Amalfi Coast Guide: Positano + Praiano

When you see those photos full of bright red, yellow, and pink houses peeping over grassy cliffs  onto beaches full of even more colorful umbrellas, you know you are looking at the Amalfi Coast—and most likely Positano. This coastal town is full of fantastic restaurants, shopping, beaches, and activity.

If you are coming from Rome, book the fast train to Naples which is about a 60 min smooth ride and around 50 euros. Hire the most lovely Italian private driver Vittorio (info@rosatoprivatetour.com)  who is a young firecracker but also basically a professional photographer who will take your photo at all the right cliffs on your drive in to Positano. He’ll take you by Pompeii (and even arrange a guide for you ask for Charlot) on your way down which was one of the highlights of our entire Italian adventure. Seeing the uncovered remains of a Roman city that was covered in ash by Mount Vesuvius (still an active volcano) over 2,000 years ago. The city wasn’t uncovered until the late 1700’s where they found it still in tact and preserved. You’ll see gorgeous mosaics, baths, homes, pots, an open air grocery store, and learn all about how this town was run. Make sure you get a tour guide before you go or you might end up waiting in line for over an hour just to buy an entrance ticket. The tour should be 160 euro for two hours and you’ll learn so much you’ll be motivated to buy a book on this place. About an hour later you’ll arrive in Positano or Praiano! See below for all the details on Food, Hiking, Beaching, and More!

WHERE TO STAY:

Lets get one thing straight. Flying to Italy is expensive right? Getting to the Amalfi Coast is even more expensive because you have to take a private car from Naples to Positano which is 140 euros plus an additional 40 euro per hour if you stop in Pompeii for a two hour tour.  SO what I’m getting at is that if you are already spending so much time and money traveling, you might as well stay at the 5 star hotel Casa Angelina in Praiano(which I luckily found from Vogue when I couldn’t find any hotels in Positano) just about 15 min down the road from Positano because their impeccable service, modern luxury style, views, and breakfast buffet is unbeatable. Not to mention they have a private car that will pick you up and take you to Positano whenever you need, so you save about 20 euros each way here that you would spend otherwise if you stayed on one of the hills in Positano and need a ride down to the center.

Casa Angelina feels like a honeymoon spot, and they really know how to treat you right. I’m confident that this is the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Upon arrival, they greet you with their specialty iced, almond milk drink which is a tad sweet and tastes like vacation. The amount of staff tending to you is almost more than the amount of guests staying at the 39-room hotel which opened in 2005. It’s sleek, white everywhere, filled with gorgeous colorful Italian, murano glass, has canopy beds, bathroom views that look onto the water as far as Positano (just imagine the sunset everyday), a gym with complimentary yoga and pilates classes. So back to the complimentary breakfast buffet. There are tables full of the food of your dreams and an egg and pancake menu you can custom order from as if their offerings in the “Un Piano Nel Cielo” restaurant are not enough. Think watermelon, melon, berry and yogurt parfaits, thick smoked salmon, all kinds of fresh cheeses, quiches, tomatoes and mozzarella salads, roasted vegetables, eggplant parmesan, stuffed tomatoes, fried eggplant balls, turkey, chocolate croissants, doughnuts, nutella filled dough, cakes, cupcakes, breads, and all of this to eat on the outdoor deck while looking out on the Mediterranean Sea. Another fun perk about going in the middle of August was that we got to celebrate their Catholic holiday Ferragosto which is August 15. It celebrates the Assumption of Mary and Casa Angelina hosted an extremely nice firework viewing party with complimentary rosé, and a dessert buffet at 11:30 p.m. for all guests.

WHERE TO HIKE:

One of the other big perks about staying at Casa Angelina is that if you want to do the famous hike, The Path of the Gods, you don’t have to take a bus or  pay a driver a lot of euros to be driven to the top of Nocelle to start the hike. Instead at Casa Angelina there are 250 steps you can take up to get started. We obviously took this challenge and while it doesn’t sound so bad, we didn’t realize it was 250 stairs just to get to the beginning where it then became even MORE stairs. The gorgeous views and heights got us through that first 30 minutes of straight stairs. Then we saw a lemonade stand where the glasses were served with fresh figs literally from trees above your heads. It was not a mirage but a nice rest stop, and we got to chat with Charles Finch, who just so happens to own Dean & Deluca and has a crazy NYC/ London/ Positano / Cannes life. You never know who you’ll meet up there! The hike took us about two hours and when we arrived in Nocelle, instead of taking the bus down the rest of the way to Positano, we somehow got on the 2,000 step stairway path. Go big or go home right? Once we got to town, we sprinted for the nearest cafe for water, but I spotted a frozen drink machine at Li Galli Bar churning Aperol Spritz, and it was a life saver! Literally the only thing I wanted to put in my mouth after a 5.5 mile hike and thousands of stairs. This thing was served in a gelato glass, and I will forever crave it.

As if we couldn’t walk anymore stairs, we went back to the hotel and went down to the beach club they share called One Fire. 200 MORE STAIRS down (and then we had to go back up!) Ha, what a joke right? The water was well worth it and so smooth. Lots of locals and Italians are “partying here.” Partying is much different in Italy than somewhere like a pool in Vegas or the Hamptons. Much classier and no one is actually drunk but just consciously enjoying life and relaxing. We grabbed another aperol spritz and were delivered the best green olives of our lives along with their little rosemary crackers that come with all aperitifs on this side of the country. You get free chairs, towels, and water for being a guest at Casa Angelina. In case you are wondering, according to my iPhone, we walked 179 floors that day and 9.1 miles. More gelato for us!

WHERE TO EAT:

La Tagliata is a fun, authentic experience if you really want to get into a real Italian family’s kitchen. At 40 euro per person, the restaurant will pick you up at Hotel Eden Roc (where CA will drop you), and drive you up to their family’s gorgeous restaurant that overlooks all of the water. Luckily they have shaped the dining room so that no seat offers a bad view. It’s family style, and they serve whatever Mama wants to make that day including their housemade red and white wines. You start with a delicious vegetable assortment and antipasti such as: mozz, meats, red peppers, chickpeas, beans, stewed peas, soft broccoli that I couldn’t get enough of, and some really good meatloaf. Then it’s onto the best course of the night: pasta! Also, the sun is setting now right before you eyes and before your pasta disappears! The plate is full of Gnocchi a la Sorentina Style; Ravioli stuffed with Olive Capers, Zucchini, Eggplant and Ricotta; “Mama’s Pasta” with Three Cheese, and lastly, our favorite was the Skintery Pasta with White Onions and Zucchini Sauce. We loved this one so much we dared to ask for a second helping….our wish was granted. Next came the grilled meats which we picked at because we had been teased by the pasta first. Al fin includes several different cakes, profiterole and limoncello.

Chez Black feels like a touristy spot down by the beach, and as it definitely is, but I loved it! The owner is a young, cute lad who spends time in LA acting and runs the place with his very Italian father. The dining room has each guest on display facing the beach and the details of the restaurant make you feel like you are on a ship with wooden ceiling panels, mermaid and shell decor, and bright turquoise chair backs. The menu is huge and we played it cool with some baked fish, pasta, and a side of chicory. If you want to go out after, head down the beach to Music on the Rocks around 1 a.m. or go up to Franco’s Bar for a fancy cocktail.

WHERE TO BEACH:

There are several public beaches down in Positano, but we made a reservation at Da Adolfo, a wonderful seafood spot about a 15-20 minute boat ride away that picks you up in town. It’s a rocky little, quaint beach only for restaurant guests and those at the beach club next door called Treville Beach Club which provides chairs, towels, and water for 20 euro (they’ll ask for 25 but you can get it down). We didn’t know you had to reserve chairs at Da Adolfo with your lunch reservation, so luckily we were able to get chairs here. Da Adolfo sent me to heaven with the best mussels I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’m more of a shrimp and crab gal when it comes to shellfish, but their Mussels in Tomato Sauce (on every table) melt in your mouth, lack any chewiness, and are soft as can be. This is basically a different seafood dish than anything I’ve ever had because it was cooked so well. The grilled octopus is also a winner. Make a 1 or 2 p.m. lunch reservation here and spend the whole day at the beach!

WHERE TO SHOP:

If there is one thing to buy while you are in Positano, besides limoncello, chocolates, linen dresses, beach hats, and street art, GET ITALIAN CERAMICS! I went into each store and by far the best one I found with the most unique offerings were from Ceramica Assunta right on the main road above the beach near the famous hotel Le Sirenuse. Skip Ceramic Factory where everything is very basic. I got a gorgeous fish plate that is painted half yellow and half orange and a volcanic ash square piece that can be used to cook meat in the oven, as a cutting board, as a serving dish or a placemat. A wonderful Italian treasure to entertain with!