Tucked between the jagged rocks of the Sorrentine peninsula and the azure waters of the Adriatic, the Amalfi Coast has many alluring aspects. Its lush lemon groves bask in the sun, its local population is spirited and lively, and its monuments reflect the area’s history as a maritime powerhouse, yet its oldest attribute the area’s natural beauty remains the region’s prime attraction.
TRANSPORTATION. The coast is accessible from Naples, Sorrento, Salerno, and the islands by ferry and blue SITA buses. Trains run directly to Salerno from Naples (45min. 42 per day, â‚¬5-10) and Rome (2H-3hr. 19 per day, â‚¬22-33). Trains also run to Sorrento from Naples (lhr. 29 per day, â‚¬3). Buses link Paestum and Salerno (lhr. every hr. 7am-7pm, â‚¬2.80). From Salerno, Travelmar ( 089 87 31 90) runs ferries to Amalfi (35min. 6 per day, â‚¬3.60) and Positano (l’ihr. 6 per day, â‚¬5.30). From Sorrento, Linee Marittime Partenopee (081 807 18 12) ferries (40min. 5 per day 8:30am-4:50pm, â‚¬6.50) and hydrofoils (20min. 17 per day 7:20am-5:40pm, â‚¬9.50) run to Capri.
AMALFI AND ATRANI. Breathtaking natural beauty surrounds the narrow streets and historic monuments of Amalfi. Visitors crowd P. del Duomo to admire the elegant 9th-century Duomo di Sant’Andrea and the nearby Fontana di Sant’Andrea, a marble nude with water spouting from her breasts. A’Scalinatella O, P. Umberto 12, has hostel beds and regular rooms all over Amalfi and Atrani. (089 87 19 30. Dorms â‚¬10-21; doubles â‚¬26-50, with bath â‚¬40-80.) The tiny beach-side village of Atrani is a 15min. walk around the bend from Amalfi. The Path of the Gods, a spectacular 3hr. hike, follows the coast from Bomerano to Positano. The 2hr. hike to Ravelio via Scalla also makes a for a pleasant trip. Postal Code: 84011.
RAVELLO. Perched atop 330m cliffs, Ravelio has provided a haven for many celebrity artists over the years. The Moorish cloister and gardens of Villa Rufolo, off P. Duomo, inspired Boccaccio’s Decameron and Wagner’s Parsifal. (Open daily 9am-8pm. â‚¬4.) Classical music concerts are performed in the gardens of the Villa Rufolo; call the Societa di Concerti di Ravelio (089 85 81 49) for more info. The small road to the right leads to the impressive Villa Cimbrone, whose floral walkways and gardens hide temples and statue-filled grottoes. The area also offers magnificent views. (Open daily 9am-7:30pm. â‚¬4.50.) Hotel Villa Amore O, V. dei Fusco 5, has 12 tidy rooms and a garden overlooking the cliffs and sea. (fax 089 85 71 35. Singles â‚¬48-60; doubles â‚¬74-85. MCV.) Postal Code: 84010.
POSITANO. Today, Positano’s most frequent visitors are the wealthy few who can afford the pricey Positanese lifestyle, yet the town has its charms for the budget traveler. To see the large pertusione (hole) in Montepertuso, one of three perforated mountains in the world, hike 45 min. uphill or take the bus from P. dei Mulini. Positano’s beaches are also popular; the beach at Fornillo is a nicer, quiter alternative to the area’s main beach, Spaggia Grande. The tourist office, V. del Saraceno 4, is below the duomo. (089 87 50 67. Open M-Sa 8am-2pm and 3-8pm;
reduced hours off-season.) Ostello Brikette , V.G. Marconi 358,100m up the main coastal road to Sorrento from Viale Pasitea, has incredible views from two large terraces. (089 87 58 57. Dorms â‚¬22; doubles â‚¬70.) Prices in the town’s restaurants reflect the high quality of the food. For a sit-down dinner, thrifty travelers head toward the beach at Fomillo.
SORRENTO. The most heavily touristed town on the peninsula, lively Sorrento makes a convenient base for daytrips around the Bay of Naples. The tourist office, L. de Maio 35, is off P. Tasso. ( 081 807 40 33. Open Apr.-Sept. M-Sa 8:45am-7:45pm; Oct.-Mar. reduced hours.) Halfway to the free beach at Punta del Capo (bus A), Hotel Elios , V. Capo 33, has comfy rooms. ( 081 878 18 12. Open Apr.-Oct. Singles â‚¬25-30; doubles â‚¬45-55.) It’s easy to find good, affordable food in Sorrento. it’Davide, V. Giuliani 39, off C. Italia, two blocks from P. Tasso, has divine gelato and masterful mousse. (Open daily lOam-midnight.) After 10:30pm, a crowd gathers for drinks in the rooftop lemon grove above The English Inn, C. Italia 56. (Open daily 9am-lam.) Postal Code: 80067.
SALERNO AND PAESTUM. Industrial Salerno is best used as a base for daytrips to nearby Paestum, the site of spectacularly preserved UDoric temples, including the Temple of Ceres and the Temple of Poseidon, as well as a museum with artifacts taken from the sites. (Temples open daily 9am-7:30pm. Museum open daily 9am-6:30pm. Reduced hours for both off-season. Both closed 1st and 3rd M each month. â‚¬6.50 includes both sites.) To reach the clean and comfortable Ostello Per La Gioventu , V. Canali, take C. C. Emanuele into the old district, where it becomes V. dei Mercanti, and head left onto V. Canali. ( 089 23 47 76. Lockout 10:30am-3pm. Curfew 12:30am. Dorms â‚¬16; doubles â‚¬50.) Postal Code: 84100.
CAPRI. There are two towns on the island of Capri Capri proper, near the ports, and Anacapri, higher up the mountain. Visitors flock to the renowned Blue Grotto, a sea cave whose waters shimmer with neon-blue light. (Open daily 9am-5pm. Boat tour â‚¬8.50.) In the summer months crowds and prices increase; the best times to visit are in the late spring and early fall. Buses departing from V. Roma make the trip up the mountain to Anacapri every 15 min. until 1:40am. Away from the throngs flitting among Capri’s expensive boutiques, Anacapri is home to budget hotels, spectacular vistas, and quiet mountain paths. Upstairs from P. Vittoria in Anacapri, Villa San Michele sports lush gardens, ancient sculptures, and a remarkable view. (Open daily 9:30am-6pm. â‚¬5.) To appreciate Capri’s Mediterranean beauty from higher ground, take the chairlift up Monte Solaro from P. Vittoria. (Open Mar.-Oct. daily 9:30am-4:45pm. Round-trip â‚¬5.50.) For those who prefer cliff to coastline, Capri’s hiking trails lead to stunning panoramas; try the short but strenuous hike to the ruins of Emperor Tiberius’s Villa Jovis, the largest of his 12 Capri villas. Always the gracious host, Tiberius tossed those who displeased him over the precipice. The view from the Cappella di Santa Maria del Soccorso, built onto the villa, is unrivaled. (Open daily 9am-6pm.) In the evenings, dressed-to-kill Italians come out for Capri’s nightlife; bars around Piazza Umberto in Capri proper keep the music pumping late, while cheaper Anacapri caters to a younger crowd.
Caremar ( 081837 07 00) ferries run from Marina Grande to Naples (l’Jhr. 6per day, â‚¬8.50) and Sorrento (50min. 3 per day, â‚¬6.50). LineaJet (081 837 08 19) runs hydrofoils to Naples (40min. 10 per day, â‚¬ 11.50) and Sorrento (20min. â‚¬8.50). Ferries and hydrofoils to Ischia and Amalfi run with much less frequency and regularity; check with the lines at Marina Grande for details. The Capri tourist office ( 081 837 06 34) sits at the end of Marina Grande; in Anacapri, it’s at V. Orlandi 59
ISCHIA. Augustus fell in love with Capri’s fantastic beauty in 29 BC, but later swapped it for its more fertile neighbor. Ischia, just across the bay, offers sandy beaches, natural hot springs, ruins, forests, vineyards, and lemon groves. Orange SEPSA buses #1, CD, and CS (every 20 min.; â‚¬1.20, day pass â‚¬4.80) depart from the ferry landing and follow the coast in a circular route, stopping at: Ischia Porto, a port formed by the crater of an extinct volcano; Casamicciola Terme, with a crowded beach and legendary thermal waters; Lacco Ameno, the oldest Greek settlement in the western Mediterranean; and popular Forio, home to lively bars. The Motella Gardens, V. Calese 39, feature acres of tropical plants, manmade streams and gorgeous views of Ischia. (Open daily 9am-7pm. â‚¬8).
Caremar ferries (081 98 48 18) arrive from Naples (lVfchr. 14 per day, â‚¬6.20). Alilauro (a 081 18 88, www.alilauro.it) runs hydrofoils to Sorrento (6 per day; call ahead for prices and schedule). The tourist office is on Banchino Porto Salvo, in the main port. (081 507 42 31; fax 081 507 42 30. Open in summer daily 8am-2pm and 3-8pm; off-season reduced hours.) Pensione Di Lustro , V. Filippo di Lustro 9, is near the beach. (081 99 71 63. Singles â‚¬34; doubles â‚¬50-65.) The Ostello II Gabblanoâ (HI) , Strada Statale Forio-Panza, 162, is accessible by buses #1, CS, and CD. The hostel has beach access as well as a friendly staff. (081 90 94 22. Lockout 9:30am-lpm. Curfew 2am. Open Apr.-Sept. Dorms â‚¬16.) Camping Internazionale is at V. Foschini 22, 15min. from the port. Take V. Alfredo de Luca from V. del Porto; bear right on V. Michele Mazzella at P. degi Eroi. ( 081 99 14 49; fax 99 14 72. Open May-Sept. â‚¬6-9 per person, â‚¬3-10 per tent.) Postal Code: 80077.