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The Amalfi Coast is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Europe, if not the entire world, so it’s no wonder it has long enchanted authors, actors and other romantics. The likes of D.H. Lawrence, Gore Vidal, Greta Garbo and Humphrey Bogart found inspiration, beauty, romance in drama here among its colorful, charming villages that hug the dramatic cliffs rising from the sea below. Either before or after spending days touring Italy’s more well-known cities, consider slowing down to visit this part of Italy’s Campania region.

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Technically, the Amalfi Coast includes everything between Positano and Vietri sul Mare, but many tourists include visits to Sorrento and the isle of Capri when they’re here. Positano, Amalfi and Ravello are other popular stops—either for a day visit or for a few nights. High season, when congestion is at its worst in towns and on the precipitous road that hugs the coastal cliffs, extends from Easter holiday well into the fall, yet slowing down to enjoy the journey, and the spectacular scenery, is what it’s all about. Here’s why you’ll want to discover this slice of paradise:

Views Around Every Corner

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Drive along the coast or up to the town of Ravello, sail around Capri or cable car up to the top of Mount Solero and gaze out any seaside-facing hotel or restaurant window, and you’ll find stunning, jaw-dropping vistas. This is why people come to this part of Italy, for a sun-dappled landscape that seems almost enchanted. Though Ravello is set high up above the coast, it’s worth the drive to visit villas Rufolo and Cimbrone (the former so inspired German composer Richard Wagner that he stayed and wrote the second act of Parsifal, an opera he had been working on for two decades). Stroll through the gardens, which perfectly frame the views below. Off the Amalfi Coast, spend some time on the water for the best views of Capri. A boat tour around the island with a stop at the famous Blue Grotto (weather permitting) is a great way to see beautiful landscape and off-shore rock formations such as the Faraglioni and the Natural Arch. Back on land, a peaceful, slow-moving, single-seat cable car carries passengers from Anacapri up to Mount Solero, where they can snack on gelato and other treats from a lofty vantage point.

Getting Around is Half the Fun

Driving on the coastal road is not for the faint of heart and is best undertaken only by skilled motorists. Motorcycles snake in between cars that manage to jockey for parking spots, while breathless turns in the road often reveal buses blocking the lanes in both directions. White-knuckled drivers miss gazing at towns tucked into rocky cliffs, descending to the beautiful blue waters of the Gulf of Salerno. It’s far better to hire a guide for a day trip between towns or book a group tour. Companies such as Get Your Guide offer a wide variety of options for half- and full-day trips. Traveling to many points along the coast, as well as to the islands, can also be done via several ferries that offer departures throughout the day. And in the towns, it’s best to explore narrow streets on foot, working off those Italian meals while walking up and down sidewalks leading to shops, galleries and area attractions.

A Treat for Your Taste Buds

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Feast on fresh pasta and seafood, Neapolitan pizza, Caprese salad, local olive oil and every flavor of gelato. Hidden gems such as Bistro Sorrento, just outside downtown Sorrento, will more than satisfy any appetite. Also consider hotel restaurants for a splurge. Michelin-starred La Sponda, located within Le Sirenuse in Positano, embodies romance with candlelit dinners served leisurely, and exquisitely prepared and presented. Reservations in advance are a must. The Caesar Augustus, perched high above the sea in Anacapri, plucks vegetables and herbs right from their garden, as well as fresh-caught fish. Meanwhile, dinners at Restaurant La Terrazza di Lucullo are best enjoyed as the sun sets over the jaw-dropping coast. Restaurant Scintilla at the Grand Hotel Cocumella offers excellent Mediterranean cuisine, best enjoyed after a cocktail prepared at the bar, where watching the drink preparation is half the fun! It’s tradition to sip a shot of limoncello, made from lemons grown locally on trees that pepper the terrain, as a digestive. Though you’ll be detoxing from food and drink long after you return home, you can bring back some of these treats from shops like Nino & Friends on Via San Cesaro in the same town.

Roman Ruins in Your Backyard

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When visiting the Amalfi Coast, it’s simple to experience Pompeii and Herculaneum by booking a half- or full-day tour or by taking the train from Naples or Sorrento to Pompeii and meeting a guide there. It’s possible to spend an entire day exploring Pompeii, but it’s nice to leave an hour or two for Herculaneum. The former shows an entire city, separated into nine distinct regions, while the wealthier Herculaneum features ruins of some impressive villas and is much more manageable in size. Both were frozen in time when Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. Though far less well preserved, it’s also fun to tramp around the ruins of Villa Jovis, Emperor Tiberius’ palace residence in Capri, where he resided from 27 to 37 A.D. It’s about a 30-minute walk from downtown Capri, but the Bar Jovis, located near the villa, is a welcome spot to stop before or after exploring the Roman ruins for a cool drink, and to rest your feet.

You can Shop for Great Souvenirs

Whether it’s custom-made sandals, colorful bathing suits and T-shirts, ceramic dishware and tiles, local olive oil and limoncello, or paintings of the landscape, you’ll find souvenirs at every price point in the shops lining the streets of Sorrento, Positano and Capri. Larger items are easily shipped back home. Art galleries will roll up paintings for you to take with you, or you can buy them with frames you select and have them shipped, ready to hang on your walls. The gift shops in Pompeii and Herculaneum also offer interesting books for all ages and themed novelty gifts unique to local attractions.

It can get frustrating managing crowds during peak season, whether on the road, in restaurants and shops or at area attractions. Some careful planning and advance reservations help prepare for this, but days spent soaking up the essence of the Amalfi Coast more than makes up for any inconvenience. You, too, will find it impossible not to fall in love with this slice of Italy, and may find yourself planning to include it on your next trip out this way.

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