The “Bey Hive” may have just been singing along back in 2006 when Beyoncé’s “Upgrade You” came out and Jay-Z smugly flowed: “It’s humorous to me they watching//We just yachting off the island hopping off//Amalfi coast,” but as the Black Travel movement speeds on its way, we have all been ‘upgrading’ our choice destinations. There’s a reason the southern coast of Italy has long been frequented by both the rich and famous (including Jay and Bey) – and those looking for a welcome respite from the larger tourist metropoles of Milan, Venice, and Rome, which are a bit further north in Italy.
A former intellectual tourist destination with authors and poets such as Dickens, Keats, and Nietzche frequenting the area, the Amalfi Coast is arguably the most pictured coast in Italy. Regardless of its allure as a destination for the highly educated, wealthy, and glamorous, the Amalfi Coast has something for everyone to enjoy. Full of unique sites, postcard views and savory seafood you don’t need a Bey and Jay sized budget to enjoy all that Amalfi has to offer.
When to Go
My first introduction to Italy and the Amalfi Coast was in November, long after the crowds and peak summer season had ended. Not too hot, crowded, or cold – I was greeted with the intimate introduction I was looking for during my week in the region. There were some drawbacks to my timing though, since not all the nightlife remains open once the tourists have gone. Not to mention, several of the roads leading further south along the coast were under construction making some parts somewhat inaccessible. Yet, as a budget conscious traveler, the price for a villa over the course of a week was right up my alley because of the choice to visit off-season. However, if you are into being seen “on the scene”, partying, or have hopes of running into some notable figures, summer just may be worth the higher cost for you.
Where to Stay
My homebase to explore Amalfi was Sorrento and I would have to say it was the best strategic location to be in. Flying into Naples and then heading about 45 minutes south, Sorrento offered the best exploratory base for the Amalfi Coast. Because you are never more than an hour or two away from either a northern city adventure (Pompeii and Naples), island exploration (Capri and/or Ischia) or the best the coast has to offer further south, Sorrento was perfect.
Comprised of small towns along the coast line, Sorrento is the most well-known and northernmost launching pad of Amalfi with Positano, Conca dei Marini, Furore, Amalfi and Ravello comprising all the southern towns. In Sorrento there are public buses that take you to all of the towns further south if you don’t have a rental car. The spindly, meandering roads often bring on tinges of vertigo for even the bravest of souls as the buses hug the curvatures of the mountains – but it’s a great (and cheap) way to get to some of the best views.
What To Do
While it is often said there is not much to do in Amalfi proper, the surrounding towns offer a ton of sites, custom goods, and an all around small town vibe that embrace you with a warmth reminiscent of an long lost friend. Positano is home to the most pictured area of the region but there’s more to this town than the beautiful views. Going for a stroll through the streets, following any of the cobbled brick paths or tucking into the carved stairways and hidden arches will have you discovering your own version of “Amalfi amazing.” You will also undoubtedly wind up on the beach where you can enjoy the freshest seafood ever in whatever way you can envision it, including on the original Italian invention: pizza.
After getting off the bus and beginning a stroll that started in the daytime and ended in the evening was when I stumbled (literally) on a few wonderful gems. As a fragrance lover, our first stop was Profumi di Positano, a local fragrance shop where they produced their own fragrances. It was on this road that I first saw the images that instantaneously pop up when you type Amalfi Coast on Google. Between the aromatic sea and leafy smell, fragrant scents wafting from Profumi di Positano (Via C. Colombo 175), and the heart-warming smiles of the locals making their way up or down the hill into pastel bright doors and awnings, I discovered my love for the Amalfi Coast. It was one of the most inviting introductions to what walking could offer. Further into the quiet town (even quieter since it was a Sunday when we decided to venture around) the beautiful contemporary Franco Senesi Fine Art offered up some unique artwork that had me wishing I could upgrade to a significant other to relish in this moment with me.
Back at our homebase of Sorrento, we had an amazing time at the local live piano bar Filou Club. The only club that remains open post summer spike, we got to be a part of the fun, (I got to sing with the piano man himself), heard tons of diverse music, and of course had to keep the many Italian advances at bay (after accepting maybe one cocktail). We celebrated Thanksgiving dinner at L’Antica Trattoria and it was a delectable respite from our typical turkey and collard green infused holidays.
We island hopped to Capri – which is almost frozen still in November but there too. Walking to Il Giardini di Agosto (Augustus’ Garden) another local perfumery Carthusia, offered up even more scent stories for our divine backdrop. We walked past the place where the notables hang out, obvious to us because their pictures were displayed in the casing outside the door. It was there I met Franco Senesi, the gallery owner at his second Amalfi location. We rode the cable car, and got to see Capri without all the smoke and mirrors of celebrity.
While we didn’t make it to the many other towns (Ravello and Furore come to mind), but as one who is always about an adventure, I can say that regardless of what you find when you go, once you get there the Amalfi Coast will truly “Upgrade Ya” to an unrivaled Italian experience.