A guide to enjoying the best Amalfi has to offer – the best restaurants, beaches, sights and atmosphere of this beautiful town.
You know Amalfi. That beautiful gem on Italy’s southwest coast with sparkling seas and dramatic cliffs. You’ve heard you should just pop there for a half day trip whilst staying in it’s more glitzy neighbours, Positano and Salerno, there’s not that much to do, right?
So wrong. There is plenty to recommend a longer stay in Amalfi itself, to enjoy the peace after the cruise hoards have jumped back on the boat and soak up the unique atmosphere of a place which still retains it’s soul despite being a tourist hotspot. And there is a whole other side to Amalfi where the high street ends at the top of town – keep walking and you’ll find it.
On our last visit (we’ve been at least three times, just love it!) we enjoyed a great big breakfast in our fabulous hotel, checked directions with the momma behind all the delicious home cooked treats and headed out. Good walking shoes, a bottle of water and your sun hat and you’re good to go.
But today, we walked away from the sea, past the restaurants and gift shops till you feel like you are heading out of town and you’ll find steps up on the right hand side, just passed the paper museum, which lead to a whole series of trails up into the hills, past ancient lemon and vegetable terraces and the donkeys toting wood and some really beautiful scenery. It feels much fresher up here when it’s baking down in town and looking back down the valley you get a totally different view of Amalfi.
The paths are well made, often there are steps heading straight up and they love a switchback. You need to look out for signs as there are lots of possible destinations – Minori, Mairoi or Atrani. But the joy is, wherever you end up back down on the coast you can jump on a ferry if you don’t fancy walking back up.
Just when you think you are in the middle of nowhere and can’t go on, there’s this beautiful vision serving delicious, refreshing homemade orange and lemon juice.
You fall upon little scatterings of houses and lovely sights you wouldn’t find if you stayed at sea level. Whenever you turn a bend in the path you’ll find the sea sparkling in the distance.
We walked to Ravello via Scala, and you can’t believe how beautiful (and welcome) the view down to Ravello is when you come to the top of the mountain opposite.
Ravello deserves it’s own post as there are many lovely restaurants and hotel terraces you should know about, as you’ve earned a good lunch after all that walking. On this day, we took a path from Ravello down to the little town of Atrani, to one of our favourite eateries, Ristoranti Savo.
Savo is tucked in a corner of the pretty square in Atrani and is a perfect place to recover from your exertion and watch the world go by. The seafood is amazing – whole fish cooked simply, frito misto or linguine, and beautiful desserts. Its a little gem, family run with great friendly service and a great wine list. We often find ourselves here more than once in a stay. It’s a five minute walk back in to Amalfi from Atrani.
Best eats in Amalfi
We always start our holiday in Amalfi with a drink in the main square, right at the bottom of the Duomo steps, at Bistro F.lli Pansa (probably the priciest place for a glass of fizz but great view and atmosphere). A celebratory cocktail and some people watching really set you off on the right foot. Also you need to find out early which cafes and bars serve the best free snacks. Some nights we just bar hop!
To the left of the cathedral steps is a great restaurant, Taverna degli Apostoli. You could easily overlook this gem thinking it might be touristy with its prime location. Quite the opposite. Sitting outside on a warm evening, with the buzz coming up from the square and gentle jazz playing in the background, it has a great vibe and the food is traditional and delicious. The service is warm and friendly and they have lovely limoncello. Definitely worth a visit – or two.
Another favourite is L’Abside, up a little alleyway off the main square. Try to get a table outside so you can enjoy the lively buzz of this little square. L’Abside serves stylish, beautifully presented traditional dishes. Service is great and the warm atmosphere has lead to us getting chatting and enjoying plenty of limoncellos with new friends late into the night.
We foolishly overlooked Marina Grande thinking that the restaurants at the beach clubs would be tourist traps with average food. We only discovered our mistake on our last day. We’d done one of our long hikes and jumped on a ferry to get back to Amalfi. With little energy to go trawling for lunch we decided to go for it – now gutted we only got to try it once as this was some of the best food we had. Inventive and beautifully presented, traditional with a modern twist. It was probably the priciest too, but we don’t drink cheap wine and we’d earned three courses!
One evening our chosen restaurant looked a little empty when we turned up so we went looking for something more atmospheric. We actually followed some people who looked like they knew where they were headed and found a great spot very well hidden in the labarynthine alleys off the main drag.
Donna Stella boasts a lovely walled garden under a ceiling of lemons. We enjoyed huge platters of creamy prosciutto, delicious bread and olive oil followed by great pizza.
When we came out of Donna Stella it was drizzling a little so to get out of the rain we ran in to the pasticceria Andrea Pansa in the main square – a bit of an institution in these parts and a destination for posh cakes, touristy and pricey but a bit of fun. And it was still raining when we left there so we dashed across the square for pudding and more limoncello at Bar Francese.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of eateries. There are great bars on the seafront where we go as we are heading back from the beach or as an early evening livener if we’ve overdone our siesta. Don’t eat all the free snacks, you’ll spoil your dinner. You can also find little private beaches with great rustic restaurants along the coast. Just pop down to the harbour and look for the little speed boats which will run you there and deposit you back when you’re done. A great way to beat the crowds in the day and enjoy the clear water and great food.
All this just reminds me what a special place Amalfi is, with such a relaxed atmosphere and so much to enjoy. It’s a great jumping off point to visit the Amalfi coast and a delight to come back to after a busy day. Ravello is just one such place – read more here.