The Colorful Amalfi Coast

Ahhh, the sweet serenity of the Amalfi Coast. Nothing elicits such mesmeric wonder as seeing the Jenga stacking of pastel fishing villages above an azure Mediterranean blanket.

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Here, on the delightful Amalfi Coast, architecture truly defies all definitions of gravity as bundles of sun-bleached Crayola colors cling to towering bluffs, toppling to almost – but not quite – plunge into their sultry bays below. Heralded by poets, painters, millionaires and playboys, this romantic jewel of Italy is certainly an area of unmarred beauty, and the hordes of tourists clogging the beaches and streets certainly pay tribute to its popularity!

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After a few days in lemon-scented Sorrento where we satiated our taste buds with The World’s Best Pizza (supposedly) and explored nearby Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius, we climbed aboard a bus bound for pretty, little Amalfi.

The Amalfi Drive, a 43-mile sweep of coastline stretching around the bend from Naples to the Gulf of Salerno, is renowned as one of the world’s most beautiful drives. That it is! The cornice,  – winding, twisting, narrow and steep – was indeed startling and fascinating. We curved around the Lattari Mountains, held our breath through tight tunnels, skimmed near sheer cliff drops and choreographed hairpin passages that had a nerve rattling absence of barriers. Driving this epic stretch of coastline requires obvious skill and dexterous driving. As John Steinbeck claimed rather eloquently,

Flaming like a meteor we hit the coast, a road, high, high above the blue sea, that hooked and corkscrewed on the edge of nothing, a road carefully designed to be a little narrower than two cars side by side.

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The snug village of Amalfi boasts several tiny, sun-drenched piazzas; romantic, whitewashed alleys; stone arches and a small beach with dozens of scantily clad dwellers. Amalfi was once a maritime superpower with a population of more than 70,000. It is hard to imagine that such a large community lived here as it doesn’t take very long to walk through the town! Prices are indeed quite steep and solitude seems difficult given the sheer numbers of tourists and weekenders who are also enjoying Amalfi’s captivating, soul-sighing charm.

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Mom and I found a EUR 5 baguette lunch and spent a few hours roaming Amalfi’s cobblestones and art shops. We are both gluttons when it comes to seeing buying art. Though our walls at our respective homes are full of special pieces from Cuba, South America, the Pacific Islands and other beloved destinations, there is always another piece that catches our eye. Thus, we left Amalfi clutching several carefully rolled watercolors and drawings. There will be room somewhere for them to hang.

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We wanted to spend some time on the water in order to fully appreciate the panoramic grandeur of the Amalfi Coast. Our short ferry ride to Positano was indeed jaw-dropping: Intimate coves, rocky outcrops and the occasional facade of a pastel church or secluded dwelling lined the honey-hued bluffs.

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Yes, it is this gorgeous.

And the colors! Fuchsia, honeycomb orange, goldfinch yellows and peacock violets, all edged by the gentle bluebell of the sea. My photos certainly don’t do justice.

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Positano burrows dramatically inside a sweet mountain nook. Buildings climb the cliff-face, so tightly stacked that they drip down the bluffs like the sides of an over-iced cake. Like Amalfi, this idyllic escape is burdened with traveling families and day-trippers, but we both fell in love with its bucolic, storybook ambiance.

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Magenta vines drape doorways and wisteria hugs and twists along stairwells. The cobblestones and picturesque setting looked as if Flora herself rained her love upon the village. It was certainly worthwhile to sit for a spell and take it all in – the fragrance of flowers, the gentle warmth of the sunshine and the salty smells of the nearby Med.

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So – we have clarified that Positano is indeed one gorgeous locale. Now, let’s talk about the stairs in Positano for a moment. The village is literally built vertically into the mountain; it’s a town meant for walking – and some serious climbing. There are literally thousands of steps in Positano. Thousands. Of. Steps.

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Since everything is built on top of something else, there has to be a path from getting from point A to point B. And that path is steps, my friends. To go to dinner? Take the steps. Walk for a bit on beach? Take the steps. Grab another bottle of wine at the nearby bodega? Yup – three flights down the steps.

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I can’t complain as I have been walking around Europe for nearly four months now. Plus, snaking in and out of the hidden pathways, up flights and down flights, into courtyards, through sleepy piazzas and up narrow stair wells offered a glimpse into local life in Positano. (There is the local bus, Positano Interno, that continuously loops around the hills and into center of town…but that’s cheating!)

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Happy hour in Positano.

We had booked an adorable bed and breakfast on AirBnB. The location was perfect; high on the hills, away from the crowds and the balcony offered the ideal location for watching a fiery sunset. Michael – the owner – picked us up from the center of town following our ferry trip from Amalfi and we had the entire two bedroom abode to ourselves…with this view!

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Taking Michael’s advice, we had a delicious seafood dinner at a restaurant perched on the cliffs complete with a few carafes of red wine.

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One night in Positano was enough to explore the village and appreciate its inimitable splendor. The following morning, we descended 700 steps to the beach and wandered around Positano’s nooks and crannies before hopping on a bus back to Sorrento for our journey to Florence.

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