A week ago I returned from a magical place that draws not only tourists from around the world but tourists from within its own country; the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy. Being that I currently live in Tuscany, it wasn’t that much of a culture shock but it was definitely a visual shock! I arrived after taking two different trains; one that I am used to taking, meaning the more economical regional train which shakes and shimmies and stops all the time, and the Frecciarosa. I do not mind the regional train and it isn’t a terrible means of travel, but boy is it different than taking the Frecciarosa train. The former train is like my neon yellow Twingo that feels like it may break down any day now but seems to keep on keepin’ on like energizer bunny, whereas the latter is like a Lexus; smooth as butter. Plus they offered me a free glass of wine and snacks!
Anyway, I made it to Naples Central Train Station and felt relieved that I didn’t have to maneuver through the chaotic scene before me because I had a driver waiting for me at the end of the platform with a sign with my name on it. He was very kind and we chatted the whole time about family life and raising kids in the Naples area. This is where speaking the language really helps you learn about the place you are visiting instead of relying on books or solely your senses. After an hour or so of chatter, he dropped me off at the front door of my hotel in Sorrento, Il Corallo. It is a small, boutique-like hotel that has incredible views of the sea and a staff full of energy and hospitality. I would recommend this hotel to anyone going to this area! Even if it is a nice 20-minute walk to the town of Sorrento, it is peaceful and a convenient jumping-off point for further adventure around the coast. It is a quick half hour train to Pompeii, an hour to Naples, and just a bus ride to Amalfi, Positano and the other many sea towns along the coast. In addition, its location makes it easy for someone to catch a ferry over to the incredible island of Capri (pronounced CAH-pree, with the accent on the first part of the word, not like the pants).
I was hosted by one of our local partners and they were gracious enough to take me around to visit their villas. I met up with them in Salerno, which meant I had to get there early in the morning on a weekday and battle through traffic in Naples on the way. It was as I expected, un casino, or chaotic mess!
We started near a town just past Amalfi called Maiori and even though it isn’t one of the main towns along the coast, it hosts some of the most spectacular views. There was a cluster of villas together which would be perfect for large group of friends that wants to spend time together but also have some privacy. To get down to the individual villas you have to zig-zag down a private road in golf carts that are graciously given to guests staying here.
One that is especially notable in that cluster is called “The Tower”. In fact, it was built in the 14th century by the Saracens to avoid pirate attacks. The décor is quite modern but in a quiet, comfortable way. It is surrounded by large glass windows that make you feel as if you are part of nature and you are surrounded by the sea. I was speechless and wanted to curl up and with a nice book and cup of tea and enjoy the view (okay….. maybe a glass of prosecco was more like it).
The neighbor to The Tower (on the same property) is Villa Luisa, which is a newer villa with beautiful, modern furniture and amenities, a panoramic salt-water swimming pool, direct access to the sea, a private garden and private terraces with a sea view. Guests who stay at either of these villas are provided with a complimentary golf cart to explore the property and enjoy the gym or play with the mini ponies and donkeys! I didn’t get to see the actual mini pony, which almost caused the inner child in me to cry, but I kept it together. 🙂
One thing I learned from visiting all of these villas along the coast is that I probably wouldn’t drive. Even with the experience of being a driver in Italy, the tight, curvy roads that you share with enormous buses full of tourists are quite frightening. It reminded me of Hwy 1 along the coast of California yet with way more traffic and obstacles in your way. If I was to stay in one of the villas further out from town, I would rent a car only for short ventures or hire a driver who is used to handling the roads. I would even recommend using their bus system which stops frequently along the coast. I sat in the front row of one of these buses to help my motion sickness and so instead of getting sick, I almost had a heart attack. Luckily, you can trust the drivers as they have most likely been traveling the same route for years and know what they are doing.
A smaller and quainter villa with a romantic atmosphere is how I would describe Villa Orian that is next to Amalfi Town. The pool is built into the wall and would be lovely at night with all of the lights from town sparkling on the horizon, and a glass of local wine in one’s hand. There is a private beach down below with various small boats which could take you over to Amalfi during the day or maybe out to fish is you were interested. Be aware but not discouraged, many steps are involved!
Next are the true winners in my eyes, and they are Villa Affresco and Villa Moresca in Positano town. Oh, words cannot describe these views and the jealousy I felt by the individuals we saw lounging by the pool with Positano in the background. Both are positioned in a location perfect for those who want to visit town easily by foot or stay by the pool and enjoy the picture-perfect view of town. Villa Affresco has a more classical style with high ceilings and frescoes and any guest would feel like royalty here. Villa Moresca, on the other hand, is unique in its artful details, luxurious bathrooms and restaurant-worthy kitchen. It would be a perfect location to eat al fresco with Positano behind you and a local chef preparing a five-star dinner for you right in your own kitchen.
If you are a larger group and looking for a villa a little bit away from the hustle and bustle of town then Villa Minerva is perfect for you. It has so much space, both outside and inside, that it would be a perfect location for a hosting a party or a wedding. The villa lies high on the hills above Sorrento with the coastline below and a panoramic view over the Bay and the islands of Capri and Ischia. There is a large seating area outside with a wooden oven for making pizza; a pool, Jacuzzi, gym, sauna and grassy area covered by the tallest, most picturesque sea pines. It is truly magical.
Villa Aretusa would be a special location for a family to enjoy as it is spacious and relaxed with a pool unlike any other I have seen in my life. The floor of the pool is covered in stones and is located down a flight of steep stairs right next to the sea. There is a small kitchen outside and a shower so guests don’t have to go up and down the stairs to make lunch. It is private and located just a 5-10 minute drive from town!
Another villa that would be perfect for a large party, especially a wedding, is Villa Magnolia. This villa is private, relaxing, and a mere 50 meters from the sea and a popular beachfront club.
It was right around the corner from my hotel in a suburb of Sant’Agnello and so it is walking distance to Sorrento and other restaurants nearby. One restaurant I highly recommend is Ciao Toto, which is a five-minute walk away and boasts the winner of an international pizza making competition. It is run by three brothers who are charismatic and very personable while they serve you dinner. The restaurant is covered with photos of the famous Italian actor nicknamed Toto, and is frequented by locals just as much as tourists. Go for a visit and ask for Pepe (he speaks English too)!
After postponing my Friday excursion to the island of Capri due to inclement weather, I decided to tour the actual towns of Positano and Amalfi by bus. As I explained earlier, it was a harrowing journey for those of us who get motion sickness but it was well worth it. Take a look at the size of the lemons and grapefruits! And those views!!!!
Saturday was the quick ferry ride from Sorrento to Capri (20 Minutes) and then from the busy marina you take a Funicular up to Capri town (5-10 minutes). The island is full of tourists but there is a reason why. This place is special and you can feel it! All of the villas that we visited were top-of-the-line homes that have million dollar views!
For example, Villa Piccolo Eremo, has a terrace with a pool and outside cooking area where guests can enjoy a view of the infamous Faraglioni rocks. These are the two enormous rocks protruding from the sea that are the international symbol of Capri.
Villa Colonnina was a villa high on my list of precious gems and I truly didn’t want to leave. Not only were the owner and caretaker super friendly, but the villa was a true delight. It has white walls reminiscent of a Greek island and there is art everywhere, from contemporary to ancient and Italian to Egyptian, beautifully tiled floors with hand-painted tiles, a full library, a sauna, and a pool with a view. It is a villa where a family or a group of couples/friends could stay. It is luxury with a feeling of being home. It’s quirky and classy. I loved it!!!
Lastly, there was Villa Camelia, which is the ultimate show-stopper. A villa with historic guests such as Winston Churchill, Camelia is true luxury and history all in one. It is full of museum-worthy art pieces and Sherlock Holmes-worthy hidden doors. The rooms are elegant and luxurious. The garden space is worth visiting on its own. There is space around the pool for a large event or party. Honestly, I don’t even have words for the villa. Whoever gets to stay here is bound to feel like royalty!
That does it! I visited the Amalfi Coast in a few short days and truly didn’t want to leave. I only had a mere few hours on Capri and that just wasn’t enough. I would have loved days or even a week (or a month) on this island. There is a lot to explore for all different types of people; those looking for luxury, relaxation, hiking, culture, history and more. It is popular for a reason and I recommend it to everyone. I also believe that I felt so drawn to the island because our local partner gave the tour and her passion and love for the island was absolutely contagious. Thank you so much!