There are virtually no sand beaches to be found anywhere on the Amalfi Coast. Most of the spots where the sea reaches land are small pebbly coves or large rocks with flat areas to sunbathe and dive into the water. The best way to really get a feel for the area and enjoy a little privacy is to get out on the water. You can rent your own small wooden gozzo, a traditional flat-bottomed craft and explore on your own or book a cruise on a luxury speedboat with a captain who knows all the best places.
Italians know a thing or two about how to enjoy a day at the beach. If you decide to spend your day at a stabilimento, a private beach club where one of the very best parts is the restaurant. Book a table when you arrive in the morning, and make sure you are hungry come lunchtime. This will not be a quick sandwich and a drink kind of lunch but instead, a long multi-coursed affair. This is the time to try it all; antipasta, pasta, secondo and dessert. Seafood is the norm, so order things like fried totani, a local squid, anchovies, mussels and grilled fish. Ask your server what’s fresh and local. A shot of strong dark espresso and an icy sip of limoncello is the only way to end such a feast.
Everything starts a little later than you may be used to in the summer months on the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri. Dinner time is at 10 p.m., which gives you plenty of time to get back from the beach and get ready for a night out. Well after midnight is when the doors of the area nightclubs open. Africana Famous Club, in Praiano, and Music on the Rocks, in Positano, are both venues built into caves next to the sea with DJ sets and occasional live music. In Capri, the place to be seen and play Spot The Celebrity is Anema e Core a legendary club with live music led by Guido Limbo.
Away from the shopping and super-yacht scene on the Amalfi Coast, there is plenty of natural beauty to explore. A morning hike along the Path of the Gods, a rustic trail which links several towns high above the sea, is the best way to get your steps – both literally and figuratively – in for the day. Between Ravello and Amalfi is the Ferriere Valley which is also known as the Valley of the Mills. This nature reserve trail takes you to waterfalls and has an amazing view of Amalfi from the top. In Capri, you can take the much less challenging walk along the paved pedestrian road to the stunning Natural Arch.
If hiking is not your thing, and you are not afraid of heights, hop on the open air chair lift in Anacapri and let it sweep you up to the top of the Monte Solaro. The views over the bay towards Naples and Vesuvius are truly breathtaking. Spend some time taking in that view with a cup of coffee or a flute of prosecco at the scenic café, the Canzone del Cielo.
Scialatielli, Aglianico, Pezzogna are probably words you do not recognize. Sign up for a cooking class and you will not only learn some great new Italian vocabulary, you will learn how to cook some authentic Italian dishes. At Positano Home Cooking, you will learn how to cook fresh local fish and sample plenty of locally grown wines. Learn the secrets of the Caprese kitchen with Gianluca at Ristorante Michel’Angelo on the island of Capri. In this hands-on class, you will make your own fresh pasta, bake a chocolaty torta caprese and taste mama’s limoncello.
Some of the best spots on the Amalfi Coast are hidden from plain view. Emerald green grottos, tiny slivers of a beach and impressive sea caves are some of the secrets that the small size of a sea kayak makes accessible. It is easy to rent your own sea kayak for a few hours, and you can find complete solitude even on the busiest August afternoon. From Praiano, you can combine a morning of hiking part of the Path of the Gods, a gourmet lunch and an afternoon of paddling. From the quiet beach in Fornillo, head out once the sun sets and enjoy Positano in the moonlight with a full moon Kayak trip.
In 26 A.D., the emperor Tiberius left Rome and made his home on the island of Capri. The remains of one of his Imperial villas (there were 12 total at the height of his reign) is an interesting way to spend a morning. The Villa Jovis is reached by taking the steep pedestrian road to the far northwest corner where you will find the second highest point on the island. The walk takes you through some of Capri’s quiet residential neighborhoods and, if you are lucky, past a small head of friendly goats. Meander through the villas many levels and imagine what the living quarters, water cisterns and bath complexes must have looked like a few thousand years ago. There are incredible views over the Bay of Naples and towards Sorrento from the top.
Take the 15-minute walk through the narrow streets of Ravello to the edge of town to the Villa Ciambrone. The villa is a private hotel, but its grounds are open to the public. The formal garden was the brainchild of British writer Vita Sackville-West and laid out on several levels with beds of fragrant roses, banks of lavender and colorful flowers, vine-covered pergolas and fountains. The highlight is the breathtaking Terrace of Infinity, boarded with Roman busts and with 360-degree views over the sea and the towns of Amalfi Coast.
For generations, the Aceto family has been making proverbial, and literal, lemonade from lemons in the hills above Amalfi. The very special sfusato amalfitano lemons are only grown on these steep hills along the Amalfi Coast. Spend the day in the family’s lemon groves learning about the backbreaking work required to harvest these lemons and about all of the wonderful things you can make with them. There is more than just limoncello, the sweet liqueur that is ubiquitous in this part of the world. You can also take a pizza- or pasta-making class.