AMALFI COAST

Vibrant villages scattered on cliffs that jut into the sea, hamlets enlivened by festivals, fragrant hilltop gardens of Ravello, pastel fishing villages clinging unto hillsides, serene settlements in the deep green valleys, a thrilling road ride… experience these enchanting moments in the stretch between the Bay of Naples and the Gulf of Salerno – Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

After imbibing profound information on the culture and history of various places like Italy’s art museums, Roman ruins and churches filled with paintings of the old masters, relax in the sun-drenched Amalfi Coast or socialise with the high society in Positano, or drive along the terrifying but stunning Amalfi coast with plunging cliffs deep down into the sea.

Many artists, writers and illustrious musicians, like Richard Wagner, have been inspired by the beauty of southern Italy’s Amalfi Coast where cliffs jut into the sea, heavy with vibrant villages where the air smells of fresh lemon.

The Amalfi coast is in Italy’s Campania region on its southern coast. It has been a favourite haunt of visitors, poets and millionaires alike, who make this journey to seek out the legendary sights like the legendary Positano perched on the cliff side, the sparkling medieval city and one of the first four Maritime Republics of Italy, Amalfi, the romantic mountain-top Ravello and an ancient Paestum with its three legendary Greek temples, that are all strung together like pearls on the Amalfi coast.

The jewels of the coastal necklace are Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. A beguiling blend of beauty and drama unfolds, with a picturesque plunge of the coastal mountains into the sea and the beautiful towns and lush forests. The concadei Marini, Furore, Atrani Scala and Cetara are also equally enchanting!

UNESCO has made this deserving tourist destination, a World Heritage Centre, in 1997. With its serene stretch of water, the vibrant land and its habitation, the entire area is an undisputable honeymoon destination!

Sorrento is the gateway to Amalfi coast and is a lovely cliff-top resort.

Though tour buses dot the top towns along the Amalfi drive during high season, the countryside has not changed much. The mountains are terraced and farmed for olives, citrus, wine and dairy. Chiese (churches) dominated villages are crammed with houses from hillside to the bay, crisscrossed by mule paths. Scalinatelle (flight of steps) lead to the outlooks and belvederes that grant a spectacular view.

The serpentine stone steps leading up the hill have inspired many lyricists. The region, with its natural allure, boasts of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Cliffs with bewitching grottoes, crystal lagoons with emerald green waters, vibrant villages with fresh blossoms, vie with each other to cast their spell. More than the larger allurers like the Positano, the actual enticement lies in finding the hidden cliffs like the Vallone di Furore, a tiny beach below a tiny village!

Besides being a visual treat, the place offers culinary treat too. Excellent restaurants and hotels cater delicious food. One of Italy’s top spots for hiking with well-marked trails, the region offers interesting get away times!

WHEN TO VISIT

Southern Italy is at its best during April, May and early June and has pleasant weather with flowers in full bloom. Easter being a busy tourist season in many of these tourist destinations, it is prudent to reserve your lodging well in advance. The ocean is warm in May and the crowd is less too, making swimming a fun activity.

The peak summer season welcomes a heavy inflow of visitors to the archaeological sites, and all the resorts in the islands and Amalfi Coast running full. During August, the local people of Italy flock to the beaches and it is a good time to avoid coming as the prices will sky rocket and accommodation will be sparce.

It is a gentle warm weather all through September till early November. Manageable swimming temperatures continue till October end. Archaeological sites insist on winding up two hours before sunset. With less crowd, Pompeii and Herculaneum are best visited in the afternoon. It is mild early winter, though later in the season, it gets cold. Many restaurants and hotels in resorts close from November until Easter.

HOW TO REACH

By Train

Rome’s Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci, better known as Fiumicino (FCO), and Milan’s Aeroporto Malpensa (MXP) are the major gateways to Italy.
AeroportoCapodichino (NAP), located 8km away from Naples, serves the Campania region, handling domestic and international flights. There are several flights between Naples and Rome daily. Take the airport train from Rome airport to the Roma Termini station and from there you can get a train to Naples. It takes an hour to reach the station from the airport and 70 minutes from Rome to Naples.
The state-run FrecciaRossa (red arrow), Alta Velocità and the NuovoTrasportoViaggiatori (NTV) are the fastest trains in Italy. The NTV was launched by Montezemolo, the Ferrari mogul, in 2012. These lines run the length of the peninsula, operating between Rome and Naples (70 minutes), including Naples-Milan via Rome, Florence and Bologna. Running close is Freccia Bianca (white arrow) trains (1 hour and 45 minutes). The IC (Inter-City) trains are the next fastest, which includes seat reservations in the fare. Interregionale trains make more stops and are slower. The slowest are the Regionale and local trains.

By Boat
Naples offers a wide array of boat, ferry (traghetti) and hydrofoil (aliscafo) services between the city, the islands of the bay, the Sorrentine peninsula and other Mediterranean destinations.

Hydrofoil is twice as fast as ferries and so are the prices. The service is frequent. Car ferries operate to the islands of the Bay of Naples. Advance reservations are recommended.

Bus turning by “By Bus” on Sorrento Italy road


The bus network of Campania is extensive and direct, and much faster than local trains. Bus services outside cities are organized regionally by private companies. There main bus companies include ANM – buses within Naples and SITA – longer trips, including the Amalfi Coast. It takes a good amount of research and patience to take buses from Naples, as there are no central bus stations. Different bus lines leave from different city squares, the situation intensified with the regular traffic reorganization in Piazza Garibaldi (to accommodate the construction of the metro). Once the schedule and departure points are clear, the bus service would be reliable.

THINGS TO DO

Amalfi coast offers variety and amazing scenery. It defines Italy’s dramatic coastline, vying with the historic Rome and the romantic Venice! Nowhere else in the world will you find a vibrant cosmopolitan city, set amidst a volcano, a beautiful coastal drive, a bay dotted with island retreats and the spellbinding Pompeii, all within a few square miles..

Base your stay in Sorrento

Sorrento has good transport links by road, rail and water with an amazing scenic coast to boot. There are a great variety of hotel and dining options. The old quarter is conducive to an evening stroll and relaxing after a busy day.

Sorrento is a beautiful resort of 20,000 residents that is on top of a ledge between the mountains and the Mediterranean and an equal number of tourists flock here in summer. It is an ideal place that is comfortable and safe for tourists and the location of the town is an attractive place as a base for regional sightseeing. Most of the locals speak good English too.

This gateway to the Amalfi coast is filled with lemon and olive groves. It has a spectacular setting on the cliff-side, a lively main shopping street, an unspoiled old quarter and easy public transportation.

Amalfi Coastal Drive

This coastal trip from Sorrento to Salerno will have you spellbound, with the winding road 500 feet above the Mediterranean and you will truly appreciate the work of the Italian engineers who made this wonderful, thrilling, and cliff hanging road happen. The vertical terrain has villas and hotels clinging onto it. Get exhilarated by the sheer fall down below and the beautiful sandy coves as you travel along the coast. During summer, local cars are allowed to drive only on alternate days, due to heavy traffic – even-numbered license plates on even dates and vice versa. Buses and tourists who foolishly take the risk of driving these dangerous curves are exempt.

The real thrill of the Amalfi coast is this scenic drive.

Make time for Positano

Positano is an easy day trip from Sorrento. Hanging halfway between Sorrento and Amalfi town, Positano presents a spectacular scenery of surf and sand. The pebbly beach, warm cafes and several women’s clothing stores, make Positano an interesting destination.

The bus stops at the top of the village, allowing you to walk down at your own pace. But do remember that is a fairly tough hike back to town from the beaches. If you are not planning to continue down the Amalfi coast, ferrying back to Sorrento is a better option.

Scale the heights at Ravello

The trip to Ravello starts from Amalfi. The Cloisters of Paradise is from where Amalfi’s cathedral is to be entered and you will also be able to catch a glimpse of the distinctly patterned 13th century Duomo. The bus ride to Ravello takes 30 minutes. The spellbinding view from the gardens of Villa Cimbrone, with its ‘Terrace of the Infinite’, makes it a worthy trip.

Capri

Capri made famous worldwide by Grace Kelly, is an idyllic island that is a 40-minute ferry ride away from Sorrento. You have the option of climbing up the steps or by a funicular to reach Capri town, from where a bus takes you to Anacapri. There is a chair lift from here to Monte Solaro, 589 metres high and with fantastic views. The foreground has the Faraglioni Rocks in the Bay of Naples. Vesuvius and the island of Ischia can be seen at a distance, on a clear day.

Blue grotto in Capri island

At the shore level of Capri is the Blue Grotto. There is a long queue for the boat trip during July and August. An early morning ferry from Naples to Capri will help you catch the beautiful sunrise.

Pompeii

The ruins of Pompeii are visible from atop Mt. Vesuvius and the setting serves as a reminder of its deadly past of the day when the town was buried under molten lava and volcanic ash. Make it a point to get there early and walk as much as possible away from the crowds so that you can truly take in this eerie atmosphere.

It was in 79 AD that Vesuvius erupted and buried 20,000 people of Pompeii in a wall of ash , lava, and soot, which almost instantaneously killed every living soul and ironically preserved the city as it stood then, giving us a glimpse of how the city was in those days. Pompeii was a successful trading city. The streets would have been lined with stalls and filled with customers, day in and day out. Chariots were not allowed during shopping hours. There are pictures on the street of men carrying vases, which means it was meant only for pedestrians. The best art of Pompeii is in the Naples Archaeological Museum. You can avail yourself a tour guide or an audio guide to help you appreciate the place much better.

Pompeii is easily reached from Sorrento on the Circumvesuviana train.

Herculaneum

Herculaneum is less ruined and less crowded than Pompeii, which offers a closer look at ancient Roman life. It was a small community that was also destroyed by the same volcanic eruption that destroyed Pompeii, and yet with many intact buildings and details that one may not get in Pompeii. Known as Ercolano in Italian, Herculaneum takes you closer to its history, with its well-preserved ruins, Roman baths and fabulous mosaics.

The train from Sorrento stops at ErcolanoScavi. From there the ticket office is downhill. A five-site ticket will save you money especially if Pompeii is also on your list. It is valid for 3 days. The tourist office close by offers good value trips to Vesuvius.

Vesuvius

Vesuvius is the only active volcano in mainland Europe and it has been inactive since 1944. It will only be natural to complete your Pompeii and Herculaneum experience by visiting Vesuvius. You can reach the summit of the volcano, which is at 4000 feet, easily by car or local transport. It is a steep, cold and windy 30 minute hike to the top that gives you excellent views over the Bay of Naples. The summit is barren and desolate with hot rocks. The far end of the crater lip overlooks Pompeii. Wind and the sound of tumbling rocks can be heard in the crater. The mountain access is denied when erupting.

Naples

The milling crowds full of enthusiasm and the never-ending zest for life combined with living under an unpredictable volcano and an omnipresent danger, makes Naples (Napoli in Italian), one of the liveliest cities in Italy and many Italians consider the life in Naples is the closest to what is the real Italian way of living.

A slice of life resembling a frame off a Fellini film, can be seen in the colourful laundry hanging over alleyways, friendly faces on open windows, impromptu arias at sidewalks, etc. The essence of Italy can be seen in its contrasts – tragedy and romance, grandeur and squalor, relaxing serenity and the lurking danger – Italy at its most Italian best.

Naples is home to pizza and actress Sophia Loren. The city is hot and noisy in summer. Places like the Archaeological Museum can be intriguing with the best frescoes from Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Farnese Collection – impressive collection of statues that were excavated in Rome.

Da Michele on Via Sersale is a place to have authentic pizza since 1870. Only two types of pizza are served here – Pizza Margherita and Pizza Marinara. There is long line for them. No reservations.

Thermal spas on Ischia

Due to the intense volcanic activity witnessed in these regions the water in the springs of Ischia have rich mineral content, which is believed to be good for curing arthritis and many other ailments. It is a beautiful island similar to Capri.

Hydrofoils services leave Naples for Ischia. Some call at the island of Procida. Make sure to get off at Porto Ischia. Located near the port, the island has 12 thermal pools in the Negombo Park complex and a range of treatments, beach access and Mediterranean garden.

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