SINE QUA NON: AMALFI COAST

ONE: RAVELLO

This will be a surprising no. 1 for most, as the usual day-trippers and ‘effective’ travel guides will skip it altogether. And that’s a good thing, because the crowds make it difficult enough to reach and enjoy in all its haughty splendour. Ravello is in fact not on the Amalfi Coast, but hanging uphill, just on top of Amalfi. It is spectacular, noble and expensive, and worth it. The narrow road leading to Ravello is cut in the rocky mountain like an initiation path and is called, quite evocatively, the Valley of the Dragon.

Ravello is small, which adds to the feeling of exclusivity, especially off- season or at night, when the last tourist bus had left for Amalfi. The musts are Vila Rufolo with its gardens and the postcard views, the aristocractic Villa Cimbrone and its iconic Infinity Terrace, then a stroll on the cobbled streets and a dolce farniente in Piazza Duomo and you’ve covered it all. Yes, you can do this as a day trip: when planning your AC itinerary, save one day for the wonderful couple Amalfi and Ravello – but take into account that the ride from Amalfi to Ravello and back can take hours if the road is blocked with traffic, and that the last bus from Ravello leaves pretty early (around 6 pm, depending on season). Taking a taxi is an (expensive) option, but in case of jams, you are stuck in the same queue. The best, most beautiful and serene scenario is to spend a night or two in Ravello.

TWO: THE ROADTRIP ALONG THE COAST

No, you really shouldn’t be driving in AC, especially when you are a first-timer or pressed by time. But you may want to. Nothing prepares you for the rolocoaster of plunging cliffs, near-death turns, postcard villages perched over the azure, crazy Italian drivers and mindblowing views. Yes, it can be a climatic experience for passionate drivers or motorists, but then you face the parking problem, which somehow spoils the mood. I drove several times along the coast off-season, just to enjoy the ride; the most beautiful thing is the coastline itself, a roadtrip that you need to take at least once in a lifetime, from Sorrento to Salerno and back again, following the SS163. Options are always available, from hiring a local driver to using the local SITA buses, which are incredibly brave and well timed. Ideally, you would have the time to discover all the villages, but if you only take one day or two for the coast, stop in Positano, Conca dei Marini, Minori and Amalfi.

THREE: CAPRI

FOUR: POMPEI

FIVE: NAPOLI

SIX: SORRENTO OR WHERE TO STAY ON AMALFI COAST

Sorrento is not only a must-see, but also the place to stay on the coast. The Amalfi Coast is forever alluring people to its irresistible colors and beauty and drama, and the first question always is: where to stay to better cover it all? Unless you are honeymooners with a one-track mind- in which case you should go for a room with a view in a luxury retreat hanging over the sea in Ravello or Positano ,- your answer is Sorrento. The chic little town is ideally accessible by car, boat or train from basically anywhere and allows you to reach everything in the region within a day trip: the villages on the coastline, Capri, Napoli, Salerno or even Ischia. Not to mention the ravishing beauty of its views over Sorrento Bay and the Vesuvius volcano. There is a one-of-a-kind option for honeymooners also in the center, the mythical Hotel Bellevue Syrene. As for thehappyfew wanting to go off the beaten path, my tip is to stay in Sant Agnello. You can rent a whole villa with citrus grove or look for gems like Hotel Corallo or Villa Garden near the dreamy Piazza Marinella, where you have the same spectacular views over the bay, without the crowds.

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