The Amazing Amalfi Coast
The colourful towns and villages clinging to the edges of the plunging mountains have always appeared dreamlike, to contain a world of spritz-sipping and boat lounging, so it was with great excitement that I finally headed to get a taste of Amalfi Coast life for myself.
Ravello was the base for this exploration, a town famed for it’s cliff-side gardens set 365 meters above the sea. Approaching from the south demanded some unsuspecting winding along the nail-biting Amalfi Coast Road, filled with twists and turns, and just about enough space for two cars, this didn’t stop the locals from continuing at maximum speed while in my passenger seat I was left to close my eyes and cross my fingers, sadly missing a lot of the views along the way.
Arriving in Ravello provided a pleasant contrast, a peaceful town of narrow cobbled streets, our hotel was set upon some of the most impressive cliff-side gardens, which immediately made the journey seem worthwhile. Hotel Palazzo Avino is located in the upper parts of Ravello, set in a 12th century palazzo, with vaulted hallways that have been remodelled to create a luxe-style hotel which feels very indulgent. Flower-filled terraces and lawns with mesmerising views over the coast give you a feeling of the restrained glamour of which Ravello has been famed for years.
Exploring the town of Ravello isn’t too difficult, a short stroll finds you in the Piazza del Duomo with cafes lining the square. Villa Rufolo, just off the Piazza, is a 13th century villa that once hosted royal banquets, while today it is famed for its cascading gardens and views stretching along the coast.
While keen to see more of the Amalfi Coast, I was not so keen to be back on the coastal road. Luckily our hotel was on hand with it’s own private beach club from which you can take your own private boat to explore the towns up and down the coast. Heading for Positano, the views of the coast from the sea are truly special as the boat cruised past Amalfi and Praiano. Approaching the town of Positano by sea allows the picture perfect image of pastel-colour buildings appearing to be stacked on top of each other climbing the side of the cliff, an image that couldn’t be mistaken for anywhere else. Arriving right in the centre town positions you perfectly to lose yourself in the winding cobbled walkways as you discover the town that has attracted the rich and famous for years.
After some time exploring, we purposefully headed for the world famous Le Sirenuse, built into the south-west side of town, it’s high enough for unparalleled sea views. The furniture and decoration of the hotel have maintained the feel of the glamorous days-gone-by, with the stand-out feature being the dining room lit entirely by 400 candles. Sitting on the terrace over-looking the town and the sea, with a spritz in hand, it’s easy to see how the town has continued to lure tourists to it’s summer shores.
Sailing back up the coast, we stop to take in some of the smaller beaches and coves, and our knowledgeable Captain lets us in on a secret of the area, whisking us off to the Emerald Grotto, named for the incredible colours that filter from underground.
The Palazzo Avino beach club takes us into the evening as we enjoy the last of the evening sun while kayaking and swimming in the clear blue waters of the coast, before catching the last shuttle back into town.
An early morning calls for a walk to the other side of town for the crown of Ravello as we head for Villa Cimbrone arriving just in time to feel as though we have it all to ourselves. A visit to Ravello wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this 11th century villa, with expansive gardens and dramatic views over the coast, you quickly understand why the view from the terrace has been described as the best in the world. The busts lining the belvedere terrace seem to sparkle against the blue seas and a walk around the garden discovers temples, statues and well-kept gardens.
The rest of the day is spent celebrating a very special wedding at Hotel Palumbo and Villa Maria, two exceptional settings making for a fairytale day and the perfect setting for a happily ever after.