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The Lowdown | Amalfi Coast

The Dolce Vita in the Amalfi Coast Words by Lee Marshall

Where South West Italy

Quick Quote $1,000 per day (for 2 people)

Best Season Late Spring, Early Summer

Thinking of Romance, fashion, sailing

Best Portrayed in A Good WomanRossellini's Machine to Kill Bad People

Amalfi Coast residents say that being good is no fun. You live in paradise, you die, you go to heaven. At least with the Other Place you get a change of scenery. Stunningly beautiful, Italy’s most scenic coastline is also rugged and sheer—especially in the spectacular stretch west of Positano, traversed by a road that John Steinbeck once described as "carefully designed to be a little narrower than two cars side by side” (they’ve widened it since then—a little).

Choosing the best base

The best base for those who want to be by the sea is Positano, famous for its near vertical-stack of jauntily hued houses, churches and hotels and a good scatter of bars and restaurants. But for cultured seclusion, historic, verdant Ravello, a 20-minute drive above the coast, is also lovely (and it stays tranquil even in high summer, when ‘Posi’ is bursting at the seams).

"A fun, if not a bit quirky stop for some local crafts and culture, is a visit to Paolo Sandulli’s studio, perched up high on the coast with panoramic views of the sea"

Once a thriving mercantile town, Amalfi has a glorious cathedral and charming historic centre—but is best taken in as a daytrip, unless of course you’re staying at the delightful Santa Caterina, which occupies a prime coastal site just out of town. Because space is limited and saturation-point quickly reached, the best time to visit is slightly out of season—but not too early or late, as facilities really wind down between November and mid-March. May and June or September and the first half of October are perfect: spring and early summer for the flowers, early autumn for beach-lounging without the crowds. But even in high summer, the CostieraAmalfitana can be a joy—especially if you escape seawards on a private launch, or head up into the hills on one several jaw-dropping scenic hiking trails.

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Words by Lee Marshall Amalfi Coast Editor

Since he moved to Rome in 1984, Bristol-born Lee Marshall has travelled the length and breadth of Italy seeking out its many excellences, a hobby that he soon parlayed into a job as a travel writer and Italy specialist for Condé Nast Traveller UK, Departures, and several other publications. Currently based in rural Umbria, Marshall continues to explore his adopted country in depth, when he’s not cycling or indulging his other side as a writer: film criticism.

Get out on the water…and eat!

One of the joys of the Amalfi Coast is taking to the water and reaching those hidden coves and trattorias that most day-trippers never discover. Circle the Siren island of Li Galli. Dive from the boat into a translucent sea. Lunch at one of two water’s-edge trattorias famous among Amalfi cognoscenti—lovely Lo Scoglio and delicious Da Adolfo. Sip a glass of champagne as the sunset flares up in the east and waves lap gently at the hull. Or enjoy a private cruise across to Capri, lunching in simple perfection at La Fontelina before admiring the Blue Grotto—touristy, perhaps, but still an enchanting, unmissable sight.

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Where to stay

Le Sirenuse is an evergreen dolce vita classic that exudes chic sophistication and southern Italian warmth. The view of the vertical town of Positano is a constant delight. Your only thought? Please can we stay all year? Hotel San Pietro, is eleganzaon the edge. Built into the sheer rock with giddy coastal views, the San Pietro is a hospitality legend, and one of the world’s great wow! hotels. The verdant terraced gardens, heated outdoor pool, and one of the coast’s best restaurants are among the many charms of the Palazzo Avino, an ochre palace in lofty Ravello A restored fisherman’s cottage in off-the-radar Praiano, Casa Privata is now a stylish 8-room hotel that can also become a villa rental––perfect for young or old bohemians. Now a classy mid-range hotel with a lovely verdant garden, Palazzo Murat is an 18th century palazzo in Positano’s centro which once belonged to Napoleon’s brother-in-law.

Where to Eat on Land

Unpretentious and delicious, Il Ritrovo is a family-run restaurant with a warm and welcoming spirit, where the chef cooks from the heart and serves traditional and local favorites in an unpretentious, delicious way. Get away from the tourist crowds at Da Gelsomina, a lovely family-run trattoria perched on the cliffs below Monte Solaro. This is a place where real Capresi come to tuck into tasty dishes like the flagship coniglio alla cacciatora (stewed rabbit), washed down with a glass of white wine from the family’s own vineyards. For a lively seafood restaurant in Amalfi, just next to the fishing wharf try Lido Azzurro, where the simple touch of chef-owner Antonio Pisani, a.k.a. “Bijoux”, uses straight-o -the-boat fish in a range of delicious dishes like shrimps and rocket, or spaghetti with clams. La Fontelina is a laid back beach club set in in a spectacular location in a cove overlooking Capri. Come for the sun and views and stay for the fresh salads and seafood.

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