The stunning, UNESCO-listed Amalfi Coast of Italy has been a magnet for tourists (many of them wealthy and famous) for decades. Dotted with charming seaside towns and attractive beaches, this 30-mile (50-kilometer) stretch along the southern edge of the Sorrentine Peninsula is conducive to road tripping along the Blue Highway, the so-called "road with 1,001 turns." These winding cliff roads offer bird's-eye views over the ocean before descending down into the idyllic, tucked-away towns, every bit as charming as the movies have made them out to be. At the peak of the tourist season, the streets can get busy with tour buses and motorcyclists, so many find the shoulder season (spring or fall) to be the best time for coastal cruising.
Duomo di Sant'Andrea
At the heart of the town of Amalfi is one of the most important architectural buildings in the region, Duomo di Sant'Andrea. This historic church, also called the Amalfi Cathedral, has been standing on its site since the ninth century, although it has seen its share of changes over the years. One of the oldest items in the church is a 13th-century crucifix. It's also said that the remains of Saint Andrew, brought to the area in the early thirteenth century from Constantinople, are kept in the crypt. Visible from almost everywhere in the town, the 12th-century bell tower is one of the oldest surviving parts of the church.
The Madonna di Positano
Located in the church of Positano is a famous representation of a Black Madonna that is said to date back to the 13th century. The Madonna di Positano is believed to be of Byzantine origins and to have arrived by a Turkish ship whose sailors claimed to have heard the painting whisper the word "posa" (meaning "set me down"), and so they landed and left the painting in the location where the town of Positano sits today. Legend has it that the local people built a church on the site where the Madonna was originally found, and the town developed around this church.
Fjord of Furore
This remarkable natural site would be almost inaccessible without the narrow staircase that leads down into the deep gorge. The Fjord of Furore (its official name despite the fact that scientists say it isn't actually a fjord) was once popular for smuggling port, with its very narrow entrance providing great protection within the inlet while being almost invisible from the sea. Now, it's simply a photo-worthy roadside stop. You can see it from the street, which actually crosses the gorge over a bridge, but it's even more magical if you get out and walk down to the small beach at the bottom.
This villa near the town of Ravello has been around since the 13th century, although it was extensively redeveloped during the 1800s by a Scot, Francis Neville Reid, who fell in love with the amazing location. Offering superb views of the ocean and surrounded by extensive gardens (all public, but you have to make a reservation), Villa Rufolo is a colorful and refreshing respite from driving. The gardens are particularly well known for their flower beds that are vibrant throughout most of the year. Tours can be booked for about $8 apiece Monday through Sunday.
Valle Delle Ferriere
Accessible on foot from Amalfi itself, this beautiful valley is a short walk from the town center and its many peaceful streams and waterfalls. The Valle Delle Ferriere is especially popular in the summer as the water and the shade of the trees help keep the area cooler than the beach. The full trail takes about three to four hours to walk and features lemon groves, historical ruins, valley views, and even a café called Agricola Fore Porta, where you can get a cold limoncello and a mid-hike pastry.