As if we didn't already adore the history, cuisine + lively personalities of Italy, it's Almafi Coast adds some of the most stunning Mediterranean landscapes in Europe to the country's resumé. The juxtaposition of the rugged coastal mountains against the sparkling sea is unparalleled, and you easily could spend weeks exploring all the amazing gems along the coast like Positano, Almafi or Ravello.
I've often been asked "What are the best towns to visit along the Almafi Coast?" To be perfectly honest, I'm still discovering the answer to that question by visiting as many as I can! But I do have some thoughts about a few you should consider:
For for my particular visit this past October, we only had a few short days in between Santorini + Rome, so we chose to spend our time in Sorrento + Capri.
I had already visited Capri with my brother last year, and knew I had to go back again when we were making our itinerary. Aside from being a summer favorite of holidaying VIPs, Capri is also a hugely popular day-trip destination because of a). those passing by on cruise ships or b). tourists staying on the mainland (I'm guilty of having been both). Regardless of if you simply visit for the day or stay for the week, you can't miss this Italian-chic island that was once Emperor Augustus' private resort and also the source of inspiration to some of Dolce & Gabbana's most iconic advertising. When planning your visit, be sure to include:
Taking a tour of the island immediately upon arrival is my favorite way to get the lay of the land (not to mention, see some of the most iconic sights right off the bat.) On my first visit, I made the mistake of jumping on the first boat we saw. While the sights were still beautiful, we were crammed between tourists and scrambling to get the best seat we could snag). So this second time back, I made sure to do my research and find an alternate option. Enter Capri Relax Boats. Not only was I not squished between dozens of strangers, this time my friends and I had an entire (and incredibly nice) boat to ourselves (#upgrade). Our skipper was so great- not only did he take us on a tour of the entire island (and take dozens of pictures for us), he was a local who knew so much about the area and took us on a tour of the entire island.
First, we stopped at the Blue Grotto, or Grotta Azzurra, which is arguably the most stunning + iconic sea cave in the world. The way the sun shines through water in the cave creates a blue reflection that illuminates it in a way that no words or pictures can properly portray. You simply can't visit Capri without seeing it for yourself.
The last boat tour I did didn't stop here because it would be too complicated with that many tourists on board, so we had to take a separate boat ride back later. But since we used Capri Relax Boats this time and we were the only ones on board, it was no problem to stop on our way of the island tour.
Next up, we went to Il Faraglioni, which is perhaps the most iconic symbol of Capri. You'll likely recognize these rock formations as the stars of the Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Campaigns (so naturally, we posed for pictures in front of it and pretended we were models). Our skipper was such a good sport and kept driving us around again and again so we could get all the shots we wanted (another perk you definitely won't get on a group tour).
Whenever you do pass under the arch, legend says you are supposed to kiss your sweetheart for years of good luck + lasting love. My first go round was with my brother and this time with 2 girlfriends so I can't say I've participated in this legend yet, but hey- gives me a reason to go back again someday!
Our skipper also took us to the best beaches + swimming grottos and pointed out dozens of opulent villas belonging to affluent VIPs. It was hands down my favorite thing I've ever done in Capri (on either trip) and I can't recommend using them enough. Regardless of your budget, they have scaleable prices and are truly worth every additional penny you'd spend vs. a group tour. Do yourself a favor and book a tour.
After porting from our boat tour, we took an open air cab ride up to AnaCapri (which I referenced last time I came to Capri as the most terrifying, yet beautiful, car ride of my life). Once you arrive, you can take a chair lift up to Monte Solaro, the highest point on the island. Typically, you'll get incredible views and bask in the sunshine, but on this particular afternoon, the clouds came rolling in.
The view above is still pretty incredible, although if you visit in the summer you're likely to get a view that's more like this:
After we rode the chairlift up and back, we decided it was time for lunch. The island is full of wonderful places to eat, but you have to try three things whilst visiting Capri:
1). Limoncello: the delicious (in my opinion) digestive that was invented on the island and is made from fruit from the local lemon grove.
2). Torta Caprese: a flourless almond + chocolate cake that bares the island's name.
3). Caprese Salad: the iconic salad we all love that's comprised of simple, fresh + local ingredients: mozzarella, tomato, olive oil and basil.
My personal favorite place to eat on the island is Al Capri. Not only is the food incredible, but the views are incredible!
Once you cover your bases on everything else above, enjoy strolling the streets, shopping for souvenirs, and soaking up as much of the local beauty as you can muster. If you're only there for the day, be sure to check on the ferry times to ensure you don't miss the last one (which varies depending on the time of year).
While Capri was an amazing day trip, we opted to stay on the mainland for the sake of convenience. After doing a bit of research, we landed on Sorrento: a beautiful resort town that straddles the cliffs overlooking the water to Naples and Mt Vesuvius. We found it to be a great home base for exploring the region's highlights (it's right in the middle of Capri, Positano, Pompeii, etc.-- even though we didn't make it to all of those places). The town is incredibly charming + fun to walk around (especially to shop for souvenirs like limoncello or custom made sandals).
When looking for lodging, we wanted to find someplace that was convenient, had great views and embodied the glamorous culture you associate with Almafi. I opted to partner with Grand Hotel Aminta Sorrento because they were all of the above (while also offering competitive prices I thought people would appreciate). Gianfranco, the hotel manager, was great about helping us arrive safely to the hotel. While Almafi is an incredible area, most people arrive via Naples-- which is known for pick pockets and other not-so-great stereotypes. While our original plan was to train to Naples and then take the local train to Sorrento, Gianfranco advised us a taxi was a better option, as the local train has even more of a reputation (plus you don't save that much by train- assuming you're traveling with other people). Immediately upon arrival, we grabbed some bellinis and started soaking up our view.
Aside from the view being incredible and the staff being so wonderful to us, we also loved that they have a shuttle that transports you to and from the hotel and Sorrento's city center every 30 minutes. Driving a car along the windy cliffs of Italy can be a bit unnerving, so thanks to this shuttle you truly don't need a car whilst visiting Sorrento.
We also loved their delicious breakfast buffet (I may have gone a little overboard on the pastries... but #Italy). If starting the day with a ton of sugar isn't your thing <boring> they also have a wide spread of eggs, bacon, cereals, fruit and everything else you could want. The same dining room also is open in the evening if you prefer to stay in rather than hit the town for dinner.
Aside from the wonderful service, helpful + friendly staff and sweeping views-- I even loved the little details like the local artisanal ceramic tiles that adorn the floors + showers. Staying at Grand Aminta Hotel Sorrento was a wonderful experience and someplace I'd recommend to anyone visiting the Almafi area!
Last but not least, be sure to pack a few essentials with you when you go:
-A chic one-piece (I feel like I saw so many Italian women wearing these.\)
While both of my Almafi trips have been short + sweet, I've loved them both and definitely plan to go back again someday! If you're looking to experience a scenic beach vacation mixed with Italian culture (and cuisine-- obviously) then be sure to add these spots to your list! And as always, feel free to ask any questions you may have that I didn't cover in the comments below.
I have lots more to share on the blog in the coming weeks, including: travel guides for Rome, Santorini + Brussels, Post-Travel Remedies (how to recover after a long holiday) and what I'm really excited to announce: my next set of travel plans! Lots more adventures coming your way in 2017...
Until then, wishing you a happy + productive start to the week (and the year!)