As seductive as a Hollywood starlet and as beautiful as a medley of wildflowers, the Amalfi Coast is Italy’s ultimate headliner. Here, vast cloud-capped mountains mercilessly plunge into the sparkling sea in heartstring pulling panoramas flecked by sheer drop crags, colourful houses and misty verdant woodlands. But where to begin? And where (if anywhere) to end? Luke Abrahams brings us the ultimate guide to this Mediterranean paradise.
Amalfi Coast Travel Guide
From Capri all the way down to Salerno, Amalfi’s string of starry towns and villages conjure up the nostalgia of a quintessentially romantic big screen classic. There’s Sorrento, a handsome cliff-riddled mega resort with unrivalled views over the peaks of Vesuvius. Unknown Procida, a fuzzy, quiet fisherman’s village and Europe’s culture capital for 2022. Jet-set Positano, a mystical buzzing fortress of pastel cascades home to designer boutiques, stylish restaurants, Insta-ready cafes and beaches filled with spritz-sipping poster girls that ooze all shades of lazy hazy summer chic. Further down the coast, ancient Amalfi stuns with its Arabic-Norman cathedral and nearby hiking trails, while up in the hills, the charming literary town of Ravello stirs even the hardest hearts with its dreamscape streets, bewitching gardens and absolutely mesmerising breezy sea views.
And thanks to a quartet of private yachts and speedy ferries, its effortlessly easy to bounce from one historical coastal nirvana to the other. Adored by literary greats, Hollywood royalty and the world’s most glamorous supermodels, here, we go on a luxe whistle stop tour of the coast, exploring and eating our way through some of Italy’s most famous restaurants, hotels and iconic landmarks.
Borgo Santandrea Amalfi
This new cliffside Amalfi fantasy is about to be your go-to summer getaway. Why? It’s basically a swish LA-esque pad meets ancient castle mashup that, and unlike other hotels dotted along Amalfi, has access to its very own private beach. Oh, and it’s the first hotel of its kind to open swish, shiny doors on the Amalfi Coast in 15 years. Big news. The passion project of proud Ischian Maurizio Orlacchio, the 29-room, 16-suite Borgo Santandrea comes complete with three regional-first restaurants courtesy of Executive Chef Crescenzo Scotti, a heavenly and very swish bar terrace, and rocky pool donning exquisite seascape panoramas. Italian design takes centre stage, especially in the social areas, where everyone from Rubelli to custom-made furniture design emporiums Tosconova and LISAR wow alongside hand-blown Venetian glass, telescopes eyeing the sea and cosy literary nooks made for lazy, hazy summer afternoons. Best room? The deluxe suite with its very own garden and private sunrise-ready pool. Via Giovanni Augustariccio, 33, 84011 Amalfi SA / +39 89 831148 / borgosantandrea.it
Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel, Amalfi
The 17th-century former Dominican monastery dominates the craggy shoreline about a kilometre from Amalfi and is perhaps best known for its killer views and knockout infinity pool that attracts everyone from celebrities to royalty and the crème de la glam of the influencer glitterati. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the place, is that despite its lofty appearance, Monastero is home to just 20 intimate rooms and suites. The best of the bunch come with terraces and are kitted out with all sorts of charming curios and antiquities collected over the years by the hotel’s well-travelled American owner – the nun merch also gave us the giggles, too. Aside from all the historical nods to its storied past, Michelin-starred dining takes centre stage on the terrace and the well-manicured gardens that topple over the cliff seriously wow come sunset. Spa? Think caves oozing natural light and gorgeous Santa Maria Novella products. The early morning Insta shot on the edge of the pool, cocktail in hand, is non-negotiable. Via Roma, 2, 84010 Conca dei Marini SA / +39 89 832 1199 / monasterosantarosa.com
Le Sirenuse, Positano
Cool, calm, and ever so chic, Le Sirenuse owners Antonio and Carla Sersale mastermind an elegant show packing in all the sorcery you’d expect to find in one of Italy’s, and indeed the world’s, great hotels. Once a former aristocratic villa, Le Sirenuse’ storied past tells a tale of romanticised Amalfi passion chronicling generations of the House of Sersale: beautiful furniture, curios, and antique mementos shine amongst an impressive collection of period and contemporary paintings, alongside art pieces courtesy of Martin Creed, Stanley Whitney, and Matt Connors throughout. Aldo’s Bar is a prime Aperitivo spot, and the dreamy La Sponda restaurant serves dishes alongside a handsome quartet that sing some of the most tender tunes out there. There is also a spa and a vintage Riva speedboat for those that wish to go all out. Via Cristoforo Colombo, 30, 84017 /+39 089 875066 / sirenuse.it
Il San Pietro di Positano, Positano
The hotel’s location is pretty hard to beat. Suites and rooms are carved into the rock face away from the prying eyes of tourists. People come here not just for the exclusive privacy (a reason it’s a firm favourite for celebs from George Clooney to Julia Roberts), but also to retreat from the hustle and bustle of Positano, the kaleidoscopic glitterati pitstop the hotel looks out to over on the east. Rooms are huge (and most have full-on views of Positano or the water), the terraced gardens spectacular, and there’s a Michelin-starred date-night ready restaurant that makes the most of local seafood and produce from San Pietro’s kitchen garden. The private beach, tennis court and the relaxed, lunch-only Carlino restaurant are all well worth a visit. Back up top, the terrace is the place to be come sunset Aperitivo, and the legendary pool is just Instagram goals. Via Laurito, 2, 84017 Positano SA, Italy / +39 089 875455 / ilsanpietro.com
Santa Caterina, Amalfi
A 10-minute stroll from Amalfi itself, Santa Caterina remains one of the best placed hotels on the entire coast. Dwellings are made for Instagram. Think colourful tiles, chairs draped in fashionably chic Italian linens, yellow sun loungers (the social media influencers love them) and of course, Hollywood-esque bougainvillaea-wrapped balconies. Restaurant Glicine is lively and fun and serves up hearty local dishes from sticky mozzarella with tomatoes that burst with flavour and Napoli’s famous, deep-fried macaroni with meatballs. It’s also one of the very few hotels on the Amalfi Coast that has direct access to the sea thanks to a terrace that creeps out of the rocky hillside – a very major bonus to all those that check in here. Via Mauro Comite, 9, 84011 Amalfi SA, Italy / +39 089 871012 / hotelsantacaterina.it
Palazzo Avino, Ravello
Located on the edge of Ravello’s eastern ridge, the family-run Palazzo Avino dons incredibly romantic views across the valley to the Bay of Salerno and beyond. Painfully manicured terraces treacle down to the glittering sun-scorched pool while Rossellini’s, the glam restaurant, is easily one of the finest restaurants in the town. Rooms are deliciously Moroccan-esque in style. Expect handmade Vietri tiled floors, a fine stash of 19th-century mementos, floors clad in oriental rugs, gilded mirrors and marble tubs (some freestanding) in the glitzy (and very well-lit) bathrooms, and if you are in one of the brand-new suites, lots of loud but tasteful art deco pieces. Further down on the rocks, a chic private beach club awaits with umbrella-lined patios that snake down to the crystal-clear waters. The hotel boutique, The Pink Closet, is also worth a browse for ladies in search of an indie designer steal. Via S. Giovanni del Toro, 28, 84010 Ravello SA, Italy / +39 089 818181 / palazzoavino.com
EAT & DRINK
La Fontelina, Capri
An Amalfi classic flecked with blue and white umbrellas that dot all over the craggy sea-facing shores. It’s a day/afternoon beach club kind of affair where tourists and locals lap up buckets of wine before they dine in the low-key restaurant. The menu is mammoth, but in all honesty, the best thing to have here post a few hours of catching Mother Nature’s rays is a simple, but very tasty Caesar, prepared Capri-style of course. Via dei Faraglioni, 2, 80073 Capri NA, Italy / +39 081 837 0845 / fontelina-capri.com
Cumpa’ Cosimo, Ravello
You know it’s good because all the locals come to eat here. Thanks to Jackie Kennedy, who dined here to escape the media when she visited the coast decades back, Cumpa’ Cosimo now enjoys a somewhat legendary status. It’s a classic, family-run Italian restaurant, with dark wooden furniture, white tablecloths and old paintings and photographs on the walls, located just off the main piazza in Ravello. Dishes follow the seasons, but if you want to try something that will truly blow your mind (as well as your linens off), order their signature dish of five types of homemade pasta served with tagliatelle ragu, cheese-and-ham-filled crepe, tomato basil rigatoni, tomato gnocchi and troffe. Via Roma, 44, 84010 Ravello SA, Italy / +39 089 857156
Da Adolfo, Positano
Ask anyone in these parts and they’ll tell you this place is legendary. Heck, even Carla Sersale of Le Sirenuse told us “it is the best restaurant in the world.” To reach the coveted spot, you’ll have to jump on a little boat from the port in Positano. Once there, grab a chair and scoff everything from local fish to mozzarella on lemon leaves and whatever the waiter tells you to eat. It is worth making a day of it, especially because it’s got its own beach armed with views that stretch all the way to Capri. The spot is very popular, so be sure to book at least two weeks ahead. Via Laurito, 40, 84017 Positano SA, Italy / +39 089 875022 / daadolfo.com
For a hotel restaurant, you’ll be blown away. Bacco is a Slow Food kind of place that’s been around for over half a century specialising in local living by supporting small farms and producers close to the kitchens. Service is exemplary with eagle-eyed waiters ready to charm you with their stories of the coast and more. The menu is stunning featuring spun pastas, and perhaps, the best linguine we’ve ever devoured. Those that need to up their cooking game will be pleased to know that lessons in all things Italian cuisine are also available. Via Giambattista Lama, 9, 84010 Furore SA, Italy / +39 089 830360 / baccofurore.it
Belmond Caruso Hotel, Ravello
The original ivy-clad building dates all the way back to the 11th century, and like Villa Cimbrone, drew in Virginia Woolf and other Bloomsbury set types, and later Jackie Kennedy and Humphrey Bogart. Feel free to snoop – the hotel staff welcome it – and don’t miss the mountainside infinity pool – one of the best Instagram shots you’ll get this side of Amalfi.
Aperitivo here is non-negotiable, especially at the hotel bar donning insane views over Ravello and beyond. Tommaso Mansi, the Belmond Hotel Caruso’s head barman, has crafted a mammoth list of cocktails to suit every palette, from Aperol twists to gimlets gushing with Amalfi par excellence. Request to sit by the arches for absolute panoramic romantic escapism. Piazza S. Giovanni del Toro, 2, 84010 Ravello SA, Italy / +39 089 858801 / belmond.com
Don Alfonso1890, Sant’Agata
Don Alfonso 1890 makes is well worth the detour to get to. The family-run hotel and ristorante runs deep with a passion evident in the health-conscious menu, off-site organic farm, and flavour-packed dishes. Enjoy a tour of the subterranean wine and cheese cellar before a farm-to-table sensory experience. Many recipes are grounded in tradition and date back generations, while others were invented or renewed in recent years. Standouts? The menu changes so often it’s hard to keep up but what we can guarantee is a meal you are unlikely to ever forget. Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi, Corso Sant’Agata, 11/13, 80061 Massa Lubrense NA, Italy / +39 081 878 0026 / donalfonso.com
Pasticceria Andrea Pansa, Amalfi
Everywhere in Italy is pretty great at making an espresso but, for a taste of yesteryears vibe, head to Pansa, in Amalfi’s main square. The pasticceria was opened in 1830 by its namesake, Andrea Pansa, and still retains its 19th-century interior, gilded mirrors included. Try chocolate-dipped lemon and orange peel, or a babà – a Neapolitan staple. It’s extra delicious with a short-and-strong espresso, too. Piazza Duomo, 40, 84011 Amalfi SA, Italy / +39 089 871065 / pasticceriapansa.it
The Path of the Gods, Coastal Route
The Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods) is by far the best-known walk on the Amalfi Coast for two reasons: first, it’s spectacular from start to finish; and second, unlike most Amalfi treks, it doesn’t involve a horrendous amount of stair climbing. The walk starts in the village of Bomerano , easily accessible from Amalfi town by cab and continues through quintessential mountaintop dreamscapes to the very pretty Nocelle. Advice: pack comfortable shoes and a lot of water.
Explore the coast on water
In Positano, and for something just a little different, take a boat from the quay at Positano and visit the Grotta delle Matera (which you can explore) and the pretty, disconcertingly named cove Marina di Crapolla, for a glimpse of the Roman-villa ruins on the beach. If you’ve got some extra time, also stop at the three small islands known as Li Galli (literally meaning the cockerels), believed by the Ancients to be home to the Sirens, whose songs rang so powerful they lead thousands of ships to their demise. Or, just simply ask your hotel to take out on a sunset tour or the coast, champagne and nibbles included.
Villa Cimbrone Gardens, Ravello
Open until sunset, the refashioned 11th century Villa Cimbrone (now a luxury retreat for the social elite) is home to a series of sublime gardens that were created by British peer Ernest Beckett alongside the valuable input of the English gardener Vita Sackville-West. Blossoming hydrangeas, blooming rose beds, tunnels of wisteria, temples, pavilions and a charming grotto pack in a feast for the senses, but the real draw is the view from the Belvedere of Infinity. At golden hour, romantically poised classical busts frame a dazzling backdrop of craggy crevices and pastel villages that line the coast. And while breathtaking is very much an overused word, this takeaway image of Amalfi’s pulsing Mediterranean tundra is, without doubt, guaranteed to leave you gasping for air. The villa (also well worth a peek) was the boho place to be in the early part of the 20th century: Greta Garbo, Virginia Woolf, Winston Churchill, DH Lawrence and Salvador Dalí were all previously mega fans. Via Santa Chiara, 26, 84010 Ravello SA, Italy / +39 089 857459
In Positano, the one stop shop for the chicest Amalfi fashion is, without any competition, Emporio Sirenuse. Perched just opposite its namesake hotel Le Sirenuse, find quirky off the wall boutique chic designed in collaboration with some of the finest out there, from Emilia Wickstead to Luke Edward Hall, and for those who take their swimwear very seriously, Allegra Hicks. Looks are “a romantic take on the spirit of the Amalfi coast’ says founder Carla Sersale whose look book is best described as easy breezy summer-ready style. For footwear, Try La Botteguccia de Giovanni. Leather sandals are handmade by craftsman Giovanni in his small workroom at the back of the shop. All you must do is choose a colour and any decorative flourishes you want (shells are always in fashion), tell him your size and then nip round the corner for an espresso while he makes your shoes. The late Jackie Kennedy and the celebs are big fans, too.
When it comes to taking a slice of Positano home, look no further than its excellent ceramic shops. One of the best is Ceramiche Maria Grazia. Browse a sumptuous display of locally produced ceramics that are more or less guaranteed to cause a stir at your next big blow out dinner party. The colours and designs are subtle, and classy, with lots of Amalfi lemons emblazoned onto urns, plates, tables and even cutesy egg cups.
The pottery masterclass continues out in Ravello at Ravello Arte Ceramiche Artistiche on the Via Roma, a small hole-in-the-wall that creates handmade pieces with the motto ‘craft becomes art’. Designs are typical of the region featuring everything from iconic Amalfi lemons to playful spins on Italian classics. Nearby Ceramiche Cosmolena on the Via della Marra is also well worth a snoop and specialises in made-to-order and personalized designs shipped the world over.
BA flies direct to Naples from £45 per person.
Featured image: Le Sirenuse