Amalfi Coast beaches

Okay, so the Amalfi Coast is possibly the most heavenly stretch of coastline on the planet but you might need some help working out which village is best for you and your vacation.

As you might know, I’m currently filming a new TV series down here that is going to make the world fall deeper in love with this part of Italy. I have spent so much time here and now I even have an apartment I can call home in Positano but I am STILL discovering little places and beaches that have been hidden to all but a few savvy locals. People on the Amalfi Coast are very very proud of their home village. The dialect and the food changes from town to town. I mean literally from Atrani to Amalfi – a distance of 8 minutes on foot – there is a slightly different accent, they swim at different beaches, they cook their pasta in a different way, they look at me quizzically when I say “Oh do you know Francesco, he lives just a few metres that way?” because he is not from their paese.

Consequently, you’re going to get a different atmosphere depending on where you go. As I get time in between shooting I’m going to add more and more villages to this post so that hopefully you’ll have a comprehensive idea of which part of this beautiful costiera is best for you.

Here’s what we can begin with split over the following categories:

YOU WANT A ROMANTIC OR LUXURY VACATION

YOU WANT TO SWIM, SWIM, SWIM IN THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WATER

YOU WANT TO MEET CUTE BOYS OR GIRLS, DRINK, DANCE & FLIRT

YOU WANT TO AVOID OTHER TOURISTS AND EAT LOCAL

YOU WANT ADVENTURE & ACTIVITIES RATHER THAN JUST LYING BY A POOL

YOU WANT TO SHOP

Best Hotels Amalfi Coast

YOU WANT A ROMANTIC OR LUXURY VACATION

You are spoiled for choice. Many honeymooners go straight to Ravello, the hilltop village above Amalfi. Almost all the hotels are five star and have pools, although some like Palazzo Avino have their own shuttle to take you down to their private beach club by the sea. You might have seen pics of the crazy infinity pool at Hotel Caruso. My favourite is probably Villa Cimbrone because it’s got a beautiful pool but it feels more intimate and is attached to the most enchanting fairytale garden that overlooks the sea. Hotel Villa Maria is gorgeous for dinner because you can eat out on the terrace under lemon groves and fairy lights and the food is excellent, without being too pretentious.

Waking up in the historic tower of Villa Scarpariello

Just down from Ravello on the water is a magical place called Villa Scarpariello. It’s entirely hidden from the road and is not nearly as well known on the Amalfi Coast but its history dates back hundreds of years and its guests include the Queen of England, the Kennedy’s and even Berlusconi. It has some serviced apartments that are quite rustic and simple but with incredible views over the water. Other rooms are more lavish and suited to those who want the full fairytale so don’t be put off if you don’t like some of the rooms because they are really all quite different. Domenico, the night concierge is a character who will charm you with stories, while the young bel ragazzo Andrea takes over during the day and can help you plan your whole stay. Having breakfast underneath a canopy of jasmine looking out over the water while these lovely informal staff chat and bring you frothy cappuccino, fresh strawberries, yoghurt and cornetti is one of the most beautiful ways to start a day on the Amalfi Coast. Some might say they’re not ‘in town’ being between Amalfi and Minori but the reward is an unparalleled tranquility, a stunning pool, a rambling terraced garden with sculptures and lemon groves and private access to the sea.

 

You might also want to consider Capri. At the top of the range there is J.K. Capri, which is the most modern and stylish hotel on the island. Although their pool is very chic, I like the fact that you can wander down some steps and arrive easily at a natural beach where the water is clear. However, you will have to rough it and lie by the general public. Capri Palace is beautiful and slightly more classic. It has a range of rooms that vary – their most expensive suites are flawless and include a private pool off your bedroom (one of them is called the ‘Paltrow Suite’). Their mid range rooms are still lovely and decked out tastefully in white but may not have a great view because they’re not on the water like J.K. Capri, which is down by the port. Then again, being up at Anacapri, where Capri Palace is situated, is an advantage because you can just wander out of your hotel and get a gelato or shop or walk to dinner without catching a taxi.

A little secret place I like is Capri Suite, which is a converted ex-convent. It only has two rooms and the main room has the biggest bathroom I have seen in my life. You are essentially showering where the alter used to be so the high ceilings and the complete absence of a shower door can make bath time quite thrilling. 😉 There is no pool and no view here but you certainly feel like you’ve got your own little hidden oasis in the cutest little alleyway in a part of Capri where the locals all live. It was designed by an acclaimed young architect so there is lots of art and cool modern decor. Breakfast is included.

The best time to visit Anacapri is in September when it’s still warm enough to swim and they have their famous walking musical feast called Settembrata. Basically you pay a small price at the beginning of an evening walk that winds through all the back alleys of Anacapri and along the way the locals have all set up little stalls offering you a different dish to nibble on as you walk and enjoy live music. The whole town gets involved because it’s more local than touristy. It’s one of the prettiest and most jovial food festivals I’ve been to in Italy.

San Pietro di Positano pool overlooking the sea Kylie Flavell, San Pietro di Positano

Positano. Just saying the word can set the imagination soaring. Is there a place more romantic on earth? Probably not. Il San Pietro di Positano is where you want to go for awe-inspiring beauty and romance. Full stop. Hands down. It’s where the top celebrities like Julia Roberts, Rihanna, George Clooney and world famous politicians go. It’s where Fellini went. But all these names matter little. Let me tell you what it feels like to go there… You arrive by boat because it’s situated a little bit out of Positano. Trust me, this is one of its best features. You won’t see it from the water at first because it’s completely covered in greenery and built into the side of the cliff in such a way that it harmonizes with the natural environment. You feel like you’ve stepped into a scene out of Jame Bond. This magnificent hotel doesn’t feel like a big resort, even though it has a tennis court, sundeck, pool, beach, two restaurants, lemon groves, herb gardens, gym, spa and terrace. I don’t know how they managed it but you feel as though you’re just lucky enough to be in your own private villa. They have a vast garden that slopes down the cliff to a private beach where you can eat ridiculously good food at Carlino’s. The restaurant up in the main hotel, Zass, is Michelin-star and run by the insanely talented Alois Vanlangenaeker. The dishes are all made with fruit, vegetables and herbs from the hotel garden and seafood of such quality you will be ruined for life after tasting such freshness and flavour (I know because I went with the Chef at 5am and saw how he takes the best fish of the whole of the Amalfi Coast before any other restaurant at the market). There is a fairytale history to this hotel that I would love to write about but let’s get to what you really want to know when deciding on your perfect honeymoon escape. This is a place where every single room has a view over the water; the terrace that looks over Positano boasts the best spot for sunset aperitivo on the Amalfi Coast and the staff here are so genuine and kind I saw almost every guest chatting away for hours about food or gardening or how proud they are to be from Positano. There is enough elegance to warrant getting dressed up in the evening and feeling glamorous yet enough serenity to curl up with a book on the private beach and daydream while sipping on a cool almond milk and lemon latte d’elefante. They have a beautiful boat that can take you around the coast for exploring grottos and the stunning coastline and you can pop into town in 2 minutes with their private shuttle but something hypnotic happens when you step ashore at Il San Pietro and all of a sudden you feel reticent to leave the property for fear the spell might be broken. Yes, I’m a sentimental girl easily won over by the thought that Marcello Mastroianni romanced Catherine Deneuve here but, in my defence, may I add that I spoke to cynical businessmen, well-travelled guests from Asia, America and Europe and even a family with teenagers and they were all suffering from the same blinding enchantment.

Kylie looking over Castiglione beach

YOU WANT TO MEET CUTE BOYS OR GIRLS, DRINK, DANCE & FLIRT

Alright party people, Amalfi is beautiful, Ravello is heavenly but these places won’t give you anywhere to go out at night unless of course you want to pay for a 30-40euro taxi to get to the two main clubs of the Amalfi Coast: Music on the Rocks (Via Grotte dell Incanto, 51 – Positano) or L’Africana (Via Terra e Mare, Praiano). On the mainland Positano has the most atmosphere after dark and you can certainly people watch during aperitivo hour (that’s happy hour in Italy around sunset). Capri still remains my favourite place for dancing on the Amalfi Coast. Anema e Core (Via Sella Orta 39/E) is an experience you will never forget. A cool piano bar (yes, these guys manage to make it vintage cool) where the cheeky band plays and sings classic Neapolitan songs with full audience participation. Okay, I know it sounds kitsch and tacky but this place draws in celebs, Italians, foreigners and is strict on the door because there is so much fun going on inside. More than a nightclub this is like a full-on show. Think the jazz bar scene in The Talented Mr Ripley. If you just want cool DJs and a young crowd head to Number One (Via V. Emanuele) or Number Two (Via Camerelle 1).

YOU WANT TO AVOID OTHER TOURISTS AND EAT LOCAL

Minori is a super quaint little village on the water, just down from Amalfi. Okay, when I say ‘just down’ you’re going to need to jump on the SITA bus to get there or, if you’re like me, you might enjoy going on foot but it’s a good 45 minutes. The view along the way is spectacular as the road winds along the water and through Atrani. Everyone will tell you to go to the pasticceria Sal De Riso on the main road facing the beach and yes, it is famous. But I don’t go there. I like my sweets somewhere more intimate. If you speak to the people who are actually from Minori, the best spot for something sweet in summer is the gelateria Il Gelato di Mansi Caro (Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 9). They’ve been making the smoothest creamiest gelato for 80 years in their family laboratory. It’s set in a backstreet but this town is so tiny you can find it in a second if you ask someone.

A little further along from Minori is Atrani. This is another quaint fishing village that I love to pieces because it hasn’t been taken over by big hotels and has the most charming piazza, or town square, you’ve ever seen. The atmosphere is so local that after coming down to do your grocery shopping at Mimi e Coco once or twice you will be greeted every day from then on. I stay in one of the apartments at DolceVitainAmalfi, run by the elegant and gentilissima signora Silvanna Iovene. They’re known to only a few but it’s almost impossible to get a booking because those who know of these cute little self-serviced apartments return every single year. The views are amazing, the apartments are cute and clean and come with little touches like fresh lemons and local biscotti and the position is perfect for swimming at Castiglione beach, which is directly below, or soaking up local life in Atrani.

Montepertuso is a little village tucked in the hills above Positano. You will have to catch a bus or rent scooters to get down into Positano but this area is truly beautiful and a nice alternative if you’re into trekking and have a bit more time to observe local life. There’s a great trattoria called La Tagliata, which is worth a visit if you like good meat.

Vettica is another spot not so well known that I discovered through the adorable family that runs B&B Ercole di Amalfi. They just opened their family home this summer. Outside your room is a panoramic terrace where they’ll serve you scrumptious local dishes they cook themselves. Their home is set up quite high with a breathtaking view but you will need to catch transport to get down to the water. Knowing this family though, you will have a group of locals so ready to help you – however you want to spend your day – that finding a bus or a lift down to the sea shouldn’t be difficult. Plus I find that having a base set up a big higher without beach access isn’t necessarily a problem if you set out for a big day of swimming or hiking or seeing the other towns of the Amalfi Coast – inevitably you’ll be out the whole day anyway.

Pastiera caffe amalfi coast

YOU WANT TO SWIM, SWIM, SWIM IN THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WATER

Now Hotel Villa San Michele could easily have fallen in the category above because they have amazing local food at their rustic restaurant and they’re tucked in a position that keeps you well away from tacky hotels and tourist buses. I’ve written extensively about the experience here. It’s one of my favourite spots to stay on the whole Amalfi Coast and doesn’t cost much at all considering their unique location. These guys have the enviable position of private access to the water. The Amalfi Coast has pebble beaches or what they called a ‘piattaforma‘, a platform on which people sun-bake on towels and sun loungers. Villa San Michele has the latter and I’ve had some of the best swims of my life diving off here.

Actual beaches on the Amalfi Coast? Don’t ever go for the main beaches of any town – be it Amalfi or Positano. They’re generally a little dirty, frequented by out-of-town Italians who don’t care about leaving litter and don’t have the best beach cafes. You see, going to the beach is a day-long affair for Italians. You go, swim, chat, flirt, walk up to the bar for a coffee and cornetto in the morning, sunbake, flirt some more, take a swim, go eat lunch at the ‘lido‘, chat some more, then take the last swim of the day at sunset before happy hour ‘aperitivo’.

Amalfi, beach Kylie Flavell

Here are some of my favourite beaches:

I love Fornillo in Positano. Take the stairs from the gelateria at the port that runs behind all the ticket booths down by the water and you’ll find a magical trail through forest that comes out at this beach full of cafes and private patches of pebbles for less public sun-baking.

Fornillo beach, Kylie Flavell Amalfi Coast

As I wrote above, Castiglione just below Ravello and to the left of Amalfi is amazing. There are over 200 steps to get down there but it’s worth it and Anna and Pietro will serve you the best lemon granita and tuna and mozzarella salad when you get there.

Duoglio beach, Amalfi Coast Kylie Flavell

Duoglio to the right of Amalfi gets pretty crowded but there’s a great atmosphere, clean water and a fantastic restaurant where you can get a giant jug of crisp white wine crammed with sweet local peaches. You can catch a little boat from the port of Amalfi to get there.

One of my favourite restaurants in Italy is Da Adolfo, which is to the right of Il San Pietro di Positano. It’s just a little shack on a beautiful pebble beach but the food is so good and the location so idyllic that food and travel journalists from around the world can’t stop waxing lyrical about this place. The swimming here is great and you can rent a sun lounger if you want to make a day of it. You can catch a little wooden boat from Positano to get there, which makes it feel even more special and secluded.

Carpaccio and white wine with peaches

YOU WANT ADVENTURE & ACTIVITIES RATHER THAN JUST LYING BY A POOL

There is so much to do if you’re active on the Amalfi Coast. Almost every beach rents out kayaks or canoes and this is the coolest way to see the coast, whether you’re on Capri or in Amalfi or even one of the lesser known towns like Praiano or Maoiri. The water is so calm that you can easily pack a picnic lunch and paddle off to find a secret beach that is only accessible by boat so that essentially you’ve got your own private beach for the day. Yes, even in the height of August I’ve found beaches completely deserted, which is hard to believe when you see the hoards of tourists piling off the ferries. The spots of serenity are abundant but well hidden on the Amalfi Coast so make the effort and seek them out.

The guys over at Your Private Italy can organize scuba diving, watering skiing, sky diving and sailing. They’re based in the region so they really know their stuff.

Maurizio de Rosa is a dear friend of mine and if you want to really see the magnificence of the mountains in this region he will take you on treks above Amalfi, Capri or Positano that are so personal and exquisite you will be left speechless. He grew up in the hills of Praiano so no one knows these parts better than him. His version of the Walk of the Gods will take you high up into the most lush and panoramic country stretching from Praiano to Positano with a stop in the ancient convent of San Domenico, home to 900-year-old frescoes.

Kylie Flavell Positano Amalfi Coast

YOU WANT TO SHOP

The best places for pretty bejeweled handmade sandals that you can only find on the Amalfi Coast are Positano, Amalfi, Capri and Ravello. There’s that famous guy in Anacapri who has his little store in the main street of the town who will knock up a pair while you’re standing there. There’s also a gorgeous young girl who does the same thing in the store that’s attached to Capri Palace in Anacapri. The store that’s beside Villa Maria in Ravello has some beautiful sandals. While Amalfi and Positano obviously have a range of boutiques to choose from.

One of my favourites for light linen clothes, mostly because of the location, is the open-air boutique Palo Boraccho in Positano that has no walls or roof and a grass floor. The salty breeze wafts between white linen curtains as you’re browsing, jazz music plays softly and Fabiana, the pretty young manager, floats about with her fluffy white dog, making this the most serene summer retail experience you could hope for.

The best souvenir or gift to buy yourself or others is a ceramic dish of some kind. Nothing brings back the nostalgia of an Amalfi Coast holiday like vivid blue and yellow crockery. My absolute favourite place is called Ceramica Assunta and they have two stores in Positano, one down by the port (Via C. Colombo, 97) and one up in a pretty street on the hill (Via C. Colombo, 137). Forget silly t-shirts or other tacky souvenirs that you’ll put away and never use again. This is a little piece of the Amalfi Coast that could greet you every morning for breakfast when you’re back home and remind you of your Italian summer holiday. This family-run business has an Aladdin’s cave of beautiful reasonably-priced ceramics – dishes, cups, jugs, platters, teapots, olive pit cups, even a thimble if you’re really tight on space (and they also ship it back to your home in case you’re already over your baggage allowance).

So… has that helped you make some choices on where to find your own version of the dolce vita? I’ll keep adding to this page over the summer so check back in or let me know in the comments below if there’s something you’d like tips on. 🙂

BUONE VACANZE!!

Kylie in Capri

7 Comments

  1. Paula Tomaselli

    Ciao Kyle tutto bene?? volevo chiederti un piacere la ricetta di quello “Orange cake” com mandorle che tu hai fatto a napoli. non riesco a provare qui 🙁 Vi adoro guardo vi sempre
    In bocca al lupo bacione 🙂

  2. Thank you for the information! We are headed there in July!

  3. Anna stokes

    Such great information! Thankyou so much!

  4. Sabrina Lafond

    Hi Kylie!
    I loved reading this blog! If one is not staying at the Hotel San Michel, can I go just for the private beach access? Im going to Italy in a week and was looking for beautiful beaches to visit on the Amalfi coast but not as crowded. Im staying in Positano, but will do day trips to the various towns 🙂
    Thanks!

    • Kylie Flavell

      I am so sorry I’m too late to help you with this. I hope you had fun and the answer is no, it’s only for hotel guests. If you want a beach that’s a little more local than the main spiaggia, try Fornillo.

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