Agent Name: Christine
Date: May 2011
Trip Location: The Amalfi Coast – Italy
The Amalfi Coast is definitely one of the most beautiful 30 miles of coastline to be found in Europe. I had the pleasure of visiting Italy this past spring and while I spent the majority of my time near Rome, I did take the opportunity to visit the Amalfi Coast, one destination I had failed to visit during my last two trips to this beautiful country.
The Amalfi Coast is located in the Italian province of Salerno and extends from the town of Positano in the west to Vietri sul Mare in the East. The Amalfi Coast is made up of thirteen towns along a road that extends from Naples to the Gulf of Salerno. The road is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and views of the Mediterranean, however if you choose to explore this area by car it is important to know that the area is characterized by cliffs on the sea, the roads are narrow and winding and definitely not for the faint of heart.This is especially true in high season when you share the roads with countless tour buses. Known as the ‘Road of a 1,001 turns’, navigating the roads is definitely its own adventure. The drive along the coast is magnificent in scenery with several areas from which to pull off at the side of the road to take pictures and/or enjoy a cold drink, especially fresh squeezed lemonade made from the (very) large and juicy lemons that grow in this region.
My first stop was in Positano. Positano started out as a fishing village and has since become a fashionable resort and is considered one of the most expensive and photogenic towns along the Amalfi Coast. Since it is built vertically on the side of a cliff, the city is considered a pedestrian town with its narrow streets and countless stairs to climb (and descend) when taking in the sights of this delightful setting.
A bus is available along Positano’s one main street that you can take up and down the hill. However, if you want to take in the side streets, cafes, restaurants and shopping you will definitely require a comfortable pair of shoes. As you will find in all parts of Italy, Positano is no different with the architecture, churches, exploring, shopping and experiencing the vast gastronomic specialties all being musts when visiting. While I did not stay in Positano, I did take the opportunity to tour La Sireneuse, a luxury boutique style hotel with magnificent views of Positano and the Mediterranean Sea. Le Sirenuese, owned and operated by the Sersale Family since the 1700’s was converted and has been operating as a hotel by the family since 1951. Considered as one of the finest hotels in Southern Italy it is a Conde Naste award winner. Rooms are luxurious, spacious and attention to detail is apparent. A hotel highly noted for its romantic feel, the dining room at Le Sireneuse is lit by 450 candles each and every night, the only source of lighting within the dining room. It’s an unforgettable and very romantic experience while overlooking the town of Positano and the Amalfi coastline.
Onwards from Positano we drove to Amalfi where we stayed at the Santa Caterina Hotel. The Santa Caterina Hotel is a part of the Luxury Hotels of the World group and it is, exactly that, “luxurious”. As are most of the hotels on the Amalfi Coast, the Santa Caterina is built on the side of a cliff overlooking the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean. From here it’s only a scenic 5 minute walk into the town centre of Amalfi. The Santa Caterina is, as many are in the area, a family run Hotel with an extensive history. The family still lives in residences adjoining the property
and are actively involved in the hotel operations. Construction on the original structure began in 1880 and has been re-designed and added onto over the years. The hotel consists of 66 guestrooms and suites all with spectacular views of the coast and all are luxuriously decorated with great attention to detail. The hotel also offers a Wellness Center where you can enjoy massages, facials and various body treatments, a gym, a salt water pool that overlooks the Mediterranean and two fabulous restaurants from which to choose from. The morning buffet could not offer a more breathtaking view. Situated on the main level of the hotel and facing seaside, breakfast is served on the balcony overlooking the Amalfi coastline and offers a la carte options as well as a full buffet from which their is a variety of options from which to choose. I do have to say the service was impeccable at the Santa Caterina and they truly gave every guest the feeling of being part of their family.
From Hotel Santa Caterina we walked a short, picturesque walk to the town of Amalfi, a peaceful and very charming resort town; it is made up of narrow alley ways and stairs that wind up the mountain. If you arrive by car your starting point to exploring the town of Amalfi will likely be the marina area where there is ample parking. As you enter the town from the Marina side, you will be in the Piazza del Duomo, a square where you will find all types of shops, cafes, restaurants and al fresco dining options. It is here too where the Duomo is located (St. Andrews Cathedral) which features distinctive black and white architecture and dominates the square. Reachable from the main Piazza of Amalfi, it is reached by 62 steps. A tour is available that starts at the 11th century Chiostro del Paradiso and continues into the 19th century basilica. Further down is the crypt of St. Andrew from the 13th century where the saint’s remains are kept.
From Amalfi we headed back down the coastline to Sorrento. A main port for many cruise lines, Sorrento is an enchanting town located on the Gulf of Naples. Sorrento can easily be considered one of the most famous tourist resorts in the world. Not only is it located in one of the most scenic areas of the world but it is diverse in history, architecture, dining, shopping and accommodation options. I stayed at the Grand Excelsior, another Leading Hotels of the World property situated directly on the Gulf of Naples overlooking Mount Vesuvius. It is located in its own lush garden compound within the city accessible by car through a guarded gate for guests staying at the hotel or by foot traffic for those wishing to view the hotel and its grounds. It is a resort within the city and a very relaxing alternative to other ‘city’ hotels.
According to Greek legend, it was in Sorrento’s waters that that the mythical sirens lived and the beautiful songs of these maidens lured Sailors and their ships to doom. Legends, religion, architecture, gastronomic options and beautiful landscape encompass this area with limitless opportunity to see, taste and explore.
While I visited Positano, Amalfi and Sorrento during this visit, there are several other towns that need mention and that are included in many of the guided tours of the area. Furore, Praiano, Salerno and Ravello are all towns located along the Amalfi Coast. One of the most famous, Ravello, is said to have the best views of the Amalfi Coast as it is located high on the cliffs overlooking the town of Amalfi and the Mediterranean Sea and considered a very popular and romantic honeymoon destination.
The Amalfi Coast is a destination of true breathtaking beauty, history and nature. One of Italy’s top tourist destinations, the coast is abundant in lemon and olive groves, spectacular landscapes and ocean views. There are never ending photo opportunities everywhere you turn. From almost every town and port on the Amalfi Coast you can access the Islands of Capri and Ischia whether for a day trip or a holiday stopover destination. As is available in most other tourist destinations in Italy, attractions throughout the Amalfi Coast include beautiful beaches where you can spend your day relaxing and soaking up the sun, escorted tours that will accommodate specific interests, cooking classes where you can learn to create specialties of the area, or if you prefer, you can create your own self guided tours that allow you to experience the area and sights, attractions and culinary and gastronomic specialties of the area at your own pace. The Amalfi Coast is definitely a must see if visiting Italy. I would recommend a minimum 3 days to explore the area if making it a part of an extended itinerary. Once you visit though, you will definitely want to go back.
History, architecture, shopping, exceptional dining experiences and most of all their warm hospitality is what Italy, no matter where you go, is all about.