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A long winding road. Hold onto your hats and stomach!
Amalfi Coast (Italy)
Member Name: garymarsh6
Amalfi Coast (Italy)
Date: 19/06/12, updated on 20/06/12 (73 review reads)
Advantages: Fantastic views of beautiful rock hugging towns and villages.
Disadvantages: Not for the faint hearted or those with fear of heights.
The drive along the Amalfi coast is perhaps one of the most stunning drives in the world driving along roads built into the sides of the cliffs that drop steeply into the sea hundreds of feet below you. It is certainly not a drive for those who are fainthearted as the drive involves hairpin bends twisting and turning along the coast road.
Where is the Amalfi coast?
South of Naples stretching from the Sorrentine peninsular the road continues south to reach the plains of Salerno passing towns and villages built into the steep mountains that drop hundreds of feet into the sea below. The Amalfi coast is not renowned for its beaches by any stretch of the imagination however what it does give you are dramatic views of the sea and the amazing towns and villages built in practically vertical formation along the coast and in the coves and inlets.
You are either crazy to drive this route yourself although there are some who do but we took the easy option and went on a bus tour. During the high season the locals who live in the towns are permitted only to drive every other day which will give an indication how popular this route is. It is amazing to see cars parked on parking lots that jut out into the air with drops of up to 1000 feet below the little platform they are parked on.
We started our drive from the town of Sorrento one of the main tourist towns along the coast that juts out on a headland high above the Mediterranean Sea below. Driving up through the mountains heading past small villages some with their own cathedrals some looking no bigger than what we would consider chapels. The hills are covered in lemon groves and olive groves all along the Sorrentine peninsular. Everywhere you look are lemon trees and in the shops lemon decorated plates and bowls, table cloths and tea towels. It is no surprise that the most famous of drinks Limóncello is made here being made from beautiful fat juicy lemons that seem to be in abundance everywhere you look. Often in restaurants they will ply you with this alcohol more so as a digestive than as a long drink served ice cold and in small glasses it is a beautiful little drink!
Along the coast are beautiful villas some owned by the rich and famous because to own a house along this coast you need to be somewhat loaded. Sofia Loren has a massive villa built here. Of course she also has her own helipad in her extensive gardens. Other houses are built quite high and are quite narrow.
The main towns along the coast include Positano, Amalfi and Ravello and it is through these towns you either take the time to visit to eat or do the tourist thing or by pass completely. Most of these towns are geared up for tourists and most shops and restaurants supply over inflated priced goods or meals. What you are really paying for is the stunning views along this stretch of coast. You can also catch a glimpse of Capri off the coast which is easily reached by ferry or hydrofoil from Sorrento or Positano.
We did the coastal drive from Sorrento to Ravello stopping on route to have a coffee in a road side café with a 1000 foot drop down below. This being Italy the coffee was absolutely fantastic the Italians certainly know how to make a good cup of coffee. Alternating sipping water to clear the palate and sipping coffee enhances the flavour so you get the real taste of the coffee while we admired the houses built into the side of the cliffs and the stunning views out to sea.
We passed Positano far below us so that we could get to Ravello. Driving down through Amalfi we started the very steep climb up the hair pin bending roads to reach Ravello. The mini bus parked in the car park and we continued walking up the steps to reach the main square. Of course Ravello has its own Cathedral but we were heading to view the grounds and gardens of the Villa Cimbrone. Following our visit to this beautiful villa and stunning gardens giving unparalleled views of the 1000 or so foot drop across the valleys and out to sea. After a while we headed back to the town square and headed to a lovely restaurant overlooking the bay of Salerno and the resorts of Minori and Maiori far below us along the coast.
Eating lunch in such a stunning setting is fantastic sitting on the terrace overlooking the bay with a nice glass of wine and wonderful Italian food what more could you want. We spent two hours here enjoying the views and general chit chat before we headed back to the minibus that rode its way back down the side of the mountain along the winding twisting road to the town of Amalfi. We were dropped off in the town centre and made our way to the Duomo Piazza where we visited the Cathedral of St. Andrew where parts of his remains are interred in the crypt. The cathedral is reached by mounting 6o odd stairs to reach the cathedral which towers over the Piazza.
We continued our journey along the coast road until we reached the town of Positano where we were dropped off at the top of the hill. We walked all the way down to the cathedral passing expensive boutiques and restaurants on the way. Thankfully we did not have to walk back up the hill as it would have been quite a challenge to say the least. We managed to have a lovely ice-cream down in the town while we waited to be picked up by the minibus to continue along the twisting and winding coastal road. The coast road runs for approximately 40 kilometres from Sorrento and in the summer months it is extremely popular with tourists.
There are hair pin bends and massive drops that will leave you with butterflies in your stomach especially if you are afraid of heights but due to the steepness of the roads and the winding and twisting most of the traffic is unable to drive very fast anyway so it is quite a controlled drive along the coast.
Is it worth it?
Yes I would say it is definitely worth it because of the wonderful views and just the experience of driving along one of the most beautiful and stunning drives in the world. The cliff clinging villages and towns are beautiful to see and are an amazing sight. The downside that really got to me was the over inflated prices in the area and the rudeness of some of the shop owners and waiting staff. Apart from that I thoroughly enjoyed my drive along the Amalfi coast and I actually do not like heights at all but felt really pleased I had done it.
Summary: Absolutely stunning drive along the Amalfi coastal route.