Things To Do and Activity Guide for Amalfi Coast, Italy Vacations
A busy port city with an impressive Duomo, a number of important museums and convenient proximity to the small seaside resort Agripoli.
See an ancient city literally petrified in time, buried circa 79 A.D. by six meters of pumice and ash from an erupting Vesuvius and excavated in the modern age to graphic clarity.
An inland town with an opulent past, the Palazzo Reale built here for the Bourbon King Charles III is Italy's largest royal palace with more than 1,000 rooms in a magnificent setting.
A Mecca for Amalfi Coast jet-setters, it cascades down a precipitous cliff face and empties into the sea, where café life is rampant along the waterfront and transportation by ferry or hydrofoil to Capri is available.
The largest town on the coast that bears its name, it is unabashedly a resort community built around a lively piazza and Duomo, with seaside restaurants and myriad retail.
A thumbnail-size village about 10 minutes from Amalfi, the big draw here is the beach —the sandiest beach on the coast —plus pedestrian-only streets and dramatic steep steps down to the harbor.
Minori, Maiori and Cetara
Found on the road less traveled, these small beachfront villages are decidedly local in flavor, untouched, focused on sunbathing, swimming and fishing.
The views from villa gardens in this lofty hilltop town inspired Wagner during as he composed Parsifal. At one end of the quiet piazza are vistas of distant vineyards, while at the other looms the Duomo.
The largest town in the area —old-world charm in a lively setting with restaurants and shops that stay open well into the evening hours.
It is a magical spot whose reputation as a kingdom in paradise will always precede it, as much a home to fishermen, farmers and wild goats as to emperors, business tycoons and celebrities.
The Blue Grotto
The sunlight, passing through an underwater cavity and shining through the seawater, creates a blue reflection that illuminates the cavern.
The largest island in the Bay of Naples, it's all about beaches, thermal springs, therapeutic sands, hotels and resorts.
The small island, less trammeled, with great swimming and cozy lodging. Check out the view from its highest point Terra Murata.
The Way to See It
For cheap thrills, pay less than US$10 for a bus ride no one ever forgets. The local SITA buses (air conditioned and comfortable) depart from towns along the Amalfi Coast approximately every half hour-buy a ticket at a tabacchiera or at the bus station, if there is one. You'll pass lemon groves and sand-colored buildings with red roofs before you encounter imposing gray cliffs dotted with nothing other than a few shrubs and incidental greenery. From there, buses wind their way up treacherous slopes to maneuver around Amalfi's fabled hairpin turns. The steep drop-off from the rocky cliffs to the blue-green sea leaves most passengers grabbing at the seats in front of them or just clenching their fists. Local women who take this trip daily on their way to work often clasp their rosary beads and chant softly. For the most thrills, sit on the right side if you are headed east from Sorrento down the coast, and the left if you are returning west from Amalfi.
If you have your own car and feel adventurous, you may consider driving the route yourself. However, be forewarned that this outing is not for the meek, the hesitant, or the distracted.
The other option-less adventurous but no less stirring —is to take a boat ride along the coast. Mountaintops rising above wispy clouds, colorful fishing boats marooned on the black sand of the beaches, rows of grapevines shrouding the hillsides, pastel-colored dwellings poised like children's blocks one above the other —It's all best viewed from the water.
Rent or charter a boat for privacy, or take a ferry for a more cost-efficient experience with the same bedazzling views. Numerous companies run ferries to and from all of the towns on the coast, and that includes Naples. A great way to discover the area spontaneously is to jump off the boat when you arrive in a town that looks appealing. Should you be in a hurry to get to dinner or back to your villa, return on the hydrofoil, which is much faster and only slightly more expensive.
Villas along the Amalfi Coast are within driving range of many captivating historical sites. Depending on where you are based, consider making a trip to the well-preserved ruins of Pompeii, Herculaneum, or Paestum.
Pompeii of course is known throughout the world as the hapless town caught up in the fury of Mount Vesuvius. The volcanic eruption kept the city forever locked in time —79 A.D., to be exact. Walking down the ruined streets and traversing its once-busy intersections, it's not difficult to imagine pedestrian traffic as it would have appeared on a typical day in the ancient Roman past. The ruins are notoriously well-preserved, and many of the artifacts —even some horrifyingly graphic bodies in the throes of their last breaths —are now housed at the Museo Archeologico in Naples, rather than onsite.
Herculaneum also was frozen in time by lava from Mount Vesuvius. The town is smaller and the ruins less grandiose than Pompeii's; accordingly there are fewer tourists to contend with here.
If you're fascinated by the wrath of Mount Vesuvius, you can visit the volcano itself. Take a bus tour, or take a taxi up the mountain and hike the rest of the way for spectacular views of the Bay of Naples and remnants of towns that the eruption destroyed. The rocks are still hot, the volcano remains active.
Farther south, past Salerno, is another, lesser-known ruin called Paestum. The people here were killed off not by lava but by malaria. The remains are evocative of an earlier time, with three Grecian temples that hearken back to Six B.C. The gleaming white marble remains may be the best example of the Doric order anywhere in the world, including Greece. A trip here, far from any city or town, is all about fields festooned with wildflower and magnificent white temples looming.