Dolce vita all’ Amalfitana

Vanessa Boz

The story

With the Vesuvio rising tall and proud, the bay of Napoli extending widely until Capri, and the Amalfi coastline in the background, there is no more beautiful landing in the world than in Napoli airport. Italy is synonym with red, passion, dolce vita and pasta, we all know that. However, the Amalfi coast also brings softness, with its long windy roads and gentle blues blending in the horizon. The region has quite a few landmarks and it’s a tricky decision when it comes to choosing a base. Capri, located in the distance of Napoli’s bay could be visited for the day but it wouldn’t give this stunning island justice. Sorrento, with its graphic beach clubs makes a photogenic first stop going South on the coast. Positano comes next with its picture-perfect white houses dotting the hills. Then, it’s Amalfi, a larger town with a proper harbour and imposing aristocratic houses. And high up, Ravello, standing proud and discreet over the cliffs.

For the epicurean, the Amalfi coast is filled with outstanding places of delight. From the little trattoria hidden away in villages to the fancier alternatives of Positano and Capri, the mamas and papas in the kitchens need only to extend an arm to collect the freshest produce in the country. First-crush olive oils, bright organic lemons, juicy red tomatoes paired with melting burrata, meals are a feast from breakfast until late at night. The sea provides an added source of culinary pleasures, whether you like your fish seared, in carpaccio or perhaps marinated with olives and capers.

For the sun seeker, the multitude of little bays takes the art of farniente to an extreme. Hiring a skipper for a day and hopping from beach to islets is a wonderful way to discover the photogenic coastline. Pebble stone beaches are a gentle reminder of the limestone sea cliffs hanging above. The contrast between the deep blues of the sea and the bright white of the coast are blinding with the noon sun.

For the culturist, there is an abundance of festivals during the spring and summer months, culminating with the world-renowned Ravello music festival. Under Apollo’s guidance, the sky and the sounds seem to merge in a magical tune in this little town perched high up above Positano.

Yet, for a region so famous the world over, it is remarkable how many pockets of quiet and discreet charm one can still enjoy. Take Capri, the grande dame of luxury. She has seen it all from Jackie Kennedy to the curious day-tourists visiting from Napoli. However, beyond the busy little harbour and climbing towards Anacapri, one is reminded of the simple pleasures that the island has to offer. Scents of orange blossoms mixed with pine trees, a shoemaker offering his services seated on a stool in front of his shop window. A widow dressed in the customary black, hanging the bed sheets to dry under the sun. Hikes in the surrounding forests of the island provide another perspective, with vistas high above the deep blues of the sea.

Indeed, there is more than one side to the Amalfi coast and one would miss it entirely by coming for just a few days. Soaking in gently the dolce vita is a must to appreciate this treasure given to all of us by the Roman gods.

When to go?

Of course, one would prefer the heat of the summer to lounge by the water. However, the region is a dream destination all year long with the blues of the sky merging gently with the colours of the sea at any point of time. May, June and September would be our favorites if we really had to choose.

How to get there?

The Amalfi coast is best approached via Napoli, whether arriving by train from Rome and beyond, or landing near the Vesuvio. Just make sure to book a window seat.

Not to be missed is a drive along the coast between Sorrento and Amalfi, preferably in a red convertible Alfa Romeo, long hair flying in the wind and big sunglasses firmly on.

When in Capri, the (costly) local taxis, or the little city shuttles are perfectly fine to move around, or to go up and down between Capri and Anacapri.

Experiences

Everything you always wanted to know about limoncello

The best limoncellos in the world come from the Amalfi coast, on this tiny stretch of coastline going south from Napoli all the way until the town of Amalfi. A visit to Ana’s garden, in Sorrento, is an invitation to all the senses. The bright yellows and oranges of the citruses dot the expansive garden all around, the sweet smell of blossom floats in the air, the sharp taste of a limoncello ice cream freshens the taste buds and the mind. Ana shares her knowledge and passion generously, and we leave with the feeling that making limoncellos is a whole art in itself.

In the kitchen with Mamma Agata

It is no secret that one can eat well pretty much anywhere in Italy. However, the recipes behind the dishes are often a hushed secret shared only among family members. What can we do when we have no access to insider information? We enroll in one of Mamma Agata’s lively cooking course. She warmly welcomes guests in her beautiful kitchen facing the Mediterranean sea, high up in Ravello. Mamma Agata has delighted the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy, but her recipes have remained simple and genuine. The course is concluded with the sharing of a meal, and a little glass of limoncello prepared by Mamma Agata herself.

Discover the hidden corners of the Amalfi coast

The coastline of Capri and Amalfi is full of hidden gems, whether they are pretty little coves where one can swim alone, or wonderful fish restaurants only accessible by sea. Gabriella is a passionate local who puts together discovery itineraries by boat - or by foot - to reach those places away from the tourist trail. She can plan an afternoon of fishing aboard one of her boats, or she will organize a special lunch in a place as good as it is unspoilt. Spending an afternoon with Gabriella reminds us that the thrill is all about the journey, and not the destination.

Our address book

Da Adolfo

Lunch like a (chic) local in Positano

Arrive in style at Da Adolfo after being picked up in the harbor of Positano by private boat, and know that if you miss it, you can always get there with a taxi boat. Or swimming! For this little gem of a restaurant is hidden away on the 5th beach of Positano and only those in the know will remember to book a table ahead. Feet in the sand, lively communal tables, house wine pouring generously, Adolfo (or his offsprings, as he sadly passed away a few years ago) serves some of the most authentic and freshest fish on this part of the coast.

5th bay of Positano

Il Riccio

A beach club like no other

Deep blue waters reflected on crisp white sun loungers and turquoise blue towels. Chic, chic, chic by the beach! Il Riccio is the private beach club of the guests at Capri Palace Hotel, but the good news is that the restaurant is an absolute gem and if you book a table, you’ll be able to spend the whole day there. Riccio means Sea Urchins in Italian, and this is a delectable specialty of this fantastic restaurant. There are many other dishes to try, most are based on the catch of the day. Oh, we wouldn’t need much convince to spend a whole day there.

Capri coast

Trattoria Da Cumpa Cosimo

Eat chez La Mama

Mama Netta oversees the kitchen while her husband greets you by the door and her children serve you with a smile. This is family business at its best. The restaurant has been in the hands of Netta’s family for more than 75 of its 300-plus years, and Netta has been cooking for more than 60 of those years. Typical Ravellan dishes together with special off-menu pasta dishes, complete with homemade gelati or cheesecake like no other. Old-fashioned just the way we like it.

Via Roma, 44, 84010 Ravello

The Quisi Bar

A bellini and some people-watching please

Come here refreshed after a long day spent on a boat, ready to enjoy a little bit of people-watching together with one of the best Bellini that you will have ever tasted. To top it all, the tuxedo-wearing old-school waiter will bring you a feast of little aperitivi. Why resist? The Quisi Bar is the place to be comes the end of the day in Capri, although we are told that breakfast on the terrace is not bad either...

Grand Hotel Quisina, Via Camerelle, 2, 80073 Capri

The Lobster and Martini Bar

Sunset indulgence in Ravello

Once an aristocratic residence from as far back as the 12th century, the luxurious Avino Hotel offers some of the most beautiful views that Ravello is famous for. The resident mixologist uses herbs and seasonal fruits to create exotic versions of martinis, together with classic cocktails executed skillfully. The hotel owns an impressive art collection that can be admired as soon as you enter the lobby.

Palazzo Avino Hotel, Via S. Giovanni del Toro, 28, 84010 Ravello

Pasticceria Pansa

Taking the pulse of Amalfi town

Seating right by the imposing Duomo of Amalfi, Pasticceria Pansa is the place to take the pulse of this mythical town. Starched white table cloths and tuxedoed waiters set the tone and the buzz around the piazza provides a lively beat. A fresh glass of prosecco tastes even better with a little sweet patisserie flavoured with fresh lemons from the owner’s nearby farm.

Via Duca Mansone, 40, 84011 Amalfi

Mount Solaro

Closer to the Gods

You can hike to Mount Solaro, the highest point on Capri island, or you can take a chair lift. And we’d strongly encourage you to use the latter for the fun of it. Dating back to the 1960’s, this chair lift starts in the heart of Anacapri, not too far from the Villa Michele Foundation which is very much worth a visit. The lift takes you to breathtaking views dominating the whole Mediterranean, and for a moment, you might really feel closer to the Gods.

Anacapri

Safari

Handmade leather sandals

This tiny shop just above Positano's main beach sells handmade sandals that will last season after season. From the basic models (either classic thongs or the spider's web design) to the more sophisticated beaded versions, you can even custom make your own pair with a little bit of notice.

Positano

Ravello music festival

Classical music under the stars

The Ravello festival is one of the oldest and most renowned festival in Italy. It has given the name City of Music to this enchanting town perched above the Amalfi coast. Classical music star Marta Argerich and artist Francesco Clemente were a few of the prestigious names dotting the agenda in recent years. It might be worth planning a stay in the region around the dates of the festival.

Ravello