For the people of Amalfi who go to heaven, Judgment Day will be a day like any another.Renato Fucini
It was the poet Renato Fucini that said, “For the people of Amalfi who get to heaven, Judgement Day will be a day like any other.” Amalfi Town is a beautiful part of the Amalfi Coast that lies right on the water’s edge. It used to be a powerful maritime republic during the 9th and 11th century and has transitioned to become a prime tourist destination today. Try not to go in June, July, or August — those are the busiest months.
There are four ways to get to Amalfi: drive a car, take a bus, take a boat, or hire a personal driver. Adam drove us from out home in Napoli. It was great for me as the passenger because the iconic drive offers breathtaking scenic views. But it was stressful for Adam as the driver. The road is extremely curvy and narrow. There are no sidewalks so cars have to watch out for people walking in the middle of the highway. Plus other cars are often bad at staying in their own lanes. All of this combined means the driver is not able to enjoy the scenery as much. Also, be aware that during peak season it can be hard to find parking or can cost a lot more because it takes them longer to get your car back to you.
The bus option is nice because everyone in your group will be able to enjoy the drive. Just know that if you are coming from Napoli you will have to take a transfer bus (usually in Sorrento) or find another means of transportation from Sorrento to get to Amalfi Town. For this reason, the two we would recommend would be either the boat, so you can sail across the water and take in all of the sites of the Amalfi Coast OR have a personal driver, so you can sit back and relax as they take you directly to Amalfi Town.
In terms of hotels we really enjoyed our stay at La Bambagina. It looked out directly on the main square, making it the perfect location. Depending on your room, you might also have views of the Duomo di Sant’Andrea.
Just a short bus ride away is Ravello. It is this gorgeous cliff side town that looks down upon Amalfi. It has so many picturesque villas to explore.
Give yourself a long weekend to explore this part of the iconic Amalfi Coast. Here are the top sights we recommend for Amalfi Town and Ravello.
Duomo di Sant’Andrea
You can’t miss the Duomo at the center of Amalfi Town’s main square, dedicated to the town’s patron saint, the Apostle Saint Andrew. You can see it right when you get to the port. This cathedral was built in the 9th century, but it’s been updated throughout time to include elements of Arab-Norman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. The unique Norman-Arab-Byzantine façade wasn’t added until the 19th century. Give yourself time to walk through this remarkably designed cathedral.
Chiostro del Paradiso
Tucked away on the left side of the Duomo is a Moorish-style cloister, built in the 13th century. To get there, you’ll walk along stunning archways surrounding a courtyard with tall palm trees. Some of the walls have mosaics or frescoes that depict the church when it first opened. The archbishop originally designated this area to be a noble cemetery. It’s called the Cloister of Paradise because in the middle ages buildings would received the name “paradise” if they were located near an important church and contained a burial place surrounded by a portico with cloisters. The area eventually fell into disarray in the 17th century and was restored in the 20th century for public view.
While you are here, make your way to the Basilica of the Crucifix as well. It was built up in the 9th century and then later they used part of the Basilica to build the cloister. The interior itself is very plain, but there is a museum at the back of the church with different religious artifacts. There are also relics of the Apostle Saint Andrew housed in the crypt down the stairs at the front of the church.
Fontana di Sant’Andrea
The fountain of Saint Andrew, unsurprisingly, is located in the main square in front of the Duomo. Stop and take a look at the smooth marble statue of the saint surrounded by cherubs and nymphs. On Saint Andrew’s feast day in November, the townspeople will gather at the fountain before processing through the town.
The beach is not large in Amalfi — this picture pretty much shows the whole thing — but it’s an enjoyable walk. You can also walk around the port and the water’s edge, as well as visit some restaurants and shops or take in the view from a bench. If you keep walking, then you could end up walking to other little towns. There are so many near Amalfi to explore, but sometimes you have to risk walking on the highway to get there.
We wanted to try the Agricola Fore Porta for lunch, which is located on the long and hilly road of Via Paradiso. This restaurant is only open during lunch and has a farm-to-table menu. However, when we got there we realized they weren’t open (it might have been the off-season). But we still really enjoyed our walk taking in all of the mountain scenery as the sea slowly disappeared in the background. We noticed a lot of green tarps everywhere and later learned that those cover lemon trees. We also came across some ruins crawling with greenery. We decided to turn back at the point because we were hungry and didn’t wear proper hiking shoes, but the trail continues to the Valle Delle Ferriere, where you can find waterfalls and more ruins (we’ll make that walk eventually)!
Amalfi has no shortage of souvenir shops selling ceramics (like tiles, bowls, and plates). It’s a dizzying array of options, so look carefully for what you want. Also, make sure that you get the best deal. The shops also sell leather bags in all shapes, colors, and sizes, as well as intricate sandals. If you have enough room and a checked bag, then get limoncello or another cello flavor. Right when you get to the main square, you will see a store underneath these stairs (the stairs lead up to a ceramic store). Go in there and you can try samples of some of the flavors before choosing one. They have one of the biggest selection of flavors we have come across!
Hidden in some back alleyways, this restaurant is a little tough to find, but worth the hunt. The easiest way to get there is by walking on the stairs to the left of the Duomo, then turning left and taking the path to the right. Taverna Buonvicino is an adorable place and the staff there was so friendly. They were quick to explain Amalfi’s traditional dishes and make recommendations. We started with the linguine with “colatura di cetara” hazelnuts. Colatura di cetara a sauce made with anchovies, originating from the small fishing village of Cetara (located on the Amalfi Coast). It is said that the Ancient Romans used to put this sauce on all of their food. The dish was so simple and very flavorful.
We also had mashed potatoes with bite-sized octopus. If you like seafood, order as much as you can in Amalfi. Everything is unbelievably fresh.
On the way back to the hotel, we decided to pick up some pastries for breakfast. Most places were not open late at night, but luckily Andrea Pansa was! Both of the pastries we shared the next morning were very delightful.
While we were there we also got gelato for dessert and it was so creamy! It topped off our night perfectly. Other people walking by us later that night asked where they could get the gelato because they were looking for a place that was open. Glad to know we weren’t the only people that were looking for some late-night gelato!
Lo Smeraldino was amazing! It was right on the water and they had a ton of seating inside so (if it is too cold) or outside (if you want to enjoy the weather and the scenery). We tried the mozzarella with lemon leaves, but it was “not our plate of pasta” (aka we were not a fan of it). It was just a little too rubbery for our liking. After living in Napoli, we also just love buffalo mozzarella and prefer that consistency. Then we tried the eggplant parmeggiano and it was so good! They gave it a little bit of a broil on top and the flavors were all there. We also ordered the seafood pasta, which was was okay. Our favorite entrée was the shrimp risotto. It was smooth and had so many little shrimps throughout the dish!
This is another nice restaurant that you can find right on the water. Again you can choose to sit inside or outside, although the outdoor seating fills up quickly due to reservations. We didn’t have a reservation so we chose to sit inside right next to the window and we opened it up to get the fresh air. The spaghetti with clams was very good and they were not stingy on clams!
If you go to Amalfi, then you must get gelato! We saw at least five gelato places in the main square alone. We had a great time trying a bunch of different shops and flavors. We never found a bad one! We don’t have any pictures because we kept forgetting to take one as we ate it. It is also one of those foods that if you don’t eat it right when you get it, then it will be all over your hand because it is so fresh.
We had a great time walking around Ravello. In March it’s a charming and sleepy resort town and makes a great day trip. The bus from Amalfi drops you off at an overlook where you can take some great pictures. Then you walk under the tunnel to get to the main square. To the left you will see Villa Rufolo (13th century Moorish style villa with a beautiful garden terrace overlooking Amalfi) and you must go see it. Then if you walk along this winding path it will take you to the other villa you must see, Villa Cimbrone (Medieval style villa also with a beautiful garden and terrace overlooking Amalfi). Give yourself plenty of time in the day to explore these astonishing villas!
As you walk around this villa you will notice that the buildings have a lot of Byzantine and Arabic influence. By the middle of the 19th century, the area was considered a ruin. Sir Francis Nevile Reid, a Scottish Lord, bought the villa and helped restore it back to life. Unfortunately, after his death it once again became a shell of a place and all of his furniture was sold. In 2007 the villa was given to the Ravello Foundation. With their help it was restored and will now be protected for future generations.
There is so much to see and do while you are here. I would say one of the biggest highlights is the garden because it is just so beautiful with all its different levels. Each garden is manicured with different shapes and colors — truly a masterpiece. Even though the weather was dreary while we were there it was still so majestic.
Make sure to look up the hours of operation of the villa before you go. There are often concerts in the summer and you might need to buy tickets in advance due to the crowds. In March and other off-season months, the place is infinitely quieter and we were able to get in without buying tickets ahead of time. Also before you go, we found this interactive map to be extremely helpful to get a sense of the sights.
It was an adventure just to get to this villa. It was a path that consisted of lots of stairs weaving in and out of the town. You know you are close when you come across a set of stairs going down with a view of the mountains. The villa’s entryway, leading to the ticket booth, was so stunning. They were in the middle of some renovations when we went, so we would love to visit again one day. We still enjoyed walking around this villa. This garden was so intricate and was so large compared to the other villa.
This area was built around the 11th century with a large estate and plenty of vegetation. During WWII the villa was not taken care of as much. Years passed and the Vuilleumier family came to restore it and also put up a protection over it. To read more of the history, take a look at their website.
The gardens are so much fun to walk around with statues scattered throughout. We also saw some people bring picnics to enjoy the view (you can tell that they had been there before). Make sure that you do stop by the terrace with the head bust statues where there is a gorgeous overlook area of the mountains and sea.