Refresh Your Spirit: Visit Italy’s Amalfi Coast
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The Amalfi Coast — a strip of craggy rocks and jaw-dropping cliffs extending down Italy between Sorrento and Salerno — is, during late spring and early summer, an idyllic getaway and spiritual pilgrimage.
People often talk about the culinary and historic beauty of Naples. But between the gypsy pickpockets, overcrowded ’70s-style airport and collection of dated luxury hotels that line the seafront, Naples may best be seen through a rear-view mirror.
Day 1 — Sorrento
Insiders whisper that the best parts of Sorrento, a historic port city with lively main square, are kept outside the city.
Inner Sorrento looks as much like a city as you really want to see on the Italian Riviera. Just outside of town is where you’ll want to check into La Minervetta, located on a perilous cliff overlooking the Bay of Naples and nearby Port of Sorrento, which is the gateway to Capri.
Chic loft-style rooms feature floor to ceiling windows and regional color palette with delicious in-house restaurant with blue-and-white tiling and stylish clientele.
Day 2 — Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi
A trip to Don Alfonso 1890, located in nearby Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi, is essential.
This much-heralded restaurant is one of the best in Italy, located in a rural ocean community between Sorrento and Positano. Father and son chefs Alfonso and Ernesto Iaccarino have created a two-star Michelin sanctuary of fine dining located on a working farm with a newly unveiled five-room hotel.
The Iaccarino family operates the boutique hotel, paying attention to every last detail including morning homemade breakfast to afternoon strolls through local shops and markets.
Rooms are meticulously decorated without a hint of provincial taste, evoking Italian grandeur with a collection of baroque antiques, carved-wood furnishings and intricate color-tile bathrooms.
Day 3 and 4 — Positano
Get an early start on the day in order to backtrack through local farmhouses to the highway leading to Positano. It’s your first true stop along the Amalfi, accessed through harrowing roads carved out of ominous cliffs that drop to rock beaches dotting the seaside.
Positano delivers that iconic image of cuddled villas along the hillside interconnected by moss-covered roadways and pedestrian staircases carved from stone.
Navigating the city is tricky, but make your way carefully to Le Sirenuse, owned for generations by the Sersale family.
Positano — Hit the Beach
Once you’ve unpacked, head to the beach. It’s a busy stretch of rocks and pebble stones, dotted with the orange-and-white umbrellas of the local beach club and a small harbor of boats dropping off visitors and fresh catches to the local restaurants.
Walk toward the end of the beach for the best crowd of locals. Local women traipse about in bold bikinis, while the guys flaunt their bronzed torsos in swimsuits that would make most American men squirm.
Grab one of the metal canvas loungers, around €8 for all-day use, preferably in the second or third row from the beach to minimize the painful rocks encountered on the way to the water.
Positano — Storm the Shops
The Emporio Sirenuse hotel shop, located across the street from the hotel, is operated by the owner’s wife. It offers a stylish and chic collection of tableware, clothing and fragrances created exclusively for the Sirenuse.
One favorite is Eau d’Italie, available in the states through eluxury.com.
Positano — Gourmet Exploring
Il San Pietro, the other great hotel in Positano, has a restaurant run by Belgian chef Alois Vanlangenaeker, who cooks up regional specialties of the Campania region.
For something a bit more casual, make your way through town to a small wine bar and terrace restaurant known as Max’s.
In a library-inspired dining room, the chef serves up daily Italian specialties and a wine list popular with local and summer residents.
During warmer months, the outdoor patio is dripping in well-coiffed ladies and cigar-smoking gents.
Day 4 — Praiano
Praiano is really an overgrown fishing village located between Amalfi and Positano. Rolling hills of wild flowers and blossoming bougainvillea are intersected by dramatic views of the Mediterranean where British Hotelier David Stein runs Casa Angelina.
A sleek five-story hotel of white minimalism overlooks a tranquil panorama of ocean views. The interior of the hotel is a vision of white with ivory slip-covered sofas and freestanding lamps draped in fabric.
A teak terrace and small lap pool is surrounded by resin Phillipe Stark patio furnishings and slightly more comfy redwood loungers topped off with oiled-up Italians and Brits yet to get that Amalfi glow.
Ravello — Day 5 and 6
It’s a short drive between Praiano and Ravello, through smaller fishing villages and beach towns leading to a two-lane road of twist and turns that lead to Ravello.
The town is a literary gem of 2,500 inhabitants that have included Gore Vidal, Richard Wagner, Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens. Its majestic location atop a mountain promontory yields unrivaled views of the coast.
Ravello — The Great Hotel Wars
Until recently, the historic Palazzo Sasso, with its Moorish façade and glittery mantle of international hotel awards, dominated the local hospitality scene.
But three years ago, Orient Express’s Hotel Caruso opened just a short ways away with newer guest rooms, newer restaurant and newer everything.
Younger, style-minded guests are still best to book into the Palazzo with its glam-packed pool, with an older and more sedate crowd better served at the Caruso.
Ravello — Finishing Bites
Tourist-laden eateries and the omnipresent Catholic Church dominate the main square of Ravello. The best restaurants are found at the end of shaded courtyards and back alleyways.
Seek out the infamous Cumpa Cosimo, where the matriarch chef has been serving in-the-know visitors such as, at one point, Jackie Onassis, for more than 45 years.