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

I don’t say this very often, but I urge you to go to Capri, even if it’s just for a few hours. You must know by now that I hate hit-and-runs, but Capri is worth the trip if only for one look at the Faraglioni and a vista over the sea.

There are two Capri experiences, completely different from one another: the day-tripper experience and the overnights. There is so much dazzling beauty on Capri that almost everyone misses the serenity-you have no time to breathe when you have to board the last ride back to the coast. The after-7pm Capri is thehappyfew’s favorite escape. You can shed the tourist clothes, see the sunset, sip cocktails along celebs and dance tarantella in a local tavern. For thehappyfew who stay on Capri, there is enough time to go both to the posh Capri town and the laid-back Anacapri, take the chairlift up to the highest point on Monte Solario, do a boat tour of the island or take the gorgeous Pizzolungo hike. My fave hike is a less-known one, La Migliera, which takes you through the wineyards and the coutryside of Anacapri, where locals live, grow lemon trees and make wine. The Tuono belvedere offers maybe the best views on the entire island.

For day-trippers: don’ t run around trying to cover it all- you will be missing the point. Any spot you choose to see on Capri is spectacular and will remain with you forever. You can choose to see Capri town with its famous Piazzetta, shop or window shop on the luxury little streets, take a walk on Via Tragara, “the VIP avenue”, buy an original perfume made of Capri flavours at Carthusia and revel into the splendid views of Faraglioni, Via Krupp and the rocky coastline from the Augustus Gardens. You can alternatively choose Anacapri and its bohemian feel, the unbeatable heaven at Villa San Michele, and a boat tour with visit to the Blue Grotto. Just check times and local weather before you go, take into account that trasport is difficult and expensive on the island, and don’ waste time queuing here and there. One more thing. Don’t leave Capri without eating the local cake made of chocolate and almonds, and the citrus icecream and granita.

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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