Having decided to stay somewhere on the Amalfi Coast, I researched the various towns dotting its scenic coastline. Amalfi Town stood out for its history, cultural activities, accessible marina, and affordability. Although visitors touted the charms of Positano, Ravello, Capri, and Sorrento, arriving at the cliff-side town after a somewhat hair-raising car ride down the famed, narrow Amalfi Coast drive, I realized I had picked correctly.
We had taken a high-speed train from Venice to Salerno, which made for a long day of travel. Traveling via crowded bus was not an option. Plus, I wanted to experience the drive I had heard described as both terrifying and terrific, so our hotel arranged a private driver (only 50€!) to take us the hour-long trip. I felt a bit like a rock-star when I saw our driver holding a placard with our name. The drive is something to experience at least once, but I highly recommend having someone take you. There are narrow spots where two vehicles can barely pass, pedestrians and cyclists sharing the same tight space, a deadly vertical drop-off with a none-to-trusty-looking rail, and blind curves. The views are stunning though, yet another reason to have someone drive you—so you have the luxury of taking it all in. Our driver recounted the history of the area and shared stories about what each town along the Amalfi Coast is noted for.
Amalfi stretches from the coastline up into the hills. There is one main drag, via Lorenzo Amalfi, which runs from the main square on the waterfront through a valley up the hillside. Stairways veer off on either side of the street to shops, homes, hotels, restaurants, and other places. Few cars go down this street, so our driver dropped us off at Piazza Flavio Gioia and we walked up via Lorenzo Amalfi until we came upon the walkway that led us to our hotel. The location of our hotel on the hillside meant that the view off its terrace was absolutely stunning. Behind us we could see the mountain and the trails leading to ancient paper mills, before us were the aqua blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. To the side we could see the outlines of ancient castles and the bell tower of the main cathedral, Sant’Andrea Apostolo. It is a beautiful vista!
Now a resort town pandering to the rich and famous, Amalfi has a rich maritime history. During the Middle Ages, Amalfi rivaled other trading powers, such as Venice, Pisa, and Genoa. Its southern proximity provided Amalfi an advantageous point of contact with eastern and southern nations. During its heyday, commerce was very prosperous. Amalfi had its own currency, its own rulers, maritime law, and a formidable navy. Its arsenal built powerful fleets to be used commercially and militarily. Amalfi’s power declined due to anti-Byzantine politics of Norman rulers in the 12th century. The Pisans sacked the city after the Normans ruled, causing further decline. Natural disasters further weakened Amalfi, as did plague and trading competition. In the 20th century, it became a famous tourist destination attracting actors, actresses, and various artists. Besides the view and the beach, Amalfi is still known for its hand-made paper (popular for wedding invitations) and its potent, lip-puckering limoncello liquer.
Things to See
- Duomo di Amalfi Sant’Andrea Apostolo—the main church of Amalfi is a neo-Byzantine stunner. The remains of St. Andrew were said to have been brought to Amalfi and the church is dedicated to him. The interior has Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, while the exterior has an eastern influence. For a small sum, you can enter the church’s massive bronze doors and experience its multi-styled inside.
- Museo della Carta—Amalfi was known for their paper production and a museum dedicated to the paper mills in the Valle dei Mulini can be visited for a little fee. The walk provides a nice hike through Amalfi and the chance to step back in time and see how artisans crafted this important product. Later, you can venture into town to purchase some yourself. I like the products at Tabula near the main piazza.
- Arsenale della Repubblica—This museum, in the arsenal where ships were built in the 11th century, provides a history of the ancient Maritime Republic of Amalfi. You can see navigational instruments (Amalfi navigators were known for their innovation in this department), artifacts, manuscripts, and all sorts of historical relics in this small gallery.
- Beach—if you want to take a dip in the azure water or just soak up some of the Italian sun, Amalfi’s beach (Spiaggia Grande) is for you.
- Shopping—Shops selling paper, arts and crafts, clothes, ceramics, food goods, bespoke sandals, limoncello, and many other goodies dot via Lorenzo Amalfi. Compared to other Amalfi Coast cities, I found some of the best prices in Amalfi for standard regional products. In the adorable shops, you will find gorgeous ceramics and lemon products galore.
- Hiking–there are trails extending from Amalfi to many interesting points.
Places to Eat
- Eating on the Amalfi Coast can be quite pricey, but I found a really good value at Pizza Express. Although it was a take-away place, they served wonderful pizzas for around 5€. It’s on via Pietro Capuano.
- Taverna degli Apostoli near Piazza del Duomo has good food and outdoor seating. Although their menu is limited, I found the dishes thoughtfully composed and a reasonable value for the money.
- Il Gran Caffe—Decent prices and great views were the reasons that we visited this restaurant a few times. The food was adequate—not a ringing endorsement, I know, but the price and views made up for the basic cuisine.
Other Amalfi Coast Towns to Visit
- Hike over to Atrani. It’s only a fifteen-minute walk along the Amalfi coastline drive, but the town has a completely different feel than the better-known ones. With a village atmosphere, Atrani is decidedly less touristy than many Amalfi places. Piazetta Umberto is quite picturesque.
- To arrive in style and see Positano the way it should be first viewed (from the water), I highly recommend taking the high-speed ferry boat. It’s a twenty-minute ride with jaw-dropping views all along the way. You arrive right at the main dock of colorful Positano and see it in all its splendor (the same goes for Amalfi on the way back). Positano has great shops, historic mansions, and is an inviting place to grab a drink and sight-see.
- Ravello has breathtaking views over the sea, beautiful villas to explore, lovely shops, and an all-around charming center town. I recommend taking the Sitabus (it’s an experience you aren’t soon to forget) from Amalfi’s main piazza. Tickets can be purchased at the tabacchi nearby across the Amalfi Coast drive. For more information, see my blog Amalfi Coast: Things to Do in Ravello, Italy
I hope you get a chance to explore the Amalfi Coast and the delights of Amalfi Town. It is a relaxing town that inspires and rejuvenates. Enjoy!
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