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Amalfi Coast Travel Guide
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What to Expect From Each of Amalfi’s 13 Towns

There’s so much more to see than just Positano.

The ribbon of coastline known as the Costiera Amalfitana (Amalfi Coast) attracts some five million tourists annually. The towns of Positano and Amalfi get the lion’s share of visitors and offer five-star hotels, beach clubs, and myriad souvenir shops. There are 13 localities along the shore or clinging to the cliffside, each with a different character and unique attractions. Here’s what to expect from each.

 

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Positano

Positano’s pastel-colored, flower-bedecked houses that cascade down the cliffside to the shore are a photographer’s dream — it’s no wonder the town has acted as the backdrop for romantic movies from Under the Tuscan Sun to the musical Nine. This is one of the Amalfi Coast’s chicest locations, with storied hotels like Le Sirenuse and glam beach clubs like Arienzo. It is not without culture either. Visit the Church of Santa Maria Assunta for a restored Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary and a shimmering tiled dome.

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Praiano

The stretch of serpentine road between Positano and Amalfi is one of the most frequented by tourists, but few stop at the towns on the way. Praiano is more peaceful and understated than its tourist-flooded neighbors. It has a small beach hugged by teetering cliffs and houses dotted among the green ridge of Monte Sant’Angelo above. Inside the Church of San Giovanni Battista, you’ll find a pristine majolica tiled floor dating back centuries. You’ll still find upmarket hotels and waterside dining in Praiano, and you’re less likely to miss out if you try to book at the last minute.

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Furore

This tiny hamlet is rarely visited, and you sometimes have to request it as a stop on the local buses. It may be minute, but it is designated as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. There is no central square or high street here. It is separated into two parts: fishermen’s cottages and an ex-paper mill (now an Ecomuseum) that flank either side of a deep fjord and a sprinkling of houses clinging to the cliffside above. To reach the beach and cobalt water, you have to climb down 200 steps from the coastal highway. For the upper hamlet, there are 3000 steps leading to its mural-decorated houses and historic churches.

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Conca dei Marini

The hillside Conca dei Marini was first settled by the Etruscans. Retaining its identity as a fishing hamlet, it is one of the best places on the Amalfi Coast for seafood restaurants, including the Michelin-starred il Refettorio. It is also the birthplace of the sfogliatella Santa Rosa, a shell-shaped flaky pastry invented in the 17th century by the nuns of the convent of Santa Rosa da Lima. At water level, you can find the entrance to the Grotta dello Smeraldo, a 30-meter-high karst cave that is bathed in an emerald green glow when sunlight penetrates through the underwater fissure.

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Amalfi

Amalfi is a crowded, lively town and the main transport hub for the coastline, with a bus terminal and ferry dock. Once a powerful marine republic, it was decimated by invaders and a tsunami in 1343 and never recovered its former prestige. It has a beachside promenade packed with bars and a central square crammed with outdoor dining tables and presided over by the 9th-century Duomo di Amalfi, a church where Arab-Norman, Romanesque, Byzantine, and Rococo designs collide.

You’ll find famed hotels like Hotel Santa Caterina and Anantara Convento di Amalfi with magnificent views. Walk past the souvenir shops along the high street, and you’ll reach a paper museum showcasing ancient production methods. Further up is one of the few remaining lemon terraces still in use, which you can visit with the Amalfi Lemon Experience and sample lemon cake and limoncello liqueur.

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Atrani

Squeezed in beside Amalfi, this pint-sized town is easily overshadowed by its neighbor. However, it boasts the accolade of being the municipality in Italy with the smallest surface area (0.12 km2). Its labyrinthine staircases, covered passageways, and stage set-like squares are a delight to wander around. Visit the Church of San Salvatore de’ Birecto, where the Republic of Amalfi’s doges were once crowned, and the majolica-domed Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Maddalena for a breathtaking view.

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Ravello

Ravello is the town for romantics, a hillside hamlet of storybook villas creeping with ivy and bougainvillea-framed views. It has historically been a muse for painters, poets, and musicians and provided a summer retreat for the affluent. Dream over the cliffside Italianate gardens of the 13th-century Villa Rufolo and the flower-draped walks of Villa Cimbrone. The latter is also the location of the legendary Terrace of Infinity, a belvedere lined with marble busts overlooking the vast expanse of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

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Scala

Head a little further up the mountainside, and you come to Scala, the oldest town along the Amalfi Coast. It sits 400 meters above sea level on a narrow ridge from which slope steep terraces of lemon groves. The town is actually a clutch of tiny frazioni, or hamlets, whose few houses are centered around a little piazza and a historic church. The imposing 12th-century Duomo di San Lorenzo, with its ornate Baroque stuccoes and tiled interior, hints at the now-lost grandeur of the community and wealth of the resident merchant families.

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Minori

Back down on the water’s edge, uncrowded Minori has a quiet, local feel with none of the pretension that sometimes slips into hospitality in other areas along the coastline. There’s a small beach with toes-in-the-sand bars and informal trattorias along the promenade. Visit the remains of the Villa Marittima Romana, an ancient Roman patrician residence dating back to the 1st century AD, and the Basilica of Santa Trofimena with an altar embellished with multi-colored marble inlays.

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Maiori

You can walk to neighboring Maiori via the Path of the Lemons, a walking route around the hillside that weaves between and often ducks under the citrus groves heavy with fragrant fruit. With a longish stretch of beach (at least for the Amalfi Coast), it has the feel of a family-friendly summer resort, something it has actually been since Roman times. Catastrophic floods in 1954 razed the historic center, so you’ll find modern apartment blocks and wider, treelined streets here.

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Tramonti

If you start in the center of Maiori with your back to the sea and head up the mountainside, you will reach the verdant town of Tramonti. This mountain outpost seems worlds away from the summery coastline, set high in the velvet green Monti Lattari. You’ll find olive groves, vineyards, vegetable gardens, and crisp, cool air all summer long. Nearby Naples may be the home of pizza, but Tramonti has its own certified variation using locally made fiordilatte cheese.

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Cetara

Cetara remains a quintessential Campanian fishing village with brightly-colored boats bobbing in the harbor and two legendary fish products. Colatura di Alici is a syrupy fermented anchovy sauce (similar to the Ancient Roman garum) that is used to flavor grilled vegetables, top pasta, or drizzle on pizza. Cetara’s fresh tuna is also highly regarded (and exported as far as Japan). As one of the Amalfi Coast’s towns that is least dependent on tourism, it is a glimpse into how the coastline was before the economy turned to hospitality.

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Vietri sul Mare

Vietri sul Mare is the westernmost town on the Amalfi Coast, and its railway station makes it easy to reach from other destinations in Italy by train. The town is the home of the coast’s eye-popping ceramic production, which began here in the Middle Ages. Visit the Museo della Ceramica to find out more about this majolica production, and stop by the 18th-century Church of San Giovanni Battista to see some in situ on the dome. Wander the historic center, and you’ll find rainbow-hued houses bright with pottery decorations and vividly tiled shop fronts. If that’s not enough ceramic, visit the Villa Comunale di Vietri for a Gaudì-esque tiled terrace.