmari), fish like whitebait or larger tuna, prawns and mussels all straight from the sea and into the fryer. Served with chips and mayonnaise it is hot, delicious and slightly decadent but an amazing companion whilst walking the backstreets and exploring this coastal city.
Sail & Spin
There are two ways to travel the Amalfi Coast – one is the wild winding roads that curl manically around the mountainsides and the other is by sea. Both are equally beautiful but there is something slower and incredibly special about seeing the coastline from the sea.
No matter your budget you can easily cruise up and down this coastline on the water. The traditional Gozzo boats are the small wooden schooners that you will see zooming up down the coast or bobbing idly in hidden inlets. They can resemble anything from polished racehorse to ramshackle floating fishing huts, however they are easily rented not matter your budget and the perfect way to discover magical grottos and get from all the port towns or harder to reach beaches.
However, the best idea is just to moor somewhere hovering the deep blue ocean for a few hours and marvel at the deep blue Mediterranean Sea.
If you don’t need a boat for the day but would still like to glide between towns there is a reliable ferry service Travelmar (www.travelmar.it) that runs from Salerno to Positano and stops at Maori, Minori, Amalfi and Positano. Its a great way to hop and and off and a very regular bus service can also take you inland, such as a trip to Ravello if you jump off in Minori.
For the more adrenalin fuelled then rent a classic car and take it for a spin around the spiralling roads of the coast. This is definitely one for experienced drivers – grab yourself a classic Alfa Romeo Spider, Fiat or Ferrari from Spider Lifestyle (www.spiderlifestyle.com) to zip around the winding roads for the quintessential exhilarating movie star experience.
St. Andrews Cathedral, Amalfi is a stunning towering edifice that dominates the centre of the town on a hill with its glistening golden facade. It was built in the 1200’s and has Moorish architectural attributes associated with this time. It houses the remains of St. Andrew and is connected to the neighbouring museum housed in the older Basilica. There has always been a place of worship here since 546AD and the old cathedral was never torn down so both the ‘newer’ and previous ones are adjoined to make up this magnificent building. The amazing bronze doors that dominate the facade were the first of their kind in Italy and literally glisten in the sunlight. Sitting on the stairs eating gelato and just soaking up the atmosphere seems to be a local pastime. Inside the crypt and cloisters are worth taking the time to wander around for the mix of architecture and the more ancient aspects of the cathedral’s history.
The eponymous photos of Costeria Almafatina always include row after row of striped umbrellas and and deckchairs dotted all up and down the coast in every beachfront town. The different colours signify the restaurant or particular owner of those parasols so the whole beach is one huge colour coded mosaic. These iconic parasols have been making historical photographs for decades and it is practically tradition to hire one for the day and spend the day dipping in and out of the cool water and eating gelato on the beach and watching the world go by in the shade of a flamboyant stripy umbrella.
A shop that epitomises everything Eco Gypset on the coast is Antica Satoria, Positano (www.anticasartoriapositano.it)- a mixture of bohemian kaftans and full gypsy dresses it comes in a myriad of brights to muted shades and there is something for everyone. The small shop under terracotta arches on the waterfront is overflowing with hippie chic style & there is something for everyone from the super glitzy sequin numbers to the pastel shades and lace pieces to stroll the wisteria laden streets and lounge by the beach like a local. Artisan made and around since the 1960’s this brand epitomises the Amalfi look.
For bespoke fragrances and its own perfumery then visit Le Sireneuse and you can wind yourself up through town where a traditional tabaccheria is next to Italian fashion icons, such as Missoni. It is a shopping treasure trove between niche boutiques and a few select well known brands dotted up and down the main towns but thankfully is not overrun by outlets.
For the beautiful bold primary coloured, traditional painted ceramics there are plenty of little workshops dotted around the coast and in the backstreets. This artisanal workshops date back to the 15th Century and the centre of this traditional craft is Vietri Sul Mare, the fist town you hit and known as the ‘Gateway to the Amalfi’. It is bursting with tiny shops, full of parrot coloured ceramics under old awnings spread along tiny streets.
Vietri sul Mare is also home to Ceramica Artistica Solimene, an abstract circular building clad in multi-coloured ceramic tiles. It is of the few examples of modern architecture on the Amalfi Coast, deigned by Paolo Solari, an Italian architect that briefly studied under the Frank Lloyd Wright in America. Inside this unusual building you’ll find a showroom selling Solimene’s distinctive ceramics, including their popular series of brightly colored dishes featuring animals. The small streets around Amalfi town and up in Ravello are also have small workshops and a great selection of the traditional ceramics in a palette dominated by the cobalt blues, yellows and reds of the region.
The Villa Cimbrone, Ravello (www.villacimbrone.com)is now a luxury hotel and was once home to Hollywood’s elusive Greta Garbo. It is amazing place to stay and is fame for the suites with sweeping views and Michelin starred restaurant. It is also famed for its magnificent gardens with its panorama from the aptly named Infinity Terrace of the azure horizon, manicured mini mazes and enchanting shadedgardens and grottos. Reimagined in the 20th Century by the great Vita Sackville – West, this hotel was a playground and inspiration for the Bloomsbury Set. The hotel and gardens are heritage buildings that combine beauty with relaxed Italian glamour set in one of the worlds botanical marvels.
The gardens are open to the public every day and entering through the cloisters you can tour this fairy land of verdant landscaping, hidden imps in the foliage and the vast expanse of blue hued beauty on the terraces dotted with Romanesque busts. Botanically these gardens are home to a wealth of species and redesigned in the English style making them one of the most important examples in South Europe.
The walk from Ravello down the steps to Minori is also one of great scenic beauty, strolling through vineyards and catching glimpses of local life through open doors in the summer heat down winding paths and stairs. Starting overlooking the entire area you will end up winding through the backstreets of old town Minori onto the beach. This is a more Italian holiday seaside town than has a more relaxed feel than the hordes and jetset of Positano and is a great place to relax on the pebbled beaches, taste authentic food from a local trattoria or spend a few hours before catching the ferry to Amalfi.