IN JOHN STEINBECK’s widely-read essay on Positano, which appeared in the May 1953 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, the American writer — who was then at the height of his fame — famously documented his experiences of the majestical coastline in ways that hadn’t been done before. Effectively, he pulled back the curtain on what was, up until then, then Italy’s best-kept secret. “Positano bites deep,” Steinbeck wrote. “It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” His ode to the romance of Positano is widely regarded as one of the greatest pieces of travel writing. Its central focus was the romance of Positano, but in time, it drew travellers to the area — travellers who eventually wandered a little further in each direction, discovering more untouched villages that dot the world-famous Amalfi Coast.
The Amalfi Coast stretches over 56 kilometres of regional bliss, dotted with 500-foot-tall cliffs, over 100 beaches and 13 uniquely different seaside towns which differ in charm and character. It’s heaven on Earth, make no mistake about it. Here, clear skies and crystal waters intertwine; the scent of lemon groves leave fragrant trails in every which direction and languishing in summer afternoons that roll effortlessly into aperitivo hour feels easy.
Since Steinbeck wrote that essay, the area has become one of the world’s most popular destinations. But unlike other tourist hot spots, the Amalfi Coast has maintained most of its original charm. Plus, if you know when to go, where to stay and what to see, it’s quite possible to experience the area like a local.
Read on for our recommendations to help you do just that.
Where to stay on the Amalfi Coast
Caruso, A Belmond Hotel
Situated high on the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast is an idyllic little town by the name of Ravello, and it’s a fantastic town to base oneself in. Easily reached by a short drive from Napoli airport, Ravello is often overlooked for the liveliness of Positano and Amalfi. But if flying under the radar — in style, no less — is the vibe you’re seeking, a stay at Caruso, A Belmond Hotel, is simply a must.
Arguably one of the most luxurious hotels on the coast, this former 11th-century palace exhibits every bit of charm and character that you’d imagine to find in a town like Ravello. On any given day, take a stroll through the century-old gardens as you make your way across the sprawling property where three separate dining options reside — the Michelin-star Ristorante Belvedere, Ristorante Caruso and the Pool Grill. There’s a dedicated cocktail bar, too — Bar Caruso, where the head barman Tommaso Mansi will whip you up the famed Gimlet Caruso, or possibly the best Negroni you’ve ever had. For those seeking some rest and relaxation, there’s also a dedicated wellness and fitness centre. Of course, it would be remiss of us not to mention the renowned Caruso infinity pool — an architectural masterpiece and one of the most photographed locations on the property. Poised high above the town of Ravello, it feels as if you’re swimming among the clouds.
The suites at Caruso are charming and nostalgic, too; they offer guests a tiny bit of history of the famed hotel that you can take with you on your travels. Above all, the service at Belmond Hotel Caruso is exceptional; not just in the sense that Italian hospitality is generally extraordinary, but the staff at Caruso really do go that extra mile to ensure all guests truly enjoy their stay.
As you venture further along the coastline, you’ll hit Amalfi, the coast’s eponymous town. Here, you can’t go past the first new hotel on the coast in 15 years, Borgo Santandrea, which is built high up on the rocky cliffside.
No detail has been missed here at Borgo Santandrea; it has been immaculately re-designed from its 1960’s origins. Led by Italian architect Rino Gambardella, the new hotel blends a tasteful mix of artisanal Mediterranean style with elegant mid-century design.
As you find yourself in either one of the hotel’s 29 rooms or 16 suites, you will be greeted by an unspoiled view of the Amalfi Coast, including the enchanting, centuries-old fishing village of Conca dei Marini. You’ll also find works by local artisans and bespoke furniture by Gio Ponti, handmade tiles and eclectic antiques, all coming together effortlessly to create a truly spectacular setting that encapsulates the essence of a ‘home away from home’, Italian-style.
The hotel, which officially opened in April of 2022 after a meticulous four-year renovation, is owned by the Orlacchio and De Siano families, who bring generations of hospitality experience to the newest property on the Amalfi Coast.
Where to eat and drink on the Amalfi Coast
Rossellinis at Palazzo Avino
Palazzo Avino, located at the top of Ravello’s old town, is home to one of the most exceptional fine dining experiences on the Amalfi Coast: Rossellini’s. Opened solely for dinner, this elegant and sophisticated Michelin-star restaurant not only offers panoramic sea views from each table setting but serves delectable Italian cuisine to match, with a specific focus on local produce and ingredients from the Campania region.
Mimì Ristorante Pizzeria
Another Ravello staple, but one with a decidedly local feel about it. Mimi dishes up the best Neapolitan pizza that you’re likely to find outside of Naples itself. With only a few tables available each night, get in early to secure your spot amongst the fragrant lemon trees. The Pizza Di Avola is exceptionally tasty, as are the homemade pasta dishes that rotate on the menu daily. Finish with some delicious homemade limoncello, obviously.
Aldo’s at Le Sirenuse
Located at the famed Le Sirenuse hotel in Positano, Aldo’s is a dedicated seafood grill and cocktail bar that’s an ideal location for an evening out with friends. Here at Aldo’s, you’ll find fresh-off-the-boat seafood, Neapolitan classics and quite possibly the best tiramisù in Positano. It’s simple yet beautiful Italian food without the fuss.
Located in Nerano in the commune of Massa Lubrense, this third-generation seaside restaurant offers some of the best examples of local Amalfitana cuisine. All of the produce is either plucked straight from the sea, or grown on the family property nearby. Of course, the Pasta Nerano is a staple of the town and region, and a must-try when visiting Lo Scoglio.
One of the most famous restaurants on the Amalfi Coast is Da Adolfo, but it’s perhaps the hardest to get to. To secure your table, bookings are a must, but even so, you’re still likely to wait on arrival (but don’t worry, the owners will come around with free cups of wine to quench your thirst). To get there, you’ll need a boat — either your own or the free shuttle service provided by Da Adolfo. Here on the small private beach of Positano, Da Adolfo will dish out its most famous menu items: zuppa di cozze (Mussel soup), pesce fresco alla griglia (fresh grilled fish), pollo alla Adolfo (Adolfo’s chicken). It’s tough to find cuisine more authentic than this.
Where to swim in the Amalfi Coast
Lido Degli Artisti
Lido Degli Artisti is a whimsical hideout on the Amalfi coast. Unless you’re a guest of Caruso, A Belmond Hotel — which offers guests their own private beach cabana and umbrella — only locals will revel in its seclusion. What to expect at Lido Degli Artisti? Carefree afternoons. Fresh food. Slow lunches. Endless spritz. It’s here that you’ll also find waiters and lifeguards — pirate-like characters during the day, Versace models at night, united by their love for service and the water.
One Fire Beach
Perhaps the most iconic and famous beach club on the Amalfi Coast, you can spot the classic orange umbrellas of One Fire Beach Club a mile away. It’s here at One Fire Beach that people come to revel in the atmosphere rather than sunbathe in peace and quiet; it’s loud, it’s crazy and a little mad. Be sure to stick around for ‘Melon Time’; a weird but fun experience where, at 4:30pm each afternoon, waiters of the beach club will dance around a watermelon before cutting into said watermelon for all guests to enjoy.