The Amalfi Coast is famous for its sophisticated glamour, secret beaches, shady groves and sensational views. Discover a whole new side to the region with our countdown of its 12 best local experiences.
1. Leap into the Mediterranean
The greatest thrill on the Amalfi Coast is to head out for the open sea. Every town along the coast has a sign reading ‘noleggio barche’ (boat hire), indicating that anyone with a few euros to spare can become the captain of a vessel. Line up along the side, toes clinging to the edge: three, two, one… leap into the warm air and plunge down into the sea.
Make it happen: Boat hire is available on most harbour fronts along the coast (from £18 per hour for a small motor launch).
2. Sleep like a saint
For those seeking spiritual fulfilment, there is the Oasi Madre della Pace, a convent hidden amid silvery olive trees in the hills above Sorrento. Run by Franciscan nuns, the convent opens its doors to guests from all over the world, who come for anything from a formal spiritual retreat to just a night or two of downtime.
Make it happen: Oasi Madre della Pace, Via Parise – Zona Priora, Sorrento (from £60; oasimadredellapace.com).
3. Eat fish in the bay
The best way to taste the seafood is to eat as close to the ocean as possible. The Conca dei Marini has a secluded beach set amid cliffs that forms one of the coast’s most beautiful coves. Visitors must either climb down steep stone steps from the road or take a boat from Amalfi town. Yet it’s worth it for a visit to La Tonnarella, a beach restaurant serving whatever has been caught that day.
Make it happen: La Tonnarella, Conca dei Marini, between Amalfi and Furore (mains from £11; 00 39 89 831939; ristorantelatonnarella.com).
4. Hide out like Greta Garbo
The village of Ravello attracted the most famous solitude-seeker of the twentieth century, Greta Garbo. In 1938 Garbo rented the Villa Cimbrone here with her lover and the press staked out the villa round the clock. ‘It is cruel to bother people who want to be left in peace,’ Garbo snapped at the reporters. But today, the Hotel Villa Cimbrone is as peaceful as any movie star could wish for.
Make it happen: Hotel Villa Cimbrone, Via S Chiara 26, Ravello (gardens open 9am-sunset; 00 39 89 857459; villacimbrone.com).
5. Cook real Italian food
Mamma Agata has cooked for Hollywood couples Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. These days, she teaches cookery to guests at the home her family has lived in for 250 years. For Mamma Agata and her daughter Chiara, teaching cookery is not merely a job, but a passion. ‘For Italians, food is the centre of the world,’ says Chiara.
Make it happen: Mamma Agata, Piazza S Cosima 9, Ravello (00 39 89 858432; mammaagata.com).
6. Wander through a Rossellini film set
One of the region’s most beloved sons was the director Roberto Rossellini, known as much for his colourful love life as for his movies. Visitors walk the streets recreating the poses of his leading ladies, Ingrid Bergman and Anna Magnani, pretending to star in their own movies.
Make it happen: Rossellini film stills can be found throughout Maiori.
7. Drive a classic car
It is a fantasy straight out of a James Bond film: taking the hairpin bends of the spectacular coastal road in a classic convertible car. There are many rides for rent in Sorrento – from dinky Fiat 500s to Jaguars and Ferraris.
Make it happen: Spider Life Style, Via Gottola 83, Piano de Sorrento (classic car hire from €100 per day; 00 39 33 3992 5141; spiderlifestyle.com).
8. Walk the Path of the Gods
The Path of the Gods winds up and down precipitous ridges from Agerola all the way to Positano. At every turn, there is a new and dramatic view down to the cobalt-blue Gulf of Salerno below. If the Gods ever did walk the Earth, it is easy to imagine that they must have done so here.
Make it happen: Path of the Gods walk (3 hours, signposted from the main piazza in Agerola; in-italia.com/italy/campania/hiking-path-sentieri-degli-dei).
9. Watch the sun set on Positano
The Sirens in Homer’s Odyssey lured sailors to their doom on a rocky island by singing a song of seduction. According to local tradition, that island lies just off the Amalfi Coast. The Hotel Le Sirenuse in Positano is named after these mythical creatures, and its terrace offers what is generally agreed to be the most sublime view of Positano.
Make it happen: Hotel Le Sirenuse terrace bar, Via Cristoforo Colombo 30, Positano (open year-round; mains from £22; 00 39 89 875066; sirenuse.it).
10. Shop like Jackie O
When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis visited the island of Capri in the late ’60s and early ’70s, she packed light. Once there, she would drop into La Parisienne and buy 12 pairs of Adriana di Fiore’s famous Capri pants. Today, Adriana still works in the boutique established by her family more than a century ago. Jackie O’s favourite slim-fitting trousers are made by hand in the workshop.
Make it happen: La Parisienne, Piazza Umbetro 1, Capri (Capri pants €250; 00 39 81 8370283; laparisiennecapri.it).
11. Learn the secrets of limoncello
Limoncello, the region’s traditional and much-loved lemon liqueur, is usually served as an after-dinner digestivo. A sip of the yellow stuff is a revelation. It is thick, sweet, potent and full of the fresh, zingy flavour of the Amalfi Coast’s most famous fruit.
Make it happen: Il Gusto della Costa, Via Gennaro Capriglione 24, Praiano (00 39 89 813048; ilgustodellacosta.it).
12. Make the perfect gelato
What could be more Italian than gelato? At the Gelateria David in Sorrento, owners Mario and Carmela Gargiulo make 130 flavours of ice cream – and teach others how to make it too. In their workshop, students blend cream, sugar and egg yolks with fresh fruit and seasonal ingredients like almond and lemon zest, or tomato and basil.
Make it happen: Gelateria David, Via Marziale 9, Sorrento (classes €19; 00 39 81 8073649; gelateriadavidsorrento.it).
This is an excerpt from an article by Alex Von Tunzelmann, which first appeared in Lonely Planet Magazine. It was published in December 2011 and updated by Helena Smith in October 2015.