The 30 or so miles that make up Italy’s Amalfi Coast have been a magnet for discerning travellers since Roman times. In a bygone era, visitors included everyone from Wagner and Liszt to the writers DH Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and Graham Greene.
More recently, Hollywood stars Reese Witherspoon and Anna Paquin, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and TV star Kim Kardashian have honeymooned here.
Basketball legend Michael Jordan, millionaire poker player Dan Bilzerian and actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Emily Ratajkowski are among those to have holidayed here, while writer Gore Vidal even owned a villa in the local resort of Ravello.
So, what attracts the rich and famous?
For a start there are the Amalfi Coast’s crystal blue waters and its vivid blue skies. Then there is also its spectacular coastline, which features some of Europe’s prettiest towns and villages precariously clinging to vertiginous cliffs overlooking the sea. The area is also full of smart cafes and restaurants and chic, high-end boutiques.
A great way to see the entire coast is by boat. You can either hire a private one for a tour, or alternatively, hop on one of the numerous ferry services that link the coast’s resorts. It’s a great way to gaze in awe at the area’s numerous luxury villas.
However, buying a home here, or even renting one, isn’t always cheap. Luxury Amalfi Coast villas can fetch anything up to €7million, while renting a top-end home on the coast, especially in high season, can leave you with little change from €20,000 a week.
The area boasts a number of spectacular caves. Must-sees include the Grotta dello Smeraldo, where many visitors stop off for a dip in the waters, the Grotta delle Matera and the Marina di Crapolla, overlooked by the imposing ruins of a Roman-era villa.
If you can, also make time to stop off at the three small isles of La Rotonda, Gallo dei Briganti and Gallo Lungo, which lie around three miles of Colli di Fontanelle and which together make up the Li Galli (Italian for “the cockerels”) archipelago.
There are also many sights to see on dry land too, such as the imposing domed cathedrals in Amalfi town, Positano and Ravello. However, Ravello’s most visited attractions are probably Villa Cimbrone, which has been converted into a hotel, and Villa Rufolo, where the local Concert Society stages a series of open-air concerts in the gardens. Both are open to the public.
How to Get There
The closest international airport is in Naples. From there, you can catch a ferry to various points on the Amalfi Coast. Or you may wish to take a bus or a train from Naples to Sorrento and then get onto a Sita bus for other resorts on the coast. Alternatively, you may wish to take a taxi or hire a car from the airport to wherever you’re staying on the coast.
The main coastal road is narrow and clings to a cliff, but that doesn’t stop local drivers haring along it at high speed. In other words, it’s not a route for learner motorists or the faint-hearted.
When to Go
Huge crowds descend on the area in high season (July-August) so the ideal time to go is probably in early summer (May-June) or early Autumn (September and early October). Note that a lot of hotels, restaurants and other facilities more or less close down between November and March.
Where to Stay
Given its star-studded clientele, the Amalfi Coast isn’t necessarily the most wallet-friendly destination in Italy.
If you need to watch your budget, it’s best to avoid pricey Ravello and Positano and head instead to Amalfi town or nearby Atrani. The latter two towns are almost slap-bang in the middle of the seafront and so are handy for trips both east and west along the coast.
If you really want to holiday like a Hollywood star (or you are one), then try the five-star Il San Pietro hotel in Positano, complete with its own private beach.
Bear in mind that even the swankiest hotels become a lot more affordable if you avoid high season.
Amalfi: This pretty town, which gives the entire coast its name, is bordered by lemon trees and features a charming warren of high-sided narrow streets, ideal to explore on foot.
Positano: This former fishing village attracts more celebrities than any other resort on the coast. It boasts a characteristic skyline, with its pretty pastel-coloured villas almost appearing to tumble over one another to gaze at the sea below.
Ravello: Arguably the swankiest of the coast’s towns, Ravello is a hilltop garden paradise that sits high above the sea and is famed for its classical music festivals, held between April and October. It can be reached on foot from Amalfi and Atrani. Beware: it’s a long walk.