|Here I am soaking up the
wonderful atmosphere on
the Amalfi coast.
This area is certainly beautiful, but you won't enjoy it very much if you visit at the wrong time, or don't know a few basic things before going. Here are a few helpful hints:
WHEN TO VISIT
We visited during Easter week. We didn't do it on purpose, but we usually travel during our Passover holiday and Passover and Easter fell together this year. In Italy, Easter Sunday is of course a holiday, Monday after Easter Sunday is another holiday (the Easter Festival), and this year the Tuesday after Easter was April 25, another holiday. In addition, the next Monday was May 1, also considered a holiday in Italy. Soooo, many Italians took off the whole week, and things were far more congested and crowded than we had expected. Despite all this, we enjoyed it, but driving around and maneuvering among all the visitors is not easy. Now, if you take the number of visitors during this week, and multiply by 5, that's about what it's like during the summer months. Traffic is terrible, parking is impossible, crowds are huge, and lines are long. I would recommend against visiting during the summer months. Also, keep in mind that the weather here is mild most of the year and you can visit any time - even in winter!
This is not an area to drive in for the "faint of heart". The drive from Sorrento through the Amalfi coast and all the way to Vietre sul Mare is a narrow cliff road with lots of traffic. I have to say that the local Italian drivers and all the bus drivers are very impressive in their command of the logistics of driving here (driving here is somewhat akin to maneuvering a satellite in space), but it is still a nerve wrecking experience. Actually, I was quite amazed at some of the maneuvering required to get 2 buses to pass each other going in opposite directions around a tight curve. This can result in a 20 minute traffic tie-up, with all the local volounteer traffic cops moving one vehicle at a time around the curve.
On the other hand, there is plenty of public transportation - both the train, which we didn't use, and the buses which we did.
What can I say here?? You have to be lucky. Some places have parking lots, some don't. Even where there are parking lots, they may be full, and they're not so cheap. The highest price we found for parking in a parking lot was $3.50 per hour, which was in Positano on a "festival day". On a normal day, it would have been only $3.00 per hour. The worst places were the larger towns, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, but it's tough parking anywhere. In the smallest towns, you can park just about anywhere, if you can find a place. Click here to see an example of the best place to park in ravello - directly under the "towaway zone" sign.
Most of the restaurants are good, and the difference in price isn't that much between the average ones and the better ones. Almost all the restaurants serve pizza so don't let the "pizzeria" sign put you off. That's just the way it is. Only the very best restaurants do not serve pizza. A very good meal in a good restaurant will cost between 15 and 25 dollars.
The most ubiquitous "culinary" symbol of the area is the lemon!! You can find it in roadside stands everywhere and this is where the famous liqueur "lemoncino" is made.
Here are the highlights of our trip.
The drive from Rome to the Naples area is only about 2 hours, but from there to Sorrento, it can be another 2 hours. The highway (A2) from Naples to the beginning of the Sorrentino peninsula, near Pompei, is an ugly congested road. From there, the road to Sorrento is also pretty slow, although far more pleasant. There are other options, but not many. Sorrento is actually the beginning of the Amalfi coast, which continues to Vietri Sul Mare.
Sorrento is a delightful place to stay and visit. You can stay here and visit the entire area, but the driving isn't easy, and the atmosphere is quite different in Sorrento than it is in the area of Positano of Amalfi. It's only a 30-40 drive from Sorrento to Praiano, where we stayed next, but we loved staying there and wouldn't have done it any differently. Next time, if there is a next time, we will probably stay the entire time on the Amalfi coast.
was alive and packed with people until late at night. (It was the Easter
weekend.) It was fun just strolling around and shopping. Parking
here is a serious problem and you have to select your hotel very carefully.
Location is important, and many of those which are not close to town have
a shuttle bus which runs in both directions several times a day. We stayed
at the "Aminta" hotel
which is located on a hill above the town. It has a shuttle bus which had
a reasonable schedule, and the local bus stops directly across from the
hotel. There is also a foot path down to the town (30 minutes, down
only - not recommended for return), Despite the jokes, the buses ran fairly
close to the schedule, except on holidays, when nobody knows when they
will come. There are many hotels on the near outskirts of the town, about
a 10-15 minute walk. There are also taxis which will take about $10 from
the Aminta to downtown. If you do go to Sorrento, don't miss visiting "The
Foreigners' Club" located in the center of the old town directly above
the port. It is actually a large garden cafe with the best information
services in town and and free, available, clean restrooms with unlimited
|Best restaurant||L' Antica Trattoria||in the old city|
|Best restaurant for lunch||Da Gigino||in the old city|
|Most interesting restaurant||O'Parracchiano||on the main street near the Cathedral, this restaurant is a gigantic garden|
Here's a picture of the symbol of the entire area - Mount Vesuvius, taken from above the port of Sorrento. It's a rare day to get such a beautiful view of the mountain, as it is usually shrouded in mist.
We took the boat to Capri from Sorrento. The port arrangements are absolute chaos and if the sea is rough, so is the ride. On our ride over, one person threw up breakfast, and many didn't enjoy the ride. It takes about 30 minutes. Don't order coffee (or any other hot drink) on this ride. If the sea is rough, you can't hold the cup without spilling it all over anyone in the vicinity. Some advice on Capri - don't linger in the port. It looks good in this picture but it's very very commercialized. Get up to Capri, or Anacapri as quickly as possible. From either one, there are a variety of walks (no cars up here) which, if the day is nice, provide breathtaking views in every direction. Here...take a look. From Capri, walk to see the Faraglioni (large sea boulders), the "natural arch", (exactly what it says it is), any of several grottos, and walk around the town of Capri itself. Parts of these walks can be quite strenuous, so check first. For example, if you want to walk 40 minutes each way, go see the Villa Jovis, which was a disappointment for us. The view is great, but there isn't much of a villa left, and it certainly wasn't worth the walk.
We did not go to Anacapri, and we did not visit the famed blue grotto. It's a bit of a hassle and I think the walks around Capri are far more worth the time. We visited a different grotto on the Amalfi coast (the green grotto), and were told by someone who went to both that the green one was better than the blue one.
Pompei is an absolute must. It is fascinating to see this entire town so well preserved. It is about a 40 minute ride from Sorrento, and the first thing you see when you get off the highway is 3 or 4 parking lots, each with a sign saying they are "THE OFFICIAL" safe parking area for Pompei. We parked at the first one, and found out that they are all private, but they do provide "guarded" parking and if you eat at their restaurant, the parking is free.
Positano is beautiful!! It's set like a pearl on the slope of the cliff as it rises above the sea. Forget about parking here. Take a bus to get here and just stroll around, or park on the outskirts of town and walk a bit. Positano is noted as a center for women's clothing. Here are Alisa's observations on the shopping.
"So many stores!! So much clothing ! My head is spinning... Where should I go first? Elegant stuff? Casual? Light? Dark? Shoes? Sandals? Oh, my! Will Steve let me try on all the dresses that I like? Won't he be mad at my endless browsing? I keep on looking and trying to remember the stores that I liked. Here's one. I go in and the storeowner meets me with a big smile. What do I want? I point at a blue dress. Blue is my favorite color. I try it on. Too bad. It's too big. Shall we go? asks Steve. Wait! here's a red one. I try it on. "Looks nice", says he. That's only the beginning. "Tomorrow we'll come back again. I promise" he says.. We did. I bought. He took more pictures... Love Positano!!"
Despite all the hype and the reputation, we didn't see too many bargains, but there was a big selection.
There are probably lots of good restaurants in Positano, but we fell in love with one just outside of town in the direction of Praiano. It's called La Taverna del Leone. We went back twice and became regular customers. We even had our own table.
Praiano isn't one of the major attractions on the Amalfi coast, but it is located between Positano and Amalfi, and is a lot quieter than either. Nearby is the "Green Grotto", the Fjord of Furore, and its own little beach. We stayed at a small family owned hotel called "Onda Verde", and we loved every minute there. They have a wonderful home page, so I won't waste our time here - just go check it out. If you do go to Praiano, the best restaurant in town (simple and family owned) is La Brace.
Here's the view from our room window at the Onda Verde.
Similar to Positano, although somewhat smaller. We were there on Wednesday and were able to browse in the local weekly market. The clothing selection wasn't much less than in Positano, although not the same quality. The next town on the road is Minori. Here's a picture of this pleasant little town.
Ravello is a jewel. It's up the mountains above Amalfi and Minori. It is absolutely beautiful. The views are stupendous. We had a delightful lunch at the Parsifal Hotel. Have a look at the view from the Parsifal hotel. Do not miss Ravello. It is also on a road which crossed the mountain and can be used to avoid the Naples highway.
VIETRE SUL MARE
This is the last town on the Amalfi drive before reaching Salerno. If you like ceramics, stop by. The town is literally covered with ceramics of all types. On the other hand, the town is also really ugly and unpleasant. I love ceramics, but we left pretty quickly.
Caserta is about 30 minutes north of Naples. Here you can visit the "Versailles of Italy". It is a royal palace built in the 18th century and was modeled on Versailles in France. It's called the Reggia, and is a fascinating place to visit. It's not easy to find as the signs are not very good. Just keep looking for the Reggia - it's right in the center of town.
is nowhere near Sorrento, but we stopped there for 2 nights on the way
out through Rome airport. Tivoli is about 30 minutes from downtown Rome
and is in a commanding position overlooking the coast. We stayed in a wonderful
4 star hotel called the
Sirene". It was delightful and so perfectly located that we didn't
have to move the car for the entire stay. The prime attraction in Tivoli
is the Villa D'este. There are quite a few "villas" to visit in the area,
but this one is special. The villa is completely intact, and the grounds
are covered with fountains and water works of all sorts. It's clearly an
"emperor's theme park".
We also found an excellent restaurant in Tivoli which we fell in love with and went back to eat at more than once. It's called the Ristorante Antiche Terme Di Diana, and its located in an ancient Roman bath house.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT NAPLES
We didn't visit Naples. We have gotten many conflicting reports and have several friends who were mugged or ripped off there. We did meet a very friendly family from Naples during our strolling in Sorrento. They came regularly from Naples to Sorrento to eat in a restaurant they enjoyed. They told us we should come and visit Naples and that the situation had improved a lot. We shouldn't be concerned - there were now plenty of police all over the place! We were tempted but in the end, bypassed Naples.
Here's the picture I liked best
from this trip - a
shot of the sea from the beach in Praiano.