Italy's Amalfi Coast (Part 01): Amalfi
Our big summer trip was a week on the Amalfi Coast, and with the Greek Islands setting a high bar last summer, we were hoping Italy’s “coast with the most” would live up to its reputation. We flew into Naples, met up with our cab driver (thoughtfully arranged by our Airbnb host) and set off for the 90-minute drive past Vesuvius, up over the mountains at the base of the Sorrentine Peninsula and back down toward the glittering blue waters of the Mediterranean. While we typically set up home base in at least a couple of different places within a week’s trip, we opted instead to stay in Amalfi for all 8 nights. This worked out well on the Amalfi Coast as everything we wanted to see was a quick bus or ferry ride away. We did not rent a car (hence the cab ride) and, in the end, we were happy we didn’t. Transit options are aplenty, parking is scarce and expensive, and driving the busy coastal road with the plethora of unpredictable, overconfident scooter drivers darting around cars and squeezing between buses and guardrails would have been a headache! Our apartment was set a few minutes’ walk from the center of Amalfi on Via Roberto Il Guiscardo and was the perfect home base for our stay, between the balcony offering beautiful views over the water (yes, we spent many an evening there) and the calm, quiet setting.
Once we dropped our bags off, we couldn’t contain our excitement to go explore! We went to Duomo di Amalfi, the town’s imposingly beautiful cathedral, to orient ourselves. As stunning as the church itself is, most impressive is what lies down below—the crypt of the apostle Andrew. From there we walked along the coast for a bit, taking in the views out on the jetties and scoping out the main beach, Marina Grande. We got to know the beach pretty well over our stay, making it a habit to go for night swims after long, hot days sightseeing and hiking. We would go to Mare di Cobalto (“Blue Beach”), one of the many private stretches of beaches in Amalfi, during the day to lay out in our chairs, dip into the water and grab quick bites to eat from the attached restaurant.
Back in town, we circled Piazza Duomo (the main square) and also poked into Piazza dei Dogi, a smaller square just west from the main square. As is often the case with cities and towns blessed with beautiful squares, we found ourselves here almost every evening, usually with gelato in hand. We even grabbed our trip’s souvenir from a small paper shop right off of Piazza Duomo. Curving northward from the main square is Amalfi’s main drag, Via Lorenzo D'Amalfi, flanked on both sides by restaurants, cafes and shops. There are a handful of captivating side streets that run directly off the main road, so don’t be afraid to wander off—you may even discover the most delicious pizza on Earth (more on that in a bit…). It was our first day wandering the side streets that we met a fellow couple that are American expats living in London—and on this particular day visiting Amalfi! We have since become friends and they are now an important part of our London family. You never know who you’ll meet in your travels!
Our first night in Amalfi coincided with the Euros quarter-final where Italy faced off against Germany, the winner of which would be moving on to the tournament’s penultimate games. We walked around town trying to find a good place to watch the match, settled for a bit on a small TV set up outside of a shop on the main street, but decided to go back to our apartment only 15 minutes into the game. On our way back, we heard some suspicious noises down on the beach and looked over the edge of the street to find that the town was projecting the game onto a large wall by the water and there were dozens of locals hanging out and watching! As fate would have it, we ran into our friends from earlier in the day, so we all went down to root for Italia with the home crowd. It was quite the atmosphere, with little kids running around (some of whom were kicking around soccer balls emulating their heroes), pizza deliveries by rope and basket from the beach-side street 30 feet up, and enough food and drink to feed at least twice the number of people. It was a very close match that ultimately came down to a dramatic series of penalty kicks. The crowd roared, then hushed, then jumped up, then slunk down in their chairs. Unfortunately, the game ended with everyone slunk in their chairs as Germany fired the winning kick, thus knocking Italy out. It didn’t quite go the way we, or anyone else there, wanted, but the experience was amazing nonetheless!
As we do when it’s merited, we’re saving a whole paragraph at the end of the post to talk about food! We had plenty of it in Amalfi (and the rest of the Amalfi Coast which we’ll discuss in upcoming posts). We made it a habit to grab marmalade doughnuts and croissants from Panificio Apicella each morning and enjoy them on our balcony as the sun shot up from behind the mountains in the east. We also enjoyed lots of food on the beach, from raw, chilled coconut supplied by a lone man walking the beach rhythmically chanting “cocco, bella cocco!” to light sandwiches and lunch fare from Mare di Cobalto. Dinner at Ristorante L’Abside (Mama’s lasagna, tagliatelle with Bolognese, ravioli with tomato sauce, spaghetti carbonara, shrimp risotto in a lemon sauce, tiramisu—all of which we would recommend) in Piazza dei Dogi merited multiple visits and the beachside dining at Silver Moon (spaghetti Bolognese and mussels) was a nice change of pace, but nothing beat the magic of pizzeria Donna Stella. Set away from the main drag under a tangle of lemon trees, this little pizzeria served up the best pizza we’ve ever had, period. It was so good that we came back three or four times and ordered the exact same pizza every time! We are suckers for potatoes on pizza, and this was the mother of all of them: mozzarella, ham and potato. God bless us if we can ever find pizza that beats it, because it would have to be pure bliss! Finally, dessert was not spared, and as mentioned, we had quite a sampling of gelato from the various gelaterias in town. Pastries from Pasticceria Savoia and Pasticceria Pansa were very nice. We also had some of the local lemon almond candies and lemon chocolate (more lemon-flavored food to come in future posts!) which were both delicious (though Rico liked the almond candies more than Britt…).
As beautiful and packed with sights and experiences as Amalfi was, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned for more from Atrani, Cetara, Sorrento, Positano, Ravello and Capri!