There are so many beautiful destinations in Italy that it's almost unfair to other countries. Asked to list the most spectacular, you might peal off any one of a dozen or more options -- Venice, Milan, Florence, Siena, Bologna, Tuscany...
But perhaps the most scenic, the most romantic of all, is the Amalfi Coast, a rocky promontory in the Tyrrhenian Sea near Naples and Pompeii. Here, a little peninsula juts out like a spur, forming the southern boundary of the Bay of Naples. The other side of this peninsula, between Sorrento and Salerno, is the Amalfi Coast, famous for its sheer cliffs falling away into cobalt waters, its lemon groves, and its surreal maritime towns, practically built into the rock.
Here are 5 amazing places on the Amalfi Coast, Italy's most romantic region.
Positano is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful towns on earth; its permanent population of less than 4,000 are among the people I envy most.
"If you like Italy, I highly recommend Positano," says Judy Freedman of the travel blog A Baby Boomer Woman's Life After 50. "It is the most picturesque place I've ever visited. I would suggest going to Positano during the late spring or summer when you can enjoy the beach. There are tons of steps, so get in shape before you go. The food is also phenomenal, with so many incredible Italian restaurants."
The town has two beaches. Spiaggia Grande is the main one, and in a way the center of Positano. Fornillo is the smaller, more secluded option, though as Judy notes you'll have to walk a bit to get there. If you like the water but don't care for the beach, consider taking a boat tour or renting a boat yourself. The idyllic island of Capri (with its famous grottos) isn't far from shore.
When you get hungry, you won't struggle to find grub regardless of your taste or budget. From the thrifty Da Ferdinando on the beach to world class establishments like Ristorante Casa Mele, Positano has it all.
One of the most noticeable features of the Amalfi Coast, even from photographs, is its rockiness. This trend continues inland, where there are plenty of hills and trees, but very little farmland. If you enjoy hiking, have good mobility, and want to escape from the crowds, you should consider exploring some of the paths that criss-cross the peninsula. The most famous of these runs along the coast, connecting the villages of Nocelle and Bomerano through the Lattari Mountains.
Known as 'The Path of the Gods', this 4.5-mile trek will take you past caves and shrubbery, offering unparalleled views of the sea from high above.
To read about more hiking trails on the Amalfi Coast, check out this article.
And by "city" we really mean "town of about 5,000 people." But like the rest of this region, the eponymous village punches well above its weight.
One of Amalfi's most famous sites is its marina; in summer, the docks will surely be lined with super-yachts captained by the super-rich. If you're not among them, you can opt for the Amalfi to Capri Boat Excursion, a wonderful day trip that will ferry you along the whole scenic coast, out to the aforementioned Capri, and back.
Note: In truth, the best way to see the Amalfi Coast is probably by boat. You can travel through the region by bus, but that can be a little cramped or even pricey. Renting a car is inadvisable because 1) roads tend to be narrow and mountainous, 2) there's little parking, and 3) rules of the road in Italy are really more like suggestions.
If you want to explore without boating, busing, driving, or even walking, consider renting a bike in Amalfi.
The town is also famous for its cathedral, which was completed in the 10th century. It is the home of the relics of St. Andrew, and contains architectural touches from many different epochs.
Here's another great option for those who love to hike and explore nature, but the Valle delle Ferriere is a path less traveled by than the more celebrated coastal routes. The valley is more inland for one thing, but there's still plenty to see -- from medieval foundries to chestnut trees to veiled waterfalls. You'll likely encounter a few old mills as well, since the region was once famous for its paper.
There are a range of different routes you can take, depending on where you'd like to start, where you'd like to wind up, and what kind of challenge you're looking for. But whichever you choose, you won't be disappointed; the beauty of Amalfi's foothills and forests is comparable to that of her coasts.
Finally, if you're looking to escape the hubbub without hiking away from civilization, Keith and Tina Paul of RetireEarlyAndTravel.com have a suggestion. Asked to name the most romantic place they've ever been, they say, "We think sitting on the patio of one of the hilltop restaurants in Ravello is the most romantic."
Ravello is somehow not quite as busy as other hamlets in Amalfi. The town is set on a hillside, commanding a priceless view out into the Mediterranean. The gardens and porticos at Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone are unmissable. You will want to walk and talk for hours as the sun goes down over the trees, shrubs, and statues.
We hope this list has convinced you that the Amalfi Coast is very much worthy of a spot on your bucket list. Especially if you have (or can rent) a boat! Happy trails and/or sails.