Today (March 12, 2018): top 10 best things to see & do in the Bay of Naples & Amalfi Coast.
The area around Naples, Italy’s third largest city, is widely considered to be Europe’s most scenic stretch of coastline. It represents a landscape of towering, green-swathed mountains, pastel-hued villages with cobblestone streets, palatial renaissance mansions, and expansive vistas over the turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Because of its amazing history and historic value, the Amalfi Coast on Naples’ Sorrento Peninsula was rightfully awarded a coveted spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1997. A short 20 min boat ride from the mainland is the fabled island of Capri, whose dramatic coastal scenery has been known for at least 2000 years as Emperor Augustus and Emperor Tiberius both had homes here. I hereby present you a top 10 list of the best things to see and do in the Bay of Naples and the Amalfi Coast.
There is more information below the slideshow. Think I missed one? Share your favorite place in the Bay of Naples & Amalfi Coast in the comments section, or take my poll below!
10. VISIT SORRENTO
Sorrento is the largest city on the peninsula near Naples that bears it name. The town’s dramatic cliff top setting affords magnificent views towards the city of Naples and the Vesuvius but the drawback is that it lacks a proper beach (although you can still enjoy a splash in the sea from one of the concrete terraces). Sorrento offers something for everyone, from lively pedestrian only streets and colorful markets to scenic cliff top avenues lining this stretch of the coast. Above all, the town makes a good base for exploring all of the region’s highlights: to the east is the Amalfi Coast, to the north lies Pompeii and the Vesuvius, and a 20 minute boat ride offshore lies the legendary island of Capri.
9. RELAX IN A HOT SPRING IN ISCHIA
While Capri leaves you instantly speechless with its natural beauty and fascinating charm, its neighbour Ischia – the largest island in the Bay of Naples – is far less famous for a number of reasons: you have to look harder for the signs of antiquity, its natural beauty is not as striking, and uncontrolled urbanization spoilt the island’s scenery in certain areas. That said, Ischia still is a very pleasant island to visit and does have many jewels. It has a traditional town and harbour, lovely wine-growing villages on the lush volcanic slopes of Mount Epomeo, and the best beaches in the Naples area. Ischia has also been a sought-after destination for centuries due to the perceived medicinal properties of its many thermal hot springs.
8. TOUR POMPEI
Although modern-day Pompeii feels like an unappealing suburb of Naples, it is home to Europe’s most famous archaeological site, the ruins of Pompeii, which are a stark reminder of the explosive forces that lie deep inside Vesuvius. When Vesuvius erupted on 24 August AD 79, its ashes engulfed the two flourishing Roman towns of Pompei and Herculaneum, as well as the many wealthy villas in the area. These have been progressively excavated and made accessible to the public since the mid-18th century. The vast expanse of the commercial town of Pompei contrasts with the smaller but better-preserved remains of the holiday resort of Herculaneum.
7. CLIMB MOUNT VESUVIUS
Mount Vesuvius is probably the best known and also most dangerous volcano in the world. The eruption of AD 79 left a large crater which has grown and shrunk with subsequent eruptions and this can still be visited today. It is a currently dormant volcano that occasionally emits streams of lava (the last eruption was in 1944), although its dormant state could be an indication of a build-up of pressure and a coming explosive eruption. Visitors can walk to the top of the volcano, which affords a view into the crater that still fumes slightly. Besides that, the top also offers a stunning panorama overseeing the Bay of Naples, but only on clear days though (the mountain is notoriously covered in fog or clouds).
6. EXPLORE THE TOWN OF AMALFI
The Amalfi coast is an area of great physical beauty and natural diversity, and is named after the town of Amalfi, its most populated settlement. Amalfi was an important trading center from the mid-9th to the 13th century. It was the capital of the Duchy of Amalfi. Today, it is a popular destination for tourists seeking stunning beauty set amidst historic charm. Amalfi is known for its outstanding medieval architecture, including the 11th century Cathedral of Sant’ Andrea, notable, too, for the four large ceiling paintings and the statue of St. Andrew that was sculpted by Michelangelo. The Arab-style Chiostro del Paradisio today is an open-air museum, though it was once the cemetery where Amalfi nobility was buried.
5. DRIVE THE SCENIC AMALFI ROAD
The Amalfi Coast stretches along the edge of the Sorrento Peninsula, in Italy’s Campania province, just south of Naples. The mountainous scenery of the Amalfi Coast is dotted with vineyards, lemon trees, olive groves and tiny villages – all clinging to jagged cliffs that plunge straight into the turquoise Mediterranean Sea below. The scenic Amalfi highway (formally Strada Statale 163) winds for about 80 km (50 miles) along the shoreline and cliffs of the Sorrento Peninsula, with plenty of viewpoints along the way to take in the spectacular coastal views. The drive takes around 2 hours, although changes are high it will take much longer in summer due to traffic congestion.
- Other accolades: the Amalfi Road also features in my top 10 list of the most scenic drives in the world.
4. HIKE THE PATH OF GODS
The Sentiero degli Dei trail, better known as the Path of Gods, links the tiny hilltop town of Agerola with the seaside village of Nocelle. Its name already recalls the mythological landscapes of the Greek Olympus and, for sure, no other name could describe better the amazing view offered from this mountain trail. From this trekking path, it is possible to admire one of the most striking panoramas of the world: an incomparable overview from the Cilento (province situated South of Salerno) to the Island of Capri. Ideally, walkers should walk from Agerola to Nocelle, and not vice-versa; the route runs gently downhill from this direction, with magnificent views of towards the Amalfi Coast.
3. INDULGE IN A STAY AT A LUXURY HOTEL
The Amalfi Coast harbours some of the most luxurious (and expensive) hotels in the world. Two mind blowing hotels that should be on the bucketlist of every discerning traveler are Belmond Caruso and Monastero Santa Rosa. Perched on a cliff’s edge, Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel & Spa is housed in a 17th-century monastery near Amalfi and stands alone in majestic solitude, its rock base evoking the robe of a king. It’s an intimate ultraluxe property with a vanished-edge infinity pool that ranks among the most spectacular hotel pools in the world. Belmond Hotel Caruso occupies a former medieval palace at the highest, quietest point of the village Ravello, overlooking the rocks and cliffs of the Amalfi Coast and the Mediterranean Sea.
2. BE WOWED BY POSITANO
Positano is the Amalfi Coast’s most photogenic village, with cobble stone alleys and Moorish-style houses clinging to the mountains and tumbling down to the Mediterranean Sea in a cascade of sun-bleached peach, pink and terracotta. While it was an important city in the Middle Ages, it declined over the following centuries as many residents immigrated to North America. By the early 20th century it was just a poor fishing village, but its fortunes changed when tourists discovered the town’s exceptional beauty. A must-see for visitors is Santa Maria Asunta, a church that features a dome made of majolica tiles and a black Madonna. Positano has been an inspiration for many artists, including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards who wrote ‘Midnight Rambler’.
- Other accolades: Positano also features in my top 10 list of the most romantic villages in Italy.
1. ENJOY THE FABULOUS VIEWS FROM RAVELLO
A tiny, utterly picturesque village high above the sea, Ravello has charmed European artists for centuries. It was once a safe harbor from barbarian invaders before becoming an important trading cente. Nowadays, Ravello is a magnet for tourists who come for the village’s charm and breathtaking views, the best in the world according to former resident Gore Vidal, and certainly the best on the coast. The great composer Richard Wagner found inspiration here, so much so that the city celebrates the Ravello Festival every summer in his honor. Top attractions include the Villa Cimbrone with its spectacular Terrace of Infinity, lined by a series of marble busts that sparkle against the blue of the sky above and the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea below.
- Other accolades: Ravello also features in my top 10 list of the most romantic villages in Italy.