Few places stir the romantic senses more than the Amalfi Coast. This 50km stretch of coastline along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, in the region of Campania, is widely regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful. A combination of rugged coastline and sheer cliffs delivers spectacular sea views along with terraced vineyards, colourful fishing villages and cliffside lemon groves. We take a closer look at the area and three of the undoubted highlights that rank high on any visitor’s ‘must see’ list.
Considered by many to be the pearl of the Amalfi Coast, Positano is a patchwork quilt of tightly clustered houses set into the steep mountain side that rises high above the sea and delivers spectacular, panoramic views of the coastline. The town itself is a maze of narrow, busy alleyways and countless steps with numerous small shops displaying their local products and crafts – leather, lace and linen are in abundance. Not to be missed is the popular Limoncello, a traditional liqueur distilled from the peel of lemons and produced throughout the towns and villages of the Amalfi Coast – be sure to sample a tipple with your Neapolitan lunch!
The brightly painted houses are quintessential of this little corner of Italy and reflect against the clear shimmering waters of the Mediterranean Sea. And for those who like to dip their toes or cool off, Positano boasts two beaches, both featuring black, coarse sand which is a reminder of the volcanic geology of the region. Spiaggia Grande is the larger, busier beach backing up to the town centre, while the beach area at Fornillo Bay further east along the coastline is smaller and less crowded.
Located on the northern coast, Sorrento offers a different outlook to Positano, with outstanding views across the Bay of Naples and down towards the sprawling city of Naples itself. The Mediterranean scenery is no less impressive though, with the islands of Capri and Ischia on the near horizon. The imposing figure of Vesuvius is visible at every turn and provides a constant reminder of the area’s famous ancient history.
The town itself is extremely popular with tourists, creating a bustling, vibrant atmosphere along the streets adorned with shops selling local crafts and produce. It’s easy to while away an afternoon or evening here, lazily meandering the streets and soaking up the relaxed ambience. You’ll be spoilt for choice for dining options with traditional pizzerias and trattorias vying for your custom. Several restaurants offer spectacular sea views from their outdoor terraces looking out over the bay. The Foreigner’s Club is one such place and is a truly delightful destination for enjoying a romantic evening meal whilst sipping Prosecco as you watch the sun dip from view for another day. It’s incredibly popular at sunset, so be sure to book in advance!
A moment of solace may be sought in the shape of the fourteenth century Chiesa di San Francesco. With its charming flower-filled cloister, and a small garden next to the church it offers a rare moment of tranquillity with stunning views out across the Bay of Naples. The perfect place to gather your thoughts and reflect as the world passes you by.
Along with the stunning views and spectacular scenery, the ancient history is what also makes this region of Italy such a magnet for tourists from around the world. And while much of this history centres around Vesuvius and Pompeii, the slightly lesser known Herculaneum is also steeped in history and is well worth a visit, particularly if you prefer to steer clear of the more popular, crowded hotspots.
Accessible by the local Circumvesuviana railway, which runs from Naples to Sorrento, Herculaneum is a 10-minute walk from the Ercolano stop. The fate of Herculaneum is paralleled to that of nearby Pompeii, destroyed by the earthquake of AD 63 and then submerged in the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The difference is that Herculaneum was buried by a river of volcanic mud, and not ash or pumice stone, like Pompeii. As a result, the mud helped preserve the town for centuries, and it wasn’t rediscovered until 1709. Serious archaeological work began in 1927 and excavation continues today which you can witness on your visit.
The site itself is much, much smaller than Pompeii so visitors can absorb themselves in the whole town. The level of preservation is quite remarkable, stirring your senses to imagine what life was like in this town before the traumatic events unfolded.
Whether it’s the breathtaking views, wonderful local cuisine or the infamous ancient history that appeals to you – or perhaps a combination of all three – the Amalfi Coast is the perfect place to stir your senses. Find out more about our walking holidays in this region, or request a brochure today.