The Amalfi Coast: Experience Southern Italy

Amalfi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with cultural and historic significance. Small, pretty and colourful towns sit neatly on dramatic cliffs, offering scenic coastal views. It’s also very romantic: from the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean sea and colourful towns tucked into the steep hills; to the classic music concerts held at Ravello (if you’re a fan of Wagner, check out the annual outdoor concerts); to the delicious, authentic pizzas (try pizza al taglio) and gelatos; to the chic fashion boutiques (visit Positano); to the homely, traditional pottery and other mementos you can pick up to remember your trip to this magical place. It was mid April when I traveled with my Italian partner to meet family in the beautiful coast of Amalfi. We realised only when we got back from the trip that had we gone just weeks later, the weather would have been perfect. Although we encountered cold winds and overcast days during our one-week trip, we had one of our best holidays, owing to the shimmering turquoise sea on sunny days and the rich culture, food and colours of southern Italy. amalfi positano italy

Preparing for your visit

The best time of year to visit the Amalfi  is in blossoming Spring! (May-June) If you go earlier, you will get grey, grey skies and cold weather, and who wants that? If you go in spring or early summer the flowers are in bloom, spreading their scent and vibrant colours far and wide.

What to pack

Good walking shoes are a must. Gear up for a lot of walking, especially if you want to explore the string of towns: Amalfi, Atrani, Maori, Minori by foot, which includes walking down narrow cobbled streets and along winding roads that overlook lemon and orange gardens above the sea. Not to mention climbing up and down steep flights of stairs daily! Pack light cardigans and jackets in case you’re outdoors and it gets chilly. You’ll also want to pack a good outfit for going out. Bring an umbrella that fits in your handbag, if you’re going in April especially – it rained sometimes during our trip.

Where to stay

We stayed at a homely, family-run B & B and were picked up at the Naples airport by the owner. Our bedroom had a stunning view of the bluest of seas. We enjoyed breakfast of freshly squeezed juice and warm croissants on the little balcony overlooking the sea. I highly recommend Pio’s B & B: ‘Eva Rooms’. Like all places in Amalfi, there is a great deal of staircase climbing as Campania is a hilly region.

Getting Around

Bus rides, boat rides and tours expand your reach to must-see places like Positano, Capri islands, Ravello. And if you have the time, extend yourself to Pompeii, Sorrento and Naples as well. We didn’t have the spare time to go beyond Amalfi coast, but have heard so much about these historic cities. Speaking of missed opportunities, we nearly made it to the blue grotto, but the weather that day didn’t cooperate. The Blue grotto is a sea cave on Capri island, with a glowing blue lighting up the cavern. It’s accessible only when the tide is low, making it a rare and precious experience. To enter, you have to lie flat in the boat just until you pass though the opening. A gorgeous sight awaits you inside.  

What to do

If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind historic experience, visit Villa Cimbrone with its belvedere, Terrazzo dell’lnfinito (the Terrace of Infinity). Much to see in terms of interesting architecture, courtyards, lush gardens and poems-on-plaques. Stand on the Terrace of Infinity with an infinite stretch of blue before you, from right to left. Visit the great Cattedrale di Sant’Andrea/Duomo di Amalfi (St. Andrew’s cathedral). It’s exquisite. The square, (called ‘piazza’) can be seen as you sit on the cathedral stairs. This is one of the many authentic Italian experiences of Amalfi! Savour it. Visit the piazza at night, when there is often live music played by the locals, and people appear in their balconies and windows to listen to romantic, serenade-style songs in the cool Spring air. Buy a little something to remember your trip. It could be a colourful terracotta bowl or a delicate coral rose strung on a gold-chain. You will want something to remind you of this amazingly unique experience. Fashion here is chic. Walk into any boutique and fall in love with summer dresses and floral print scarves. One of the unforgettable dining experiences I had was at the restaurants, where big families warmed up the atmosphere with cheerful smiles, loud laughter and (if you’re lucky) songs. Children’s singsong voices filled the air, without being told to be quiet. The Italian language is very musical.  

Amalfi Experiences – Checklist:

-Italian pizza – the authentic, handmade, buffalo-mozzarella kind (grab pizza al taglio for lunch) -Italian ice cream (gelato) – don’t overdo the number of scoops, it’s SO decadent! -Buy a little something to remember your trip. -Visit as many places as you can, explore the surrounding area -Ravello’s gardens and the famous Terrace of Infinity (a panoramic view of the sea that’s pretty incredible!) -Concerts, including the Wagner open air. (Check timetables and book in advance) -Capri island, Blue Grotto (weather permitting) -Cathedral in the square (remember the sitting on the stairs bit) -Handmade Paper Museum (good for handbound notebooks, as well as loose leaf paper) –Limoncello, a lemon drink (Probably the largest lemons I’ve seen) -Watch Amalfi painters on the beach, painting scenes live

The Art of it

It’s not surprising that the likes of composer Richard Wagner and playwright Henrik Ibsen have not only visited Amalfi, but have also worked artistically on projects during their stay. Amalfi a rare mix of beauty, seclusion, art & culture and sublime nature. So, if you’re looking for a romantic or artistic holiday in Italy, with that extra special something, the Amalfi coast might be just the place!

Sahya Samson

Sahya Samson is an author and freelance writer. She expresses herself through many art forms, and has visited, lived and studied abroad.