The Amalfi Coast needs no introduction. The cliffs, the lemon trees, the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the blue grotto, and the islands of Capri and Ischia have been subjects of countless books and melodies. It is an area of southern Italy that has been luring visitors for thousands of years in search of history, food, nature, fashion, and glamour.
It draws visitors back time and time again who can’t get enough of the sunshine and glimmering seaside. For those who have already been to the obvious places aforementioned, here is a list of things to do on your next visit.
1. Get in the lap of luxury at the Caserta Palace
The Amalfi Coast is not only a vacation spot for the rich and famous, it is a historic resort area dating back centuries with no fewer than 12 imperial palaces in the surrounding islands including Capri. The most recent regal palace, located roughly a 30 mile drive from Naples or 50 miles from Positano, is that of King Charles VII of Naples. Inspired by the Palace of Versailles, the 18th century Caserta Palace includes 5 floors and 1,200 rooms. It is the largest royal palace in the world and is a designated UNESCO world heritage site. While the king himself never had the opportunity to live there, it is now state property and is open to the public, including the palace’s 300 acre park. It is possible to rent bicycles inside the palace to explore the vast English landscape garden in its entirety.
2. Dinner at Zass restautant
Just when you thought the iconic aristocratic manor that is Il San Pietro di Positano built into the colorful cliffs couldn’t get any better, owner Vito Cinque surprised architects, foodies, and tourists alike this year with the hotel’s new technologically advanced kitchen. The new architectural design for Michelin-starred Zass restaurant is the most sophisticated in fine dining. After a walk through the organic vegetable garden taking in the aromas of thyme, basil, and cherry tomatoes guests arrive at an ultra-modern culinary museum built on two floors. Through contoured windows, guests are offered full transparency onto the upper floor into chef Alois Vanlangenaeker ’s creations.
An even greater novelty exists whereby you can book a table directly inside the kitchen itself, where up to six guests can dine among the chef and his entourage, using the vegetables and herbs picked by guests in the terraced gardens of the hotel and dining room overlooking the sea.
3. Shop for ceramics till you drop
Ceramic production in the town of Vietri Sul Mare on the Amalfi Coast has been famous since the Renaissance period. The colorful palettes in the hand-painted glazed earthenware mimics the hues of the area’s landscape and seaside. One of the best places to shop for ceramics on the Amalfi Coast is the Solimene factory. The Solimene family has been operating out of a factory in Vietri since the 1940′s, using 500 year-old techniques. The decorations are an inspiring and playful mix of polka dots, animal figures, and sea creatures.
Solimene exports all over the world, however a visit to the factory allows you a rare opportunity to visit a warehouse full of discounted second-choice ceramics. It is an adventure to sift through piles of colorful mismatched items, some with unnoticeable flaws, to get your masterpieces discounted and directly from the source.
4. Lunch at Da Adolfo
The region’s location on the seaside and with favorable growing conditions for wine and cheese production make the Amalfi Coast a paradise for gourmands. One of the best places to eat in the region is accessible only by boat from the beach in Positano. To get to Da Adolfolook for a red fisherman vessel with a large wooden fish on a pole. You will be taken to tiny secluded cove over-flowing with locals vivaciously inhaling fresh seafood created with traditional family recipes since the restaurant opened in the 1960′s. The most popular items on the menu are the mussels soup and the grilled mozzarella on a lemon leaf.
5. Snorkel through the past
While the Amalfi Coast is famous for boat rides around the area’s many islands and coves, several diving clubs offer unique possibilities to enjoy the region’s sea and its history simultaneously, up close and personal. Rather than searching for coral or miniature fish, when snorkeling in Baiae one can see the remains of a nympheum from the time of Emperor Claudius, remains of an ancient Roman public paved road and a few remains of the floor of an ancient villa, now all underwater. One recommended diving club is Centro Sub Campi Flegrei located on the shore of the underwater Archeology Park of Baiae near Pozzuoli.
Greg Grant is Owner of Hosted Villas.