Things to see & do on
the Amalfi Coast, Italy

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful place than the Amalfi Coast. It zigzags along the underside of the Sorrentine Peninsula just southwest of Naples. Here, some of the prettiest (and richest) maritime villages in the world stagger down cliffs towards fishing harbours and glassy seas.

Of course, it’s got all the problems that go with being one of the ‘in’ crowd. Positano and Amalfi put Venice to shame in the overcrowding stakes in high summer. But there are plenty of ways to make your escape – from timing your trip for spring or autumn to hopping on a boat to Ischia, where the little-explored hills secret away volcanic vineyards and chestnut forest trails.

To get the best out of your vacation to the Amalfi Coast, you’ll need an expert at the helm. Therein lies the perks of a small group or tailor made tour. They pair you up with a guide who not only knows the lingo – they’ll also reveal which cove is perfect for a peaceful sundowner or the aperitivo bar that the locals duck into after work. And those are the things that really make a trip to the Amalfi Coast go from bella to bellissimo.

From Positano to Maiori

The villages are the jewels along this high-rise coastline – and everyone knows it. It’s a case of you’ve gotta catch ‘em all, with visitors counting off Positano, Ravello, Amalfi, Minori and Mairoi like they’re bases on a home run.

But there’s a better way: the Italian way. Take things as an amalfitano would. Stay overnight in Positano, so you can escape the day trippers. And when the masses arrive and temperatures rise, hop in a kayak and take in the Amalfi Coast from a fisherman’s perspective.
There’s no getting around that seeing opera in Ravello is a must. But how about swapping the sell-out open-air concerts of the Ravello Festival for one of the Ravello Concert Society’s gigs? You could catch Haydn’s string quartets in the serene Chiesa Dell’Annunziata in springtime.

As for Amalfi, do admire the famous zebra-striped cathedral that marks the town as one of the rich maritime republics. But also climb the streets to the charm-packed paper and lemon museums that back away from the town’s most-wanted sites. That’s also where you’ll find the trailhead to the waterfalls of the Valle delle Ferriere.

Hit Maiori on market day (Thursday), meanwhile, and the pyramids of smoked mozzarella and football-sized lemons will make you feel like you’re still in old world Italia. Blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em bakeries still exist, where you can pop in for a slice of almond cake or a cheeky aperitivo.

Our top Italy Vacation

Amalfi Coast walking vacation, Italy

Amalfi Coast walking vacation, Italy

Walk in lemon groves and hillside villages

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The Amalfi Drive

Who says you have to drive the Amalfi Drive? This death-defying clifftop road serves up some of the most spectacular vistas in the world, offering vertiginous views over the cliffside villages and yacht-flecked sea far below.

But you often get your best views on two wheels. One of the most scenic bike rides in Europe leads down to Minori via Cetara (stop by for fresh fried anchovies) and Capo d’Orso (for even more ridiculous views). Depending on how much tortellini you’ve been fuelling up with, your cycling vacation could continue to Furore, Praiano and Positano, and even onwards – up and up and up to Colli di San Pietro, a ridge far above the Bay of Naples and Gulf of Salerno.

Alternatively, ditch the wheels completely and tackle the Sentiero degli Dei (Pathway of the Gods) on guided walking vacation. You really are up in the heavens here; just expect the hills and step count that go with it. These old mule trails between Agerola and Nocelle peek into ye olde Amalfi Coast – a world of stone houses, working lemon terraces and shepherds’ huts.

Day trip to Sorrento, Capri & Naples

Haven’t quite had your fill of picturesque towns and Byzantine churches? Sorrento is a short hop away, on the opposite edge of the peninsula. Sip your limoncello in a leafy square (along with what sometimes seems like half of Italy) or cool off in the leafy Franciscan cloisters.

Boats also push off into Bay of Naples from Sorrento. On Capri, you can shop for chic sailing whites with celebs or escape the crowds with a chair lift up Monte Solero in time for sunset. Ischia, meanwhile, has a secret cache of vineyards that visitors rarely get to. Follow the Bay of Naples around to the lights of the big city, and you’ll bump into two archaeological giants along the way – Pompeii and Herculaneum. Mount Vesuvius looms over everything ominously; march to the top for some of the best views in Italy.
Photo credits: [Page banner: Sander Crombach] [Intro: Glen MacLarty] [From Positano to Maiori: Gregory Smirnov] [The Amalfi Drive: James Burke] [Day trip to Sorrento, Capri & Naples: kirkandmimi]
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