Discover the Authentic Amalfi Coast
Writing, photography & tales from daily life on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, through the eyes of Laura Thayer, an American writer, blogger, photographer and art historian.
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Spring came late and all at once this year. The villages along the Amalfi Coast went straight from overcast wintry days to the buzz of activity rushing to prepare for the busy season seemingly overnight. The flowers loved all the rain and suddenly burst in bloom last month. Speaking of flowers, that’s precisely why I found myself in Positano one morning last month. With the blue sky and sunshine beckoning, I followed a whim and took the early boat from Amalfi to Positano to see the wisteria. And, my oh my, was it ever a show!
Positano is such a dreamy place and so very different from Amalfi. Even I feel like I’m on vacation when I step off the ferry and look up at the colorful houses stacked up the side of the mountain. With the restaurants overlooking the beach and the sun shining, there’s an air of isolation that adds so much charm when you’re on holiday. Boats come and go, but the rest of the world feels a million miles away. It was still pretty quiet when I stepped off the ferry and I didn’t meet too many people while heading to the center of the village just below the Church of Santa Maria Assunta.
Just at the base of the staircase where you start the climb up toward the church there is a wall that is covered with wisteria vines. The few earlier rising tourists who were out exploring were sitting around the steps or enjoying coffee at a restaurant nearby. The air was filled with the sweet and spicy scent of wisteria along with freshly brewed espresso and morning pastries from a bar just a few steps away.
The wisteria vines seem such a natural part of the buildings in Positano, like they’ve been delicately draped across the balconies and pergolas to make them even more captivating.
The scent of these blossoms was simply intoxicating. I sat down nearby and breathed in deeply, wishing I could somehow capture and hold onto the scent. If you haven’t smelled wisteria before, it’s kind of like vanilla in that it is warm, sweet and spicy all at once. It somehow combines the sweetness of jasmine with the first sunshine after a gloomy winter into a delicate and spicy scent. It’s good for the soul, that’s what it is.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let your imagination carry you to Positano. The sea is moments away, the scent of wisteria fills the air and the sun is shining just for you …
I was so taken by the wisteria that it wasn’t until I got home and downloaded the photos that I realized this shot above had the Li Galli islands perfectly framed in the upper left. I tucked one of those purple blossoms right there into my notebook and smelled it all the way home.
After tearing myself away from the wisteria blossoms near the beach I started to climb slowly up the narrow passageways of Positano. I could smell these incredible wisteria blossoms before I turned the corner! One deep red building was covered with wisteria, especially one balcony that must have been gorgeous from the inside. Just imagine how beautiful your house would smell!
I kept climbing and climbing until I reached a pretty little piazza with a gorgeous pergola full of wisteria blossoms. I happened to bump into a friend from Amalfi while wandering the streets with camera in hand and he asked what brought me to Positano. I pointed up to the pergola of cascading wisteria we just happened to be standing under.
“Ah, the glicine.” That’s the Italian word for wisteria. He seemed a bit perplexed why I would come from Amalfi to Positano to see the wisteria, but when I pointed out that it’s simply more beautiful in Positano even the Amalfitano had to agree. It really is something!
Every little village on the Amalfi Coast has its own character, and even the weather can vary noticeably from village to village. Positano is nearly always warmer than Amalfi throughout the year and significantly warmer than Ravello and Scala, which are located 350-400 meters above sea level. When I went to see the wisteria and found it nearly in full bloom in Positano it was just beginning to blossom in Amalfi and Ravello. There’s just something about the climate difference that makes it grow better and bloom incredibly in Positano.
I was happy that the sun was shining and I had the chance to catch the wisteria at its peak in Positano. The petals were just starting to gentle fall, scattering in the sea breeze like a spring snowfall. Last year I missed the best time to see the wisteria because the weather turned bad just at the moment they were at their best. Two years ago I went and had fun discovering the Wisteria Wonderland in Positano. That time I had a picnic and soaked up the sun on the beach, but this time I sat and enjoyed a cappuccino while working on the outline for an exciting project I hope to be working on soon.
Yes, this is a yearly tradition that I hope to continue. If you come to the Amalfi Coast in the early spring, the water may still be chilly for a swim and the villages still coming to life after the winter, but if you happen to catch the wisteria blooming in Positano it makes up for everything else!
Like I said, it’s good for the soul.
The first sunny weekend on the Amalfi Coast and everyone … and I mean everyone … hits the road for a drive. When there’s only one road, that can be problematic. But with the Amalfi Coast road, it’s always best to pack a little extra patience … and your camera! Fortunately, there are the views and the sheer magnitude of this road carved out of the mountainside to keep one company. The colors in the springtime are a nice touch, too!
A couple of weeks ago we had a Sunday lunch invitation with family in Salerno, so we hit the road along with everyone else. The scooters and motorcycles were out in droves. After the rainy spring, I can’t blame them for wanting to enjoy a ride on a sunny Sunday. What a view!
Spring was in full bloom and the scent of wisteria and lemon blossoms filled the car with all the windows open. What a heavenly scent … I wished I could just roll up the windows and keep it inside. Looking at the photos brings back the memories of that warm, spicy scent and the sunshine on my arms.
After passing Capo d’Orso, the Cape of the Bear named after a bear-shaped rock, the road climbs higher and twists and turns as it winds in and out of ravines in the mountains. Before long there’s a quick glimpse of the harbor at Cetara, which is an absolutely charming little fishing village.
The road curves through Cetara just above the level of the rooftops of many of the houses and about eye level with the colorful majolica tiled dome of the church. If you’re driving along the Amalfi Coast road and have time, do stop off in Cetara and explore the village, enjoy lunch and the pretty beach.
One of the most captivating parts of the drive is just barely catching a glimpse of an incredible panorama and then a moment later it’s lost between the trees or around another curve. It’s one massive temptation … curve after curve!
It took me quite a few attempts to get a clear shot of Vietri sul Mare, above, with its beach area called Marina di Vietri. The beach wasn’t packed like it is in the summers, but it was definitely a popular spot on this sunny Sunday. Around a few more curves and I tried to catch a clear shot of of Vietri sul Mare with the dome and bell tower of the Church of San Giovanni Battista. There it is … can you see it?
The Amalfi Coast road never fails to impress me, with it’s intense beauty, crazy curves and views that make you want to drive it again and again. If you’re lucky enough to be the passenger … bring your camera!
The beginning of a new year is always a special time – for reflection, for a pause in the hubbub of daily life and for hope for the year ahead. Even though it’s just one of the many days each year, it still feels something like a blank canvas or that crisp, empty page of a new notebook. Boy there’s nothing I love more than the possibilities of a new notebook. While any old notebook will do if the main purpose is simply filling the pages, there’s something extra special about a beautiful notebook. Just like there’s something extra special in the air when the new year starts with a clear blue sky. A moment to be treasured.
This year New Year’s Day arrived with a brilliant blue sky and warmer than average temperatures on the Amalfi Coast. Before joining family for the traditional New Year’s Day lunch, we enjoyed the sunshine and the start of the new year in Amalfi. There were people already soaking up the sun on the beach and even a few brave swimmers testing the water. And with the exquisite colors of the sea in the winter you can hardly blame them. It is oh so tempting!
After a late night watching the spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks in Amalfi, a walk on such a beautiful day was the perfect way to start the new day and the new year. Following the road from Amalfi we headed toward the neighboring village of Atrani. Along the way is the medieval watchtower that is now a part of the Hotel Luna.
Atrani was looking sleepy and very lovely on New Year’s Day. There was an air of quiet everywhere as the villages awoke to a glorious start to the new year.
Around the corner past Atrani lies the beach of Castiglione down a winding staircase of a couple hundred steps. It’s a very popular beach in the summer, and even a few people were enjoying the sunshine on New Year’s Day this year.
If you’re used to cold water temperatures you can still enjoy a swim in the sea during the winter months on the Amalfi Coast. While there are some locals that swim nearly every day and tourists that brave the cold, it’s not my cup of tea. I’m an admirer of the sea from afar in the winter, which is when I think the colors are the most beautiful. This vivid turquoise is just incredible!
I hope your new year is off to a brilliant and happy start! Wishing you a peaceful year ahead filled with many tales to recount in your blank notebook.
Like clockwork, the end of October often brings with it a big storm and an abrupt change in the seasons. One day the beaches will be dotted with sunbathers enjoying the last warm autumn days while holding onto summer for as long as possible and then the next the beaches will be barren and covered with debris washed up from the rough seas. We’ve had a few intense storms pass over the Amalfi Coast recently, and they brought with them the official end of the summer season. During a break in the rainy weather last week, I was out and about and was struck by the sudden change. Where not long ago there were rows upon rows of beach chairs lining the rocky Lido delle Sirene in Amalfi, now the beach is empty for the winter.
The colors were brilliant, even more so after the recent storms. The rough sea had churned up a spectacular turquoise that only shows up after bad weather. Besides the Amalfitans coming and going, the walk along the harbor was quieter than usual. After seeing the empty beaches, the other indication that the season has ended is the empty port. The boats have been loaded up and driven away on big, traffic blocking trucks to safer spots for the winter. Even the docks that are lined with boats all summer long are pulled up to protect them from rough winter seas. They’ll become scenic perches for the seagulls for the rest of the winter.
Perhaps the strangest sight at the beginning of winter is seeing the Marina Grande beach, the largest in Amalfi, completely empty. If you’ve been swimming here during the summer months you’ll know just how odd it is to see it without the rows of beach chairs and candy colored umbrellas. It will look like this, besides the odd group of visitors having a picnic on a sunny day and those rare locals that swim all year round, until next spring.
The season has ended, but with it another has begun in Amalfi. While it’s different for everyone, for us this is the time for catching up after a busy season – for running all those errands that there simply hasn’t been time to do and for trying to find some much needed moments of relaxation at the same time. The Christmas holidays are around the corner, but for now I think I can use just a little bit of time overlooking an empty beach.
September arrived with a surprise this year – cooler temperatures, stormy skies and rain rain rain. While it is mildly perplexing just where summer had to get off to in such a hurry, the record heat and dry spell we’ve had this year means no one is complaining about the sudden weather change. (Although we do secretly hope summer will come back for a little bit longer so we can enjoy the beaches without the crowds!) This morning I awoke to low rumbling, and I couldn’t tell right away if it was coming from up in the mountains or out at sea. Wrapping a robe around my shoulders against the cool breeze, I looked out to see it was coming from both directions.
Nature was putting on a spectacular show, with the colors of sunrise filtering through and highlighting layers of storm clouds. It was dark and warm, intense and uplifting – all at the same time!
If I could paint this is what I would paint – that little bit of blue coming through the dark clouds, the orange light of sunrise hanging on for as long as it can, the texture of the clouds, the calm sea. I might add a wooden-masted sailing ship out there, but that would be over the top. I think I’d better stick with photography.
Off in the distance I could see a small cruise boat hurrying into the port of Salerno and street lights dotted along the walkways in Ravello against the dark morning sky. I hoped for a break in the rain for all the travelers visiting the Amalfi Coast today.
And then said a moment of thanks for waking up to another beautiful morning sky on the Amalfi Coast.