If there was ever a place to begin mastering the art of nonchalance, the Amalfi Coast would be it.
We arrived in Naples via a 6AM flight from Prague, immediately hopping on the tourist bus to Sorrento. Out the window, the azure colored waves crashing into the rocky cliffs jutting out of the ocean, cypress trees hanging on for dear life, and brightly colored villas dotting the coastline were an awe to bestow. If the dramatic landscape didn’t make us gasp, then our bus driver – swerving along the serpentine coast all while eating a sandwich and yelling into the phone – definitely did.
We arrived at our Airbnb, only to find out we had to wait another 4 hours for the cleaners to finish setting it up. While I’ve always admired Italian’s unique ability to relax and unwind…it seems the cleaning ladies brought that attitude to work with them.
And so we lazed away on a bar balcony overlooking the marina, with Maria (our waitress and new best friend) continuously topping off our glasses with the local Limoncello. When we finally made it up to our top-floor unit, the view from the terrace was breathtaking. It was immediately worth the wait, so we cracked open a bottle of Verdicchio and said a toast to our home for the next 8 days.
Sorrento strikes a perfect balance between beach-y and cultural. Despite the hoards of July tourists, we still enjoyed walking around and ducking in and out of boutiques, tasting the fresh produce, and eating an al fresco lunch of grilled fish or (more likely) pasta. G even taught me some choice Italian words he picked up while studying abroad: certo, di niente, and che fai stasera. This definitely paid off because everyone we met loved talking to us and learning that his name was “Gaetano!”
We definitely recommend going kayaking in Amalfi. It’s a great way to see parts of the coast that aren’t accessible on foot or car, and you can stop to go swimming or do some cliff jumping.
One day while kayaking with our friends Christian and Cait, we found a beautiful open air grotto: Bagni Della Regina Giovanna. It’s accessible from the sea via a small opening in the cave, and is a secluded spot for some swimming. Later that week, we hiked down to it and took a dip in the late afternoon. It’s far from being a secret beach, but definitely not as crowded as the rest of Sorrento.
That area also has some beautiful scenery, a rocky beach (with chairs!) and a great restaurant & bar called Lido la Solara. It was perfect for polishing off a late afternoon Aperol Sprtiz while admiring those views.
One day we decided to take a day trip to Positano: the quintessential Amalfi Coast destination. I’d had a little too much to drink the night before (when you’re over 30, you get hungover after just 3 glasses), so was already ill-prepared for a hairpin drive along the Amalfi Coast that morning. To make matters worse, the bus was so full that we weren’t able to get a seat, leaving us clinging on for dear life as our bus driver whizzed around each curve as if he were on a racetrack. We cringed at the thought of our bus plunging into the ocean after one false move. Needless to say, once we finally made it to Positano, I was not in good shape.
Fortunately, Positano is an excellent cure for nausea. The cliffside village looked exactly like the photos: breathtaking. As we walked down the with narrow streets toward Marina Grande, we stopped in many beautiful shops and art galleries. It was smaller, definitely up-market, and much more crowded than Sorrento – perfect for a day trip, but not a place to spend more than than a day or two. We had lunch and did some people watching at Bar Buca di Bacco, before heading to the beach.
The beach to go to in Positano is not the one near Marina Grande, but rather Laurito beach, a tiny little beach accessible via a trail and a flight of steps which starts in the small square opposite Positano harbor. We spent several hours swimming and relaxing while admiring the yachts in the harbor.
To get home, we opted against another life threatening bus ride and took the ferry. There are two ferries that go from Positano to Sorrento: one direct, with the other stopping in Capri & Amalfi. We had nowhere to be, so we took the scenic route. Sitting on the top deck, we had a great view to snap some photos of the coastline.
A few days later we were in the market for an interesting hike. I came upon something called Crapolla Cove – a secluded cove near Massa Lubrense. The name alone convinced me this was our next adventure, so we made our way to the tiny town of Torca, where the hike begins. The hike starts by going through a typical village neighborhood, surrounded by gardens full of ripening fruits. Once we reached the path, we descended 700 steps to get to our destination. It took about 45 minutes to get down. Lucky for us, the cove was deserted, so we enjoyed a small picnic and an hour of swimming before starting the far more challenging climb back up.
Ravello, a town set 365 meters above the sea on the Eastern side of the Amalfi Coast, was a place I’d read about long before this trip. Four of us hired a driver to take us over there one evening for dinner, and to attend a performance of the Manet String Quartet in one of the town’s historic buildings. It was a perfect way to experience a different part of the coast, and take in some classical music.
One of the best things you can do in Amalfi is hire a boat to take you out to several amazing places in one day. Fortunately our friend Roxanne was super on top of that, so we spent our last day on a boat circling the island of Capri and checking out the various beaches and grottos.
We had a wonderful captain named Carmine, who entertained us with some ridiculous stories from the field, and took us to a delicious restaurant, Bagni Tiberio, right on the water. There, we enjoyed a meal of pasta, their grilled fish of the day, and several pitchers of local wine. The only problem with this place was that they like to take advantage of drunk patrons that come in off the boats by offering up their local catch via a pay-by-weight system that resulted in astronomical costs (I think each fish was about €80). Needles to say, we’d still recommend it…just be prepared to do some math before you order the catch of the day!
One of our final stops of the day was the famous Blue Grotto. Captain Carmine didn’t recommend going there, and we couldn’t figure out why he was being so negative until we arrived. The boat line to get in was ridiculous: with 30 boats piled up to this amazing natural wonder. The whole experience has been so commercialized that swimming in is out of the question. Instead, we paid €20 each to be row-boated into the grotto for 5 minutes. It was definitely cool to see, but I would recommend many of the other sights on the coast before the Blue Grotto. Or come here after hours for a private look.
And finito – that was our trip to the Amalfi Coast! We move on to Gaeta and Tuscany from here. Arrivederci!