Ahhh, Italy. It is truly a paradise notable throughout the world, particularly on the Amalfi Coast, where unspoiled landscape and old world charm will mesmerize the most seasoned traveler. Here are a few must-sees along this breathtaking coastline.
After arriving in Naples airport (the closest to the Amalfi Coast, about a 90 minute car ride to the hotel), we based our trip in the quaint fishing village of Praiano, staying at the Hotel Onde Verde. Praiano is ideal if you’re looking to relax and take in the Italian scenery after a long flight, and considering this was where my husband and I spent our honeymoon, the setting was perfect. The views from our cliff side hotel were stunning. Even if you’re not based here, a visit to this town is worth the trip. In true old world fashion, small fishing boats sail out daily to bring in the day’s catch which is served locally every night at the area’s restaurants. Other than hanging around the beach, possibly taking a boat excursion to other ports, or eating and drinking at the local restaurants, there is not a whole lot else to do here. Shopping is limited, public transportation is scarce (although the bus schedule might indicate otherwise, we waited close to an hour and a half for a bus), and tourists are few and far between. However, if you’re in a honeymoon mind-set (as we were), this is definitely a place to get away from it all and be romanced.
Naples, Pompeii, amp; Mount Vesuvius
A few days of relaxing Italian style can cause any New Yorker to get a little restless, so we ventured into the more touristy areas of the ancient city of Pompeii and the volcano of Mount Vesuvius.
If you’re curious about ancient history and have an interest Greco-Roman architecture, Pompeii makes an interesting day trip. My husband loved it. I, on the other hand, could have done without it, but looking back in retrospect, was glad to have gone for the history lesson and some nice pictures. For those who don’t know (like myself at the time, I was never very good at history) Pompeii was an ancient pagan city that was completely buried in ash by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD . What makes the site so special is that the majority of the city’s original detail, including pottery and human remains, was impressively preserved by the sediment of the volcanic ash. It was re-discovered and excavated in the 16th century, and excavation is still ongoing today.
The counterpart to the trip to Pompeii is the hike up to the pinnacle of Mount Vesuvius. Although the hike was somewhat tiresome after a day of walking around Pompeii, it’s worth the climb for the sake of the views. The top of Mount Vesuvius boasts some astounding views of Naples city and Bay of Naples, as well as the isles of Capri and Ischia off the coast. The experience at the top of the mountain also gives a solid account of what it’s like inside the crater of a volcano (complete with smells and all). I’m not much for hiking, but this day-trip that included visits to both Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius were definite must-sees.
There is something absolutely intoxicating about the isle of Capri. It could be the combination of amazing scenery, high-end shopping, free shots of crema di limoncello (an Italian lemon liqueur), or the perfume factories….I haven’t quite figured it out. Whatever it is, it’s working like a charm. Tourists mob this island, and as they should – personally I considered it the highlight of the trip.
A must-do in Capri (in addition to people watching and lamenting about the Fendi handbag you can’t afford) is taking a ride on the fernicular, or cable car, to the zenith of Capri. Again, similar to the summit of Mount Vesuvius, the views are spectacular. But unlike Mount Vesuvius where you take in the smell of sulphur dioxide and brush off the black ash dirtying your shoes, the top of Capri is a garden oasis complete with flora and scenic statues. We were only allotted a few minutes to enjoy this oasis, as our guide made us slaves to his well-planned itinerary, but it nevertheless left a lasting impression. The entire island of Capri and all of its shops, scenery, flora, etc., were must-sees. Looking back in retrospect, I probably would have made Capri (or her sister, Anacapri, on the other side of the island) the base of my trip. The hotels, however, are far more expensive on the isle of Capri than in other areas of the Amalfi Coast.
Positano and Amalfi
The coastal towns of Positano and Amalfi (for which the coast is named) are very similar to each other with respect to old world charm, cliff side architecture, cobble stone streets, outdoor cafes, and intimate beaches. Just about everything within these towns will charm you. Both towns promote impressive ceramics adorned with lemons (mainly because lemon trees are a staple on the Amalfi Coast). The food and wine, not surprisingly, is delicious. Additionally, there are notable cathedrals in both towns. While we were unable to enter the cathedral in Positano (it was closed and locked for some reason), we were able to visit the cathedral in Amalfi, located in the center piazza. The small entrance fee was worth the tour and walk-through. Shopping within the piazza following the tour was also enjoyable, giving us a more “urban” experience, as mini cars and mopeds whizzed by the outdoor cafés and shops. While there is not much of a center piazza in Positano, the shops and café’s were just as common. As both towns are located within cliffs, there is quite a bit of rugged terrain, so bring your walking shoes. After witnessing a marriage on the pier in Positano, we were mesmerized, the aura within these coastal villages is simply enchanting.