If there is one place that should be on everyone’s “bucket list,” it is the Amalfi Coast.
I love to drive. I’ve driven in many places over the world – Paris, Rome, the Alps and Highway 1 in California. Nothing compares to the 26-mile Amalfi Coast with its maximum elevation of 1,300 feet. High-flying beauty: Without exaggeration, the Amalfi Coast must be one of the most beautiful locations in the world. Certainly, UNESCO thinks so. In 1997, the organization declared the Amalfi Coast a World Heritage site.
I drove this coastal road in the fall of 1965 with my friend Diane. I didn’t realize I was taking my life in my hands. The views are beyond stunning and the drive is a real-life roller coaster. You must have two in the car. Don’t go it alone. We drove our compact car to Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and mountainous Ravello, which is gorgeous and must-see and had the best lunch you’ll ever have.
As two girls in our 20s, we loved the Italian men, who honked their horns and yelled and waved to us as we drove. It’s kind of a national pastime in Italy.
The real problem for the driver is you absolutely must keep your eyes on the road at all times. This iconic road offers spectacular scenery that lulls your senses so you forget it is one of the most stressful and dangerous drives you will ever take. Every turn, tunnel entrance and exit and curve has something new to offer, and you desperately want to look at these fantastic views and the amazing color of the sea.
The coast road is one compact-car wide in each direction. The buses are much wider and longer and they have the right to come across the wrong side of the road to get around the hairpin bends, so any car coming the other way has to back up out of their way.
The answer to my dilemma was we made many stops along the way. Naturally, there were no parking lots. Because most of the coastline is a cliff face, there is nowhere to park off the road, so you pull over wherever you want and pray that your car won’t be hit.
The roads are clearly far too small for the amount of traffic. It is not wise to drive on the weekends and in the summer months when there are so many tourists.
Winding through the different towns was magical, with the mountains above and the sea below. The different mountain peaks made it possible for the towns to be built, and combined with the vibrantly colored houses on the cliffs make the Amalfi Coast unique in the world.
Even though I love to drive and have done it twice on the Amalfi Coast, especially in the high season, I would recommend that you take a tour bus or a private taxi driver, so you can really relax and experience the breathtaking views.
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The busy central Piazza dei Mulini is connected to a narrow downhill path and some occasional flights of steps that lead to the sea. You must leave your car as all streets heading to the waterfront are for pedestrians only. The only way to reach restaurants on the beach, which serve fresh fish daily, is to go on foot. These streets also lead to the cathedral, ceramic shops, fruit vendors and apparel retail shops. Positano is alive at night with clubs, bars and cafés that remain open until the sun comes up. Some of the best hotels in Italy are in Positano and the villas along the Amalfi Coast. Recommended hotel: Le Sirenuse; Il San Pietro.
This coastal town is situated in a port along a stretch of pebbled beach. In front of the port of Amalfi is the only bus station along the coast. The pedestrian streets are filled with bars and cafés, plus many shops selling limoncello, casual apparel and ceramics. Sights to explore include the spectacular cathedral and a paper factory and its museum. There are also first-rate hotels, villas and restaurants. Recommended hotel: Santa Catarina.
Sorrento is a quaint town with a stunning panorama of the Bay of Naples. You can also enjoy speeding across the bay with Jetfoil to the beautiful isle of Capri where you can ride the funicular to Capri village. Recommended hotels: Grand Excelsior Vittoria; Parco dei Principi.