Amalfi Coast Holiday Planning Guide
Renowned for its beautiful landscape and medieval fishing villages that cling precariously to the Mediterranean cliffs, the Amalfi Coast is one of Italy's top vacation destinations. This World Heritage Site stretches for about 50 km (30 mi) on the southern side of the Sorrentine peninsula and offers numerous places to visit, from terraced lemon gardens and whitewashed villas to cliff-top views of the sea. The Amalfi Coast draws scores of visitors eager to explore the coastline's towns, bays, and resorts, and during peak tourist season the region's single seaside road is often jammed with buses. For that reason, the ubiquitous scooter (or a bicycle) may be the best way to do your Amalfi Coast sightseeing.
Places to Visit on the Amalfi CoastPositano
: Affectionately called the gem of the Amalfi Coast by locals, this city is a hot vacation spot for its picturesque hillside location with charming restaurants and boutiques overlooking the Mediterranean.Amalfi
: Characterized by hillsides of colorful stone buildings, this coastal town features medieval monuments and delightful plazas surrounded by cafes and restaurants, making it a great addition to your Amalfi Coast itinerary.Salerno
: An increasingly popular place to visit on the Amalfi Coast, this village is a hub for culture and entertainment, and its diverse history remains palpable in its medieval quarter and a 19th-century district.Ravello
: Boasting great views of the coast, the town of Ravello dates back to the 5th century and draws visitors with exotic flower beds that bloom throughout the year at Villa Rufolo. Praiano
: Wind your way through the narrow streets, alleys, and staircases of this charming town, with terraces of lemon trees and old churches known for their history and architectural beauty.Maiori
: A popular vacation spot since Roman times, Maiori boasts the longest unbroken stretch of shoreline on the Amalfi Coast and beautiful churches.Minori
: This modest seaside town features a well-preserved Roman villa and plenty of coastal attractions and activities.Vietri sul Mare
: Also called the "first pearl of Amalfi," this quaint town is famous for the production of beautiful dishes, flowerpots, vases, and tiles seen throughout the region.
Things to Do on the Amalfi Coast
Popular Amalfi Coast Tourist AttractionsVilla Cimbrone Gardens
: This villa teems with breathtaking gardens including oak, alder, and chestnut trees, a 19th-century statue of Eve, and rosebeds--all surrounded by views of the coast and mountains.Villa Rufolo
: So beautiful that Richard Wagner used the setting in one of his operas, this 13th-century villa was originally built as a wealthy family's home but now houses famous moonlight concerts as well as cascading gardens and exotic flower beds.Duomo di Sant'Andrea Apostolo
: Originally built in the 9th century, this church features numerous details telling of its long history: the crypt of St. Andrew, bronze doors from Constantinople, two significant crosses, and lovely gardens.Sentiero degli dei (Path of the Gods)
: An Amalfi Coast tour along this seaside footpath will teach you about the local area and traditions. Make a stop at the 16th-century Church of San Domenico along the way.Fornillo
: This beach secluded behind rocky mountains nevertheless offers a few convenient facilities for comfort, including restaurants and rentals of sun loungers and umbrellas.Cave of Smeraldo
: Among the top Amalfi Coast attractions, this grotto is reached by rowboat and features a cave illuminated with emerald light that actually shines up from underneath the water.Duomo di Salerno
: Built over an earlier church, Salerno's main cathedral holds St. Matthew's crypt as well as golden altarpieces, tile mosaics, bronze Byzantine-style doors from Constantinople, and a 12th-century Arabic-Norman bell tower.Spiaggia Grande
: Clear water, souvenir boutiques, and delicious seafood are highlights at this pebbled beach, whose deeper waters just a few steps from shore make for excellent swimming.
Velia Ruins: Part of the World Heritage-listed Cilento National Park, this small medieval town invites visitors to wander its well-preserved alleyways and centuries-old structures.Salerno
: In this largely intact medieval quarter, visitors can admire old structures likes churches, streets, and public buildings dating back centuries.
Planning an Amalfi Coast Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit on the Amalfi Coast with Kids
While the Amalfi Coast is not exceptionally large, it offers plenty of destinations for kids to explore. Any of the cities are scenic enough to keep children's attention, and there is always a new place to look among the cobblestone alleyways in places like Ravello
and Vietri sul Mare
. If old historical buildings fascinate your family, spend a few days in Amalfi
Lovers of the great outdoors will also find plenty to fill their Amalfi Coast itinerary. The beaches are especially enjoyable, all featuring clear waters and pebbled beaches. Look hard enough and you'll spot some grottos and caves along the coastline, too. If you prefer to stay out of the water and hike, explore the several paths along the coastline, many of which are easy enough for little legs.
Things to Do on the Amalfi Coast with Kids
Sunbathe, explore, and make a splash at beaches like Lido Eureka
or Spiaggia della Crestarella
, where the welcoming turquoise waters provide refreshment in summer months. Footpaths lead across the cliffs to reach these shorelines as well as historical ruins, like the Sentiero degli dei (Path of the Gods)
and its 16th-century church. Children will be amazed at the natural emerald light illuminating Cave of Smeraldo
, one of the most famous places to see on the Amalfi Coast.
Balance your itinerary with a bit of adventure as you discover the coast from the water. Companies like Positano Sea Kayak
and Amalfi Coast Sea Kayak Tours
offer kayak tours along the lush shoreline and into caves--all led by experienced guides.
For a bit of delicious learning and fun, consider adding cooking classes to your Amalfi Coast tour. Many locations across the main cities offer lessons, including courses for children and families, where you can learn the secrets of regional dishes. If you're in Ravello
, for example, you can check out the popular Mamma Agata - Cooking Class
. Don't forget to reward your young travelers with a stop at one of the local pastry shops, where they can choose from treats inspired by the region's abundant lemon groves.
Tips for a Family Vacation on the Amalfi Coast
There's plenty to love about a family vacation on the Amalfi Coast, but getting there isn't necessarily one of them--especially if you or your children are susceptible to car sickness. You will have to travel at least an hour from the airport to reach the Amalfi Coast, and buses can be a little cramped and uncomfortable while navigating the narrow turns around cliffs. Consider hiring a taxi or renting a car to make the trip instead, but be prepared for queasy stomachs either way.
If visiting the beaches with a very young child, keep in mind access usually involves steep stairs and pebbled shorelines. Try to leave the stroller at home to make the trip easier.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday on the Amalfi Coast
Cuisine of the Amalfi Coast
Given the region's location along the shoreline, it's no surprise the local cuisine boasts tasty seafood dishes. Head to Praiano
, for example, and find a restaurant in which to order lobster spaghetti made with the regional specialty: lemons. Be prepared to wait, however, as the availability depends on what the fishermen haul in that day.
Besides the seafood, the area's pastries are also worth trying. Minori
boasts a third-generation pastry chef extraordinaire at a venue called Sal De Riso. Be sure to bite into the "delizia al limone" paired with a cappuccino, which you can enjoy as you sit on the promenade. If your ears perked up at the mention of coffee, Amalfi
is said to have the best in the region.
Shopping on the Amalfi Coast
During your tour of the Amalfi Coast, set some time aside for shopping the special wares produced regionally. While the area is not ideal for high fashion and brand names, it boasts a wealth of artisan workshops. Topping the list for specialties is the earthenware in Vietri sul Mare
. In the latter, look for Ceramiche Cosmolena di Margherita di Palma
, a shop carrying a huge array of dishware and offering shipping services so you don't have to lug the fragile purchases home. Visitors can find tiles, vases, kitchenware, and more in bright, eye-catching colors and designs.
Also look out for handmade paper, traditional mandolins, and bohemian-style clothing like head scarves and handmade sandals. Rallo Antonio
, for example, displays hundreds of sandals. When you have chosen your favorite pair, the owner will adjust them and ensure a perfect fit in front of your eyes.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to the Amalfi Coast
History of the Amalfi Coast
Named after a mythological nymph loved by Hercules, the Amalfi Coast was founded during the collapse of the Roman Empire, when Romans took refuge from invading barbarians. Due to its coastal location, the seafaring people eventually developed a fleet that rivalled the Venetians' and even invented the compass in the 13th century. A monument to the instrument's reputed inventor, Flavio Gioia, still stands in Amalfi
--though his actual existence was later disproved.
Thanks to a combination of the Amalfi Coast's location, fleet, and commerce, the area had developed into a well-known power by the 10th century, featuring its own currency and even some Mediterranean colonies. In the mid-11th century, however, the then-separate principality of Salerno began subduing the region in a series of military defeats. The Amalfi Coast was forced to join strengths with Salerno, but was conquered in the 12th century by Norman king Ruggiero II.
Turbulence continued to shake the Amalfi Coast through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance--including a period when the plague killed a third of its population. Finally, help came in the form of Napoleon's brother, Joseph, who adored the region and strived to rejuvenate it. His money and support allowed Amalfians to get back on their feet and create a popular vacation destination known for its scenic beauty.
Landscape of the Amalfi Coast
Considered Italy's most scenic stretch of coastline, the Amalfi Coast is blessed with a spectacular landscape that earned the region a spot on the World Heritage List in 1997. On your Amalfi Coast trip you can explore exotic gardens, lush mountains, and green hillsides decorated with pastel-colored houses. Walking trails, such as Ravello - Atrani Walk
, may require a bit of energy to tackle steep ascents, but you'll be rewarded by sweeping views and also pass through the area's gorgeous olive and lemon groves. Take advantage of the coastal setting at secluded pebble beaches like Bagni d'Arienzo
, backed by dramatic seaside cliffs. Boat tours offer yet another way to take in the scenery; Blue Star Boat Tours
offers daily excursions and also private tours.
Holidays & Festivals on the Amalfi Coast
Witness the jaw-dropping display of fireworks during Spettacolo del’Incendio in Ravello
. On the third Sunday of September each year, this festival celebrates the Madonna Addolorata. Another famous fireworks presentation takes place at the Festival of San Matteo in Salerno
. Every September 21, the city's medieval center fills with people celebrating their patron saint, San Matteo. A colorful procession makes its way through the city before returning to Cathedral of San Matteo; after dark, fireworks light up the skies over the Bay of Salerno.
Wine lovers on a tour of the Amalfi Coast may enjoy the annual Festa della Vendemmia in September, dedicated to the local wine harvest and winemaking traditions in Tramonti
Amalfi Coast Travel Tips
Climate of the Amalfi Coast
The best time to take your Amalfi Coast vacation is between April and June, when the weather is warm enough for the famous flower beds and gardens to be in full bloom. July and August tend to be the busiest and hottest months, so consider visiting outside of the high season for a more comfortable holiday.
If you choose to go during the winter, you will miss the warm, exotic garden scenes, but the cold creates a dramatic, mysterious atmosphere along the coastline where waves crash into the cliffs. Keep in mind, however, that many restaurants and cafes close during the winter.
Transportation on the Amalfi Coast
Buses are the most common method of public transportation on the Amalfi Coast, with routes reaching all over the region. Tickets must be purchased before boarding the bus (they're often available at cafes and shops), and don't forget to clip your ticket at the machine above the bus steps. Be aware the winding roads around hills and mountains can make passengers sensitive to motion sickness ill, so consider taking a private car if this is the case. Scooters are also available for rent, but be very careful around the cliff-hugging roads.