How To Spend 48 Hours In Positano, Italy

Photo of Gemma Roxanne Lake
7 October 2016

John Steinbeck once wrote of Positano, ‘a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.’ With mottled dark green and terracotta cliffs framing the cobalt blue waters below, fashionable boutiques and art galleries fringing orange blossom and honeysuckle scented streets, and grocery stores selling scarlet peppers and tomatoes and deep purple aubergines, it is hard to accept this quaint little Italian town as true. For travelers with only 48 hours in this charming village, here is a list of must-do and must-see adventures.

Amalfi Drive | © Costas Tavernarakis/Flickr

Rent a scooter

Although the only road running through Positano is Viale Pasitea, a scooter is definitely the best way to get around. And Italy’s SS163, or the Amalfi Drive, connecting the town to Sorrento, is one of the most beautiful and dangerous roads in the world. Daredevil drivers speed in and out of the 50 twisting kilometers, fearless and indifferent to its jagged cliffs and sheer drops. UNESCO has described this scenic stretch as ‘an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape’ and placed it on the World Heritage List of 1997.

Small beach in Positano | © Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

Hire a boat

From the town’s main beach of Spiaggia Grande, Positano Boats will provide the means to probe into and explore the coast of Campania. Passing Praiano, Amalfi, Atrani, Ravello, Maiori and the archipelago of Le Sirenuse, the multifaceted environs of the Sorrentine Peninsula will soon begin to unravel. Diving its emerald depths and delving into its many hidden underwater caves and grottos affords the complete freedom and flexibility to reduce this retreat right down to its rawest state. Spot amberjacks flashing silver beneath, multi-colored sea cucumbers and flowering bushes of white hydroids and sea urchins scattered on the sea bed.

Get on the beach

Positano’s Spiaggia Grande has become a popular spot for the rich and famous and an attractive backdrop for films. From Jude Law in The Talented Mr Ripley to Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun, countless celebrities have followed the town’s bougainvillea-lined narrow back alleys and ancient stone steps down to its largest pebbled stretch, bordered by esplanades, bars and restaurants. Selling lemon granitas, L’Incanto Lido Ristorante Snack Bar also rents out deck chairs, loungers, parasols, showers, and beach huts.

Laurito | Courtesy of Simoni Donatella

Go native

For a more rugged experience, head to the tiny cove of Laurito. Soaking up the sun and the melodic interchanges, with gulls chattering above, and the waves rolling pebbles in and out on the shore, its brackish beryl waters provide the perfect place to simmer down in the summer season. Derived from the many laurels growing nearby, this seaside sanctuary is home to a plethora of fauna and flora and is only accessible by boat or on foot, thousands of feet above on Monte Pertuso.

Scialatielli ai frutti di mare | © Diego/Flickr

Dine under the skin

Drifting in and around Laurito’s shingled strand, the salivating scents carried on the ocean breeze will most likely lead to Ristorante Da Adolfo, the shabby-chic shack next door. Offering an authentically rich and relaxed dining experience and overlooking the coast of Amalfi, this family-run beach bar warmly welcomes sandy feet and swimsuits and has satiated many a voracious appetite with its world-famous scialatielli ai frutti di mare, with fresh-off-the-boat clams, mussels, langoustines, and silky-smooth scialatielli ribbons drizzled in a light garlic sauce.

Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta | © Loris Silvio Zecchinato/WikiCommons

Home in on the history

Fabled to have been founded by Neptune for his beloved nymph Pasitea, Positano legend also tells that, over 1000 years ago, a washed-up whispering painting of the Virgin Mary was found on its shores — a sign she had chosen their village. Accordingly, locals built Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta and placed the Byzantine icon, depicting the Black Madonna and her baby, above the main altar. Arguably the most defining cultural landmark of the town, this tenth-century church, with its towering majolica-tiled dome, can be seen from all corners of the town.

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