The Amalfi Coast might be the most beautiful place on earth. Some say the best views are from a boat looking up at the town, but I also enjoyed the view from our hotel balconies. The picturesque hillside towns overlook sparkling cobalt blue water, and the sailboats dotting the ocean provide added character. Our trip to Italy was our first proper holiday by European standards, and we spent 9 days exploring the Amalfi Coast, Florence and Tuscany. I’m already missing my daily gnocchi and gelato.
Getting to Capri was a relatively painless experience involving a quick flight to Naples, cab to the port, and ferry across the sea.
Once arriving on the island, we were able to take a funicular (cable car) up to the town center and were immediately in love with the views of the ocean and town below. A short walk from the city center was Villa Helios, our first home of the trip. It was a quaint little hotel with great views and friendly, accommodating staff. We spent some time getting acquainted with the island and taking in the breathtaking views while enjoying a cocktail.
When we started planning our trip to the Amalfi Coast, my top priority was to go to the Blue Grotto. Seven years ago when I was last in Italy, it was my biggest regret that we did not do this. So we made sure to book a tour of Capri in advance and had Antonello as our Gozzo captain. He was very knowledgeable of the island and told us about the history and pointed out interesting places. I could tell he was not super happy to stop at the Blue Grotto while we waited for a little row boat to pick us up, but he was a good spot. After waiting for about 20 minutes it was finally our turn and we hopped into the little boat and had to lay on the floor to make it under the rocky opening into the grotto. The captain basically pulled us under the rocks with a rope, and it was pretty dramatic. But nothing prepared me for the spectacular blue glowing water. It was so intense. The captain started singing in Italian and explained the history of the grotto and took us around twice so our eyes were adjusted. I couldn’t believe how pretty it was. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me. Apparently we were also pretty lucky because a lot of days the seas are too rough to get through the hole. But in Tyler’s eye’s it was just expensive – about EUR 50 (including tip) for the 5 minute excursion. Oh well, YOLO.
The rest of our boat trip with Antonello was relaxing. We drank champagne and swam in the deep blue waters. We saw a few more grottos and I also got terribly seasick. Overall, the boat trip was great and I would highly recommend doing it.
Our other activities while in Capri consisted of taking a convertible cab to Anacapri and riding the single-person chairlifts to the top of the mountain at Monte Solaro. The ride up the chairlift was pretty uneventful, especially since you’re by yourself, but the views at the top were pretty awesome, even if we were up in the clouds.
We also walked to Villa San Michele at the top of Anacapri to take more pictures.
On our last morning in Capri, we woke up early since there was still so much we wanted to do. We started off with a hike to Villa Jovis, a short hike but mostly uphill. The scenery was beautiful, and I kept stopping to take pictures of people’s intricate wrought iron gates and entry ways. There were such pretty flowers blooming everywhere and also several lemon trees with the biggest lemons I have ever seen. Upon our arrival to Villa Jovis, we were disappointed to learn that it didn’t open until 10am, and we had made it there around 9. Since we were on a tight schedule, we didn’t have time to wait to see the old Roman ruins and the views. So, we opted to take the trail to the woods to Villa Lysis. The trail turned out to be a steep, rocky pathway through the woods. We saw something moving in the distance on the trail that we thought was a dog, but upon closer examination turned out to be a mountain goat! We didn’t know if goats were friendly or not, so we approached hesitantly and he ran off into the woods with his buddy following him.
Villa Lysis is an old mansion sitting on top of Capri with amazing views. It was built by a man exiled from France for molesting minors and being homosexual. The house itself was kind of rundown, but it was cool to see the opium room and the views. After we snapped some pics we headed back down to town for some great pizza.
Hotel: Villa Helios
Terrazza Brunella – 5/5 one of the most memorable meals of the trip
Panorama – 3/5 not the best experience or food, but great views
Lo Sfizio – 4/5 great pizza and atmosphere for lunch
We took a ferry from Capri to Positano, and Tyler got to meet Jerome “The Bus” Bettis who was sitting next to us. They chatted for a few minutes and took a picture together.
We arrived in Positano and completely ignored the suggestions of our hotel to hire a porter to take our luggage up and to take the bus ourselves. HUGE mistakes. Positano is all steps. I don’t even know how many flights I lugged my bags up in the sweltering heat, but I was sure I was going to pass out. No clue how we made it to the Villa Gabrisa, but we did, desperately in need of a cool off. The beach was a short ten minute walk (all downhill) so we decided to spend a few hours at the less crowded Beach Fornillo before dinner. This was the less crowded beach, but it was mainly black rocks so we opted to swim instead of laying out. We finished the night with some great food with terrible service. Can’t win ’em all!
Because of travel time, we really only had one full day in Positano so we had to make the most of it… by leaving Positano and hiking the Path of the Gods and also visiting Ravello. We had plans to take the ferry to Amalfi and then continue by bus to Ravello, but mother nature had other plans and the sea was too rough for ferry travel. Which meant that we had to cram on the crowded, smelly bus from Positano to Amalfi. The roads are so windy and small that I was sure it couldn’t make the hairpin turns. The views were great but I couldn’t look because I was terrified. We made it to Amalfi and took a few pictures before doing the Hop on Hop Off bus to Ravello. This was a better choice because it was less crowded and open air and not too much more expensive.
Ravello is at the top of the mountain, and the views are out of this world. Seriously everything was beautiful. We wandered around the city, had some lunch, and then went to Villa Cimbrone because Tyler had read that a writer once said it was the most beautiful place he had ever been. I think the Villa is probably more beautiful in the spring when it isn’t so hot and everything isn’t dead. But we enjoyed walking around. Although it was only a short stay in Ravello, I really enjoyed the beauty.
The highlight of the day was definitely hiking the Path of the Gods. The trail is a 9km hike which we did from East to West from Bomerano to Nocelle. To get there we had to take a bus back to Amalfi and then a bus to Aergola to the start of the trail. The bus ride to Aergola still gives me nightmares so I won’t elaborate. We may or may not have gotten off the bus at the wrong stop to get to the path, but after stopping to ask for directions we figured it out. We started the hike around 5pm which was perfect because we still had plenty of daylight, the temperature was not too hot, and it was not crowded at all. We basically had the trail to ourselves. The hike was moderate, but rocky and a little treacherous at points. It started pouring halfway through the hike which made things slippery and my white t-shirt see through. I’ll let the pictures convey what my words cannot.
We arrived in Nocelle wet, smelly, and hungry, but felt like we had just accomplished something pretty cool. Nocelle was a neat little town that I would consider staying in if we ever made the trip to Amalfi again. It’s close enough to Positano to get to by non-scary bus, but is not nearly as touristy. We ended the night by eating at Saraceno D’Oro, a restaurant that had been recommended by two separate friends. I would like to pass the recommendation on to anyone who happens to go to Positano because it was incredible and cheap! Cheapest and one of the best meals we had on the trip. win/win.
Since we hadn’t spent much time in Positano itself, on our last day we hiked down the steps into town. It is such a beautiful town and is best seen from a bus or the water. I wish we could have spent more time by the beach, but we had to make it to Sorrento and decided to beach there instead.
Hotel: Villa Gabrisa
Saraceno D’Oro – 5/5 great food for a great price
We stayed in a hotel right by the port and even got an upgrade with a badass terrace and view of Vesuvius. Since my only priority for the afternoon was to bask in the sun, we threw on our suits and made the short walk to the small, crowded beach. It kinda sucked. We rented chairs, but we were 4 rows from the water and there were a lot of screaming children. Oh well, the beach is the beach, right?
Sorrento was definitely a little different from the other locations we had visited thus far. It felt like a bigger city and I would say wasn’t as pretty. We explored the town and had some homemade limoncello in the organic lemon groves and then went to the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria to catch the sunset. This hotel was ridiculously nice, like nicest hotel I have set foot in. But it had a prime sunset viewing location and we were serenaded with the musical stylings of a pretty mediocre piano player, who had trouble finding the right keys. We had a few drinks until the sun went down and then headed to dinner at Pizzeria Tasso, a quirky place with sexual artwork displayed all over the wall. The service, atmosphere and food were great. I especially enjoyed when the manager brought his tie collection over to our table after Tyler complimented his cat tie.
You can’t go to Italy without having amazing food and drinks, so here are some our our best meals.
If I had to pick favorites, I’d say Capri was my favorite location that we stayed in, the Path of the Gods hike was my favorite activity, and Terrazza Brunella was my favorite restaurant. Amalfi is so magical, but I was also super excited to head to Florence.