The Amalfi Coast is a 50-kilometer stretch of coastline along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region. It’s a popular holiday destination, with sheer cliffs and a rugged shoreline dotted with small beaches and pastel-colored fishing villages. The coastal road between the port city of Salerno and clifftop Sorrento winds past grand villas, terraced vineyards and cliffside lemon groves.
Address: Amalfi, Italy
Province: Province of Salerno
Hours: Open today · Open 24 hours
UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription: 1997
Top 10 things to try when visiting Amalfi
1. Villa Cimbrone Gardens
Perched high above the Amalfi Coast is the town of Ravello, home to the gorgeous Villa Cimbrone surrounded by lovely gardens that are open to the public.
Villa Cimbrone dates from the 11th century, and today is a hotel and restaurant. The gardens around the villa – once a private home – are now open to visitors, even if you’re not staying at the hotel itself. The gardens owe their formal English style to the villa’s 20th-century owner, an Englishman whose family owned the property until the 1960s.
The gardens feature long walkways lined by trees, flowering plants, and statues. There are statues and other works of art seemingly hidden in different parts of the property, many of which are away from the main paths. The highlight of the property, however, is known as the “Infinity Terrace” at the end of the main path. This incredible viewpoint overlooks the sea and the towns below, jutting out from ground level so that it appears to be floating.
2. Amalfi Cathedral
This Ninth-century Roman Catholic church located in Amalfi, Italy is one of the area’s top religious attractions, thanks to a beautiful restored façade that stands in front of a picturesque mountain landscape.
Travelers who venture to this destination will find evidence of Gothic, Baroque and Byzantine elements in the exterior architecture, which includes a prized mosaic by the artist Domenico Morelli. The interior houses a crucifix constructed from mother-of-pearl, as well as two Egyptian columns and the Crypt of St. Andrew. Visitors say the climb up the cathedral’s stairs has a view that’s well worth it, and the well-kept interior allows those who enter to feel transported back in time.
3. Amalfi Coast
While the region of the Amalfi Coast is actually named for a town located within it, many travelers use the term “Amalfi” to refer to the larger surrounding area and the many picturesque towns dotted along the coast.
There are 13 municipalities located along the Amalfi Coast, and Ravello, Positano and Amalfi are undoubtedly the most popular. The entire coastline, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, is most popular during the warm summer months, when travelers flock to the seaside to escape the city heat. There are a good number of year-round residents, though the population swells enormously in the summer; if you can avoid the crowds by visiting in the shoulder seasons of spring or fall you’ll feel like you’ve got the coast to yourself!
Most of the towns on the Amalfi Coast are largely supported by the tourism industry, though they also grow lemons and are known for the resulting limoncello produced in the area. The town of Amalfi also produces a thick paper called bambagina, while the towns of Cetara and Vietri are known for anchovies and ceramics, respectively. Along with wandering the small towns, exploring stately villas and historic churches, hiking and cycling, and driving the famously winding roads high above the sea, the main activities on the Amalfi Coast are designed to help you relax and enjoy “la dolce vita:” eating and drinking, shopping, and working on your tan at one of the area’s beautiful beaches.
Amalfi (the town) offers a few more things to do. It was once a major maritime power, and you can get a sense of this history with a walking tour through the historic center or a stop in the town’s paper making museum. The picturesque cathedral, which overlooks the main square from the top of a flight of steep stairs, is gorgeous inside and out. If Amalfi doesn’t provide enough entertainment for a day or two, you can easily visit nearby Positano, Ravello and the island of Capri. Of course, if the weather is good, you can easily and happily spend most of your time lounging in the sun.
Amalfi is also an excellent place to use as a base for touring the coast, particularly because it’s a transportation hub, and whether you’re coming from Naples, Sorrento or even Rome, getting to Amalfi is more direct than getting to (say) Ravello or even Posiso. While there’s no train service on the Amalfi Coast, the town of Amalfi is a hub for the buses that serve the region as well as boats that run between towns on the coast and out to the islands (in good weather). Even if you can only manage a day trip to this beautiful area, you can enjoy the lovely views, pleasant Mediterranean climate, and a little of the Italian good life anywhere along the Amalfi Coast.
Ravello is a tiny village, with only about 2,500 permanent residents, but it has a history and cultural life that belie its size. The Romans founded the city in the 6th century, escaping the barbarians and no doubt appreciating the lovely views Ravello offers.
The annual Ravello Festival is one of Italy’s finest and celebrates the music of one of Ravello’s greatest fans, the German composer, Richard Wagner, who was inspired by the architecture of the magnificent Villa Rufolo when he stayed there in 1880. Since then the Arab influenced villa and its splendid garden has hosted luminaries such as Jacqueline Kennedy and Hillary Clinton.
The other villa worth seeing is Villa Cimbrone, dating from 1905. Also of note is the Cathedral of San Pantaleone, dating originally from the 11th century. Less hectic than some of the other towns along this coast, Ravello is the place to go for some elegant respite from the madding crowds. It lies only a few miles from Amalfi. Catch the bus up the hill to Ravello, then walk back down to Amalfi – lovely.
5. Salerno Cruise Port
Salerno is a major shipping and ferry port in the southern part of Italy. For visitors its major draw is the nearby Amalfi Coast, famed for its beautiful towns and beaches. Salerno itself was founded by the Romans in 197 BC so it does have plenty of history in its own right. The historic old town is lovely, full of shops and restaurants, and with a renowned 11th century cathedral and other significant churches such as the Baroque Chiesa di San Giorgio. The town and port are overlooked by a castle, Castello di Archi and its lovely gardens.
How to get to Salerno
Ships dock right in the bustling dock hub of Salerno, from which ferries come and go to the Amalfi Coast towns of Amalfi and Positano and also to the famed islands of Capri and Ischia. Walk or catch a taxi up to the old town, or to the train station or nearby bus terminal to explore further along the Amalfi Coast. Alternately you can hire a car to explore the small beaches and towns of the coast at your own pace.
One Day in Salerno
Salerno itself is pretty and interesting but really it is nothing compared to the towns further along the Amalfi Coast. Amalfi itself lies 16 miles (26km) west of Salerno and the road there is dotted with small towns. Another 10 miles (16km) west is the jewel in the crown, Positano, with its lovely pastel houses clinging to the cliffs. The road is exhilarating and winding with wonderful views. The beaches along this stretch of coast are renowned for their romantic beauty.
South of Salerno is Paestum, site of UNESCO-listed Greek temples, some rivaling Athens’ acropolis. Buses between Salerno and Paestum are cheap and regular through the day, and take about 1 hour and 20 minutes each way. Alternately, a taxi will take you, but negotiate a price and get them to wait for you. These ruins are a highlight of this coast.
Salerno is a fairly new destination for cruise ships, which dock at the Molo Manfredi terminal. The local taxi drivers will be thrilled to see you but may speak fast Italian rather than tourist-friendly English. Currency is the euro.
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