Our marketing executive, Emma, recently returned from a trip to Sorrento. While there, she spent a day discovering the views and villages of the Amalfi Coast – here’s what she thought…
After wolfing down a sleepy breakfast on the terrace of the Grand Hotel Capodimonte and watching the first pinky whispers of sunrise over the Bay of Sorrento, the girls and I were outside the hotel at 7.30am sharp for our Amalfi Coast excursion pick-up.
Securing seats on the right hand side of the coach – opposite the to the driver’s side – was a tip recommended to us by our Citalia Concierge as the best spot for views. Our coach scooped up the remaining passengers from a point within Sorrento town and then battled its way through the morning rush hour to start the climb up to the coast road. The on-board mic crackled and the voice of our chaperone, Sasa, a third-generation tour guide, introduced the man with nerves of steel at the helm of coach. I was under no illusions that an Amalfi Coast drive would be devoid of sheer drops and narrow snaking roads – thankfully, today’s drive along the Amalfi Coast was done by a chap who navigates this iconic stretch of road day in, day out, and who knows these hairpin bends like the back of his hand.
Emerging from the town, Sasa drew our attention to the first point of interest. Li Galli islands (also known as La Sirenuse) sit in a prime position on the Amalfi Coast and are one of the most expensive resorts in the Mediterranean. The collection of three luxurious villas are only accessible to the most exclusive (and discreet) of clientele – technically, they’re not available on the open rental market. Spending a week there will reportedly set you back around €130,000 in the summer months, but it’s all very hush-hush.
Veering round a corner, the first houses of Positano came into view. Known as the ‘vertical city’, with buildings stacked up the mountain in a real life game of Tetris, this picture-perfect town is a mecca for those visiting the Amalfi Coast – and it’s clear to see why. From the confines of the coach, my face was pressed up against the glass, gawking at the small but jaw-droppingly beautiful hotels, restaurants and houses. Every structure seemed to have panoramic views of the sea and the town (a phenomenal feature in itself). The coach slowed its pace right down, allowing for more time to nose at flower-filled patios, infinity pools that must feel like paddling in the sky, and higgledy-piggledy stairs blending into the slight gaps between buildings.
Everyday life in this stunning vertical city is not without challenges. It’s easier to get from A to B on foot or by zippy Vespa, which is not always ideal if you’re loaded up with masses of shopping or have to replace a washing machine… for that you’ll need a donkey.
Leaving the pastel colour-pops of Positano behind, we continued along the windy road. Sasa had a quirky fact or historical titbit to tell about every village we drove through, pointing out cliff-side model nativity scenes that play Christmas music every day of the year and a Praiano nightclub that resides in a sea-level cave (complete with a dock, so you can safely moor the family yacht while you party). For roughly half an hour, the view out the right-hand window (which I can confirm is THE best side to be on if you’re doing this trip from Sorrento) was a parade of spectacular blue sea, beautiful buildings and scenic ravines.
Descending into the outer regions of Amalfi town, a sense of glamour started to become apparent. The hotels were a little bigger, the natural rustic charms of quaint resorts we had passed through was discreetly replaced with a more polished veneer, the Vespas and dusty Fiat 500s were long gone. Parking next to the marina, we had the option of wandering around the town or joining a boat trip that Sasa had arranged (for an extra €12). As it was a gorgeously warm, sunny day, the majority of us opted for the latter.
I cannot recommend enough seeing Amalfi by boat, especially if the sun is out. Not only did it take us right up to the rock formation that looks like two elephants kissing (aww), but Sasa also gave a star-studded running commentary of which giant villa belonged to which celebrity and which famous person stayed where among the line-up of exclusive hotels that dotted the shoreline.
After cruising from the edge of Amalfi, up past Minori and back again, we disembarked to explore the town. Picking our way through the cobbled lanes in search of cake and coffee, we browsed tiny shops selling touristy knick-knacks and local crafts. Settling on a side street trattoria tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the centre, we enjoyed a slice of la dolce vita, watching the world go by with a strong espresso.
Our next stop was Ravello, where we lunched just outside the main town. Gorging on more spectacular coastal views while eating delicious fresh pasta (washed down with cold, crisp, locally made wine), lunch was a wonderfully relaxed Italian affair. Before we knew it we were back on the coach again for the short trip to the centre of Ravello.
Being now thoroughly smitten with all things Amalfi Coast, I was expecting the same pretty sights of the sea and surrounding hillsides as we approached central Ravello.
I was wrong.
It was much, much more.
The views on offer in Ravello are so breathtaking that no words can possibly do it justice and I’m not even going to bother to try. Seeing this secret treasure of a town for yourself is a must to understand how stunning it is. Not only has this tiny patch of heaven-on-earth hosted a deluge of the rich and renowned (Jackie Kennedy, Winston Churchill and Richard Wagner to name a few), it’s provided endless inspiration for artists, musicians and writers throughout the ages. Ravello has a history of capturing hearts – and it can certainly add mine to the list.
Wandering round the piazza and passing the famous Villa Rufolo, we walked to a café at the edge of the square for another coffee. Clutching frothy cappuccinos, the girls and I kept grinning at each other, continuously expressing our awe and amazement that a place like this could be real. Mid-afternoon eventually rolled around, which signalled the end of our Amalfi Coast excursion. Back on the coach and settled in our seats, a sated silence fell, as we dozed for the hour-and-a-bit return drive to our starting points in Sorrento.
I plugged in my headphones, closed my eyes and mentally replayed the last eight hours.
What a tour.
And when can I go back?