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Portfolio > On Location (Overseas) > Amalfi Coast, Italy (Part 2)                                                      Click on an image below to reveal enlarged version

Amalfi Coast, Italy


The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline in southern Italy overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Gulf of Salerno. It is located south of the Sorrentine Peninsula and north of the Cilentan Coast. Celebrated worldwide for its Mediterranean landscape and natural diversity, the Coast is named after the town of Amalfi, which makes up its main historical and political centre. It is a very popular jet set destination, and has been an attraction to upper-class Europeans since the 18th century, when it was a frequent stopover on their Grand Tours. An attraction to thousands of international tourists of all classes, annually the Amalfi Coast was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.  During the 10th–11th centuries, the Duchy of Amalfi existed on the territory of the Amalfi Coast, centered in the town of Amalfi. The Amalfi coast was later controlled by the Principality of Salerno until Amalfi was sacked by the Republic of Pisa in 1137. Like the rest of the region, the Amalfi Coast has a Mediterranean climate, featuring warm summers and mild winters. It is located on the relatively steep southern shore of the Sorrentine Peninsula, leaving little room for rural and agricultural development. The only land route to the Amalfi Coast is the 40 kilometres (25 mi) long Amalfi Drive (Strada Statale 163) which runs along the coastline from the town of Vietri sul Mare in the east to Positano in the west. Thirteen municipalities are located on the Amalfi Coast, many of them centered on tourism. The Amalfi Coast is known for its production of limoncello liqueur, made from lemon (known as sfusato amalfitano in Italian) grown in terraced gardens along the entire coastline between February and October. Amalfi is also a known maker of a hand-made thick paper called bambagina, symbolic of Italy's ancient traditional technique for paper production and historically used for private writings, legal acts, and revenue stamps. Other renowned local products are a particular kind of anchovy (local Italian: alici) from Cetara, and the colorful handmade ceramics from Vietri.

Buses and ferries run along the Amalfi Coast, as well as boat excursions from Positano and Amalfi. The Salerno Costa d'Amalfi Airport is the nearest. However, the most used airport to reach the area from abroad is Naples International Airport (Napoli-Capodichino). The natural beauty and picturesque landscapes of the Amalfi Coast have made it one of the most popular destinations of the world's jet set, earning it the nickname of "Divine Coast" (Divina costiera). The rulers of Amalfi are the central figures in John Webster's Jacobean tragedy The Duchess of Malfi. The Dutch artist M.C. Escher produced a number of artworks of the Amalfi coast, and Spike Milligan describes his time in Amalfi during a period of leave in the fourth part of his war memoirs, Mussolini: His Part in My Downfall. The Amalfi Coast was used for scenes of Federico Fellini's 1972 film Roma and for the 2017 American superhero film Wonder Woman, where it was depicted as the Amazon island of Themyscira. The Amalfi Coast serves as a setting for fictional tracks in the Forza Motorsport 3Forza Motorsport 4 and Gran Turismo 4. The city of Positano is featured in John Steinbeck's 1953 short story Positano. The city is also featured in Under the Tuscan SunChristopher Nolan's Tenet and the Kath and Kim movie Kath & Kimderella.

The Amalfi Coast is only 40 kilometers from Positano on the west to Vietri sul Mare on the east. That distance, almost all of which is vertical terrain and plunging cliffs, leave little room for long, wide beaches. But that same topography gives the Amalfi some of the most idyllic and scenic – albeit tiny – beaches in all of Italy. Hidden beneath those soaring cliffs are coves where pebbles have gathered to form secluded beaches, some of which can only be approached by boat, others by steep stairs or narrow paths under the cliffs. You'll find few sand beaches; most are composed of small sea-worn pebbles, which make a rented lounge chair (lettino) more attractive than stretching out on a towel at the free beaches. These brightly colored loungers with matching umbrellas are owned by private beach clubs (stabilimento balneare), which also have changing tents, showers, and restrooms for the use of guests, who pay anything from 10 euros a day (at the eastern beaches) to 20 at Positano or Amalfi. If you plan on a day at the beach (remember that the sun only hits most of the Amalfi beaches in the morning), these make a lot of sense. But nearly every beach has a free area at one end, where you can drop a towel in any vacant spot to sunbathe and swim without paying. Ranking the beaches that lie beneath the magnificent cliffs and precipitous towns of the Amalfi Coast is nearly impossible. Ask 10 people who know the coast well, and if you get the same beaches at all, the lists will be in a totally different order. The reason lies in the abundance of riches. People who love tiny cove beaches can easily name 10 favorites. Those who prefer long stretches of beach will name another 10. Sand or pebbles, what time of day, safety for children, ease of access – all these are considerations. So, if you pay more attention to the descriptions than to the ranking, you can be sure to find your perfect place in the sun with this list of the 5 best beaches on the Amalfi Coast...

1. Marina Grande, Positano

If you want a large sprinkling of Amalfi Coast glam, and maybe to spot a celeb or two behind the sunglasses, splurge for a lounger on the coast's "in" beach. Crowded (don't even think about it in August), often chaotic, and definitely where the action is, Marina Grande (not to be confused with the Marina Grande in the town of Amalfi) is also one of the largest on the coast, at about 300 meters in length.It is lined by restaurants and a disco, Music on the Rocks, which is as popular with locals as it is with the visiting glitterati. This is a good place to board shuttle boats to some of the less accessible beaches, and there is a free stretch of beach for those who don't need to be in the center of the social scene. Even if you don't choose this for a day of lounging in the sun, do stop for a stroll or lunch for the Amalfi experience and some people watching. For a smaller, quieter beach in Positano, take the stairs opposite the five-star Il San Pietro di Positano hotel (about a kilometer west of the Marina Grande) to Laurito beach. Part of the beach is free and part a stabilimento; there are a couple of casual restaurants here, as well.

2. Arienzo Beach, Positano

If you don't mind descending the 300 or so steps to get there, Arienzo is one of the few beaches in Positano to have sun in the afternoon, far longer than any other beach in town. The water here is also clearer than that of Marina Grande, so it's better for swimming. There is a free area, and a beach club with a restaurant and sun loungers. The stone steps, although daunting, offer some stunning views and a chance to see some of the villas and their gardens that cling to this vertiginous coast. For the views on the way down without the arduous climb back to the Amalfi Drive, take a Sita bus from the Marina Grande (the bus will stop at the stairs), then return by one of the boat shuttles.

3. Maiori Beach

There's a lot to like about Maiori's beach. It's the largest on the Amalfi Coast at just under a kilometer long and 40 meters wide, and one of the very few that is sandy. Added to that, the afternoon sun is not blocked by cliffs, and in the summer, shines on its sands into the evening. Kiosks and cafés line its boardwalk, and along with the rows of loungers to rent, two beach areas are free. You can rent boats to visit the nearby sea caves. With all this, it's no surprise that Maiori is a popular beach, especially with families, but as it is at the eastern end of the Amalfi Coast, it is rarely crowded. The smaller (about 40 meters long) beach of Salicerchie is reached by a long set of steps, although only about half as many as Arienzo. The water here is deep, exceptionally clear, and an emerald green color. The beach is enclosed by cliffs on either side, and although it is largely occupied by a line of lounge chairs, there is a small free section.

4. Marina Grande, Amalfi

One of the best known and largest on the coast is Amalfi's main beach, in the center of town opposite Piazza Duomo. The town seems to flow down the hill into the beach – and unfortunately, so do people, in great numbers. While it has some of the same worldly air as Positano's, it seems more chaotic and possibly even more crowded. People watching is still fun, but with less chance of spotting a famous face. The pebble beach is just under 200 meters long and about 40 wide, so there is a lot of room, and beyond the rows of colorful sunbeds, you'll find a free beach at either end. In the summer, be there very early to find a space large enough for your beach towel. Walking west along the shore, you'll come to a small free beach called Porto, right near the marine promontory, a popular place for families, with shallow, calm water. Just beyond the port, about a 10-minute walk from Marina Grande, is Lido delle Sirene, without a free beach, but a more peaceful atmosphere. Marina Grande is where you catch boats to smaller hidden cove beaches, as well as excursions to the nearby Grotta dello Smeraldo (Emerald Cave). Sunlight shining through the water makes it appear lit from inside the cave with an emerald-green glow.

5. Marina Di Cetara

Beaches don't get much more postcard perfect than Cetara: colorful fishing boats drawn up behind the beach, palms along a promenade, and a town of pastel cottages climbing up the hillside above. Perfecting the scene are a castle at one end of the beach and a church dome covered in bright colored tiles. Choose one of the lounge chairs or drop a towel on the free sand at the other end, the view is the same, and so is the sand, and the free area is as large as the stabilimento. Fewer tourists find their way to this eastern end of the coast, so you'll share the beach with local families. Because of its position, the sun shines here into the late afternoon, and the water is exceptionally clear. A pathway from the tower leads along the shore to Lannio beach, with fine sand and crystal blue water, in a cove just outside of town.

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