Top 5 highlights on the Amalfi Coast, Italy

On the southern shore of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, the Amalfi region encompasses some of the country’s most spectacular coastline, with pastel-painted houses clinging to steep slopes and tiered gardens descending to the sea. Here is our guide to the top 5 highlights on the Amalfi Coast.
Positano at sunset, Amalfi Coast. Photo: Shutterstock
Positano at sunset, Amalfi Coast. Photo: Shutterstock

The towns dotted along the dramatic, rugged scenery of the vertiginous Amalfi coastline are perfect destinations in which to savour la dolce vita in Italy. Read on for our selection of highlights on the Amalfi Coast.

1. Sorrento

Visitors to Sorrento, whether arriving from the noisy streets of Naples or from the scorched ruins of Pompeii, will find a peaceful retreat and a sedate resort that, unlike much of the south of Italy, caters supremely well to travellers. There’s not much more to Sorrento than sniffing lemon groves and sipping Limoncello in cafés with cliffside views – but that is exactly what the town has been providing beautifully well for centuries. Charming, slightly faded hotels and gracious service compensate for the tiny beaches. Above all, Sorrento makes a serene base from which to explore the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capris, as well as to make more energy-sapping sorties to Naples and Pompeii.

Fishing boats moored in the Marina Grande, SorrentoFishing boats moored in the Marina Grande, Sorrento. Photo: Shutterstock

2 & 3. Positano and Amalfi

Positano, with its cute houses clustered on a steeply shelving slope, enjoys a mystique at odds with its self-conscious simplicity. Although beloved by the dolce vita crowd, picturesque Positano is actually quite a relaxed place. The small yet imposing Church of Santa Maria Assunta overlooks the main beach, which is backed by bars and restaurants, while the village’s steep, narrow streets are lined with boutiques and cafés.

The precipitous Positano to Amalfi road passes through several tunnels before reaching the Grotta di Smer­aldo, a cavern bathed in emerald-green light where you can take boat tours to view the stalactites and stalagmites. 

A 15-minute drive away, set in a broad ravine in the cliffs, lies the town of Amalfi, which was a major trading centre in Byzantine times but is now a pleasant resort visited for its cathedral, picturesque alleys and engaging seafront. From the main piazza, adorned by a fountain, a flight of steps climbs up to the 11th-century bronze door of Amalfi’s Romanesque Duomo, which has an ornately decorated interior complemented by Saracen-influenced cloisters. From the adjacent museum housing religious treasures, steps lead down to a crypt which houses the remains of the Christian apostle St Andrew. Before leaving the town, linger over a limoncello or browse for Vietri ceramics and fine quality, handmade paper produced in the town.

4. Ravello

The loveliest town along the coastline is Ravello, which luxuriates high above Amalfi in lush gardens and panoramic views, the best on the coast. Ravello’s Duomo is celebrated for its Romanesque bronze doors and fine marble pulpit, held aloft by six roaring lions. The pulpit was presented to the church in the 13th century by the Rufolo dynasty, who built the splendid Moorish-influenced Villa Rufolo opposite. The villa’s romantic gardens and cloister overlook the sea and are the setting for the Ravello Festival, a highbrow annual summer music celebration.

The most memorable views can be savoured from the extensive gardens at the Villa Cimbrone, built at the end of the 19th century by a wealthy Englishman, Ernest William Beckett. The villa, once a haunt of the writers and philosophers in the Bloomsbury Set, is now an exquisite hotel offering fine dining and an outdoor pool.

Villa Rufolo's gardens, Ravello.

Villa Rufolo's gardens, Ravello. Photo: Shutterstock

5. Capri Island

Of the three islands just outside the Gulf of Naples, Capri is the star. This is Italy’s St Tropez, where the mild climate, lush vegetation and hedonistic lifestyle have captivated artists, writers and Roman emperors. Today’s travellers, arriving by ferry or hydrofoil from Sorrento, can reach the remains of Tiberius’ Villa by bus from the town of Capri. A boat trip can whisk you to the celebrated cavern of the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto), supposedly Tiberius’ private bathing pool.

From Anacapri, on the west side of the island, a chairlift from Piazza Vittoria climbs up Monte Solaro. Its 360-degree view encompasses the southern Apennines, Naples, Vesuvius, Sorrento and Ischia. In Anacapri, the 18th-century church of San Michele is worth a visit for its majolica-tiled pavement. In Capri town, stroll through the lush Giardini di Augusto (Gardens of Augustus), created over a Roman settlement, before taking the winding Via Krupp down to the sea. Marina Pic­cola is a beguiling spot for walks and a seafood lunch by the bay, while limoncello di Capri, the island's lemon-infused liqueur, enhances any melodramatic view. Contrary to its reputation, Capri’s sultry lifestyle and cliffside trails are far more enjoyable than the celebrity antics and designer shopping.

Faraglioni seascape off Capri island.

Faraglioni seascape off Capri island. Photo: Shutterstock

Ready to take a trip to Italy's Amalfi Coast?

Insight Guides can help you plan and organise fantastic trips to Italy and the Amalfi Coast. Simply get in touch with us to share your ideas for the trip and let us know when you would like to travel. Our local experts will then create a personalised itinerary based on your preferences, which you can amend until you're totally happy with every detail before booking. Our existing itineraries in Italy can offer inspiration, and keep in mind that all of our planned itineraries can be tailored to suit your specific requirements.

Updated 16 July, 2019