13 Things to do on the Amalfi Coast
From the first moment I arrived on the Amalfi Coast in Italy back in the 90’s, I knew it would hold a special place in my heart. This is, hands down, one of the most magically beautiful stretches of coastline in the world – even Unesco thinks so. There are 13 towns on the Amalfi Coast that received World Heritage Site designation in 1997.
It’s like the mountains just broke off into the sea and slowly towns were built vertically, wedged into the rock face. And it appears all the structures should be sliding into the sea, but they don’t.
My plan was to take the train to Naples and hop another train to Sorrento. Once you arrive in Naples Centrale train station, the Circumvesuvian Train is one floor down. Italian high speed trains between large cities are quite classy these days, but the Circumvesuviana is like a step back in time – a bit more rickety and there is no air con. Tickets cost €3.60 ($4) and it takes between 50 min and 1h 10 min all the way to the end: Sorrento. You might not have a seat and may very well be squished in with lots of others, so take care of your valuables. Use Sorrento as your base for discovery. It’s easier.
While there are a ton of things to do on the Amalfi Coast, I picked 13 of my favorites to coincide with the number of World Heritage site awards. Here’s hoping you, too, will fall under the spell of the Sirens, the intoxicating smells of lemon blossoms and get lost in the labyrinth of stairways and narrow alleys as you discover the paradise that is the Amalfi Coast.
Book a room with a view of Vesuvius
I’ve stayed a couple of times at the very central, Hotel Zi’Teresa and besides sea view balconies, they have a spacious rooftop terrace with spectacular 360° views of the surroundings. When I was there two years ago, it was a 3*. I now see it has reached 4* status, so well done, Aunt Teresa!
I’ve also stayed at the Hilton Sorrento Palace with a huge shared terrace and sweeping views of Sorrento toward Vesuvius. It’s a bit out of town, but well worth the view. They have a stunning ‘Pompeii-esque’ indoor pool and an infinity pool looking smack at Vesuvius. Decadent.
Visit the ancient city of Pompeii
Visit the ancient city of Pompeii, which was smothered under a thick carpet of volcanic ash in 79AD from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. If you can imagine, locals were covered in nearly 75 feet of smoldering ash that fell over a six-hour period. It was rediscovered in 1748 and excavations have been going on over the years.
You’ll see numerous intact artifacts, statues, frescoes, stunningly beautiful architecture; and original pieces can be found in the Naples National Archaeological Museum. It attracts 2.5 million visitors per year, so you will be in good company. I was lucky to snap some shots without the hoards. Cost @ €20 ($22.50).
You can either visit en route from Naples to Sorrento, or go back once you get settled in Sorrento. You can also visit the cities of Herculaneum and Paestum, which suffered the same fate, but do not have the tourist traffic of Pompeii.
Take in an open air concert in Sorrento
During the warmer months, there are many open air concerts in Piazza Tasso right in the middle of town. Check with the tourist office, and many are free!
Dine at Ristorante Museo Caruso
I’ve been here a couple times. My mom loved Caruso! Italy is known for music and Enrico Caruso is synonymous with opera. He was famous in Europe and the US in the early 1900’s, and was born near Naples. He’s famous for traditional Italian music, from opera to Neapolitan songs and this restaurant is a museum as well as a memorial to Sorrento’s adopted son. Each June/July, the Caruso Award is awarded by the City of Sorrento to an artist who has contributed to spreading the Italian culture in the world. It’s a lovely, upscale restaurant with a superb menu and loads of Caruso photos and paraphernalia on the walls. You’ll listen to Caruso music throughout your dining experience. Ristorante Museo Caruso is located at Via. S. Antonino, 12 Sorrento
Enjoy a beverage at the Marina Grande in Sorrento
This is a very chilled area with a variety of sea side restaurants specializing in seafood, but you can also just grab a drink at one of the romantic little tables they position sea side. You can also swim down there or rent local paddle boats. It’s a great way to chill.
Take a SITA Sud bus to Amalfi and Positano
You’ll be in for the ride of your life. I give the bus drivers a lot of credit. Those hairpin turns of the Amalif Coast are not easy to navigate with tons of traffic and the Italian penchant of just parking where they like. This ride is not easy to stomach. You will want to sit on the right side (as seated) when going from Sorrento to Amalfi, and on the left if you are returning to Sorrento. You catch the bus in Piazza Giovanni Battista De Curtis in Sorrento, near the station of the Circumvesuviana of Sorrento. The ride takes about 1.5 hrs is €6.80/ ($7.65).
Take the boat to Capri
It’s so decadent to say, “I went to Capri for the day.” From Sorrento’s Marina Piccola, you have the AliLauro , which takes 20 minutes for €18.50 ($21) or the Caremar at 30 minutes for €16 ($18.50). It’s a beautiful voyage to marvel at the stunning Amalfitan Coast and its mountainous landscapes.
Enjoy a beverage at the Gran Café – Piazza Umberto I, Capri
Situated in Piazza Umberto I, the most famous piazza in Capri, you can watch the world go by at this lovely café that’s been around since the mid 1930’s.
Ride the funicular to Mount Solaro in Anacapri
This funicular reaches the highest point on Anacapri (589 meters/1932 Feet). You can find it at Piazza Vittoria in Anacapri. And a lot of people miss this. It’s a 12-minute ride with a variety of ‘holy shit’ and extremely quiet moments as you are floating in air, but the views are amazing! It’s €11 ($12) rt.
Stay at Hotel Le Sirenuse in Positano
Hotel Le Sirenuse is part of the Leading Hotels of the World collection and it’s pure luxury. It was opened in 1951 by the Marchese family who turned their summer home into a hotel overlooking the bay of Positano. There are 58 rooms and it has an intimate feel of a cultured private home. Pulling random dates to find the most reasonable, I found a double with a courtyard view for €300 ($340) in October 2017, with view of the pool and partial sea for €490 ($550) or a sea view for €600 ($675). I stayed here for a couple nights many years ago and paid about $200 for a sea view! Many Hollywood A-listers have stayed here and it’s truly a once is a lifetime experience. Their restaurants, service and pool bar none. They are located at Lattari Mountains Regional Park, Via Cristoforo Colombo, 30, 84017 Positano
Dine at the highly-recommended Ristorante Da Constantino
This family run pizzeria/restaurant has been around since 1978. I went with a random group from Le Sirenuse hotel and we had such a lovely time chatting with the owners and staff that they even let us in to the kitchen to watch our pizzas being baked. The hotel provided transport to and from. It was the first choice the staff at Le Sirenuse recommended to us. A definite must try for traditional familial Italian cooking. They are located at Via Corvo, 95 – Positano
Visit Villa Cimbrone Gardens in Ravello
The magnificent gardens at Villa Cimbrone are open to the public every day, from 9.00 am until sunset. The entrance costs € 7.00 ($7.85). It’s also a hotel and price for a double room in June 2017 starts at $560 for an view of the Chiostro, and nearly $900 for a superior sea view room. You will be lost in luxury. The hotel and gardens are located at Lattari Mountains Regional Park, Via Santa Chiara, 26, 84010 Ravello
Sample local limoncello
The Amalfi Coast is noted for having some of the finest and largest lemons around. Authentic limoncello can take months to produce, and it is well worth the wait for a taste of this liquid gold. The best was at Limonoro at 49 Via San Cesareo where they produce and sell their high quality limoncello on site. They use the best lemons of Sorrento (“femminello” variety), untreated and grown in the area beneath the characteristic “pagliarelle” or straw mats.
The lemons are hand-picked and hand-peeled, and ready for production within two hours of being picked. Amazing! “This preserves the organoleptic characteristics that are at the heart of producing a higher quality product which effectively preserves the original aroma of freshly picked lemons, “ according to Limonoro.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my selection of things to do on the Amalfi Coast. There are many others. Drop me a line as I know many other villages quiet well. Happy to help direct your stay.