Amalfi Coast. The hidden jewel of Italy.
When most people think about Italy, a few mental images immediately come to mind: Sunshine, sandy beaches, great food, red wine, art and culture. This “shoe shaped” country that sits right in the middle of the Mediterranean sea has got a lot to offer, but it seems like the international touristic market is somewhat stuck in the same network of destinations. Not to take anything away from Rome or Venice, two of the most popular destinations in the country, but when a location becomes so mainstream, it will inevitable lose some of its charm that has contributed to its growth in popularity and iconic status in the first place.
If on one hand, mainstream touristic havens are at risk of becoming overstated, on the other hand Italy has got many hidden gems to offer. One of these hidden gems is definitely a coastal segment located in Southern Italy known as Amalfi Coast.
The Amalfi coast has experienced the peak of its popularity from the 1930s to the 1960s, when its little towns, intimate beaches and mind blowing scenarios became a favorite destination of tourists from central Europe and the United States.
Nowadays, the area seems to be stuck in the past, and I mean it as a good thing. It is quite refreshing to travel to the area: the closer you get to Amalfi, the deeper you get into the wilderness of the coastline. Highways make room for beautiful coastal roads. The messy traffic jam turns into the buzzing of the many “vespas” and “ape cars” favored by the locals. While the coast is not exactly the cheapest alternative, it still stands as a relatively affordable destination when compared to other, more popular Italian touristic spots.
The beauty and atmosphere of the Amalfi coast can be compared to the setting of the French Côte d'Azur, but with a more folkloristic, understated feel. The coastline is marked by a series of small and relatively uncrowded beaches, including Praiano or Santa Croce, which would probably be prohibitively expensive if they were located in other areas such as the aforementioned Côte d'Azur.
Unlike many other locations, the Amalfi coast is not that kind of place where you wake up in the morning, find your spot on a sandy beach and lay there for an entire day. Sure, you can very well do that too, but you would miss out on so many things. The adventure factor comes in because you can travel along the coast, check out different beaches (some of which are only reachable by boat!) and visit the many different small towns in the areas, known for the lively craftsmanship tradition (particularly when it comes to ceramics and handcrafted letter paper).
If the pretty sights and heavenly beaches did not sell it for you, maybe the astonishing quality of local food will do the job. Amalfi coast is known for the amazing local cuisines. All ingredients are sourced locally and are as fresh as it gets. Many local restaurant literally have a garden where they grow their own ingredients, while fresh produce from the fishermen is available daily. Seafood is really excellent, not only for the freshness of the raw ingredients, but also because of the simple, homey way of the local cuisine. Amalfi coast recipes are seldom baroque, abandoning highly elaborated dishes in favor of a tantalizing minimal approach that extols the quality of the ingredients.
Tips: Stop by the restaurant in Santa Croce for a cosy and romantic dinner within the setting of a private beach that you can only reach by boat, or get a great pizza at Donna Stella, in the heart of the town of Amalfi!