In 1953, John Steinbeck visited the bijou little fishing village of Positano in Southern Italy’s Amalfi coast, writing about his trip for Harper’s Bazaar magazine. In his article, he wrote that, “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” After the article was published and the cat was officially out of the bag, the dolce vita jet-set were the first to sit up and take notice. Quick as a flash, they swooped in and transformed the once humble coastline into one of the most exclusive, extravagant and luxurious getaways imaginable. Throughout the decades that passed since that famous piece in Harper’s, the picturesque town of Positano became known as the crown jewel of the coast…not to mention the most expensive.
With the cliffside mountain ranges and deep ravines, a sparkling azure-hued Tyrrhenian Sea and the crumbling pastel facades of this impossibly perched town, it would be easy to spend a holiday here simply staring at your surroundings, wide-eyed and open-jawed, all from the comfort of your sunlounger. However, Positano is a top bucket list dream destination for a reason and there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye; here are our top tips on how to get the most out of your stay.
What To Do
Shop for Linen and Sandals The serpentine street that flows through the town is adorned with little independent boutiques that boast homemade linen and leather sandals. The quality and craftsmanship of the wares is undeniable and you’re able to get them made-to-order and properly fitted to boot.
The Church of Santa Maria Assunta The one and only ‘sightseeing’ landmark in Positano is the beautifully mosaiced church by the beach front. Above the main altar is a 13th-century Byzantine Black Madonna and child and if you come on the weekend you’re likely to spot the festive celebrations of a newly-wed couple.
Wine Tour One of the upswings of the infamous Vesuvius eruption is the fertile volcanic soil that was left over in the aftermath. Perfect for growing pretty much anything but especially wine grapes, here you can discover the delights of full-bodied reds, crisp and complex whites and fragrant rosés whilst taking in the rugged surroundings of the coast.
Snorkel in Li Galli The crystal-clear waters surrounding the three tiny islands that make up the Li Galli archipelago are perfect for spying the colorful fishes of the region and, according to Greek mythology, is where the sirens attempted to seduce Odysseus to his death on the jagged rocks.
Visit Capri The small island off the bay of Naples is famed for its rugged landscape, upscale hotels, celebrity spotting and yachts. One of its best known natural sites is the magical Blue Grotto, a dark cavern where the sea glows an incredible electric blue. Take a gondola ride up to the top of the island and enjoy unparalleled views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Mount Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast.
Hike in Monti Lattari There’s more to the coast than just crystalline waters and picture-perfect towns; those who are in the mood for a more active and atavistic holiday should consider hiking the Monti Lattari Mountain range. Walk through a series of ancient, winding paths that were once accessed only by men and donkeys and used as links for transportation and commerce. The landscape shifts dramatically from mountain to sea and abounds in local flora and fauna such as wild animals, flowers and the world-renowned lemon trees.
Grotta dello Smeraldo The Emerald Grotto is one of the most visited sites on the Amalfi coast and is named after the eerie emerald light that emanates from the water. You access the grotto, which is filled with huge stalactites and stalagmites that surround the cave, via a large rowboat. The best times to visit are between noon and 3pm.
Pompeii Although not strictly on the coast, no visit to this region would be complete without a stopover to the vast archeological site of the Pompeii ruins. What was once a thriving and sophisticated Roman city, was later buried in meters of ash and pumice after the infamous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Walk the entombed city and feel the gravitas of what had occurred with either an audio guide or a walking tour that you can purchase at the entrance.
Where To Stay
Given Positano’s luxury status, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything on the cheap, so we’d suggest saving for this one so that you can really enjoy the full experience of the coast.
Le Sirenuse Perched on a cliffside overlooking the sea and the iconic dome of the Santa Maria Assunta, this ornately tiled, adults-only hotel is a mere 8-minute walk from the Marina Grande beach. Prices start from ~$1600 USD
Hotel Villa Franca Unsurprisingly, the highest hotel in Positano also boasts the best view. It’s hard to miss the all-white beacon that looks out over the bay of Positano, however, this high-end hotel has ditched the ostentatious décor of its counterparts and instead feels more like a luxurious private home, complete with a private collection of contemporary art. The upscale rooms feature balconies with street and sea views whilst the Turkish spa down below is a perfect way to relax after a day adventuring on the coast. Prices start from ~$450 USD.
Pensione Maria Luisa We said it couldn’t be done, but if you’re after something a little cheaper that still reflects the grandiosity of the region then check out the Pensione Maria Luisa. The beautifully decorated rooms and balconies that overlook the bay make this humble guest house look like a 5-star. Prices start from ~$125 USD.
What To Eat
Pizza (ovbs) As we all know, Naples is technically the birthplace of pizza (and the Italian Mafia – a coincidence, we’re sure) but given its proximity to the coast, you’d be crazy to give up a slice of pie whilst wading the warm waters of Marina Grande beach for stubborn authenticity.
Amalfi Lemon Cake The beauty of the coast is synonymous with the iconic lemon trees that grow amidst the cliffs. You can’t miss trying this delicious Italian dessert made with genoise cake, limoncello and lemon cream.
Rum baba Originally a Polish dessert, the babà as it’s now known was brought to Naples by French chefs and became a popular Neapolitan specialty. Enjoy it plain and soaked in rum or, for more of a flair of the coast, have it stuffed with Amalfi lemon cream.
The seafood! Clams, octopi, mussels, prawns, white fish and more; the Amalfi coast is brimming with some of the finest seafood in the world. Always ask what’s fresh that day and what the waitstaff would recommend. Often it’ll come with a recommendation for a bottle of wine that’s ‘off the menu’ but just PERFECT with that lobster spaghetti…
Where To Eat
Needless to say that the coast is a destination dining hotspot; it boasts more stars than the night sky and for those restaurants that missed out, well, they’re usually ‘hidden gems’ that managed to escape the pressures of Michelin life. What we’re getting at is that you’d be hard pressed to eat anywhere and be disappointed; that being said there are a few restaurants that deserve a special mention.
Li Galli Restaurant Located in Hotel Villa Franca, this gourmet gem of a restaurant overlooks the bay of Fornillo beach, the view of which is only outdone by the exquisite regional dishes on offer.
La Sponda The only Michelin star in Positano is comfortably at home in the ornate Le Sirenuse hotel. The light Mediterranean cuisine is based of fresh, local ingredients and is inspired by the rich culinary history of both Naples and the Amalfi Coast.
Where To Drink
Positano isn’t really known for its nightlife and everything that might be called a ‘bar’ is more of a restaurant; drinks aren’t really their forte. That being said, trundle down to the beachfront during the day and get comfortable underneath a parasol whilst sipping on an Aperol or Limoncello spritz whilst overlooking the bay and you’ll see that labels don’t really matter.
However, after the sun goes down and the lights come on, there is one little hidey hole to get a few late night tipples at. The music of La Zagara piano bar starts at 9pm and plays music ranging from neomelodica Neapolitan traditional and international songs before moving onto modern and disco music towards the end of the evening.
Do away with the stomach curdling, hairpin turns of the coast and the overly crowded public buses or gratuitously expensive private taxis and jump on one of the many ferry services instead. You get an incredible view of the coast, plus it’s quicker and far cheaper than a taxi and less stressful than a public bus.
The drive from Naples isn’t a short one, to break up the journey (especially if you’re vacationing in the summer heat) stop off at one of the little lemon granita stalls along the way. Ask your taxi driver for their favorite and make sure that it’s got chunks of candied lemon in it – delicious and refreshing!
Da Adolfo Restaurant This could have landed in the ‘where to eat’ section of the article but we thought it deserved a spot all its own. Head down to the harbor and look out for a boat with a little red fish on it. This will transport you to a neighboring beach with a rustic shack serving up the freshest seafood in a laidback setting. The waitstaff are funny, friendly and incredibly helpful; ask them for their recommendations and you won’t be let down. After lunch, take a dip in the private beach before returning to Positano. Da Adolfo is becoming increasingly popular so reservations here are usually a necessity.
Sometimes dreams can feel a little out-of-reach but that’s why it’s so important to not just keep it to yourself, but share them with the world on the BUCKiTDREAM app via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Social networking is amazing and you never know, that friend-of-a-friend might just have a nonna that you could stay with, saving you cash that’s well spent on pasta, pasta and, uh, a little more pasta…