Italy’s Blue Paradise


Amalfi Coast: Italy’s Blue Paradise

J.M. Towers


With some of Italy’s most enchanting landscapes, the area is dotted by charming towns full of glamour such as Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, and the Isle of Capri.


The Amalfi Coast is located south of Naples in the Gulf of Salerno, off the Tirrenean Sea. This enchanting part of Italy is dotted by small towns built on the steep slopes, surrounded by a deep blue sea, ancient caves and winding paths that lead to centuries-old vineyards, and olive, lemon and orange orchards. This is a place of stunning natural beauty, admirable architecture, and monuments that speak volumes of its illustrious past. In 1997, UNESCO recognized the multiple municipalities that make up this territory as World Heritage Sites for their importance to the cultural patrimony of the country and the world.

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More than 2,000 years ago the Roman Emperor Tiberius discovered this majestic enclave and moved his court there to spend the last years of his life. But it was only at the dawn of the 20th century, that luxury hotels began to emerge from the cliffs, attracting the wealthiest and most renowned European personalities who succumbed to the many charms of this part of Italy.

Not far from the Amalfi Coast, you will find the spectacular island of Capri. The small, mountainous paradise has a 12-mile perimeter and is a popular tourist destination both for Italians and foreigners. Since the 1950’s, the island has become a favorite destination for the international jet set.

Capri’s main square, or Piazzetta, although maintaining its modest urban architecture is full of luxurious boutiques, restaurants, and paparazzi trying to get the latest shot of celebrities like Mariah Carey or Bono, who own mansions on the island. One of the most attractive places to stay in Capri is the Hotel Punta Tragara, a Mediterranean villa designed by Le Corbusier in the 1920s.

Positano

This is a breathtaking vertical town built on top of a cliff. Its steep cobblestone roads are shaded by fig trees; on them, you can find old fishermen houses converted into exquisite mansions or luxury hotels. Behind a small esplanade, you will run into the 11th-century church of Santa Maria Assunta. Not far from there you’ll find the town’s boardwalk, where the best restaurants are located. Make some time to enjoy the delicious Risotto ai Frutti di mare at Ristorante Mediterraneo. The views from the boardwalk are unforgettable, especially at dusk when the sky takes on different shades of gold with glorious sunsets that make Positano even more beautiful. Movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman enjoyed many happy stays in this remarkable place.

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The choice of hotels is quite extensive for such a small town (there are more than 70 available to tourists), but my recommendation is the Hotel Le Sirenuse because of its breathtaking views.

Amalfi

According to the legend, Heracles fell in love with a nymph called Amalfi. After she died, he chose to bury her in the most beautiful place on Earth, and this is the origin of the name Amalfi. The city was, historically, the wealthiest in the south of Italy, so both Arabs and Saracens tried to conquer it in the distant past. It also has a rich seafaring tradition, which can still be felt in its side streets. Its white, gray and golden Cathedral in Arab-Norman style was built in the 9th century, but the bell tower dates from the 13th century.

Starting from Amalfi’s main square, the Piazza Flavio Gioia, the best itinerary will take you towards the town, away from the sea. The center consists of a pedestrian area filled with stores, bars, restaurants and lively terraces. It is a place to see and be seen and a favorite destination for Italians who love to dress in the latest fashion. On one occasion, Steven Spielberg said that Amalfi was the perfect setting for a film. The best hotel in Amalfi is the 5-star Santa Caterina, which offers a spa, private beach, and very luxurious rooms.

Ravello

Ravello is one of the most popular destinations on the Amalfi Coast. Also located on top of a cliff at 1100 feet above the sea with spectacular panoramic views, it is a true jewel of art and culture. The Cathedral of Saint Pantaleon, which dates from the 11th century, is mentioned in the list of the most significant national monuments in all of Italy. Visitors should not miss the Romanesque church of Santa Clara with its adjacent monastery, built in the 13th century, or the Church of San Giovanni del Toro from the 10th century. Another mandatory stop while in Ravello is Villa Cimbrone with its beautiful gardens and a terrace named Terrazo dell’ Infinito from where you can enjoy the amazing views that extend towards the horizon.

The composer Richard Wagner is known to have stayed in Villa Rufolo, and every year, during the summer, its beautiful gardens are the setting for a music festival that pays homage to the composer’s stay in the city, attracting thousands of fans. After World War II, Ravello became the residence of internationally renowned celebrities such as writer Gore Vidal, politicians like Winston Churchill, J.F. Kennedy, and Francois Mitterrand, and artists of the stature of Igor Stravinsky, Greta Garbo, Truman Capote, Barbara Streisand, Humphrey Bogart and Peter O’Toole, among many others.

The best hotel in Ravello is the Caruso. Lavish, luxurious and rich in details, it offers an extraordinary swimming pool, majestic views, superb gastronomy and a very amiable and professional staff.

The Amalfi coast is an inspiring corner of Italy. It is said that whoever visits will always come back because it is a perfect compendium of tranquility, beauty, history, and glamour. In addition, during the summer months, there are plenty of local events, which include celebrations of the various town’s patron saints, gastronomic festivals with live music and wine and cheese tastings, and entertainment for all. A vacation in the wild, passionate and romantic Amalfi Coast makes a unique experience and a cherished lifelong memory.


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