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Hiking on the Amalfi Coast
If there is a corner of Italy that embodies the national affection and talent for “il dolce far niente”, or the sweet pleasure of doing nothing, it is the Amalfi Coast.
Unlike Italy’s bustling cities, thick with iconic monuments, or even its quiet hilltowns, each with a surprisingly excellent local church or musuem to visit, the Amalfi Coast is more about simply being than busily doing. With a few notable exceptions, there are not that many obligatory artistic or architectural sites that need to be checked off the visitor’s itinerary, and days can be spent languidly on the beaches or wandering the fishing villages-cum-resort towns with a clear conscience.
That said, if you are more a do-er than a be-er, there are a number of activities to break up your lazy days without completely interrupting the coastline’s general slow pace.
Hiking on the Amalfi Coast
It’s not surprising that there are a number of breathtaking walks along the Amalfi Coast, given the dramatic landscape with its craggy cliffs tumbling directly down into the Mediterranean.
The most spectacular is by far the famed Sentiero dei Dei (Path of the Gods), which links Agerola and Nocelle (a hamlet near Positano) along almost 8 kilometers of startlingly scenic coastline. The best direction to walk is from Agerola, so the 3 hour route will be almost exclusively downhill, along the easy (though vertigo-inducing) route indicated by red and white 02 trail markers.
Another wonderful route is through the Vallone delle Ferriere down the mountain slopes above the town of Amalfi. Beginning in Montone in the Monti Latteri, this 6 kilometer route descends through chestnuts woods and thick tropical fern and moss-covered expanses. Walkers first pass the ruins of historic foundries (from which the valley gets its name) and then, just before arriving in Amalfi, a number of water mills which once powered this Marine Republic’s famous cartiere, or paper mills.
More Things to Do on the Amalfi Coast:
Cooking Classes and Festivals
Shopping on the Amalfi Coast
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Amalfi Coast Cooking Classes and Festivals
Amalfi Coast Cooking Classes
If you’ve been inspired by the excellent local seafood dishes and luscious southern Italian pastries, you can learn how to reproduce them at home during a private or semi-private cooking lesson. Though a number of the Amalfi Coast’s luxury hotels offer cooking classes with their illustrious chefs, it can often be more fun to learn to cook in the more informal atmosphere of a local home cook.
Mamma Agata has been cooking since the age of 13, when she was hired by the wealthy American owner of a villa near Agata’s hometown of Ravello to prepare local specialties. Struck by her talent, the American hostess quickly began entrusting her with menus served to VIP guests from Hollywood and the White House. Today Agata, together with her daughter Chiara, welcomes travelers famous and not to her stunning home overlooking the Mediterranean for cooking classes ending with the preparation of Mamma Agata’s most famous dish: her legendary lemon cake.
Amalfi Coast Festivals
Though the Amalfi Coast is now the playground of the rich and famous, it hasn’t lost touch with its roots as humble fishing villages, where faith played an important role in the community. Many towns along the coast still celebrate the saint’s day of their patron saint with both solemnity and joy, including Masses and processions followed by music and fireworks. Especially fun are the Festa di Sant'Andrea in Amalfi on June 27th, the Festa di Santa Maria Maddalena in Atrani on July 22nd, the Luminaria di San Domenico in Praiano the first four days of August, and the Festa dell'Assunta in Positano the 15th of August.
Celebrations are not all religious along the coast, however. In Ravello each year from the end of June to the beginning of August, visitors can attend classical, jazz, and pop concerts, dance performances, and art exhibitions in a number of lovely local venues during the Ravello Festival. For traveling gourmands, Cetara’s Giornate del Pesce Azzurro and Conca dei Marini’s Sfogliatella Santa Rosa Festival in August are worth a visit, as is Postitano’s Festa del Pesce the final Saturday of September.
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Amalfi Coast Shopping
Shopping on the Amalfi Coast
The one activity that bridges the gap between il dolce far niente and doing, well, something is shopping. Since the Amalfi Coast is such a beloved destination for travelers, there is wonderful shopping to be had along the coast, from high end designer boutiques (especially on the Island of Capri) to unique handcrafted artisan wares and fashions.
The Amalfi Coast is home to a number of excellent local gourmet specialties which make for unique gifts (or souvenirs). Wines from the terraced mountain slopes of Tramonti, extra virgin olive oil, Cetara’s historic anchovy sauce, and the ubiquitous Limoncello made from Sorrento down the coast are all worth stocking up on. A good place to find these and more are at the food shop adjacent to the storied Don Alfonso 1890 restaurant in Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, where celebrity chef Alfonso Iaccarino sells the best local products and his own from his organic farm, Le Peracciole.
For local artisan crafts, head to Vietri sul Mare where locals have been making hand-painted majolica ceramics for centuries and the town streets are lined with tiny shops bursting with pottery. Otherwise, in Amalfi you can purchase the handcrafted paper from the town’s last surviving paper mill, Cartiera Amatruda. At the local specialty shop Scuderie del Duca, you’ll find their fine papers, along with pens and ink, and unique prints.
Of course, no shopping expedition would be complete without picking up at least one outfit in the iconic Positano resort style, which blends an informal beach look with fine Italian fabric and workmanship. Positano’s Bottega di Brunella has been dressing passing stars and vacationers in brightly colored, loose cotton or linen blouses, sarongs, and head scarves since the 1960's. Pair this casual look with the famous “Capri sandals”; these flat but often ornately decorated sandals were first made famous on the island of Capri but can now be purchased from number of artisan shops on the coast. Try Alfonso Dattilo's landmark shoe shop in Maiori for made-to-measure quality without breaking the bank.
Where to Shop in Sorrento
Susan Van Allen, author of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, recommends her 6 Favorite Shops in Sorrento.