Visiting the Amalfi Coast in a weekend
The Amalfi Coast, south of the Bay of Naples, can claim to be Europe's most magnificent stretch of coast. Virtually cut off from the rest of the world until the mid-19th century, when a road was built linking all the villages along the coast, this unique region was first discovered by the aristocratic Grand Tourists of Europe, who made the Costiera Amalfitana an obligatory stop-off. Today it remains the ultimate romantic getaway, perfect for a weekend of relax.
Ravello sits on the hills above Amalfi. Every villa has picturesque gardens, and two that are open to the public, Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone, are among the finest in Italy, with perfectly laid-out flower beds, palm trees, sculptures and fountains. Rufolo has a vast terrazza that seems to hang right over the sea, venue for the renowned concerts of the Music Festival. Ravello also has a lively street market every Tuesday morning, where you will find wine, fresh mozzarella and olive oil.
The first view of Amalfi is unforgettable, with its tightly packed villas and palaces seeming to tumble down the cliffside into the fishing port and shingle beach below. Amalfi was once a maritime power to rival Venice, and its golden age is symbolised by its stunning cathedral: its Arab-Norman facade dominates the Piazza Duomo, the unofficial town centre that is always pulsating with people. When visiting the cathedral, walk around the back into the Chiostro del Paradiso, a magical Moorish-style cloister, with a lush tropical garden, and then into the opulent Cappella del Crocefisso in a subterranean crypt.
Positano has a unique atmosphere - exclusive, chic, full of fashionistas, celebrities and wealthy jet-setters. But at the same time, this is an authentic Italian family holiday resort. This tumble of cubic pastel-hued buildings clinging impossibly to an almost sheer cliff face is the coast’s most picturesque town, in spite of the crowds that clog its steep, narrow lanes in high season.
Sorrento may no longer be the exclusive resort it once was - it is now more popular with tour buses and cruise lines than Hollywood royalty - but remains an obligatory stop on the Costiera. Take its pulse with an aperitivo on a terrace on the bustling Piazza Tasso, then wander down Corso Italia, with its tempting boutiques. In the narrow Via Casareo is the beautiful Sedile Dominova, a frescoed terrace where nobility met in the 15th-century -.