Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast

20 Apr 2015

One of my favourite European destinations (so far) is the Amalfi Coast. We booked an 8 night holiday using Sorrento as our base to explore Pompeii, Capri and the Amalfi Coast. At the end of the trip I wished I had spent another week there. It truly is a stunning place and there is so much to see.

To get the most out of the area I highly recommend hiring a car. Whilst the local buses and trains work very well, a car will give you the flexibility to really explore and get underneath the skin of this beautiful region.

We landed in Naples and picked up our snazzy Fiat 500. Leaving the airport, maps in hand and confident in the directions, we instantly took a wrong turn and found ourselves traversing the cobble streets of old Napoli. Freshly laundered clothes strewn across the streets, hectic local life and mopeds speeding about made it an exhilarating and nerve racking start. But with help of my trusty phone GPS we found our way out of the city and headed south, down the coast to Sorrento.

We arrived quite late at Hotel La Vue D'or. It's not walking distance to town but the benefit from being this high up is the amazing views across the bay and of Vesuvius in the distance.

bay-and-of-vesuvius

In early June the weather is sunny and warm with a nice breeze and the coastal roads themselves are reasonably quiet, a perfect time to go. In peak summer months I can imagine the Amalfi would be heaving with cars and people.

On our first full day we explored Sorrento, wandering the streets, watching the locals and eating gelato. Down in the harbour we found a lovely restaurant – Emelia's Trattoria, which we returned to a few times for their fresh clams and sardines. Inn Bufalito is another restaurant we went to a couple of times, for the mountains of buffalo mozzarella and rare buffalo steaks (drooling over the keyboard as I write this).

emelias-trattoria-restaurant

We spent a few days in around the Amalfi Coast. As we set out, initially I didn't know what all the fuss was about but as we moved further south, the cliffs got steeper and the roads got narrower… Hair pin bends and blind corners, with sheer drops on the other side. Now we understood why small cars are favoured here, especially when a bus comes the other way! You soon become more confident and distracted by the stunning scenery and towns that seem to drop away into the sea. There are plenty of places to pull over and admire the view.

Ravello was our first stop and one the most serene places I've been to. We wandered through the narrow lanes with the sweet smell of jasmine in the air and paused for a coffee to watch a wedding party of well-heeled locals. The must see in Ravello is Villa Rufolo with its landscaped gardens and beautiful vistas of the coast. This is where you'll get that picture postcard moment.

beautiful-vistas-of-the-coast

Each of the towns on the Amalfi has its own character and there is no mistaking Positano, a town with pastel coloured houses built into the cliffs that look like they are tumbling down into the sea below. The steep, narrow streets, lined with little boutiques and restaurants, lead down to a small beach, where you'll need a break before you walk back up the hill again. After a refreshing granita, a shot of espresso and a paddle in the sea, we're back on the road. Parking is a nightmare here and your best hope is to find a spot along the road, like everyone else and walk back into town.

pastel-coloured-houses

Plan for a whole a day in and around Pompeii, not only is there so much to see there, the traffic in and out of Sorrento can be crazy. After a brief strike and demonstration by the Pompeii ticket office staff, we started the day in the ancient ruins that still sit in the shadow of its destroyer, Mt Vesuvius, and frozen in time for 2000 years. It's amazing how much of it has been uncovered, some buildings nearly completely intact. The brothel house was my personal favourite, with the erotic paintings still visible. We then drove the long way up Mt Vesuvius, trekking the last kilometre with our trusty sticks (unnecessary and hired for a small fee but added to the fun). It is pretty awesome to peer into the crater of a dormant volcano, knowing it killed thousands of people in the ruins we were just at, but really it's about the sweeping views of Naples, the bay and Pompeii below (if you can spot it).

sweeping-views-of-naples

I highly recommend a luxury boat tour to Capri! Like the one we didn't book but ended up on anyway after getting on the wrong bus… much to the aggravation of the couple staying at our hotel, who must have ended up on the budget version. Capri is a glamourous place, with designer shops, fancy cafes and restaurants, but don't let that put you off. Pretend you just sailed in on your yacht and walk those streets like you own it! Joking aside though, it is a beautiful island. If you take a boat trip over there rather than a ferry it will include sailing around the island, stopping for a swim, and a trip into the Blue Grotto, although the water was too high to get in there the day we went.

We spent a few days by the pool, soaking up some sun and time just seemed to get away from us, so we didn't explore Naples. But that's the perfect excuse to go back! The food, the culture, the scenery left their mark on me and I left a little piece of my heart in sweet Sorrento.