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. Pastel-painted houses cling to steep slopes and tiered gardens descend to the sea. Here is our guide to the top 5 highlights on the Amalfi Coast.
Positano with its pastel-painted houses clinging to slopes shelving steeply down to the sea is a highlight of the dramatic Amalfi Coast. Photo: Shutterstock
Positano with its pastel-painted houses clinging to slopes shelving steeply down to the sea is a highlight of the dramatic Amalfi Coast. Photo: Shutterstock

The towns dotted along the dramatic, rugged scenery of the vertiginous Amalfi coastline are perfect destinations in which to savor 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. And unlike much of the south of Italy, the town caters supremely well to travelers. 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 Capri, 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. You can take boat tours to view the stalactites and stalagmites in this spectacular cavern bathed in emerald-green light.

A 15-minute drive away, set in a broad ravine in the cliffs, lies Amalfi. The town was a major trading center in Byzantine times but is now a pleasant resort visited for its cathedral, picturesque alleys and engaging seafront. From the main piazza, 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 exhibiting 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 artisan, handmade paper produced in the town.

4. Ravello

The loveliest town along the coastline is Ravello. It 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. The same family also built the splendid Moorish-influenced Villa Rufolo opposite. Its 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 savored 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.

Discover the beautiful towns of Amalfi, Positano, and Ravello as part of Insight Guides' Best of South Italy trip.

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. The mild climate, lush vegetation and hedonistic lifestyle here have captivated artists, writers and Roman emperors. Today’s travelers, arriving by ferry from Sorrento, can easily reach the remains of Tiberius’ Villa from Capri town. 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. Limoncello di Capri, the island's lemon-infused liqueur, enhances any melodramatic views. Contrary to its reputation, Capri’s sultry lifestyle and cliff-side trails are far more enjoyable than the celebrity antics and designer shopping. 

Explore Mount Etna in Sicily and the rugged scenery on the Amalfi Coast and Capri as part of Insight Guides' An Italian dream trip: Rome, Sicily and the Amalfi Coast.

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 organize fantastic trips in Italy and on 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. Local travel experts will then create a personalized itinerary especially, which you can amend until you are happy with every detail before booking. Browse our existing itineraries in Italy for inspiration, and keep in mind that they can all be tailored to suit your specific requirements.

Updated 3 February, 2020