The scent of lemons in the air, the mountains spilling into the sea, the bluest of waters… elements that have made the Amalfi Coast a favored vacation retreat for centuries. As soon as you see a photo of this area, you realize there might not be anywhere else you’d rather be. We sat down with Suzanne, a seasoned Italy villa specialist just back from Italy, to find out what her favorite spots are.
Suzanne, you’re one of our resident Italian experts. Tell us about your most recent trip to this enchanting place…
Suzanne: My colleagues and I spent one week in Amalfi, and then up to Tuscany. The first couple of nights we spent at the Covo Dei Saraceni, which is a wonderful hotel in Positano. It’s actually very reasonably priced, especially compared to the Sirenuse Hotel, which is … not! The Covo has a heated pool, and a fabulous buffet breakfast in the morning. They have a restaurant there for dinner—we actually had one of our favorite meals there. Some guests don’t know this, but we can book hotel stays as well as villas. Which is a great if you’re new to an area.
The view from Il Covo. Photo courtesty of Il Covo dei Saraceni.
Besides the Covo, what are some of your favorite restaurants in Italy? What are those standout dishes you think of when you think of Italy?
Suzanne: A stand out dish for sure was when we stayed at Casa Mariantonia, which is a hotel in Anacapri. The restaurant was outside in a lemon grove behind the hotel. They made a homemade lemon pasta with a lemon sauce. It was unbelievable. And the staff who worked there were so friendly. It’s well priced; it’s right off of a pedestrian walkway, and you can walk everywhere. Anacapri was so much less touristy than Capri—I recommend it to anyone.
There’s also Al Palazzo. It’s right it the heart of Positano, easy walk, beautiful ambiance, and the best Tiramisu I’ve ever had.
The pool at Villa Carla (BRV CAR). Almost like your own hotel.
What are the villas like in Amalfi? What’s the characteristic that defines them?
They’re all a bit different. What I found is, most had some kind of old world charm to them. They’re not like St. Barths’ villas. You’re going to find a lot that have the overall charm, like Vietri tiles. Most of the outside areas are made into a living room to take advantage of the good views. They all have their own personality.
I would say I love Carla (BRV CAR), on the outskirts of Ravello. Huge pool, incredible views. When we went there they had just redone the kitchen; it was a modern. The pool area was fantastic and huge, with little planted lemon trees around it. I love the location of it, I thought it was a great house, and it’s also well priced.
Others I would suggest: I really like Stella (BRV CRO). What I like about it is you cruise through the town of Ravello; it’s about 2 and half kilometers from there. There’s a couple of little, local restaurants you can walk to, right off the coastal highway. You have parking for two cars there, by the way, which is a big plus on the Amalfi Coast.
Do you suggest that guests rent cars?
I do recommend it. In Amalfi, it’s a little tricky because most places don’t offer parking. But, you can always rent a car, and keep it in a local parking lot. If you’re just going to town you take a cab, but if you’re going to say, Sorrento, which with traffic is probably 50 minutes to 60 minutes away, you need a car. If you’re going to Naples, it’s two hours and you need a car.
The view of the Med from Il Sogno (YPI SNO)
Another villa I wanted to suggest is Il Sogno (YPI SNO). You are probably less than a kilometer away from Positano, right off of the coastal highway. The view…the house is perfect for the WIMCO guest. It doesn’t have a pool, but you can take steps, probably about 200 of them, to a little beach area. They have chairs, umbrellas, and a little fridge down there. It’s wonderfully set up. You can swim over to a little cove and sandy beach. The house, the design, the attention to detail, it’s beautiful.
Also, last but not least, Venere (BRV MAF). It is owned by an art and antique collector. Huge pool, huge gardens. It’s in Anacapri. The details, the linens, the arts…all of it is fantastic. I love every thing about it; it’s probably my favorite house in Capri.
Browse villas in the Amalfi Coast
What would you say makes the vacation experience unique in Italy?
It depends on what the actual guest is looking for. I think when you travel to Europe, it’s more of a trip than a vacation. Usually it’s quite a distance, by the time you get there, that you want to pack as much into it as possible. There’s so much history, so many museums, and so much to see. I would say with something like Amalfi, it’s kind of blend because it’s a beach-y area. It’s not like going to Rome. Amalfi is a little bit more relaxed. The mentality…it has a different effect on you, it automatically relaxes you.
As far a perfect day there, I would hop in the car and drive towards the Naples area, to Mt. Vesuvius. I would definitely do a guided tour, only because you really want it brought to life, the ruins of Pompeii. I would spend hours there; I think it’s fascinating.
The ruins of Pompeii – a fascinating site.
Then I’d break it up! Maybe the next day, I would walk up and down the beach at Positano. What the Italians do is, they throw their old tiles into the sea. There are these little pieces—they’re like little jewels of old tiles, small worn out tiles on the beach. You go and collect them—it’s wonderful! I’d spend the day and I’d do that. Read a good book, go to a café after, do a little shopping maybe. Then have a nice glass of local wine poured, sit back, and watch the world go by.
And a perfect day in Tuscany?
I think with Tuscany, it’s more about driving in the country. Taking in the views, going to a village and spending some time there, having a long lunch, watching the people go by, seeing the local fair, do a little shopping, then…
Having some wine.
That too. There’s so many cute other villages close to each other—it’s a different mentality than the Amalfi coast. I feel like the Amalfi coast is more relaxed and beachy, like I said. It’s more like a vacation. When you’re in Tuscany, you want to go and explore, go to villages, and spend some time going to Lucca. Lucca is a great, beautiful, walled city. It’s pedestrian, which is really cool.
A street-side cafe in Lucca
Finally, Is there one spot in Italy you would want to return to consistently or do you prefer exploring the whole country?
I’d have to say that I do have my favorites. I’m absolutely in love with Capri. I adore it. I love to hike and while I was there, my colleague Bill and I did a really long hike from the port all the way to the top of Palma Capri. I thought that was pure heaven, taking in the views.
I would never get bored there, I just think it is so visually stunning—it’s intoxicating. I also love an area in Italy called Cinque Terre. You have these five beautiful villages that are clinging to the cliffs, and there’s a walkway you can take along the cliffs from village to village. They’re small and beautiful and all just a little bit different from each other. I’d be happy to spend a lot more time there and go there year after year.