August 1 2014

The Amalfi Coast

One of my favorite places in California is the oceanfront city of Monterey. Set on a rugged peninsula with a rocky coast, the town is memorialized in several John Steinbeck novels including Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row. If you ever find yourself near the Northern California coast, please don’t miss the scenic 17-Mile Drive.

With that cognitive anchor, I expected a Monterey-esque setting when visiting the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

With all due respect to Monterey, the southern Italian coast is far more splendid.

The towns are charming, the coastline is captivating, and the cliffs are dramatic. Adding to the drama are lush canyons, steep ravines, and a photogenic cathedral.

Amalfi Cathedral
Amalfi Cathedral

Even the towns’ names are alluring (at least to this non-Italian speaker who has no idea what they mean): Sorrento, Salerno, Positano, Ravello, Tramonti, Minori, Scala, Cetara…

Looking at the private homes, many of which I presume have been passed down in families through generations, I daydreamed about being a resident rather than a visitor. And I’m a city girl – it takes a lot to get me dreaming about life in a sleepy coastal town!

Beyond that, I don’t know what more to write about Amalfi because its beauty is fully appreciated only in person. So before leaving you to enjoy the scenery, I have just a few logistical tips and thoughts.

Amalfi Coast - ravine

Despite my summer visit, it was overcast and even rainy at times. In person things do not look gloomy as some of these pictures might suggest. Also, many photos were by necessity taken from a moving car (don’t worry, I wasn’t driving) as it is inconvenient – and often infeasible – to stop and get out along the narrow cliffside road.

Amalfi Coast - rainy

The ~50 km drive from Sorrento to Salerno is a great way to see the coast (the most scenic section is the middle 2/3 of that stretch). However, I would not recommend driving yourself. The road is narrow, twisting, and occasionally steep. Some spots are downright scary. You really have to pay attention to your driving – which means you miss the scenery. So just hire a driver and consider it a cheap life insurance policy.

Amalfi Coast - road
Not the best picture, but the only one I have of the road

You can also take a group tour or public bus. If you do, be sure to secure a seat on the “correct” side of the vehicle (the side closest to the water). Which side that is depends on the direction of travel, but it is well worth the effort to find out in advance. Allow the less savvy travelers do didn’t do their homework to get stuck on the wrong side and miss out greatly. 🙂

Amalfi coast - lunch spot
View from our lunch spot
Amalfi Coast - coastline
Amalfi Coast - canyon
Amalfi Coast - pulley
Instead of lugging beach gear down the steep cliffside, locals use this pulley to lower it



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Posted August 1, 2014 by Admin in category "Destinations", "Tips", "Trip Reports

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