Leaving Naples to venture along the Amalfi coast means leaving the hustle and bustle of the city, the buzz of its busy streets, the chaotic traffic to find the peace of a landscape suspended between sea and sky. If the traffic unfortunately remains very dense in high season, here the striking view will help you to keep your calm. The Amalfi Coast is a Unesco World Heritage Site for the beauty of its typically Mediterranean landscapes, where man, despite the very uneven topography, has managed to respect the exuberant nature and preserve its splendour.
The charm of Sorrento and the elegance of the island of Capri
Situated on a natural terrace that falls steeply into the sea, Sorrento enjoys an exceptionally mild climate which, combined with the incomparable natural beauty of the small coves and delightful bays that abound along the coast, has made it a renowned holiday resort since Roman times. Sorrento is full of small steps and narrow streets leading to the port and the two marinas (small and large), and is surrounded by olive and citrus groves. In terms of literature, the most famous Sorrento is the great poet Torquato Tasso, known as Le Tasse (1544-1595), author of The Delivered Jerusalem. Later, many writers, following in the footsteps of their beloved colleague, came to stay here, such as the Russian Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) and the Norwegian Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), who wrote The Doll's House in 1879. Also worth seeing is the city's main monument, Palazzo Correale di Torranova, surrounded by a splendid garden. It houses precious pieces of local craftsmanship (including refined marquetry). The town is an ideal starting point for visiting the Amalfi Coast, the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, arriving from Naples (only 25 minutes by boat). It also has beautiful beaches nearby. During the season, there is no lack of activity, with many musicians coming from the surrounding towns to liven up the evenings in the restaurants. Because of this important tourist frequentation, Sorrento could seem to some people a bit sterile. But discovering the Italian city, its historic heart and its fishing port at Marina Grande, and contemplating the romantic view of the Gulf of Naples from its belvederes is an unforgettable experience.
And just across the street is the mythical Capri.Of the three islands anchored in the Gulf of Naples, this is the most famous. Once disembarked, you quickly feel the magic of the place. Vertiginous peaks, turquoise waters, superb creeks, elegant villas with terraced gardens, caves and unique panoramas almost taunt the visitor. The other side of the coin: the island attracts a considerable number of visitors in summer, who mingle with the 15,000 inhabitants. The old-timers who experienced the city's dolce vita period, when tourists and locals partied together, are having a hard time getting over it
Positano, one of Italy's most spectacular sites
Sorrento may be a charming gateway, but the Amalfi Coast begins here, in Positano, in this first village perched between sea and mountain. Forget the superlatives and let yourself be carried away by the beauty of the place, as it is without doubt one of the most spectacular sites in Italy. Just imagine the rock and the peaks struck by the sun, whose reverberation on the turquoise water seems almost unreal. And at the end of this ribbon of asphalt, as winding as it is narrow, Positano emerges with its immaculate white houses, suspended from the wall, like simple outgrowths of the stone, as a matter of course. However, it is necessary to imagine the treasures of imagination and adaptation necessary to develop here vineyards and orchards in terraces on the low slopes, up to the great pastures of the highlands. If it is often said that a straight line is the shortest way between two points, Positano says the opposite. In fact, everything is curved and tangled up in narrow streets and stairways, where restaurants and artists' studios follow one another. The only remaining verticality: the cliffs. More than a city, Positano looks like an architectural miracle that can be admired from the beach. John Steinbeck wrote about it, "It's a dreamy place that doesn't seem real when you're there, and you feel a great nostalgia when you leave it."
Amalfi, original name and authentic streets
Legend has it that Hercules, in love with the nymph Amalfi, who died prematurely, decided to dedicate the town he built to her. The story, more precise but less romanticized, evokes a Roman foundation in the 6th century. It was the first maritime republic in the Italian peninsula and throughout the Middle Ages it became an essential hub for trade between East and West. The birthplace of Flavio Gioia, inventor of the compass, it was also the birthplace of the maritime code known as the Tabula de Amalpha (the Amalfi Tables), which governed Mediterranean navigation for centuries. It competed with Genoa, Pisa and Venice. Rich and powerful, Amalfi is equipped, under the impulse of its governors, of remarkable buildings. Today, tourism is one of the main resources for the 7,000 inhabitants of the town, which also gave its name to the entire coast. It is necessary to quickly leave the main street to get lost in the small labyrinth of stairways and vaulted passages. Admiring its majestic Duomo and exploring its alleys, which naturally lead to Atrani, its charming and discreet neighbour, you will approach the authentic soul of the place
Ravello, the southern beauty facing the Gulf of Salerno
Founded in the 6th century, Ravello embodies the great style and beauty of the South. At a time when time was not yet a scarce commodity, which today often confuses speed with haste, it was built here for pleasure. Heir to an exceptional traditional know-how, the town displays its elegant churches, its remarkable palaces and its magnificent gardens (Villa Rufolo, Villa Cimbrone) with as much greed and ease as a mischievous child. Perched on the slopes of the Dragone Valley, less exposed to the tourist flow, Ravello unfolds its magic without forcing it, just inviting the traveller to take a little height and rise up facing the Gulf of Salerno. Like the bright Latin femininity, Ravello seduces naturally. Boccaccio (1313-1373), Wagner (1813-1883) and many others could not resist it.
The Amalfi Coast, a hiking spot
Finally, who said that a holiday on the Amalfi Coast was limited to lazing around or taking boat trips? This spit of land, with its steep crevices and slopes admirably sculpted into terraces by man over the centuries, is a walker's paradise. The paths, on the ledge above the dizzying reliefs, or buried in the luxuriant vegetation, offer exhilarating panoramas, kilometres of coastline along which villages and seaside resorts are dotted with the relief. To stretch your legs in an enchanting setting, head for Punta Campanella, at the end of the Sorrento peninsula, facing the island of Capri, the Valle delle Ferriere along the Canneto river, between Scala and Amalfi, or the Sentiero degli dei (Path of the Gods), perched 500 metres above sea level. It starts in Bomerano and ends in Nocelle. Most of the route is suspended 500 m above the ocean. Once a smuggling route, it is now a walking trail that even some locals don't know exists. As you hike, you discover the profound beauty of the peninsula, landscapes where you can still seem to hear the whisper of mermaids. The view from above is truly bewitching and unparalleled. As in the rest of the region, it doesn't seem far from paradise.
When is it time? The Amalfi Coast is a year-round tourist destination. The low season runs from November to March. August is the busiest time for tourists. Hotels, beaches and restaurants are quickly filled. The most pleasant seasons are spring and autumn, although the region can occasionally be subject to heavy but short-lived rain.
Getting there. Average price of a flight from Paris to Naples: from €250 to €400 in high season, and from €80 to €120 in low season.
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