If I was only able to holiday in one place for the rest of my life I am pretty confident I would choose the Amalfi Coast. I love exotic destinations, dramatic weather conditions, challenging terrains and untouched wilderness. But honestly, what I like best of all is probably sunshine, a strip of beautiful coastline, brightly painted buildings stacked into a cliffside, driving in a car with the roof down, boat trips on glassy turquoise bays, gelato, Aperol Spritz, summery florals and basket bags. I also love geraniums and citrus fruits. And I don’t think I would ever tire of these pleasures. If that makes me sound unimaginative I put it to you that one of the reasons the Amalfi Coast is so popular is that lots of us take a great deal of pleasure from those things and similar. So, if you think about it you might actually find that if you ask yourself the same question you might find you’ll be joining me for every holiday for the rest of our lives!
And here are some of the places we’ll be able to enjoy and some great places we’ll be able to stay. The following hotels come recommended by the Hotel Guru:
Postcard Perfect Positano
Location scouts go weak at the knees when they round the bend in the Amalfi Coast road and spy Positano nestled in the cliffs, rising like a staircase from the bright blue sea towards the citrus and olive groves. Positano’s unbleached peach and pink buildings are stacked so neatly, that there are plenty of properties with exquisite views. But some of the best views are of the colourful stack of the town itself, rising from roads so narrow you can’t fit a car through. And as well as being beautiful, Positano is colourful and lively, full of kids queuing for gelati and families playing on the beach. Though of course it also has immaculate boutiques for the chic Milanese to peruse and restaurants to please even the most gourmet palates. Pack your 50s florals ladies, this is the place to wear them and they’ll never go out of style here.
Where to Stay?
Positano is known for being pricey as well as beautiful, but it can just be beautiful on its own if you book into the Villa Mary Suites. This elegant B&B offers fabulous views across Positano and the coast from just five individually – but traditionally – styled rooms with polished wood floors, crisp white linen and French doors leading onto private balconies. Rooms start from €210 per night.
Practical Details: Positano is about 40 minutes drive from Amalfi along the spectacular coast road…or you can arrive by boat. If you’re starting your holiday here then the closest airport is Naples.
Namesake and Busy, Beautiful Coastal Hub, Amalfi
The whole coast is named for it and it is an unmissable place to visit. Again, the drive in is spectacular, along a corniche road that clings to towering cliffs that seem to drop sheer into a sapphire-blue sea. Rounding each hair-raising bend, gives glimpses of tiny, sandy beaches and some incredible rock formations. Amalfi is one of the largest centres on the coast and has been a maritime power and a coastal resort since Edwardian times, so it’s rather splendid, with an impressive cathedral and several museums too. It’s also got cars, but beautiful squares connected by pedestrianised streets too. Buy local ceramics, corals and cameos and drink Limoncello.
Where to Stay?
The Hotel Santa Caterina offers that classic cliff-edge Amalfi Coast experience, of a pool cut into the rocks of the bay and beautiful white rooms with private balconies. There’s also a choice of fabulous restaurants, a private beach which you reach using a glass lift which takes you through the cliff itself, and lush terraced gardens providing the ubiquitous scent of lemons. There are 66 rooms and they start from €465 per night, but this is classic Amalfi Coast, and it’s worth staying one night somewhere just like this.
We also like the Hotel Marina Riviera, a charming, 19th century hotel which is set just across the road from the bay, so it has wonderful sea views, especially from its terrace and rooftop pool, and great views across the bay too. Timelessly elegant, with domed ceilings, tiled floors and pretty archways, these 32 rooms are also reasonably priced, starting from €270 B&B per night.
Practical Details: Naples International Airport is the closest airport, and Sorrento and Salerno are the closest train stations, Amalfi is a major ferry hub, and of course you can stop off here if you’ve your own boat, or vintage convertible.
Lush Green, Elegant Ravello
Ravello – just saying the word sounds sultry and languorous. And that’s a perfect description of this hilltop village that hangs high above Amalfi and its gorgeous coastline. It has arguably the finest views of the area, though undoubtedly a friendly argument will ensue, possibly over cappuccinos in the main square, the Piazza del Duomo, by the big bronze doors of the 11th century duomo. Or over Aperol aperitifs in one of the bars or restaurants lining Ravello’s incredibly lush gardens! Which this town is definitely known for: graceful villas and lush gardens with dizzying views overlooking the ocean. And classical music and arts festivals. Even if you don’t stay here you must visit the Villa Cimbrone, Gore Vidal, among others, has been enraptured, calling the view from the Terrace of Infinity the most beautiful sight he had ever experienced. Quite a recommendation.
Where to Stay?
The Hotel Palumbo has been carefully converted from a monastery into a small, stylish hotel with all the mod. cons., but all the old fashioned charm, service and architecture – and some of it is antique. The views are breathtaking, especially from the terrace, where you can see the Amalfi Coast laid out before you. It was good enough for Truman Capote, and apparently Rod Stewart is also a fan, but the price tag doesn’t exclude non-celebrities, with rooms starting from €300 per night.
Practical Details: If you’re starting off in Ravello the closest airport is Naples. And if you’re driving it’s worth flagging up that Ravello is too small for cars, which is charming, but can be inconvenient, as it can be difficult to find somewhere to leave your car on a busy day. You can also arrive by boat.
Praiano is similar to Positano: a maze of colourful houses and lanes running up a cleft in this beautiful stretch of coast, though this time with more intricately tiled shrines dotted around town. You’re between Positano and Amalfi, and close to the Grotto hello Smeraldo, an incredible rock formation over a flooded canyon which is dyed iridescent green by the sunlight, and surrounded by statuesque stalactites and stalagmites. But for some reason Praiano is quieter – it could be because around half of its few small pebble beaches are only accessible by boat. But then the beaches that aren’t include Gavietella, which is one of the few beaches on the Amalfi Coast with a west-facing edge which means it gets the sunshine for much longer into the balmy summer evening. Praiano’s other famous beach is Marina di Praia, which is where you’ll find the famous nightclub, L’Africana, and some great restaurants… which sort of rules out the beach situation as a reason for Praiano being quieter and more relaxed. It has a very shallow marina, might that be it? I have been here multiple times, one year we stayed for two weeks, and I really can’t see why it’s a pocket of peace. I probably shouldn’t have put it on the list here, but then we are going to be holidaying together for the rest of our lives. Do buy your ceramics here too, and try some of the local wines.
Where to Stay?
Casa Angelina is a super cool all-white hotel set right into the cliff face, with 39 sleek, modern rooms, suites and private cottages, all with clean lines, white washed walls and exposed stonework. Some have their own sea-facing balconies, but if you don’t have one of those you can enjoy the view from the pool, the spa, the restaurant or the private beach. Rooms start from €539 per night including breakfast.
Practical Details: Praiano is linked by bus to Amalfi and Positano ‘in season’, but you can’t arrive by ferry.
The Hotel Guru also has some excellent recommendations if you fancy the Italian Lakes