ravello, positano, amalfi coast
SOUTHERN ITALY, MEDITERRANEAN, FOOD / APRIL 12, 2017
ITALY: RAVELLO, POSITANO & THE AMALFI COAST
The first time I saw images of the Amalfi Coast was more than 20 years ago while flipping through a National Geographic magazine in my grandparents’ house. I was mesmerized and vowed that I would visit – someday. The photographs were dramatic and the coast appeared closer to heaven. Perhaps because of the steep, cliff climbing roads? Or because the combination of Mediterranean sea, Italian wine, linguine con vongole en bianco and walks in the hills are my idea of heaven. Always have been, even back then.
Many years, and many trips to Italy later, I finally got my chance to visit the Amalfi Coast with my husband and our boys. We gave ourselves 5 spring days and planned 2 days on the water in Positano and 3 days in the hills, in Ravello. Getting to the Amalfi Coast from Naples was a breeze. I organized a private car in advance and asked the driver to pick us up outside a pizzeria in the old town (where we spent the afternoon sampling Napoli’s best), which he was happy to do. We timed our arrival with the sunset and took our seats for dinner just as evening candles were being lit.
Positano is oh so famous – and we soon realized, too touristy for us. Still, we had some great moments enjoying the warm Italian welcome and the town’s extraordinary setting. We stayed at the beautiful Villa Flavio Gioa in the heart of Positano next to the stunning Church of Santa Maria Assunta and a few steps from the beach. Our suite had 2 spacious bedrooms, a living and dining area and a terrace facing the sea.
We had some good laughs tracking down a barber uptown who gave our boys haircuts in the local style. Afterwards we stumbled upon Ristorante Mediterraneo; a casual, family run place with delicious food. We went for desert at Le Sirenuse. The boys rolled their eyes as I begged them for a photograph on the hotel’s iconic terrazza. I wish I could share it with you, but I can’t. (I promised I would not.)
I thought the dizzying local bus journey to Ravello would be cool but it was standing room only, long and uncomfortable. Our younger son had just developed a fever and clung to me as we heaved and swayed. I became dreadfully motion sick and tried to get off prematurely more than once. My husband kept me calm. The small, and quick, ferry from Positano to Amalfi would have been a much better way to go.
We instantly fell under the spell that is Ravello. As much as Positano felt like any number of other posh tourist towns, Ravello seemed unique in the world. When considering how to describe it to you the words timeless, slow and sublime come to mind.
Ravello is perched high above the mediterranean and from certain viewpoints, it looks as though the town could tumble off into the sea. The village is centered on the Piazza Vescovado, home to a duomo (cathedral) built in the 11th Century. The piazza is the town’s gathering place today, as it has been for centuries. Visiting in April meant there were few tourists in the square and I easily found space amongst the locals each morning for coffee and each afternoon for a class of vino. One evening we crammed into a café and huddled around the televisione cheering for the local team in a regional soccer match.
We enjoyed just being in Ravello. Ravello is a perfect spot for relaxing, reading, dawdling around town and enjoying long lunches with the kids. We had a few spectacular meals. We especially loved the fresh seafood and the knockout views at Da Salvatore. Other family favorites are Enatavola Wine Bar, Trattoria da Cumpa Cosimo and Ninos, for pizza. Also, I recommend that you wander over to the historic Belmond Caruso Hotel for a casual lunch, or a drink, at the poolside cafe. Wow!
If you’re like us, you’ll enjoy the gorgeous gardens, buildings and vistas at Villa Rufolo. But the crown jewel of Ravello is the Villa Cimbrone. We made the mistake of visiting on our last morning. Had we not, we would have spent an entire afternoon there; perhaps every afternoon. Take a picnic. Play. Nap. Dream. I may never visit such an enchanting place again.
Walk the Path of the Gods, an aptly named trail that runs along the coast. You can pick up the trail from most towns. Figure out how much time you have and speak to your hotel concierge or local tourist office for guidance. We had a car drop us at Agerola and walked three hours (mostly down) to Positano. There is a trail near Praiano that is highly recommended for a family hike. We walked on a cool spring day but everyone warned us to take plenty of water, especially in the summer!