The Amalfi Coast is one of Europe’s most desirable destinations, a combination of magnificent scenery and laid-back lifestyle. This is southern Italy, where everything is brighter, bolder, and more relaxed than up north, and where the local people are friendly, the food is fabulous, and the sun always seems to shine. The coast and its picturesque villages need to be taken in slowly. Allow yourself time to savor every minute, and when you want to fit in some culture, schedule your time around the more important business of eating, drinking, and getting to know the people of the coast.
Visiting one of the world’s most beautiful stretches of coastline is mostly about drinking in view after breathtaking view; everyone should do the drive from Positano in the west to Vietri sul Mare in the east at least once. Due to its treacherous reputation, the "Road of 1,000 Bends" should be taken slowly; you can opt to catch the SITA bus (or hire a chauffeur-driven limo) if you want someone else to do the driving. Take a detour to see the 11th-century cathedral at Ravello, and don't miss the jazzy facade and 13th-century bronze doors on the cathedral in Amalfi. Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Paestum all make good day trips, or throw a boat into the mix and hop over to Capri.
This blessed little corner of Campania is paradise for gourmets. The culinary traditions of the Sorrentine Peninsula are influenced by the sea, the mountains, and the warm, sunny climate. Local dishes make the most of an abundance of locally caught fish and seafood, paired with fresh produce cultivated on the hillsides. Local wines include crisp, dry whites and gutsy reds. Don’t leave without sampling at least one pizza, Italy’s greatest culinary export, which was invented in nearby Naples. The area has many Michelin-starred restaurants but some of the best eating experiences are in simple, authentic trattorias, preferably with views of the sea.
The Italians love a party and there are lots of traditional festivals, music events, and other performances around the coast. In Amalfi, the Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics is held quadrennially, but The Feast of Sant’Andrea, a religious celebration, happens every year. La Festa della Maddalena takes place every July in Atrani, and the village has fish festivals every August. Positano follows suit in September when fish stalls set up on the beach and cook for anyone who is around. Fans of classical music should head to Ravello for their annual summer concert series.
You don’t come to the Amalfi Coast to shop, but there are still some good retail opportunities along the way. Positano became famous for its fashion in the glory days of the 1960s, and you can still pick up chic beachwear, custom-made Capri pants, and artisan-made sandals in the village. Vietri sul Mare is celebrated for its brightly colored ceramics (you'll see them in the local restaurants, too), so pick up some tiles or dishware at the Solimene factory. Lemon cultivation is a major business on the coast, leading to the production of limoncello, a tangy local liqueur best served straight from the freezer.
The Amalfi Coast is packed from Easter until late September, so if you are looking for solitude, visit in the spring and fall. Note that many hotels and restaurants close for the winter season. Visas are not required for leisure visits of up to 90 days in the overall Schengen area. The nearest airport is Capodichino in Naples, but Rome's Aeroporto di Fiumicino handles intercontinental flights. From Naples you can arrange a private transfer or take the train and bus to the coast. The area is well served by the SITA bus company and there are plenty of taxis. In high summer, there is also a boat service between the main coastal towns. The currency is the euro and electricity is 220 volts.
Gillian Longworth McGuire is a Rome-based blogger, e-book writer, information curator, traveler, coffee and cocktail drinker. Her friends call her “the Source” and she is your go-to girl for the best information on just about anything in the eternal city, the Amalfi Coast, Capri, and the island of Ponza.