For about the last 10 years or so I’ve wanted to explore the Italian Amalfi coast and while in that time I’ve been lucky enough to visit other parts of Italy such as Turin, Rome, Florence, Sienna and Pisa, somehow I never made it further south. This year I figured a 10 year wait is long enough and it was time to make it happen and so we headed to Amalfi for my birthday week and it was pretty awesome!
The Amalfi coast is one of the most beautiful European locations I’ve been to, the scenery is simply stunning and even on the odd rainy or overcast day it was still incredible. The water was crystal clear, giving way to varied shades of deep blue and when driving around it felt wonderful to have the coast on one side against the backdrop of lemon groves and vineyards. The beaches can vary from fine grey sand to more on the pebbly side but that’s not surprising as you’re in a volcanic region and it all added to the adventure.
We were based in Salerno a little east of Amalfi Town and as we’d hired a car it was a great location to explore from. We were there for a week and it may sound a bit greedy, but a few more days there would have been ideal as we’d have a little more time to explore Naples and one or two much needed days of lying in the sun with a good book and not doing much else. We did have some downtime by the pool but mostly we were out every day, driving along the winding coastal road (the road of 1000 bends not being an understatement) exploring different towns, beaches and of course the food which was just as amazing as I hoped it would be.
We stumbled across the Torre Normanna Restaurant in Maiori by chance on a gloriously sunny day. The restaurant is located in an 13th century Norman watch tower which has been used as a movie location and a wedding venue and it’s not hard to see why. The restaurant has its own private beach which is only accessible to guests and the views of the Amalfi coast are simply incredible. As we both wanted a fairly light lunch we just had the traditional first course of pasta and it was delicious! My homemade ravioli was amazing, and I was reliably informed the little parcels of pasta and meat were delicious too, in fact everything about the lunch was amazing, the location, the view, the food and the company……perfect!
Positano was on my list of must visit places and so we headed there on my actual birthday. Unfortunately the weather that day was quite overcast and the town looked quite moody and brooding in the light but it was still beautiful with all the colourful houses looking like a house of cards all balanced on top of one another as they jut out of the rock. From the sea, Positano is set in a dramatic vertical view of colours; the green of the Monti Lattari (the Campania mountain range), the white, pink and yellow of the Mediterranean houses, the grey of its pebble beaches and the blue of the sea.
If you’re looking for a lemon fix you’ll find everything you could possibly make with the Amalfi Coast’s lemons in the “I Sapori di Positano” shop, in via Mulini 6. Positano is also famous for its handmade leather sandals from Safari Sandali, in via della Tartana 2. Sadly they weren’t taking any new orders when we were there but I got some beautiful made to measure sandals made in Capri.
We had a very lovely birthday lunch in the garden’s of Max in Positano. Max is a restuarant, art gallery and wine bar. The homemade Gnocchi with Aubergine was lovely and exactly what I was after. If we’d had more time I would have loved to have joined one of the cooking classes at the restaurant and try my hand at pasta making, but I think I’d need a lot of time to learn to make something resembling these incredible pastas. Lunch was quite filling so we had an after lunch stroll around the little cobbled streets of traders before grabbing some gelato and heading down to the beach for a little birthday siesta.
Minori and Maiori are costal towns located within a couple of kilometers of each other, before you reach Amalfi, on the SS163 from Vietri sul Mare. If you don’t fancy braving the hairpin loops of the coastal road yourself, both towns can be reached by buses operated by the Sita Coach company (Salerno – Amalfi line).
From Minori, the road leads straight to Maiori, the fishing town once known as Reghinna Maior. The town has one of the largest beaches of all those on the Amalfi Coast. Amalfi town above, is another picturesque town with sun filled piazzas and small beaches and you can catch the boat to Capri from the harbour. When I was a child, my sister an I would puzzle over a family jigsaw depicting a scene similar to this from the Amalfi coast. I remember the feeling of triumph when you had all the little pastel coloured pieces for the little Mediterranean home you were trying to piece together and working on that puzzle gave me one my earliest memories of wanderlust. I just wanted so much to one day travel and see these places first hand so being on the Amalfi coast and just taking in the view was a pretty magical moment for me.
Having seen a picture of the stunning Furore Fjord on Pinterest, we were determined to find this beach and bay to see it first hand and find it we did. Turns out actually we’d driven over the bridge above it the day before without realising. The beach is a lovely little secluded spot reached by climbing down a number of stone steps which gives way to a sheltered bay of calm jade green water. We saw a few brave people diving into the water from the steps, which looked fun but I don’t think I’d be brave enough to jump in. You can hire sun loungers for the day for just €5 from the sweet sun lounger guy. If you’re a sun seeker it’s best to get to there in the morning as the beach gets cast in shade by 4ish in the afternoon.
For me, one of the highlights of our holiday was our visit to the beautifully peaceful clifftop retreat of Ravello. Such picturesque views of pine trees against the blues of the sky and water as we wandered around the wonderful gardens of Villa Rufolo with classical music playing in the background, making the whole evening feel magically romantic. Wagner, DH Lawrence and Virginia Woolf were all enamoured with Ravello having spent time there.
We explored the area around the Duomo, marvelling at the Monstera growing in tiny little cracks in stone walls, taking in the atmosphere with a little people watching and stumbling across some beautiful little boutiques. I fell in love with a gorgeous blue cashmere scarf in one of the little shops. The blue just reminded me of the sky in Ravello and was the prefect little souvenir of our holiday. I think were I to visit the Amalfi region again, Ravello would be a lovely place to stay. We had wanted to also visit Villa Cimbrone and watch the sunset from there but we lost track of time in Villa Rufolo and sadly before we knew it the time for us to head back to our evening plans had come, definitely one for next time though.
As I mentioned, we were based in Salerno for our trip and stayed at the Novotel. The hotel was a little outside of main Salerno town but as we had the car it was easy to venture in to explore. The old town is beautiful, full of little cobbled streets and piazzas which are full of life in the evening. We made two really lovely food discoveries in Salerno: Fish Art and ZigZag. Fish Art is a fairly new restaurant run by a young chef and his family who are passionate and enthusiastic about food and the local produce. We had dinner here the night before my birthday and as it turned midnight the atmosphere was just lovely and perfect and in that moment I couldn’t think of anywhere better to be. The owner was lovely and so friendly and we had the most delicious vegetarian Arancini balls and an incredible tomato and grilled Octopus salad. The tomatoes were from the owner’s garden and full of flavour. The balsamic dressing was amazing and the Octopus was fresh that day and just melted in the mouth and the meat dishes got a huge thumbs up!
ZigZag was a great discovery just near our hotel and the food and service was excellent. Our waiter made every effort to ensure the food was to our liking. The seafood was incredible, simply cooked but full of flavour and I got to sample the famous ‘Spaghetti alle Vongole’. The food was really reasonably priced, we had dinner there twice and the bill never came to more than €30 for the both of us and amazingly we always received complimentary amuse-bouche and a trio of desserts.
Part 2 of our adventures in Amalfi will be on the blog soon featuring Capri, Pompeii, Sorrento and Naples!