Most people, when they think of visiting Italy for the first time, prioritize Rome, Venice, or Florence. Not me.
I wanted to travel to the Amalfi Coast of Italy more than any other place, and I was not disappointed!
After a 5 hour drive from the hills of Tuscany, through some strange routes (thank you, GPS!) and daunting hairpin turns through the mountains, we arrived at the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. When we pulled up to the enchanting Santa Caterina Hotel we were shown to our room (42) with a breathtaking view of the coast. We enjoyed a lovely dinner in the hotel dining room that evening.
The next day, we went on an 8 hour tour of the coast with a private driver, which, though a bit pricey, was an excellent decision. Our driver took us to see things we would never have known to stop for without his guidance, since he is a local. We used Sorrento Silver Star tours, and were quite comfortable in a Mercedes sedan. Here are some of the things we saw:
We visited Positano, had lunch in Sorrento, and did some more shopping. We then headed to Pompeii, where we had a private guide, a lovely woman named Lucia. Lucia talked about the history of Pompeii, how it came to be discovered, and how advanced their engineering was, due to the brain trust of slaves from across the globe that the Pompeiians brought back to the city.
Pompeii is fascinating and a must-see if you can get there on your visit to Italy.
The next day we spent a few hours wandering the streets of Amalfi, where of course there was more shopping, more coffee, and more wonderful people-watching.
Amalfi is a large port, so it’s a bustling place with cruise ships sending tenders back and forth.
Then we spent the afternoon lazing by the pool and enjoying the view.
That evening we went to the town of Ravello, about 20 minutes up in the hills above Amalfi. Our taxi driver Francesco was quite a character, and took great pride in his beloved Amalfi Coast. When we told him which restaurant we were going to, he decided that he would also eat there and then drive us home. He was quite friendly with the owners of the restaurant. Imagine that happening in Los Angeles. Or New York.
Ravello is a storybook place, a hidden little village with (of course) wonderful shops and cafes. With a population of around 2300, Ravello is smaller than my children’s high school. We chatted with the owner of a cafe where we stopped for – yet another – coffee (the coffee in Italy is ah-maz-ing), and he told us about the people in the community and the celebrities – Gore Vidal, Mick Jagger and more – who have visited and lived in Sorrento, and who he had met.
Cumpa´Cosimo, where we had dinner, is exactly the kind of place you imagine when you think of a family-owned restaurant in Italy. We asked the “Mama” whose family owns the restaurant to make us whatever she wanted, and our meal was fantastic! We sampled 6 different kinds of pasta, ate roasted artichokes, steaks, and lots of local wine. We tried homemade sausage and cheese. Afterwards, when he had finished his pizza, Francesco drove us back to the Santa Caterina for our last night in the paradise that is the Amalfi Coast.
I was sad to leave the Amalfi Coast – not only is it beautiful, but the people are warm, friendly and relaxed. Of all the places we visited in Italy, this is the one I’d most like to return to.
Next week, our last stop – Rome!
Read part 1 – Florence
Read part 2 – Tuscan Countryside and Hill Towns
If you want to travel to the Amalfi Coast in Italy, don’t forget to buy a copy of Rick Steves’ Italy guidebook (affiliate link) if you’re planning a trip. It’s the best resource I found!