Exploring the Amalfi Coast
It took me way too long to get to Italy (and all of the classic European travel cities, really) — I had always focused my travels on the road less taken, namely because destinations like Tanzania, Mexico, and Morocco were exotic and always worlds cheaper upon arrival.
But last year was a rough one. I left my job at CAVA and took on an intense advertising job with long hours and lots of stress — and with the upcoming election and scheduled work events, Emily’s vacation days were limited in summer. So we decided to go big: the Amalfi coast.
People say Italy’s amazing, but as someone who only went after 32 years of living, the words people say do not prepare you for how incredible Italy really is. The food, the culture, the history! Italy’s got it all. And needless to say, the Amalfi Coast really is a dream destination that I could go back to a zillion times without getting tired of it.
Rather than staying in every town and dealing with the whole ordeal of packing and unpacking your suitcase every other day, we opted to spend the entire trip in one hotel, further from Positano, and thus removed from the hoards of crowds. We discovered our hotel on Booking.com (but booked directly through them to support their business) and it was one of the best locations I’ve ever stayed. Hotel Marmorata is an old paper factory, converted into a beautiful, rustic hotel on the coast near Ravello — and it was the perfect home base for our week, where every day, we were excited for the next day’s breakfast spread.
Like any good beach vacation, we decided to alternate lazier beach days with the more involved adventure days — and when you break it down like that, any vacation starts to look short.
But between Airbnb Experiences and simply exploring the coast, we found the perfect combo of leisure and adventure. And pasta or pizza at every meal.
We found it easiest to fly into Rome to ease into jet lag, and then take a train to Salerno the next day. There are plenty of trains, so no need to book ahead of time. Just get to the Rome train station an hour or so before departure and purchase your ticket at a kiosk.
Note: there are fast trains, but the times were limited and we ended up just opting for a direct, regular train to Salerno.
Upon arrival in Salerno, the SITA buses are the best way to go — the roads along the Amalfi coast are winding and narrow, and parking isn’t a thing. The buses themselves scrape against houses, cliffs, and other buses on the reg, so let them do the hard work. Luckily, Hotel Marmorata has it’s own SITA bus stop, and all hotels sell the bus passes for getting around each day.
What to do
Since our hotel has its own beach area with chairs, having a cocktail and soaking in the last bit of sun was the first thing on our agenda — and often how we started each day. But when it came to activities, there were plenty — and we chose to do a full-day sailing adventure to Capri, via Airbnb. It was fantastic, and something I’d highly recommend in lieu of a gas-guzzling ferry ride to the port. Our local guide, Alessandro, brought us to several swimming areas, and worked his butt off, even making us a homemade pasta meal for lunch on the boat.
When it comes to exploring the towns, we found taking the SITA buses from town to town was the best way to see them. Positano is about a 2-3 hour trip from Marmorata, and a fantastic iconic town to explore for the day.
Ravello was by far our favorite town, perched up high on the cliffs with spectacular views, and just a fraction of the obnoxious touristy feel. And then there’s Cetara, the teeny fisherman’s town, where we were shamed by our Italian waiter for ordering 1) rosé, and then 2) coffee with our wine. 5/5 stars. Buy your limoncello in Cetara.
Where to Eat
It’s hard to go wrong with food in Italy, I learned — but we still stood by plenty of recs I got from friends (and taxi drivers).
Ravello: Have the best meal of your life at the restaurant in Hotel Parsifal (and befriend the Dallas grandma who spends 6 months a year in this hotel), grab a drink at the Belmond Caruso, and have delicious pizza and cheap house wine with other Italian families on vacation at Ristorante Salvatore.
And another place of note — if you’re looking for something easy, quiet, and cheap, we discovered Il Boschetto, a tiny patio trattoria just 10 yards up the road from our hotel, and the €10 pizza and pasta kept us happy when we didn’t feel like adventuring for a meal.
Do not skip Sal de Riso’s Amalfi pear & ricotta cake — I still dream of how light and fluffy this dessert was, and the recommendation came from a local who mentioned that the town of Minori was famous for this chef’s cake.
If you’re looking for a more rustic Italian day trip, we still laugh about our afternoon in Cetara, a little Italian fishing town that most travelers skip over. We stumbled upon Cetara Punto e Pasta, a little spot on the street with 3-4 tables. Having just eaten breakfast in the last hour or two, Emily complained about ordering more food and pasta — and she end up wiping the rest of our plates clean because the food was just. that. good. Pick up your limoncello to take home here too, since you’re far enough removed from Positano’s price gouging.