Whenever I visit Sorrento, Italy, I am, well, driven. I always take the Amalfi Coast Drive, 30 miles of narrow, curving roads that are strung up on cliffs with waves crashing below.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site facing the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Amalfi Coast is arguably one of the world’s most beautiful drives. It regales visitors with breathtaking views of coastal scenery with cobalt-blue waters, coves, promontories, cultivated terraces, vineyards, citrus and olive groves, towns and villages that cling to hillsides, ancient watchtowers, villas with swimming pools that seem precarious on cliffs, and vendors who sell the big, juicy lemons of the Campania region of Italy.
Here are 6 delights of the drive you don’t want to miss:
Picture-postcard-perfect Positano with pastel-colored buildings that seem to spill down hillsides is a small town with lovely coastal views. I know of no better way – certainly no more colorful way – to spend a day in port than enjoying a stroll among the pink, yellow and white houses of Positano and going down to its silvery gray pebble beach with the blue sea beyond and enjoying view of the majolica-tiled dome of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, which can be seen from almost any point in town. An icon of a black Madonna that dates back from the 18th century can be seen inside the church. As they stroll, most visitors pause here and there to purchase a souvenir from one of the village’s shops and boutiques – maybe a pair of sandals or colorful ceramics – to remind them of Positano. But perhaps there is no need for souvenirs, as like John Steinbeck put it, “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”
Amalfi Coast Islands
The view of the three little islands off the coast of Positano, known in Italian as Li Galli or Le Sirenuse. According to Greek mythology, these islands were the home of the sirens whose song lured and captivated sailors in antiquity. Modern-day luminaries who also fell under their spell include ballet legend Rudolf Nureyev, who spent his last days on the islands.
Villas with pools precariously hanging from hillsides that instantly make you wish you were taking a dip in their waters.
The ruins of ancient watchtowers that were built at various points along the Amalfi Coast to protect the coastal communities from their enemies including pirates – there is one on a mountaintop in Amalfi.
Vendors offering everything from their own original paintings and artwork to area produce: the lemons that will delight in the limoncello liqueur of the area, and the chilies and olive oil that one vendor told customers are “the Viagra of Italy.”
Alive with History
The picturesque village of Amalfi with its quaint alleys and lively plaza with outdoor cafes and shops. In the plaza too is St. Andrew’s Basilica (the Duomo), dating back to the 13th century with a grand staircase with 62 steps leading up to the church and an impressive bell tower that was built in the 12th and 13th centuries and served as a watchtower in other eras. Other noteworthy features of the cathedral include massive bronze doors, striped arches in Arabic style, and the remains of the Apostle St. Andrew, brought here during the crusades, in its crypt. Also located in the plaza is the fountain of St. Andrew with a marble sculpture of the saint. The fountain is a busy place, with visitors posing for photos and filling their bottles with its cool, clear water.