November 1, 2015

The Amalfi coast - Stunning from every angle


The Amalfi coast has an aura of lazy, glamorous hollidays way back. 

I have wanted to travel to the Amalfi coast for a long time, and this October we finally went. We spent one week travelling from Rome to Amalfi and back. 

The coast is known to be extremely crowded and expensive. Nevertheless, in mid October the crowds and temperatures were moderate, as well as the prices, compared to the summer season.

Amalfi town - Piazza Duomo
Amalfi town - seaside

Amalfi town 

Amalfi town was our home base for five days. The town is a good size, it has a crowded piazza, many souvenir shops and several excellent restaurants. It is a tourist town, but it is much more laid back compared to the famous and very posh Positano.

Hotel Il Nido - view from our balcony

Hotel Il Nido 

We booked Hotel Il Nido through Booking.com http://www.hotelilnido.it/ due to all the great reviews, and considering the price was good. 

I loved everything about the hotel. The room was nice. We had a great balcony, facing the sea. The location is good - it is just an easy walk into the center of town. Moreover, there is a large sun deck on the roof with deck chairs for all guests to enjoy. 

Be aware that you can not reach the sea from the hotel. For swimming you would need to go to the beach in town. If you want a hotel with a pool and access to the sea, I would go for the (much more expensive) next door hotel (on the opposite side of the street from our hotel): Hotel Miramalfi http://www.miramalfi.it/ 


Climbing the stone stairs to Ravello

Ravello viewed from above
 
Hiking to Ravello

High above Amalfi is the town of Ravello. To earn our lunch - we decided to hike up to town. This walk starts with a path in between buildings from Amalfi to the neighbor town Atrani - also by the sea.

From Atrani you walk a million steps upwards until you get to Ravello. The view of the valley while climbing from Amalfi up to Ravello is spectacular! In Ravello we had lunch an people watched at the grand piazza duomo. The view from the piazza is towards the hills, inland.

Positano on a rainy day. We had lunch at one of the restaurants on the hill, facing the sea.

Visiting Positano

The next day it was stormy and rainy. The ferries didn't run, so we decided to take the bus to Positano (normally you can take a ferry from Amalfi to Positano). The bus ride was about 1/2 hour.

Positano is bigger than Amalfi, with more steps, more shops and more restaurants with views. Look for one of the restaurants in the hills, facing the sea for lunch, and just gaze...

In the evening, as we got back to Amalfi, the storm grew wilder. We had dinner at a beach restaurant, Lido Azzurro, where we could see the waves splashing towards the windows, and our meal was accompanied by the roaring of the sea, wind and rain. (More about the restaurant further down).

Amalfi seen from above

From our hiking trip - walking toward the national park.

Natural beauty

Day 4: The sky was clear again, and we decided to hike from Amalfi towards Valle delle Ferriere and the national park. You walk the main pedestrain road, past the cathedral, and through town, than loads of steps takes you upward. We used the 'Sunflower guide book - Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri' - as our path finder.

The hike took us far up in the hills, seeing Ravello, Amalfi and Atrani from above.

More sights from our hike

Sea and sky.


We walked back down to Amalfi through valle dei Mulini, valley of paper mills. A valley of tumbling streams, where there once was a paper-making industry, using the water to run the mills.

Along the path there are plenty of lemon tree orchards. The Amalfi coast is famous for their lemons.

Lemon trees
Daytrip to upscale Capri

We took the ferry from Amalfi to Capri the next day. From Capri harbor, the funicular carried us up to Capri town. The town was extremely crowded - and this was in the middle of October - I can't even begin to think what this place is like in the summer!

The restaurant in Capri town ripped us off for lunch. In the harbor, it was cheaper, but the shops and bars were surprisingly tacky.

The crowd - in Capri town

Flowers, Capri town

Capri harbor
Restaurants in Amalfi

We visited several very good restaurants in Amalfi. I will recommend 3:

- Da Gemma. Great quality meals, in the middle of town, established in 1872. A must in Amalfi. You must book in advance. http://www.trattoriadagemma.com/

- Lido Azzurro. Restaurant right on the beach. Great view, food and service. http://www.ristorantelidoazzurro.it/home.aspx

- Taverna degli Apostoli. Romantic little restaurant next to the duomo (almost inside the cathedral), where you look down on the piazza. http://no.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187780-d1437293-Reviews-Taverna_degli_Apostoli-Amalfi_Amalfi_Coast_Campania.html

The duomo and chiostro (convent) of Amalfi.
Ibsen and Amalfi

The world famous Norwegian play writer, Henrik Ibsen, spent several years in Italy, many of them on the Amalfi coast. In 1879 he stayed for 3 months at Hotel La Luna, where he is said to have written his masterpiece 'A Doll's House'. http://www.lunahotel.it/


Visiting Pompeii 

We left Amalfi and headed for Pompei on our drive back to Rome. The exscavation site of the old Pompeii is vast - filled with stories. We rented audio guides to get an understanding of what we were actually seeing in the ruins, and to get some knowledge of what life was like in Pompeii in AD 79. 

I was very impressed with the level of advancement and sophistication at that time. The visit was mind blowing - try to imagine taking a trip back to everyday life at one day, almost 2000 years back - the day of the eruption of Vesuvius.

I must add that it was very hot and exhausting to wander around in Pompeii. And again, I can't imagine what it would be like in the summer, with the heat and the crowd.

Amphitheater of Pompei

Pompei
Sweet beach town hotel close to Rome airport 

Pompei was our last stop, before we had to head back towards Rome airport, to board a plane back home the morning after. We needed a hotel for the night, but wanted to avoid the airport hotels. By luck, we found a sweet little B and B in the beach resort Fregene, close to the airport: Hotel Itaca in Fregene. http://itacafregene.com/index.php/it/ (Excellent reviews on booking.com).

Itaca hotel in Fregene.

We loved this place. We were the only guests in the hotel. At night, we borrowed bikes for free, and rode to a local wine bar for dinner.

The next morning we were greeted by the girl from the hotel staff, who had stopped by the local bakery on her way to work, for fresh pastries for our breakfast. 

Before we had to leave for the airport we had time for a quick bike ride to the beach.

Cycling along the beach in Fregene, just outside Rome.

The beach - out of season.
Gaeta north of Naples
At the start of our trip, on our way from Rome airport to Amalfi, we made a one night lay-over in Gaeta, an old fishing and summer holiday town north of Naples. We stayed at the bed and breakfast La Bouganville.  

Gaeta was very much out of season; quiet and slow. We were the only guests at the B and B. I would not choose to do the same thing if we do this trip again. I would rather try to reach Amalfi straight away from the airport.
 
Breakfast with a view at the very private B and B La Bouganville in Gaeta - we were the only guests there.