PositanoMakes a good base to explore the Amalfi coast. You are close to Amalfi, Salerno and Paestum to the east and Sorrento, Pompei, Naples and Capri to the west. SITA buses service the area along with ferries.

For me visiting Positano and the Amalfi coast is all about taking long walks through the countryside, sitting on the terrace reading a book, lying on beach in the morning reading a book or just lying there listening to the waves and of course eating incredible food and wine. Fortunately with all the walking I was able to not gain weight, which sometimes I did when visiting Italy. I think of Positano as one giant Stairmaster.

If it is within your budget look into renting a villa with a terrace. This is really the best way to enjoy the incredible scenery on your own private terrace. A group of friends and I did this and it came out to about $1200 per couple (there were three couples).  We had a fully equipment kitchen along with a barbecue. We had two dinners and one lunch in. One night we barbequed sword fish and another night we barbequed veal chops. Both meals were heavenly especially in the setting. We rented the beautiful Villa Lucilla, set in its own private garden high above Positano with incredible views of the water.   

On my next trip I am considering not renting a car because I found I didn’t use it much except to drive to Paestum and to Sorrento to catch the ferry to Capri. The day I was planning on going to Capri the water was too choppy for boats to dock in Positano, which doesn’t have a harbor; whereas, both Sorrento and Amalfi have harbors that help protect boats when they dock from rough or choppy water. Boast pull up to a stone quay in Positano that is exposed to the Mediterranean. If the waves are too powerful the boats are unable to dock safely. Otherwise the car set in a car park that cost me  20 Euros per day. If you stay at a hotel they may offer complimentary parking. Since I have been to Paestum I figured I could always take a bus (the Amalfi coast is well served by SITA click here for a timetable) into Sorrento, Amalfi or Naples. If the ferries are running from Positano I can reach all three places by boat.

The Walk of the Gods (Sentiero Degli Dei) connects Positano and Praiano (east of Positano) via foot trails high above the Mediterranean. Just about everyone feels you get the best views walking east to west, so I took the bus from Positano to Praiano and starting my walk from there. It’s about 12 kilometers (about 7.4 miles) and depending on quickly you walk and how many stops you make averages about 6 hours. I took my time and stopped often and enjoyed a light snack halfway so it took me a little more than 6 hours. Along the way there are places to stop and rest or get some refreshments. However, this walk is really for those who are in pretty good shape. You will be climbing and weaving your way through valleys, definitely worth the effort if you are up to it. The views are just incredible and the countryside especially in spring (I was here early May) is overflowing with wildflowers.  

I also did a less strenuous walk from Positano up to Montepertuso to Nocelle. The hardest part was climbing the 1700 stairs (400 meters) from Positano to Montepertuso. Once on top the walk from Montepertuso to Nocelle is not too bad and quite pleasant. When you get back to Montepertuso you can hop on a bus back to Positano.

When I think of the many walks I took on that trip I can actually smell jasmine and remember the vivid images as if it was yesterday.

There are maps available that mark out the route. One such map is the Costiera Amalfitana: Carta dei Sentieri. On my trip I used the Sunflower guide Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri: Car Tours and Walks. Currently only available used. An updated version will be published January 15th, 201. Available from Amazon.uk.

The main beach is Spiaggia Grande. There is a public beach and there is a private beach where you can rent a deck chair and umbrella for the day. The smaller beach and less crowed is the Spiaggia del Fornillo west of the main beach.

I had the best meals at Donna Rosa, Via Montepertuso 97-99 Tele: 089 81 18 06 Wed-Mon April-Dec. Moderate - Expensive (but worth every penny). One of their specialties is hand-made pastas. I can’t say enough good things about this restaurant. In the Photo Gallery there is photo of the lovely ladies. The mother and one daughter do the cooking and the other daughter is the gracious hostess. Reservations definitely recommended. Popular restaurant for good reasons – excellent service and food that is out of this world. To get there from Positano you can take a taxi, which is the easiest because after dinner he will come and pick you up. Montepertuso is only a couple miles from Positano, but it sits on a summer overlooking Positano.   

Lo Guarracino, Via Positanesi d’America Tele: 089 87 57 94. Open daily from Mar-Dec. Seafood/Pasta/Beef dishes and pizza. Moderately priced. Has one of the best views. I had lunch here on the terrace and the view was fabulous. For my main course I had a seafood risotto that was exceptional.  

Ristorante Il Saraceno d’Oro, Viale Pasitea 254 Open from Mar-Oct. Moderately priced. I ate here the first night after a particular long drive from Rome. The drive from Rome to Naples on the autostrata was quick, but I made the mistake of arriving May 1 (a major holiday in Italy) so traffic between Naples and Positano was terrible. Not a lot you can do with a two lane narrow road. When I arrive around 9:00pm I just wanted to sit down have a glass of wine and some good pasta. I got what I wanted. They really make you feel at home and the food was delicious.  

La Brezza Net Art Cafè Via del Brigantino, 1 (located on the northwestern corner of the Spiaggia Grande). Innovative to say the least. You can check your email and surf the net on the ground floor. Afterwards you can head upstairs to the café/art gallery for a cappuccino, In the evening you can stop by for an aperitif before dinner. And it is a popular place to hang out after dinner.

Bar Internazionale, Via Guglielmo Marconi 306, located on the main road as you are coming into town from Sorrento. I stopped in every morning for my cappuccino and pastry before my early morning walk. Across the street there is a newsstand/tobacconist where you can purchase tickets for the bus. And the buses that go to Montepertuso stop in front. You can usually find taxi drivers hanging out here as well.

Amalfi and Ravello

Amalfi CathedralAmalfi’ is primarily known for its cathedral, Catterdrale di Saint’Andrea, some parts date back to the 10th century. The campanile dates from the 13th century. The façade is a mix of Sicilian Arabic-Norman architecture that was most recently restored in the 19th century. I thought parts of the baroque interior were a little over the top, still well worth the visit. Beside the cathedral is the Chiostro del Paradiso built in the 13th century to house Amalfi’s more distinguished citizens. Here will find a marvelous cloister with a view of the bell tower from below, along with artifacts and 14th century frescoes. Amafli at one time was known for several industries including manufacturing paper, so it is fitting there is a paper museum, Museo della Carta, housed in a paper mill dating back to the 13th century. In the gift shop you can buy hand-made paper . Email is wonderful is most respects - quick and easy, yet at the same it is impersonal. Something special for me is receiving a handwritten thank you on beautiful paper. For centuries now this paper has been made using the same process that goes back hundreds of years. What better souvenir for yourself or as a gift for someone back home. 

Ravello offers two spectacular gardens, the Villa Cimbrone and the Villa Rufolo that shouldn’t be missed. In the Photo Gallery I have included several photos of the gardens, which were spectacular the when I visited the beginning of May. I saw a Judas Tree for the first time. They really go overboard with the flowers especially at the Villa Rufolo, which includes a cloister designed in the Moorish style from the 13th century.

The Ravello Concert Society (Chamber Music on the Amalfi Coast) performs from March through October in Villa Rufolo. Ravello can be reached by bus (the trip from Positano usually takes about 50 minutes, but always allow extra time especially during the busy summer months). After the concert transfers are guaranteed to Amalfi all year round; other destinations only during the summer months. Public parking is located near Villa Rufolo, the Piazza Duomo. Taxis are also available. A list taxi drivers, who have an arrangement with the The Ravello Concert Society to provide special fares is available on the website. So one option is to take a bus to Ravello and come back by taxi. Some people don’t like to drive on the narrow roads at night. I don’t have a problem then again I always opt for the smallest car possible.Ravello       

I took the boat from Positano to Amalfi and from Amalfi a bus up to Ravello. Coming back I decided to walk down through a lovely town called Altrani that is about a mile east of Amalfi. Just outside the entrance to the gardens of the Villa Cimbrone, as you are leaving to your left there is a staircase that takes you down to the Via S. Barbara. Once at the bottom you will make a left and follow the path the takes you down and around the Villa Cimbrone. Make sure you follow the signs to Altrani. When you get to Altrani there is a bar/café in the town lovely square where you can get something to drink. There are a lot of steps, however, it is all down hill and you can’t beat the views andyou will pass quaint little gardens and terraced lemon and fruit groves. That evening I was planning on eating in. It was around 4:30 when I walked into Altrani. I was planning on catching a 6:00pm (I was visiting the beginning of May, during summer they may have boats that leave later) boat back to Positano from Amalfi, so I wasn’t sure if I would make it back in time to pick up fish for dinner. So I asked the waiter if there was any place in town where I could buy fish.. And this is one of the things I love about Italy. He said hold a minute. He went and called a friend whose parents owned a fish shop. They opened the shop open and I was able to buy fish for dinner.  Little experiences like this really make going to Italy such a joy.

PaestumPaestum

Paestum has three of the best preserved Greek-Roman temples in Europe. The entrance price includes admission to the museum located nearby. I enjoyed wondering around the ruins. I did get more out of of the visit by buying the Guide to the Excavations and Archaelogy Musuem for 5 Euros.

Ristorante da Nonna Sceppa, Via Laura 45 84047 Tele: 0828 851064. Open Friday through Wednesday for lunch (12:30-3pm) and for dinner (7:30-10pm). Closed 3 weeks in October. Seasonal menu. Seafood and Pasta. Moderately priced. I had the best buffalo mozzarella and the portions were generous. The home-bread was so delicious I ask if I could buy some for my meal that evening. I was barbequing veal chops. They gave me a loaf at no charge.

 

Capri

CapriThe boat ride from Sorrento to Capri was just wonderful. It was little bumpy, but the sun was out and a beautiful blue sky. Arriving in the harbor, I somehow missed the funicular that takes you up to Capri Town. This was the first time I’ve been Capri, so I figured walking up from harbor didn’t look too difficult. Needless to say I encountered steps and more steps and more steps, but by this point I accepted steps as a fact of life when visiting the Amalfi coast. However, when I was leaving I did decide to use the funicular.

One of my favorite walks takes you along the Via Pizzolungo you past the Faraglione (three breathtaking natural rock formations off the coast) and the Villa Malaparte (featured in Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 film, Contempt and up to the Arco Naturale. The views along the way are just incredible. There are so many panoramic views of the coastline it is difficult to decide which is more beautiful than the other.

When I first arrived I purchased for something like 3 or 4 Euros a large foldout map of the island so I could have an overview. I used my Sunflower guide that I mentioned earlier for my walks. In addition, I purchased for 3.50 Euros a small booklet called Capri: Practical Guide for a little more background information about Capri.

After lunch I walked up to the Villa Jovis. There isn’t much left of Tiberius’ grand villa, but well worth the track up for the views and you might even see a goat or two from where the island of Capri gets its name from. It was literally the island of goats. By the way if you stop in the Chiesa di Santo Stefano off the Piazza Umberto I the beautiful marble floor came from the Villa Jovis.

San Giacomo Charterhouse is a monastery dating from the 14th century and is a fine example of Caprese architecture. In the church there are some lovely fragments of frescoes dating from the 17th century. Behind the monastery there is a peaceful garden with a great view of the Faraglioni and Marina Piccola. Nearby are the Augusto Gardens, which definitely shouldn’t be missed especially in Spring.

Hotel La Tosca, Via Dalmazio Birago 5 Tele : 081837 09 89.I picked this hotel partly because of the name (Tosca is one of my favorite operas), but also because of the reasonably priced, yet comfortable rooms. Some of which had sea views. In addition I liked the location on southern side of Capri Town near the San Giamcomo Charterhouse and away from the hustle and bustle of the Piazza Umberto I. I was not disappointed with either the service or the room. Definitely book ahead and request a room with a view.

La Savardina Da Edouardo, Via Lo Capo 8 Tele: 081 837 63 00 Open daily July & August, closed Tuesday Mar-June & Sept-Oct. Closed Nov-Feb. Now ran by the daughter this quaint and charming restaurant (the outdoor terrace is right beside a lemon grave) with an incredible view. A friend of mine ate here is many years ago. It was he first time she ever ate Lemon Pasta. Well on this last trip she and her husband were with us so we couldn’t resist going to a restaurant where they had the best Lemon Pasta. Needless to say we were not disappointed. Pretty reasonable and the food was excellent as was the service.

One last thing, be careful where you go for gelato. One of the only times in Italy I actually had bad gelato. I have had average gelato before, but never gelato that was truly bad. Ask for a sample taste first.

 

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