Amalfi coast Italy: discover Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, Praiano

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Amalfi coast Italy, is a not to be missed destination for any Italian traveler. Read this article to discover the best sights the Amalfi coast, and use the interactive Amalfi coast map to fine tune your trip. Explore main highlights such as Amalfi, Positano and Ravello and get to know its off the beaten path hidden jewels.

Imagine ancient white hamlets perched on high cliffs, overlooking the deep blue Tyrrhenian sea. Add cytrus fields, steep light grey mountains, medieval churches, hidden fjords and beaches. Complete with amazing sea food and a “dolce vita” feeling stronger than anywhere else in Italy. That, and much more, is the Amalfi coast, Italy: you can’t really say you know Italy without visiting this delightful destination.

While you can have a glimpse of it in a day trip from Naples or from Sorrento, the Amalfi coast deserves at least two or three days, if not an entire week.

So here is my personal Italy Amalfi coast Italy itinerary. It will let you explore all the area, including off the beaten path jewels such as the mills valley and the astonishing “path of the gods” trail . My recommendation is to complete this tour by one or two days in Capri, which could be easily reached by hydrofoil from Positano. In my view, Sorrento can be skipped, but I leave this to you.

A last tip: like most central Italy destinations, best time to visit the Amalfi coast Italy is from May to early July, and, even better, from mid September to October’s end. Weather is perfect and the area is not too crowded (better to avoid week ends if possible). Absolutely avoid July and August, when the heat and the crowds would spoil most of the enchantment.

 Amalfi coast Italy five days tour: click on the image to get to the interactive Amalfi coast map

Amalfi coast tour map

Amalfi coast Italy tour – Day one: Salerno-Amalfi, Amalfi tour

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Amalfi cathedral

My Amalfi coast Italy itinerary starts in Salerno, very conveniently located for those arriving from Rome on a high speed train. Salerno itself deserves a visit, but if you are short of time, just jump on a  cab to the harbour and get the hydrofoil to Amalfi (here is the Ferry company  web site). You may also take a bus, but a journey by boat will give you a fantastic initial glimpse of the coast.

Amalfi used to be one of Italy’s four powerful maritime republics (with Venice, Pisa, and Genoa). Today, Amalfi is one of southern Italy top touristic destinations. You will enjoy its scenic seafront setting, its tiny, centuries old alleys, crowded of interesting workshops and delightful restaurants, and, of, course, its amazing cathedral, the Duomo.

Amalfi’s cathedral, the “Duomo di Sant’Andrea”, is a beautiful middle age church, perched on top of a monumental stairway and  fronted by an intricately patterned façade. Next to the church lies the XII century Chiostro del Paradiso, or Cloister of Paradise, whose somber Romanesque tone is enlivened by Arab elements.

You can decide to sleep in Amalfi or to spend the night in romantic Ravello.

Amalfi coast Italy tour – Day two: Ravello and valle dei mulini

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Sea View from Villa Ruffolo, Ravello

Your second Amalfi coast Italy day starts in ravello, which is considered one of the most romantic and beautiful small towns in Italy.

Perched on steep, terraced slopes it is a place blessed with lush gardens, quiet lanes, sleepy, sun-drenched corners. Perched high above sea level, Ravello will offer you unbelievable views over the azure coast below.

Highlights of  your visit are the 11th-century cathedral and its two major villas, Villa Rufolo and villa Cimbrone, who have hosted many VIP travellers of the past such as Richard Wagner (both can be visited). Villa Cimbrone is now a hotel, where you can enjoy spending a night (if your wallet is big enough!).

When you are done with Ravello, you can visit the Valle dei Mulini, a steep-sided ravine dotted with ruined watermills (“mulini”). Locals once used the mills to make paper, an industry for which Amalfi was, and still is, famous. It’s a fresh and relaxing walk, far from amalfi’s crowds.

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The Valle dei Mulini, Amalfi

Amalfi coast Italy tour – Day three: Amalfi – Conca dei marini – Furore – Praiano – Positano

Your third Amalfi coast Italy day will lead you to Positano, not before discovering some really amazing jewells along the road. Leaving Amalfi towards Positano, you will find many places worth a visit. Grotta dello smeraldo is one of the unmissable ones.

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The Emerald Grotto, Conca dei Marini

Conca dei Marini is one of the several delightful hamlets that dot the Amalfi coast. However, what makes it unique is the astonishing Grotta dello Smeraldo (the emerald cave). This cave is a cove in the coast which contains all the most spectacular colours of the nature. The visit by small rowing boats will be one of the highlights of our trip.

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Furore fjord

Your next stop after conca dei Marini is the lovely Furore fjord, another often overlooked sight.

Furore fjord is a narrow gorge cutting inland from the sea. A cluster of old fishermen’s houses cling to the cliffs. It is bypassed by an arch bridge over which a state road passes. The 30 meters high bridge is also the location where every summer the International Diving Championship is held

It’s a great place for a stop, especially on midday, when the sun manages to break through the narrow gorge and shines on the short beach. An old lime kiln has been converted into a bar and gift shop, perfect place for a glass of white whine.

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Praiano from the above

Continuing west from Amalfi, the increasingly spectacular corniche will get you to Praiano.

Praiano has two characteristics: the stairways and the little votive altars. Stairways are everywhere but the continuous up and down is worth the effort because the panorama is breathtaking. The little votive altars were built by the families on their properties to claim their possession to the place. Take some time to go visit the beautiful church of San Luca Evangelista, that is the fulcrum of the city, and the Torre a mare (Tower in the sea).

Back on the road, after a few miles you will get to breathtaking Positano. Plan to arrive in the afternoon, so you can enjoy the sunset and leave more time to day four.

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Positano

Amalfi coast Italy tour – Day four: Positano and the coastal road

Positano is the most impressive town on the Amalfi Coast, and arguably the most photographed of the region. Its the highlight of your Amalfi coast Italy trip.

Seen from the sea, Positano shows a dramatic vertical panorama of colors. The green of the Monti Lattari, the white, pink and yellow of the Mediterranean houses, the silvery grey of its pebble beaches and the blue of the sea. Just amazing!

The sea colour is crystalline and its black, volcanic sand beaches such as Marina grande and Fornillo are an irresistible temptation.

On top of the exceptional landscape, you will love the church of Santa Maria Teresa of the Assumption and its colored tiled dome, the Saracen towers, the little villages of Nocelle and Montepertuso which are places of an extraordinary beauty.
Positano is also known for its shops, selling local pottery and leather sandals. Local craftsmen produce them in traditional small workshops you can visit.

Don’t forget to taste local delicacies: on top of seafood you should have a try to local desserts such as Delizie al limone (soft pastry with a delicious lemon flavoured cream) and  torta positanese (cake with almonds).

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The Amalfi coast road

If you have a car, you may enjoy one of the most exciting driving experiences in Europe by driving from Positano to the end of the Amalfi gulf. The roads along the Amalfi Coast are famously winding, narrow, and challenging to drive. Add in drop-dead views and daring Italian drivers, and you have all you need for a high adrenaline experience! However, better to plan a drive of the Amalfi Coast during the shoulder tourist seasons. In mid-September to October and May, the road is less crowded and lumbering tour buses are fewer.

Another great activity you could plan when in positano is a hike on the God’s Path (Sentiero degli Dei).

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View from the Sentiero degli Dei

The Sentiero degli Dei links the tiny hilltop town of Agerola with Nocelle, a fraction of Positano nestled on the slopes of Monte Peruso.The name of the footpath clearly suggests how amazing the views could be! The hike can be hard, especially during hot summer days, so plan it with care. Local guides are available to assist you.

Amalfi coast Italy tour – Day five: Positano – Capri

On your last Amalfi coast Italy day, you can either proceed to Naples (and,, why not, have a stop in Pompei) or take an hydrofoil to Capri for a glorious conclusion of your Amalfi coast Italy trip (click here for the time tables). Then from Capri you can easily get to Naples (many hydrofoils, one hour trip) and then to Naples train station.

To know more about why you just can’t miss Capri, have a look at my post: Capri: breathtaking Faraglioni and Natural Arch walking tour.

 

Enjoy Amalfi coast Italy!


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Capri souvenirs: discover what to shop in posh Capri island

Capri souvenirs
Lovely Capri and Amalfi coast magnets, sold in a stall close to Capri’s harbour.

Charming Capri souvenirs may be found everywhere in Capri, as well as fashionable clothes, shoes and handicrafts. Here are the three unmissable ones: Canfora sandals, Limoncello Liquor and Capri’s bells.

Continue reading “Capri souvenirs: discover what to shop in posh Capri island”

Naples nativity scenes market: San Gregorio Armeno

San Gregorio Armeno Market and the nativity scenes museum at La certosa di San Martino

Discover the liveliest Christmas market in central-south Italy, and one of the finest Italian Nativity Scenes museums.

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Setting up a nativity scene—Presepe in Italian —is a strong tradition in Naples, started as early as the 11th century. Still today, the Presepe is a Must for every true Neapolitan, and the unmissable place to buy your Presepe is the San Gregorio Armeno market.

After discovering the popular side of Presepe, you will surely want to know more about this wonderful tradition, and the awesome Museo di San Martino is the place you  are looking for (click on the map to access Google Maps).

San Gregorio Armeno Map

All year round, the ancient cobble stoned alleys of San Gregorio Armeno and San Biagio dei Librai are crammed full of stalls selling nativity scene statuettes , making it an unmissable destination for the savvy travellers who  are not afraid to explore Naples awesome Historical District.

But it is at Christmas time that San Gregorio Armeno is best experienced. You will discover a kaleidoscope to delight the senses, merchants shops spill out into the street, the side alleys, the palazzi, selling everything you need to create your own Neapolitan Christmas Nativity.

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Today, Neapolitan artisans make the best nativity scene statuettes in Italy. Statuettes range from classic nativity characters—the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, baby Jesus, the Three Wise Men—to figures of the Neapolitan tradition—the fisherman, the wine maker, Pulcinella—and even politicians and international stars, including current Prime Minister, rock stars and, of course, Pope Francesco!

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While wandering in San Gregorio Armeno district, pay attention to the amazing Ospedale delle Bambole (“doll’s hospital”), in Via San Biagio dei Librai, 81, a centuries old, unique boutique specialized in restoration of antique dolls and sacred statues.

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I personally find this area one of the most fascinating places in Italy, and its just incredible that it’s still neglected by the hundreds of thousand tourists that flow every day to more renowned destinations such as Pompei and the Amalfi coast. Apart from the artistic jewels that dot the area (look out for my next post!) , you will be amazed by each single detail of your walk. Let me share some:

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Ancient votive lamp. Note the sinners in the flames…
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This is Totò, one of the most popular XX century Italian actors – selling spaghetti gauges!
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Pizza and Babbà (traditional Napoli cake) magnets
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Babbà – the real stuff: you must taste them!

After you’re done with San Gregorio Armeno, just take the new underground to the Certosa di San Martino and its awesome museum, , which hosts Naples’ largest collection of nativity scenes and statuettes, from the colossal Cuciniello to the elegant Giustiniani and a precious silver and coral one.

Actually, the Certosa definetely deserves a visit, apart from the nativity scenes: it’s a gorgeous ancient Monastery, overlooking Naples, with fantastic views over Naples golf and its volcano, the Vesuvio.

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And here are some of the amazing ancient nativity scenes displayed in the museum:

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The most interesting Nativity scene is in my opinion the San Giovanni in carbonara group. Coming from the church of San Giovanni in Carbonara, it represents one of the main masterpieces of Neapolitan art of Presepe. It was commissiones in 1478 by Jacomello Pipe, a  vendor of spices in Duke of Calabria services. It was originally made of 41 different figures, of which only 14 survive today.

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Delightfullyitaly.com: Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path

Delightfullyitaly.com is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, delightfullyitaly.com is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures.

And if you like what you read, why not follow delightfullyitaly.com and get free updates?

Capri: breathtaking Faraglioni and Natural Arch walking tour

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 A great walking itinerary to discover Capri stunning natural spots: the Giardini di Augusto, the Faraglioni and the natural arch

 

Capri, one of the highlights of any Amalfi Coast tour,  is synonymous with stars, style and impossible glamour. However, away from the central Piazzetta, it’s also a place of stunning natural beauty and calm.

I designed this half a day itinerary to let you discover the arguably most famous Capri sights: the Giardini di Augusto, The Faraglioni and the arco naturale. You can complete it with a boat tour of the island (including a visit to famous Grotta Azzurra).

I suggest to walk this path early in the morning, when Giardini di Augusto and Punta Tragara are less crowdy. The tour takes no more than three or four hours, but you can extend it to the whole day if you decide to spend some time to sunbath and swim at the Faraglioni, where you can rent a sunbed at “da Luigi”.

Just a warning: the walk to Punta Tragara is flat and easy, but from there to Faraglioni and Arco Naturale you will  have to climb many stairs and deep rises! It’s actually easier to start the path from the Natural Arch, but the tour is less scenic (in my opinion). Said so, I walked up this path with my 10 years son, and he survived (quite happily, indeed!).

Here is what the walking tour looks like (click on the map to access Google Maps):

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1) Piazza Umberto 1° – the famous “Piazzetta”

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Capri world wide famous “piazzetta”

2) Walking to the Giardino di Adriano

 

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The luxury Quisisana Hotel and the beginning of Via Tragara
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Lemon Juice vendor
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Capri old Certosa

 

3) The Giardini di Augusto and the Via Krupp

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The Giardini di Augusto
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The faraglioni, from Giardino di Augusto
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The Via Krupp, leading to Marina Piccola

 

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Via Krupp – detail
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Capri sea colors

 

4) Via Tragara and the Faraglioni

From giardini di augusto walk up to tthe Quisisana hotel, and turn right in via Tragara, to get to the Punta Tragara Viewpoint.

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The causeway to Punta Tragara view point
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Marin aPiccola cliffs from Punta Tragara view Point
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The Faraglioni, seen from Punta Tragara

From Punta Tragara view Point you can go down to the sea level, along a delightful path under the maritime pines.

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Artist painting on the path from Punta Tragara to the Faraglioni “beach”

 

The Faraglioni and the Da Luigi restaurant and "beach"
The Faraglioni and the Da Luigi restaurant and “beach”
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Motor boat at the Faraglioni, ready to head to Marina Piccola
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Southern Italy modesty!

 

5) The path to the natural arch

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The Faraglioni, from the path to the natural arch

 

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Scoglio del Monacone

 

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The famous Curzio Malaparte house

 

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The natural arch
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“Aperitivo” after the long walk at “Le Grottelle” restaurant

At the end of the tour, look for the restaurant “Lo Sfizio” : it’s a small place which caters local people. Food is excellent, and prices are much lower than what you may be asked around the Piazzetta. You must try the “Scialatielli ai frutti id mare”, a local hand made pasta with sea food: amazingly good!

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“Lo Sfizio” restaurant
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Delicious Scialatielli ai frutti di mare

Enjoy Capri!


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Delightfullyitaly.com: Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path

Delightfullyitaly.com is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, delightfullyitaly.com is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures. And if you like what you read, why not follow delightfullyitaly.com and get free updates?