Travel

Insider Tips – Amalfi Coast, Italy

October 23, 2016
Amalfi Coast Italy

One of my favorite places in Europe is the Amalfi Coast in Italy. The reason may be that it reminds me a lot of California – Highway 1 Big Sur – with its rocky coastline, sunny weather and blue sea. But as soon as you see the LEMONS – the size of grapefruit – you know you’re not in California anymore.

The closest airport to the Amalfi Coast is in Naples (about 1hr 30min by car), and the drive there is one of the world’s most picturesque drives in the world. The landscape and coast are so fascinating that they are even protected by Unesco. It’s not only a beautiful, but also very thrilling sightseeing road and can be intimidating for some drivers. Think Italian Vespa’s and local SITA bus speeding past you at hairpin turns along cliffs high above the sea. Many locals will suggest going by public transportation. I disagree – the best part of going to the Amalfi coast is driving yourself….or ermm…having your husband drive 🙂  So, don’t listen to the online reviews and go rent a car or motorcycle (even better) and take advantage of the endless photo opportunities along the way.

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My other suggestion for a trip to the Amalfi Coast is to stay at a villa/house instead of a hotel (contact me if you need recommendations or help with booking a villa – I’ve made some great contacts over the years). The houses for rent are generally nestled on the hillside between residential homes, so you will truly have an authentic cultural experience during our stay. In addition you have a chance to learn about “insider” tips from the owner of the villa, and also experience the Italian hospitality and warmth on a daily basis with your new neighbors. I remember one day we were having breakfast on our beautiful terrace and locked ourselves out of the house (key inside, door was shut). Even though we didn’t speak (much) Italian, our neighbor came to the rescue with a ladder, so we could get in through the upstairs bedroom window. But warning: you may not want to leave your new “home” after your vacation. 😉 The villa we stayed in Praiano was AMAZING: spacious rooms, kitchen with handmade ceramic tiles and the best part: our gigantic terrace with the view on the emerald-blue Mediterranean sea!  Each morning we would start our day with a run on the coastline (yes that “scary” road – is not so scary when you get up at sunrise as Italians like to sleep in). When we got back to Praiano we stopped at the local “Tutto per Tutti” grocery store to buy breakfast items. The store is very small and they still have one of these old cash registers (Apple Pay is centuries away here). We would pick up fresh fruits and eggs (all from local farmers of course) and walk back the top of the mountain to our villa. One day we were short 20 Euro and we were about to give the groceries back, but the owner said “No, no…it is ok… – you can pay next time.” We couldn’t believe it. I have never ever experienced such hospitality and kindness. He didn’t know us but trusted we would be honest enough to pay the next time. Just lovely people – and a story about the Italian lifestyle I will always remember. (Of course, we came back in the afternoon and gladly paid him back.)

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As I’ve been to the Amalfi Coast several times, here are my TOP 5 – not so touristy – things you should do while you’re there.

TOP 5 COOL THINGS To Do On The Amalfi Coast

#1 Hiking the Path of the Gods (Sentiero delgi Deli)

The name of this footpath speaks for itself.  It’s one of the most scenic hikes I’ve done and I was especially happy to enjoy it with mom. We left our house in Praiano very early to avoid the crowds. You start at sea level and head up steeply with a climb of over 1,500+ steps. On the top you reach a Dominican monastery where we took a quick break and enjoy the views. We were wondering how the people of the monastery get up there, as we didn’t see any roads besides the trail, so they must walk this frequently. The weather also changed during our hike; we started off in morning clouds/fog and we were welcomed with sunny blue skies on top. We saw several houses with farm land, creating terraces with fruits and vegetables on top of the mountain – again how do they get up here? The views of the Amalfi Coast from atop are the best you can imagine. I couldn’t take enough pictures of the flowers, steep cliffs, small valleys and spectacular VIEW on the blue Mediterranean Sea. After our 3 hour trip we ended up in Positano and took a taxi back to our villa. If you love hiking as much as I do this should be on your bucket list!

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#2 Rent a boat to Capri

There’s nothing quite like viewing the Amalfi Coast from sea level, where you can see more of how each town is built into the side of the mountains. Yes, going to Capri is pretty touristy and mostly crowded, but it’s just so charming and magical you have to see it. There is a ferry that takes you to Capri, but my suggestion is to rent your own boat. If you go to the harbor in Salerno you will find several boat rental options (with skipper if you don’t have a boat license). The boat gives you the freedom and flexibility to stop wherever you like along the way. During our boat trip from Salerno to Capri we were lucky to experience a pod of dolphins swimming next to us. They played, jumped out of the water and gave us a real show for at least 15 minutes! We went around the isle of Capri and stopped at different coves and grottos where we jumped in the water to refresh and snorkel. It’s so crystal clear! In Capri town you can wander its quaint streets and explore its high end shops and cafés. For lunch we went to the other side of Capri Island. We docked our boat, and a “watertaxi shuttle” from the boat-in-only restaurant picked us up to get on land. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best experience in this “world-class” restaurant (very slow service, mixed up order and overpriced), but the view and experience of being on Capri didn’t let this spoil our mood.

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#3 Meet Salvatore

You have to encounter Salvatore when you’re visiting the Amalfi Coast. He owns a fruit stand with mainly lemons, oranges, strawberries (and whatever is in season) and is located on a beautiful lookout point between Praiano and Positano. Salvatore told us that he used to be a truck driver, but since the last few years makes more money operating this fruit stand full time. He has become a real attraction in himself. We stopped there every morning for our daily vitamin shots. Lemons are famous in this region, and besides their enormous size, they taste so different from any of the lemons I had before. Salvatore prepared us lemons to eat with the skin (yes you can eat the skin as they’re true “organic” lemons) which were so delicious. Please say Hi to Salvatore from me when you stop by!

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#4 Scuba Diving

You may not think of going scuba diving on the Amalfi Coast – at least I didn’t. After my last experience in the Florida Keys where I got nauseous on our boat dive, I was happy to find out that there are several beach dive options on the Amalfi Coast. We found a great diving center in our favorite cove in Praiano and it was truly one of my most loved scuba experiences. The water was warm, no currents and many caves and grottoes underwater to explore. I also had the best scuba guide (I forgot his name :-() who was patient (me being a bit nervous after my last bad scuba experience), knowledgeable (he adjusted my weight belt to the correct number – so I had much better buoyance the entire dive) and very kind. Thanks to him and this fun experience, I can’t wait to go scuba diving again!

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#5 Experience a classical concert in Ravello

The Amalfi Coast is made up of several small towns: Praiano, Positano, Salerno, Ravello, Maiori/Minori and of course Amalfi. Each of the towns has their own charm and characteristics which you should take time to explore individually. One of my favorite cities is Ravello – a hidden treasure of the Amalfi Coast (it’s not located at the sea). It sits on a mountaintop with views on the coastline from a distance. Ravello has been named the City of Music as it hosts one of the prestigious Ravello Music Festival (also known as the “Wagner Festival”) from early April until the middle of November. We were lucky to visit during that time and bought tickets for a piano performance at one of the beautiful churches. Even though I’m an amateur when it comes to classical music, this was one of my favorite evenings during our stay. After the concert we enjoyed dinner at a restaurant owned by a local artist. He displayed his art pieces on the walls of the restaurant – paintings, sculptures – which were all about boobs (I know what you’re thinking – but I picked out the restaurant; we only realized the art around us when we were already sitting down). When you’re visiting the Amalfi Coast and plan a romantic evening – Ravello is the perfect place to go!

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Do you have any other insider tips for a trip to the Amalfi Coast? I would love to hear them!

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