Italy’s Amalfi Coast Drive
The Amalfi Coast in Italy is considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Two lanes grip the cliffs above the ocean, snaking along the sheer cliffside and weaving through tunnels. Below, hidden pebbled coves and fishing spots and umbrella-lined beaches appear in between the jagged rocks. It is only 50 kilometers long, but the darling of travel brochures, car commercials and newspaper travel sections worldwide.
Pick your Mode of Transportation Carefully
The Amalfi Coast is the kind of drive everyone should take at least once in their life. But take my word for it: it’s not really the best place to learn to drive a scooter.
There are a few options for journeying along the Amalfi Coast: you can catch a ferry, drive a car, hire a scooter, or get the SITA local bus. We’d watched the SITA bus pass by packed with people from our hotel in Sorrento and with standing room only, we’d decided to give that option the flick. The ferry was another option, an easy way to zip off to the towns that rim the cliffs- Postiano and Amalfi – but not exactly the best way to do a road trip. And if we got a car, where would we park it?
In the end we opted for the scooter. The first ten kilometres are spent wobbling over the Sorrento peninsula trying to balance and not go head-over-headlights from a lack of driving skills. We sort-of ignore the fact neither of us have ever been on a scooter and selectively forget that the one time I did try to ride a motorbike it moved forward, but I ended up staying in the same spot on the ground.
All that is conveniently forgotten in the excitement of the moment: we’re on our way to doing the Amalfi Coast drive. We pass tiny unnamed communities, lemon groves and farms until we finally reach the Amalfi Coast.
Explore the Towns and Enjoy the Views
The two-laned road grips the cliffside for dear life as it curves around the coastline, the water shining like blue sapphires in the early morning sun. Hydrofoils hug the coast as they speed towards the peninsula, and seagulls soar above in the slipstream. Along the first few kilometers are small little spots where you can pull over to take photos.
Zipping along the sheer cliffs past emerald grottos, giant caves and lemons groves, we quickly sort out our favourite towns along the route. Soon, we’ve sorted out that Postiano is the most beautiful town along the coast, Amalfi the most crowded, and Atrani the hidden beauty, accessible only by a small walkway from Amalfi.
Go the Extra Mile
Ravello, high up in the hills, is our pick of the Amalfi Coast. So many people don’t make it up here, the town being that extra mile too far- but it’s well worth the extra half-hour drive up into the hills.
The large main square of Ravello is rimmed by the Duomo, the eleventh century church the town is best known for, and filled with one or two unobtrusive alfresco cafes sheltered by white umbrellas. It’s a large space and a group of children play soccer, chasing their ball across the piazza. Postcard perfect flowers stand in pots throughout the square and flowerbeds in full bloom rim every wall.
The area is famous for its hand painted ceramics and in the alleys surrounding the piazza, ceramic shops are filled with jugs and platters and pasta portion measurers, novelty tiles and oversized plant pots. Browsing through the store, we spot the subtle differences in the design and brushstrokes here to the ceramics found elsewhere- they are a finer quality than the ones found in other spots along the coast.
Two major villas prop themselves on the edge of the cliff- the Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo. The Villa Rufolo is located just to the left of the Pizza Duomo and costs six euro for entry. However it quickly becomes our pick of the town with its beautiful Moorish architectural highlights, hidden rooms and stunning grounds. The 19th century gardens are one of the most romantic spots I’ve ever seen. Cascading flowers and manicured gardens act as a frame for a 180-degree view of the Amalfi coastline below.
Food and Fun
But before we pack up to head home, we go in search of fuel: not for our bike, but for ourselves! No day out in Italy would be complete without a long lunch filled with fine food and wine. We take a table on the covered terrace at Da Salvatore, which is propped above a lemon grove on the precipice of a cliff looking across the valley to the water.
We devour lamb so tender that that slides off the bone; a pastry of fresh ricotta and prosciutto and a dessert of hazelnut biscuits and cream on a bed of pear puree. We wash it down slowly with a glass of thick red wine and watch the view, laughing at our good fortune and declaring it a good day.
The coast curves down further, and I’m curious about what delights can be found around the next bend. But it is getting late and we’re keen to get home on our scooter before it gets dark.
The Amalfi Coast is one of those rare places you visit where the destinations are as good as the journey. My only regret is that I wish had given myself more time to explore such a special place. See it for yourself.
– Shaney Hudson