Just saying the names of Capri and Amalfi conjures up images of a warm Italian sun, steep sea-side cliffs, and the blue, inviting waters of the Mediterranean. This beautiful part of Italy has inspired artists, poets and travellers for centuries, and with good reason.
The countryside, houses and topography of southern Italy are a stark contract to the more industrial north of the country. The south is more arid and the air lemon-scented; the topography becomes hilly and steep towards the Mediterrean coastline, with houses and towns perched on cliffs. The local cuisine is fresh, delicious, and locally sourced from the land and sea.
It feels like you’ve discovered a little bit of paradise. Our stay in this gorgeous part of Italy was not nearly long enough. But we packed memorable experiences from our multi-generational adventure that will last a lifetime.
The town of Sorrento is a great place to base yourself for discovering the islands of Capri, Ischia and the Amalfi Coast. But don’t miss enjoying the lemon-scented charms of Sorrento itself. The town is very pedestrian-oriented, with narrow streets and a compact town centre. You can get anywhere quickly by walking.
There are many places to stay in Sorrento that encourage multi-day visits. The town has many services such as grocery stores, banks, restaurants and shops specializing in leather goods, coral jewellery, ceramics and limoncello – a specialty of this region. There are several limoncello stores offering samples of this delicious lemon-infused digestif. A bottle of this pale liquid gold makes for a memorable souvenir. Sorrento is also very popular with British tourists, and you will hear English spoken throughout the town.
From Sorrento, you can travel by train north to Rome, Naples or Pompeii, or by bus south to the towns along the Amalfi Coast. Even if you have rented a car to get to Sorrento (and we admire your courage), we would highly recommend visiting the Amalfi Coast by bus. You can purchase bus tickets at the train station in Sorrento, not far from the main square.
The Amalfi Coastal road is one of the most spectacular drives in the world, but you won’t see a thing if you’re driving.
The road is narrow and constantly winding its way down the coastline. Sitting up higher in a bus driven by a professional – and local – driver, you’ll be able to enjoy the the views, the curves, and snap some photos and videos while you’re at it. It’s a breathtaking journey, and takes a good half-day round trip, depending on how many stops you take along the way and how long you stay in the picturesque hillside towns.
On our all-too-brief visit, we enjoyed a wonderful stop in the town of Amalfi, complete with gelato, espressos, and sips of locally-made limoncello. One of the town’s particular specialities is hand-made paper, often scented with lemons and oranges from hill-side groves. Perfect gift ideas for friends and family back home.
Lemon groves are everywhere along the Amalfi Coast, and from those lemons are produced fantastic products to enjoy and take home; candied lemon, chocolate-covered lemon & orange peel, and limoncello, the strong lemon-based liqueur of the region. Many shops that sell limoncello offer tasting samples of their wares, and may even produce the limoncello in-house. It’s worth the purchase of a bottle, as it tends to be quite expensive back home.
The small island of Capri has been a favorite destination for Roman emperors, celebrities and just plain regular folk for centuries. From Sorrento, you can take the fast hydrofoil ferry (leaving nearly hourly) to Capri. It’s a short 30 minute trip through the Bay of Naples, with views of Vesuvius as you speed along.
One of the Island’s major attractions is the famous Blue Grotto or La Grotta Azzurra, but many also visit to browse the many high-end designer shops, walk the narrow streets, and enjoy gorgeous views of the Bay of Naples. We also discovered the best blood-orange granita drink ever. It was cool and refreshing on a hot day, which it will likely be even in spring or fall.
Upon docking, if you wish to visit the famous Blue Grotto, you can hire a boat to take you there straight away. The Grotto is a very popular attraction. You’ll need some time to travel there and wait your turn to enter the Grotto in a smaller craft. If you have more than a day planned on Capri, enjoy a visit. If you only have a few hours on the Island, save it for a return trip.
From the harbour, you can walk, or take the more popular funicular up the steep hill to get to the main square of Capri. From here you can stroll the narrow, car-free streets, people watch, and window-shop at the designer stores. We chose to do a small hike through the quiet residential areas off the main square. The regular viewpoints along the way showcase spectacular views of the Island and Amalfi Coast. Another great destination (more accessible by bus) is Villa Jovis, the ancient roman villa built by the Emperor Tiberius in the first century B.C.
There are many restaurants to enjoy on Capri. You cannot go wrong by sitting down to a fabulous meal of antipasti, pizza and pasta at the Da Gemma. It’s been a local institution since the 19th century. We enjoyed a memorable birthday meal overlooking Capri and the Bay of Naples. Le sigh.
The Sorrento, Capri and Amalfi Coast region of Italy is quite simply, magnificent. The people are friendly and they like children (just as in most of Italy), the food and weather are wonderful, and the views unforgettable. Alla prossima!
Photo credits: S. Laroye
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