Ciao AmalfiWriting, photography & tales from daily life on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, through the eyes of Laura Thayer, an American writer and art historian. Currently co-writing a novel with my mother, Sandra Thayer, set on the Amalfi Coast.
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Category Archives: Costiera Amalfitana
Just between Maiori and the little village of Erchie the Amalfi coastline juts out into the sea and comes to a cape called Capo d’Orso. The means Cape of the Bear. I’ve been told that there haven’t ever really been bears around this part of Italy. Instead, the name seems to have come from a unique rock formation that looks like the head of a bear looking down the coastline in the direction of Amalfi. While I’ve seen it many a time coming around one of the curves in the Amalfi Coast Road, I’ve never managed to get a photo of it. Recently, on the way back from a shopping trip to Salerno, I asked my husband to stop so I could take some photos. One of the advantages of the winter … less traffic! I finally got a closer look at this so called bear at Capo d’Orso.
Usually it’s the view from Capo d’Orso that would be described as breathtaking. As I walked around the curve to take a few photos I was very nearly knocked over by the wind. It quite literally took my breath away! After I braced myself and took the photo below, I got into the car gasping a bit. I didn’t feel back to normal until we reached Minori!
While the cold wind was a bit intense to stop for long to see the view, it did bring with it a beautiful and strange blue that the sea turns when the north wind blows. I was happy to enjoy the colors from inside the car the rest of the way home! I’ve been asking around trying to find out about how long this cape has been called Capo d’Orso. I suspect it might be as recent as when the Amalfi Coast Road was built before 1850 since the bear isn’t clearly visible from the sea. I’ll report back if I find out more!
The waves splash against the side of the small boat as it turns toward shore and the brilliant orange umbrellas at the Santa Croce beach. Somewhere in the mountains soaring above the Amalfi Coast road twists and turns its way through Vettica, a hamlet of Amalfi, and closer by the buoys bounce up and down in the waves. This little rocky cove is a piece of heaven on the Amalfi Coast – miles away from all the hubbub in Amalfi just a short boat ride away. I know I’ve written about Santa Croce beach several times here on Ciao Amalfi, but it’s just one of those spots that calls to me again and again. And when you step off the boat and are greeted with this view, how could you not be smitten?
The clear water and and rocky beach are two of the reasons this is such a remarkable spot. The restaurants just steps from the water serving fresh fish and Amalfi Coast dishes complete the perfect setting. When we go we take the restaurant boat shuttle for the Ristorante Da Teresa, which departs from the Amalfi harbor near the Hotel Bussola. The boat brings you right to a small pier between the rocks where you can easily debark and find a sun bed nearby. Tip: If you want a bed along the water’s edge, head to Santa Croce earlier in the morning!
But the view from the second row is pretty darn nice, too. I’ve always been fond of the color orange, and it makes such a striking view against the back drop of the blue sky and sea. This is a view that soothes the soul and relaxes the muscles.
Looking west from the beach you can spot the Arco Naturale, a natural arch, that is a popular spot for swimmers and rock climbers who scramble up and dive off the top. Not me, naturally. I’m the one sitting on the sun bed taking photos.
If you don’t want to take one of the restaurant shuttle boats, there’s a boat service that connects Amalfi with Santa Croce and the nearby Duoglio beach. Every once in awhile the peace is interrupted by the boat ladder flopping down onto the pebbly beach and and the crew calling out the next departure times for Amalfi.
We enjoy going with the Ristorante Da Teresa boat service because we’re always so tempted by the delicious scents wafting out from the restaurant that we either take a break from the sun to enjoy lunch on their gorgeous terrace or have sandwiches or fried calamari right down on the beach. Oh … and don’t forget the local white wine with slices of fresh peaches. Really, this is something you don’t want to miss!
This year in addition to the large, covered dining area there is a new spot (above) with tables and umbrellas that looks like the perfect spot for enjoying a panino or coffee. Nearby the stairs leading down to the beach caught my eye … that’s what you call a stairway to paradise!
There’s a moment when I just can’t stand it anymore and I grab my camera and go for a stroll to take photos. This is beach where you’ll definitely want to make sure you have flip flops or beach shoes of some kind, because the stones are large and hot after baking in the sun all day.
Getting into the water can also be a bit challenging with the stones and rocky beach, but once you do it’s well worth the effort. Sometimes it’s easiest to just get as close to the water as you can, stash your flip flops somewhere nearby where the waves won’t wash them away and just do an oh so elegant … splash! Don’t worry, that’s pretty much what the locals do, too.
Before leaving I had to catch just one more image of the rocky beach and an orange umbrella framing a perfect view of a white sailboat. What did I say? Yes, definitely a slice of heaven!
This spring has been an odd one on the Amalfi Coast with many days of rain and surprising chilly weather. When the weather finally got the messsagio that it was time for summer, the beaches went from empty to busy practically overnight. Everyone was eager for the primo bagno … or first swim. I’m not up to cold water temps so my first swim didn’t happen until a couple of weeks ago at the beginning of June.
The water was quite chilly like it usually is in April or May, but that also meant it was still as beautiful and clear as it is in early spring. Just look at that turquoise!
I must admit that I enjoyed the sunshine more than the swim since the water was still too cool for me to really enjoy. Just look at the boy wading into the sea in the photo below and his body language pretty much expresses just how chilly the water felt.
Either side of the Marina Grande beach in Amalfi has a free area where you can just throw down your towel. Or in between there are several places to choose from for a sun bed and umbrella if you’re staying longer and want to be more comfortable. Seeing as it was my first swim … and sun … we didn’t stay long.
The recent scorching temps have warmed the water up quite a bit and it finally looks and feels like summer around here. The beach season has begun!
The Amalfi Coast is made of twists and turns with hidden away staircases, unexpected vistas out to the sea and beautiful spots to discover. If you’re the sort of traveler who likes to wander and explore, this is the place for you! Ravello has two famous villas with gardens you can visit—the Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone—but there are many other lovely spots to discover if you head out to explore the town. Strolling along Via San Giovanni del Toro just past the entrances to the luxe Hotel Caruso and the Palazzo Avino you will spot an arched stone entrance dripping with vines. Peek through the arch to catch just a glimpse of the view and it’s impossible not to walk in to explore the little Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte.
The small grassy garden is shaded with beautiful trees and planted with seasonal flowers. This is a very popular spot for weddings in Ravello since the city hall is just a short stroll away. There are some very well placed benches where you can sit and relax while enjoying the view. “Belvedere” means “beautiful view” – and that’s most definitely what you’ll find here!
The view overlooks the Amalfi Coast with the picturesque village of Torello below and Minori and Maiori in the distance. The views here are very similar to what you would enjoy from the five star hotels nearby, but for free! In many scenic spots along the Amalfi Coast you’ll find signs that indicate where famous movies were filmed. There’s a sign at the Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte about the 1953 movie Beat the Devil with Humphrey Bogart and the beautiful Gina Lollobrigida.
The Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte takes its name from a real princess – Marie José of Belgium (1906-2001) who married Prince Umberto, the crown prince of the House of Savoy. Her title after marriage was the Princess of Piedmont, or Principessa di Piemonte in Italian. She became the last Queen of Italy in 1946, and her short 35-day role as Queen consort from May 9th to June 12th earned her the name “The May Queen.” In the 1930s, when what is today called the Ravello Festival was just getting started, the Prince and Princess of Piedmont attended one of the concerts in Ravello, and this belvedere was renamed Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte in honor of the princess.
Next time you’re in Ravello, take a stroll up to the top of town to enjoy the beautiful views and peaceful garden at the Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte. (Tiaras not required …)
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.