Just the name Amalfi Coast conjures up images of turquoise blue water, bobbing fishing boats, gelato-coloured houses lining the cliff faces and the well-to-do sipping coffee or cocktails on bouganvillea-draped balconies. The coastline, south of the Italian city of Naples, has long been a dream destination for many but it’s not just highly regarded by sun worshippers and tourists. UNESCO listed the Amalfi Coast as a World Heritage Site in 1997, confirming its status as a uniquely beautiful part of the world that is worth preserving.
To help you make the most of your visit to the Amalfi Coast, here's a quick guide to the main towns frequented by holiday makers - Amalfi, Positano, Ravello and Sorrento.
Travelling as a family? This guide on visiting Amalfi Coast with Kids is a must-read.
Amalfi is situated between the sea and the mountains. Narrow alleyways dotted with monuments weave through the fan-shaped town and houses in every shade of pastel line the hillside, making a pretty sight particularly for those who arrive by boat.
The 6th Century Duomo (cathedral) dominates the town square and is reached by a flight of steep stairs. The cathedral was dedicated to Saint Andrew the Apostle, whose relics are still kept in the Crypt. Next door is the Cloister of Paradise, built in the thirteenth century in Arabic style. It contains an impressive display of carved marbles and mosaics.
Just outside the town centre is the ancient via Maestra die Villaggi, a four kilometre long footpath that connects five small villages to the centre of Amalfi. Lined with terraces of lemons and olives, it makes for a pleasant walk. Also worth visiting is the Emerald Grotto which can be reached along a panoramic pathway via S. Maria dell Signore.
One of the most exclusive resorts along the Amalfi Coast, and often referred to as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Amalfi Coast, Positano is also one of the prettiest. Once a poor fishing village, Positano now attracts thousands of tourists every year who come to see its pastel-coloured buildings clinging to its steep cliff face and magical sunsets over the sparkling Mediterranean. These ‘stacked’ houses and umbrella-adorned beaches have featured in numerous movies including Under the Tuscan Sun and the Aussie hit Kath and Kimderella.
Positano’s main sights include the church of Santa Maria Assunto, which features a beautiful ceramic dome made of majolica tiles, and a 13th century Byzantine icon of a black Madonna. Most visitors, however, head straight for the many cafes and restaurants, or spend their days enjoying the views of the Mediterranean from a sun lounge on Spiaggia Grande, the town’s sandy beach.
Perched on the hillside overlooking Amalfi and the coastline below, Ravello is known for its quiet charm and superb views. Ravello’s two main attractions are the villas Cimbrone and Rufolo, both of which house stunning gardens. Villa Cimbrone is also home to a lovely belvedere (lookout) from where some of the most famous photos of the Amalfi Coast have been snapped.
Apart from the villas and the 11th century Duomo there isn’t much to do in Ravello but that is probably one of its charms. After the day visitors have left you can more or less have the village to yourself to wander the quiet lanes and enjoy uninterrupted views of the Mediterranean.
A popular seaside resort, particularly with the British, Sorrento is a great base for exploring the Amalfi Coast and is also connected to Pompeii and Herculaneum by public transport. Although it doesn’t have its own beach, the town is made for tourists with high quality souvenirs, particularly ceramics, a favourite purchase.
Sorrento sunsets are a popular subject for photographers and there are plenty of viewing spots to take advantage of. The town also boasts a number of shady public gardens and those keen to swim can head a couple of kilometres out of town to Villa Polio Felix where they’ll find a small beach.
Getting to the Amalfi Coast
From Naples, Sorrento and Salerno, at the southern end of the Amalfi Coast, can be reached by the Circumvesuviana Line (train). Tickets are available from the Circumvesuviana ticket counters at Naples station. SITA offers a regular public bus service along the Amalfi Coast between Sorrento and Salerno. There is also a bus available from Positano to Ravello.
The Amalfi Drive is the stretch of road that runs along the Amalfi Coast between Sorrento and Salerno. Carved out of the side of the coastal cliffs, the road offers spectacular views but can be hair-raising for drivers (and passengers) as it winds its way around the mountains and along steep cliff faces. Traffic can be particularly heavy in summer so allow plenty of time to reach your destination. It is wise to check in advance if your accommodation has parking spaces available as these are limited in the towns.
Plan your visit to Italy's Amalfi Coast with the help of Tourism Italy.