With its stunning scenery, azure sea, sailing opportunities, rich culture, sunny climate, scrumptious food and some of the most luxurious hotels in the world, the Amalfi Coast is the perfect holiday destination
The scent of citrus fruit, the salty air, the brightly coloured buildings perched on a cliff, yachts floating on the azure sea: Amalfi and the Amalfi Coast are considered one of the most beautiful and romantic places in the world, and it’s easy to see why.
Amalfi and the Coast: culture and natural beauty
Amalfi lies at the mouth of a ravine and was once a rich and powerful maritime republic with 70,000 inhabitants. The town and the area surrounding it have kept their history and traditions alive and the Byzantine, Arabic and Norman influences are still very much intact.
The Amalfi Coast is hugely popular with tourists from all over the world, especially with British and American visitors.
Easy to reach by sea or plane – just over an hour’s drive from Naples airport – this enchanting corner of southern Italy is the perfect romantic and relaxing break.
Its mild climate make it a popular destination from April until October, the calm blue sea makes it a sailing paradise, the locally produced food and drink (this is the birthplace of limoncello) are to die for, its natural beauty is simply breathtaking and there are plenty of things to do, with many of cultural offerings, unspoilt treks for hikers and, of course, a vast array of watersports. Locals are friendly, polite and helpful, always eager to share their knowledge and love for this beautiful place. The area is well looked after, clean and with no crime.
The coast is home to some truly stunning towns, villages and islands. Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, Maiori, Atrani, Minori, Praiano, Cetara and Vietri sul Mare are a stone’s throw away from each other, and easily reached by car, public transport and by sea. The island of Capri, whilst technically not part of the Amalfi Coast, is also nearby, and every year in May it hosts the Rolex Capri Sailing Week, a real spectacle not to be missed. Sorrento and Ischia are also nearby and well worth a visit.
Amalfi is an ideal base to explore the coast. Whilst small, it is one of the largest and most vibrant towns in the area and offers plenty to do and see. Unmissable are St Andrew’s Cathedral (Il Duomo), which overlooks the beautiful Piazza Duomo, in the heart of Amalfi, il Chiostro del Paradiso and the Paper Museum.
The main square is dotted with boutiques, restaurants, bars and cafés, gelaterie (ice cream parlours), pasticcerie (patisseries) and shops that sell local produce, such as limoncello, citrus jams, pasta, fine leather goods and locally made ceramics, painted in bright hues of yellow and blue. Go off the beaten track and explore the hidden corners of Amalfi. Take any stone staircase or vicolo (lane) and you’ll discover some veritable gems, such as homes built in the rocks, family-run restaurants where the locals eat and pretty boutiques and local workshops.
One of the most beautiful hotels in the world: Hotel Santa Caterina
There are several fine hotels in Amalfi, but for that veritable dolce vita experience, look no further than Hotel Santa Caterina. Built in the late 19th century, this Liberty style five star hotel is family run and it certainly shows in its character, service – which is discreet, personal and never intrusive – and the luxurious and elegant touches throughout the hotel.
Perched on the clifftop above Amalfi, Santa Caterina offers stunning views of the coastline and it’s only a 10 minutes walk from the town centre, although for guests who prefer not to walk, there is also a free of charge regular shuttle bus.
The hotel boasts the beautiful and award winning Restaurant Santa Caterina, located on the terrace – which is sheltered by a wisteria-covered pergola and offers stunning sea views – the Terrazza Bar, perfect for an aperitivo and a well stocked wine cellar.
Take the glass lift down a couple of floors and you’ll find yourself at the private beach club with sea water pool. The Beach Club’s Ristorante al Mare and Bar is on another lower terrace overlooking the sea, and there is also a fitness centre and a spa, where guests can enjoy face and body treatments that use local Mediterranean herbs and citrus fruits.
The hotel also has its own lemon grove and sweetly scented, colourful gardens, with a spectacular sea view.
Designed in classic Italian architecture and decorated with the colours of the Mediterranean, the rooms are light, elegant and refined, with 36 partial sea views and executive partial sea view, front sea views and deluxe bedrooms, 13 junior suites, executive junior suites and standard suites located in the main building. The garden suites are aptly located in the garden area of the hotel. An additional 17 deluxe rooms, junior suites and suites are situated in the hotel’s adjacent Villa Santa Caterina and the recently acquired Villa Il Rosso. All bathrooms are beautifully tiled and stocked with luxurious Bulgari toiletries.
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Start the day with a refreshing swim in the pool before enjoying a scrumptious breakfast on the terrace, taking in the breathtaking view.
The first meal of the day is taken seriously here, with a huge selection of delicious homemade pastries and cakes (the lemon drizzle one, made with locally-grown citrus, is not to be missed – light and airy with the perfect tang of Amalfi limone), Italian cured meats and local cheeses and smoked fish, fresh and dried fruit, nuts and seeds, Italian yogurt (we highly recommend the coffee-flavoured one), freshly baked breads, jams and preserves, cereals, eggs and sausages, all to be enjoyed with a strong Italian coffee, tea and freshly squeezed juices.
Snacks such as sandwiches, fresh salads and platters of fish are available throughout the day, and be sure not to miss the typical Italian aperitivo.
The Santa Caterina barmen are masters when it comes to cocktails. Try a Bellini, made with Prosecco and freshly squeezed peach juice or one of the many varieties of Aperol Spritz, with the saffron and rosemary one being of particular note. The wine list is also excellent and the staff will be able to help you choose. Aperitif always comes with complimentary snacks, which include olives, nuts, crisps and tiny bites of bread topped with fish, meat or vegetables.
Make sure you leave room for dinner as it’s not to be missed. Served on the terrace, supper consists of freshly caught fish, homemade pasta, meats, salads and mouth-watering desserts, all to be enjoyed by candlelight with the faint sound of live guitar music being played in the background. Finish with an local limoncello and an espresso for a real Italian experience.
Hotel Santa Caterina can also book excursions for guests and advise on bus and ferry services to nearby villages.
Boat trips, sailing and marinas
Don’t miss a boat trip to romantic Positano or Capri, or if you prefer, you can charter a boat and enjoy a spot of sailing in the stunning Mediterranean sea. Amalfi Marine offers cruises, watersport excursions, boat rentals and day trips. UK based Seamasters has a good selection of yachts available to charter and Silver Star Yachting specialises in luxury superyacht chartering.
If you prefer to sail to the Amalfi Coast on your boat, there are several marina options, including Porto di Amalfi, Marina Piccola in Capri and Marina D’Arechi.
All you have to do is kick back and enjoy the beautiful Amalfi Coast life.