To call Positano, located on the picturesque Amalfi Coast in Italy’s province of Salerno, magical is no exaggeration. Greats of cinema, literature, and music like John Steinbeck, Franco Zeffirelli, Wilhelm Kempff, and Mick Jagger fell under the spell of the colorful village, and there is more than one reason why they all got inspired. To quote John Steinbeck’s 1953 essay in Harper’s Bazaar: Positano bites deep. Maybe he heard the song of the mystical sirens, sea creatures who lived on the tiny islands of Li Galli, enticing visitors and sailors with their song, and, according to Greek legend, Ulysses too.
The location alone is breathtaking. Houses painted in every imaginable hue tumble down to the rocky shore of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the beaches of Spiaggia Grande and Fornillo. Art galleries and cozy little restaurants serving the most delicious pizza will tempt you. Naples is, after all, only one and a half hours away! Admire the view from above walking the four-mile-long coastal trail, Path of the Gods, which, thankfully, is easy to manage. Be awed by the blue and green grottos and by the legends and treasures of the church Santa Maria.
To spend the night, there are several excellent hotels. If you’re in the mood for a drink, ask for a tipple: limoncello and fragoline. Of course, you must plan for swimming, sunbathing, and/or kayaking and, if you have enough time, a day trip to Amalfi or Capri.
The nearest airport is Naples, from where SITA buses take you to Positano. Remember the name of the bus company as you will also need it for your trip to the Path of the Gods. The best time to visit is spring and particularly lovely is the month of May when the water is already warm enough for a swim and everything is in full bloom.
Things To Do In Positano
1. Stroll Through The Streets Of Positano
Known as the Vertical City, the streets and alleys of Positano meander down to the coast in a way that’s a photographer’s heaven. Pass by the tightly packed houses, painted in white, pink, and yellow, overflowing with flower pots. Interspersed are plenty of small art galleries and shops which sell hand- or measure-made leather sandals for which Positano is famous. Next come boutiques full of colorful dresses, blouses, and every kind of beachwear. Rest in between at one of the many cafes, and have your first sip of the local liquor limoncello, made from lemon rind, or fragoline, made from strawberries. Or a strong espresso.
Peeking through the gaps are the blue waters of the sea or a view of one of the medieval Saracen towers, which tell stories of the long history of Positano. If you end up on one of the beaches, you might take your next set of pictures of a spectacular sunset.
2. Visit The Church Of Santa Maria Assunta
This beautiful church right in the center of Positano is dedicated to the patron saint of the town. Founded in the 10th century as a Benedictine abbey, like so many things in Positano, it is attached to a legend. According to the legend, sailors brought an icon of the virgin by cargo ship, when the wind died just off the port. Apparently, they heard a voice that said, Put me down, put me down, which they interpreted as the icon wanting to be set on land here in this church. They did, the wind picked up again, and they were able to continue their journey. The church is distinguished by the colorful roof tiles which sparkle in the sun, and many more tiles in the interior. The icon of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta is kept in the white and gold interior, near the altar, where you can see other remarkable paintings and icons. Stairs from the small square in front of the church lead down to the Marina Grande beach.
3. Walk The Path Of The Gods
The Path of the Gods, il Sentiero degli Dei in Italian, is a four-mile-long coastal hiking path that connects Agerola to Nocelle. The walk affords splendid views over the coast, Positano, and even Capri. It’s a fairly easy walk, especially if you make it from Agerola to Nocella as it leads slightly downhill. It may prove difficult for those who suffer from vertigo.
Take the SITA Bus from Positano to Amalfi, and another one to Bomerano, and alight at the Agerola stop are white and red signs with 02 written on them to guide you all the way. Bus tickets must be bought in tobacco shops or some bars -- they are not sold on the bus.
Whilst in Agerola, buy water and sandwiches (especially sandwiches with the local fior di latte, a unique kind of mozzarella). From Nocello, you can either walk down 1,500 steps to the center of Positano or take another bus.
There are at least two explanation as to how the Path of the Gods got its name: One says that it comes from the beauty of the landscape and that, when walking it, one feels close to heaven; another refers again to the Greek legend of Ulysses and says that the gods rushed to save him from the aforementioned sirens.
The gods didn’t need them, but you must make sure to wear sturdy hiking boots, as the path is rocky in parts, and to bring plenty of water.
4. Chill Out On The Beaches Of Positano
After the exercise walking the Path of the Gods, you will want at least half a day of “sweet doing nothing,” or more specifically, chilling out and working on your suntan on one of Positano’s several beaches. Some are easy to reach, others are only accessible by boat or climbing down (and back up) steep paths. Some are free, some are not. We’ll tell you about them, you choose.
The biggest and closest to Positano is Spiaggia Grande beach. It is easily reached on foot from the center of town. On the left side, you’ll find a pier from where ferries and shuttles leave for various boat and kayak trips. A romantic lane from the pier leads to another lovely beach called Fornillo Beach. On the right side, you find a club where you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas and enjoy snacks and drinks. The middle part is free, so you have to bring your own towels. Being very popular, the beach can get crowded. It’s worth the walk to Fornillo.
Laurito Beach can only be reached by boat from the above-mentioned pier or climbing down and back up some very steep steps. The reward: a rather small but less touristy beach with splendid views of the sea, the surrounding cliffs, and a medieval watchtower.
If you are after luxury, head for the Arienzo Beach Club. The rocky but beautiful beach can only be reached by boat from Positano port. Although there is a part that is free to use, the paid attraction is the beach club with comfy sun loungers. Book your space with your boat trip in advance and you will be served snacks and drinks at your sunbed. There is a restaurant, too, and a dock where you can sunbathe. Due to its location, this beach gets the most sunshine of them all.
5. Explore The Emerald Grotto
In the mountains near Positano are several grottos worth visiting, but the most spectacular is the Emerald Grotto because of the vivid green color of the lake. It’s reached by car along the coast road, and there is a parking area. You enter the cave via a tunnel and find a small jetty with wooden boats that take you inside and around the green lake. It’s rather small, and the whole trip on the water takes no more than 30 minutes, but the light and colors are amazing. Avoid visiting in August, because that’s when most tourists visit Positano.
6. Enjoy A Boat Trip To Capri
If your weekend is long enough, why not go on a boat trip to the nearby and world-famous island of Capri. Visit the fabulous Villa San Michele, cruise the Blue Grotto and have a meal of fresh fish, or marvel at the yachts of the rich and famous who love to stop over in Capri.
Enjoy the trip on a traditional gozzo boat leaving from the marina in Positano.
Best Restaurants In Positano
Pizza, pasta, and fish are the keywords of Positano’s cuisine. Plus scrumptious salads and everything made from the juicy Amalfi lemons like lemon sorbet. For digestion, limoncello and fragoline.
Get right into the Mediterranean spirit by eating at Chez Black. On the beach and casual with a ship’s theme, fresh fish, and seafood plus probably the best pizza in town, you can’t go wrong.
Try great food and local culture at La Tagliata. There is no set menu, rather you are treated to four or five dishes that change every day, and wine is brought to your table to go with the food. It’s rather small, so better make a reservation. Otherwise, you can find cafes and small restaurants at every corner.
Best Hotels In Positano
From luxury hotels to family-run guesthouses, Positano has accommodation for every budget. On the high end is La Sirenuse, a luxury hotel with terrific views, rooms, and service plus the great La Sponda restaurant.
Up several steep steps but cozy and welcoming (plus on the lower end of the price range) is the family-owned and run Casa Buonocore. It’s only a few steps down from La Sirenuse, so you get the same views plus a hotel with history.
I learned this the hard way: Bring beach shoes. Positano’s beaches are mostly pebble, and the stones get piping hot in the sun and are a bit uncomfortable to walk on. Also, for a wild night on the tiles, go to Music On the Rocks disco and nightclub, the only one for miles around.