This is part of our ongoing series of Wanderlust Women City Guides. We hope they offer you useful tidbits of information as you plan your journey to some of the most interesting places around the world.
The Amalfi Coast stretches for 43 miles along Italy’s southern Mediterranean coast but the city of Amalfi itself sits high above the sea. Its lofty perch offered power to the maritime Duchy of Amalfi dating back to the 9th century and its history has earned it a spot on UNESCO’s World heritage sites. Today 21st century tourists flock to its history and romance.
1. Top 3 Attractions:
1. Duomo of Amalfi (Piazza Duomo) – Most visitors are forced to leave their tour bus or park their car at the port of Amalfi and climb the hill to the Piazza Duomo, the pulsing heart of this town. First-timers unaware of the treat that awaits them are left breathless as they enter the piazza and greeted by the striking façade of the Duomo, also known as the Cathedral of Sant’Andrea. A grand staircase leads to a religious complex that may only be rivaled by the Vatican with its treasures and history. Plan to spend an hour or more inside visiting the Duomo itself (said to have a 2 year wait for brides wanting to be married there); the Duomo Museum, the Crypt of Sant’Andrea and the peaceful Cloister of Paradise.
2. Museo della Carta (Via delle Cartiere 23) – Amalfi’s paper-making tradition dates back to its early days when merchants from Africa brought salt and silks and taught the Amalfitanis the craft of paper making. The museum is actually housed in an old mill where you’ll not only learn about the craft but see the old tools used to make these lovely papers. By the way, artisan crafted Amalfi notes and cards make lovely souvenirs.
3. Explore – Amalfi is a maze of tiny streets, mysterious staircases and hidden piazzas. Allow yourself time to explore and enjoy the intricate puzzle. Get lost and make new discoveries. Remember, slow down and soak it all in. Amalfi is not too large to get lost and just small enough to discover the joy of la dolce vita.
2. Good Restaurants:
We turned to a local, Laura Thayer, at Ciao Amalfi for the best on where to dine. Steer clear of restaurants marked with “tourist menus” and try these on for lunch or dinner
1. Lido Azzurro (Lungomare dei Cavalieri 5) Dining by the sea in Amalfi is a must, and Lido Azzurro is an excellent choice for lunch or dinner. As the ferries come and go in the port, you can enjoy local specialties in an elegant setting.
2. Maccus (Largo S. Maria Maggiore 1-3) This restaurant is tucked away in a tiny piazza under the campanile (bell tower) of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. Way off the beaten path, Maccus has excellent food and fine seating inside and outside in the piazza when the weather is warm.
3. Trattoria dei Cartari (Piazza dello Spirito Santo 5) Opened by the former owners of Amalfi’s famous Da Gemma restaurant, the Trattoria dei Cartari is the place to go in town for excellent food and local specialties. It’s located near the top of the main road in Amalfi leading up from Piazza Duomo.
There are plenty of small B & Bs in Amalfi and hotels for nearly every budget, like the pensione Hotel Sant’Andrea with its great location in the Piazza Duomo. Even at high season, a single room can be had for €60. But if luxury travel is the way you roll, then the Hotel Santa Caterina (SS Amalfitana 9) and Grand Hotel Convento (Via Annunziatella 46) are the five-star choices perched at the cliffs above the Gulf of Salerno, complete with to-die-for views and on-site spas.
4. Shopping :
When it comes to souvenirs, there is no shortage in Amalfi, like most tourist spots across the globe. You can find magnets made in China and T-shirts marking the destination. Stroll off Piazza Duomo to hunt out stores with gifts made on the Amalfi Coast. Soaps made with local lemons and olive oil can be had at less than a euro each. Don’t be afraid to bargain if you’re buying a dozen and paying with cash. Of course, handmade paper, journals, notes and cards are a good choice. Laura suggests La Scuderia del Duca (Largo Cesareo Console 8, near Arsenale) as one of Amalfi’s most beautiful paper shops and Milleunaceramica (just off Piazza Duomo) for the ceramic ware known on the Amalfi Coast.
Amalfi, while known around the world, is still very much a small town and everyone knows everyone. However, in recent years, even the tourist spots of Italy have seen an uptick in petty crime so be alert to your belongings while casually enjoying the sites.
6. Best Tourist Tip :
If all you have is half a day, then you’ll spend much of it in the Duomo complex and that’s a very good thing. If you have a full day and this will be your only stop on the Amalfi Coast then do make time to see the coast by sea. Down at the marina there are many small and large boat operators offering short and day-long cruises.