Italy’s Amalfi Coast is truly the magical fairytale everyone says it is, and that much more. My second half of July consisted of exploring the tiny coastal towns in this coveted southern region of Italy, where lemons and fresh cherry tomatoes grow as abundantly as the visitors’ love affairs with the narrow streets hanging off picturesque cliffs. If going on your honeymoon (basically all Amalfi Coast vacationers pretty much are, unless they’re on a couple’s retreat), your partner should expect some romantic competition because Positano will steal your heart in an instant.
Although I was among the few vacationers visiting with their families, I had the time of my life—and might just convince my future S.O. to come back whenever that may be. The top two destinations we made sure to hit were Positano and Capri, beloved Amalfi Coast gems that Europeans from all over flock to for a stylish summer getaway.
We kicked off the trip in Rome, where we landed and slept overnight at a lovely boutique hotel overlooking the Colosseum. The next morning, we woke up and sipped our cappuccinos as we watched the sun rise over one of the world’s most famous and oldest amphitheaters. Shortly after, we were picked up and driven down south to our hotel in Positano, where the bulk of our trip began.
Positano was straight out of a movie. Restauranteurs would run across the winding street to serve their tables perched along the sea, streets that could barely fit a small Fiat and a few pedestrians on either side. It became a casual daily concern that we might become roadkill at some point, but heck, the party must go on. Our typical days consisted of beach-going, relaxing poolside, and stopping at multiple shoe stores—and I repeat, multiple—to get our fix of authentic Italian leather soles, assembled on site by some very hardworking and passionate shoe store owners. Most Positano shops are independently owned, offering sundresses, woven sunhats, swimsuits, linens, and more summer goods. The most popular print was a lemon-paisley design, which was displayed in almost every store window.
One of our favorites shoe stores was Nana Positano, run by a fierce woman named Anna, along with her husband and son. They live in a villa down the street, and every now and then would take a break from assembling to eat a home-cooked meal in the kitchen, prepared by none other than Anna herself. After customers would select their favorite colors, patterns, and designs, her husband would get to work putting the pieces together in preparation to be tried on. Her son, Lorenzo, would then make the proper adjustments a few hours later, as the customer returned to try on the shoe.
On a food-related note (because how can you go to Italy and not expect eating to be a main activity?), we came back to the states never being able to look at pizza or pasta the same way. My family and I are addicted to carbs, so the Italian cuisine fulfills all of our wildest dreams, even though we might have gone just a little overboard on a carb bender. Besides an unlimited amount of pasta and pizza dishes, every menu we came across was almost guaranteed to have a Caprese salad with mozzarella di bufala, an arugula salad with cherry tomatoes, and limoncello, a sweet Italian lemon liqueur for dessert. Two fantastic Positano restaurants not to miss are Rada and Da Vincenzo, both guaranteeing a bustling scene and delicious bites. Rada is especially unique because it’s situated above Positano’s only nightclub, Music on the Rocks, which is built into a cave. It’s right on the beach, where another popular beachside crowd-sighting favorite is, Chez Black. Side note: one of the days we reserved chaise lounges at a beach club on Spiaggia del Fornillo, a good call because the umbrellas were our saviors in the sweltering Mediterranean sun.
If traveling to nearby Ravello, a dreamy village known to be a worldwide center of art and culture, a meal at Trattoria Da Cumpa’Cosimo should be the main destination. Run by a true Italian mama, who personally comes to each table in her signature frilly apron and red scrunchie, this restaurant was easily the best out of all, and by a mile. It’s a no-hassle, bland, hole-in-the-wall environment, but Mama herself is all that’s needed to dress up the place. She’ll scold you if you don’t finish your dish, and if you’re almost done, she’ll send out multiple other courses to your table, all on the house. After leaving Da Cumpa’Cosimo, our stomachs might as well have been set for the week, and our hearts, set for eternity.
The next stop was Capri, a small island a boat trip away from Positano’s coast. Capri screams upscale designer fashion and hotels, the glitzy and glamorous Beverly Hills of Europe. It’s no wonder it’s a celebrity favorite, with its picturesque rocky landscape and yacht-studded coast. We arrived by boat, after renting a private boat for the day to take us around the waters between Positano and Capri. That way we fit in all of the grottos, the wondrous reflective sea caves along the island of Capri, and had the chance to leisurely swim in the Mediterranean by jumping off the docked boat.
Days in Capri were spent walking around its majestic streets, where no cars passed through except for occasional tiny trams transporting luggage. The streets consisted of whitewashed stone buildings and white awnings, adorned with luscious magenta flowers. Just like Positano, people were seated at outdoor patios of restaurants every few feet, enjoying their day while most likely sipping a limoncello (let’s be real). The best gelato was at Buonocore Gelateria, where the line extended down the block for their house-made cones that came fresh off the pan upon ordering.
Overall, Capri’s shopping selection ranged from high-end to extremely high-end, with less of a selection of the mom and pop shops commonly stumbled upon in Positano. People really, really love their white linens and straw accessories here, an important fact to note. If you’re in the mood for a more low-key, quaint strolling experience, take a taxi up to Anacapri, which we did for an afternoon and had the most incredible time. It seemed to us that Anacapri had a more local, authentic vibe compared to the more commercial Capri, but it’s all about the vibe we were in the mood for, as we came to realize. Capri promises 24/7 entertainment, as people-watching on this island is just as important as taking in the iconic views of Capri’s Three Rocks.
While exploring Anacapri, we took a chairlift up to Monte Solaro, the highest point of Capri. Yes, we were lame and took a chairlift, but trust me, after a week of walking up and down hills for hours at a time in what felt like 100-degree heat, the chairlift felt like the healthiest option. The views as the chairlift rose higher were nearly as good as the views from the top—we dangled over private gardens behind villas and strips of farmland, where inevitably those lemons were being born, all while overlooking the entire island of Capri to the right. The peak of Capri had the most breathtaking views of all, as we looked down at the sea atop of the cliff, its strip of crystal blue blending into the faded blue skyline.
As far as restaurants go, Villa Verde is an absolute must. Between the Margherita pizza, the meatballs, and the Bolognese, this restaurant is a heart attack away from the happiest night of your life. Located literally in a villa (as many Capri restaurants are), there was something truly surreal about the ambience. We ate outside under the beautiful canopy draped over the garden, and to our luck, there happened to be a local DJ event taking place in a plaza next door. We headed over there right after for some dancing, as we joined a crowd of people of all ages letting loose to electronic mixes of popular hits.
Many Capri restaurants will feature walls of photographs of the restaurant owners smiling with celebrities, ranging from Beyoncé to Sarah Jessica Parker to Anne Hathaway. Don’t be fooled though—just because many a celebrity has frequented there doesn’t mean it’s a guaranteed gem. We were disappointed with Aurora, considered one of Capri’s fanciest and most sophisticated dining spots. The service was painfully slow and impersonal and our meals were below average for their steep price points. We found that it’s really a hit or miss when it comes to these types, and Villa Verde, another celebrity hotspot, was a definite hit.
After a successful, action-packed trip, and a long half-day commuting from Capri back up to Rome (ferry to Naples, then car to Rome), we finally made it back to square one. We stayed in the same hotel as we did on the front end, and topped off the trip with a good ole fashioned visit to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. While our first night of the trip we ate at the professional tennis player favorite, Taverna Trilussa, in Rome’s Trastevere, on our last night we went for something different and ate at a swanky place called Ristorante Dillà, tucked into a narrow cobblestoned street near the Spanish Steps.
‘Til next time, bella italia!