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Amalfi Coast

Few can resist the charms of Italy’s Amalfi coastline, whose natural ruggedness conceals picturesque pastel-coloured towns that cling precipitously above numerous tiny bays. Go and you’re entranced. That’s amoré.

 

The Amalfi coastline is a small triangle of land just below Naples that points towards Capri, the island where frequent visitor Jackie Onassis made over-size sunglasses a must-have accessory and where, nowadays, Mariah Carey has a villa.

 

The mainland can be equally chic, but it’s more amenable to those whose budgets don’t stretch to film star proportions, although if you’ve got it, there are plenty of places to spend it here. A typical Amalfi hotel will be chiselled into the cliff side or perched magnificently on top of it, particularly those that were the former summer palaces of nobility and business moguls.

 

Perhaps the area’s most famous town is Sorrento, with its views of Vesuvius across the Bay of Naples. Sorrento sits near the northern tip of the peninsula and is where much of the Pierce Brosnan romantic comedy Love Is All You Need was set. Strictly speaking, it’s not on the Amalfi coastline, so for locations that are a little more intimate, head to the true Amalfi coast on the southern side.

 

If you don’t see yourself negotiating the hairpin bends in a vintage Alfa Romeo, there are excellent local ferries plus ancient pathways for those who simply want to put on their walking boots. Each will bring you to a series of coastal towns and villages, among them Ravello, Positano and Amalfi itself - names you already associate with La Dolce Vita. There is though so much more than the famous names and each tiny cove reveals a hidden beach or village that’s another delight.

 

We don’t need to mention the food, because it’s Italy and well, you can imagine how wonderful it is, but let’s just point out two local specialities. Naples is regarded as the birthplace of pizza, so the locals know how it should be done.  For a digestif, look no further than Amalfi’s homegrown speciality, Limoncello.

 

There’s more to do around Amalfi than just eat and admire the stunning natural beauty - although that’s enough. The coastline’s past as the ancient seat of a maritime empire means it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, but more famously, nearby Pompeii is obviously a must-see. Don’t, however, overlook Herculaneum, mid-way between Pompeii and Naples. Herculaneum is a smaller site, but it was a wealthier town and has some magnificent well-preserved houses. Step inside and you can see wall paintings, mosaics and even fossilised furniture, while boathouses at the former seafront tell the story of those who died in them trying to escape Vesuvius’s eruption.

 

Many treasures discovered at both sites are housed at the Naples’ National Archaeological Museum, which is worth the trip into this fascinating if chaotic city. The museum’s mosaics are outstanding, but perhaps you’ll remember it for the Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Chamber), which houses a collection of ancient erotica including paintings designed as a brothel menu.

 

That’s not amoré, but fascinating nonetheless.