Amalfi Reflections

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I love it when the Amalfi Coast takes me by surprise. Sometimes the surprise is just how often that still happens, even after being here for nearly 10 years now. While the typical colors that evoke the Amalfi Coast are the pastel hues of Positano’s houses or the brilliant yellow of the Amalfi lemons or the many shades of blue of the sea from turquoise to cobalt blue. While walking along the port in Amalfi recently, I glanced down into the water and caught these incredible red and white reflections dancing across the water. Somewhat hidden in the center is a white mask that reminded me of something you might find during Carnevale in Venice. The striking and powerful colors felt like they were of another place. Yet the reflection came from something that couldn’t be more traditionally Amalfi Coast – a local fishing boat!

 

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The Cure for Everything

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“The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea.” – Isak Dinesen

Have you ever needed to go to the beach? I mean really needed to go to the beach? By the time September arrived last week, that was the point I had reached. Being on the other side of August—this August this year—felt like a minor victory. Life has that way of making everything happen all at once, and sometimes in the mess of that “everything” the balance of challenging things becomes overwhelming. That’s when the beach calls me the most.

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While I’m not one who needs to spend a ton of time swimming, I do need to be near the sea. It refreshes my soul, washing away the tension in my shoulders and replacing it with the rhythmic sound of my breath mixed with the waves crashing against the rocky shore. Yesterday, after over a month of work frustration, my sweet cat Toulouse not being well and a variety of stress from situations outside my control, we made it to the beach. And not just any beach, but the isolated and beautiful Santa Croce beach just west of Amalfi. I felt already easier in my spirit just climbing into the little boat in Amalfi for the short ride to the beach. I was thinking of Dinesen, about salt water being the cure of everything. She was onto something.

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Once there we meandered along the rocky shore to find a pair of sun beds right at the water’s edge. I could sit on the end of the sun bed and dig my feet into the dark sand, feeling the water rush back and forth and watching the sun sparkle across the sea. I have a new idea of heaven and it’s this.

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Of course I grabbed my camera and went off to explore while taking photos, another way that Santa Croce relaxes me. I get lost in the heat of the rocks, the incredible turquoise color of the sea and all the textures and hidden treasures. Had someone put that piece of green sea glass in those holes carved by nature? Or had it just happened to end up there? Was I looking at the hands of children playing a game that was now stopped in time or was this another work of nature creating beauty out of chance?

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I returned to my sun bed and listened to the sea. For the rest of the day, even after returning home, I could close my eyes and see the sun sparkling and hear that sound in my ears. I imagine my mind will be there for some time to come, if given even the slightest chance to wander away from everyday tasks. What a place to wander to though! Santa Croce is tucked away in a rocky cove that used to be accessible by a steep staircase from the Amalfi Coast road high above. Years ago, however, part of that staircase fell into the sea during a winter storm, leaving the beach only accessible now by boat. There are two restaurants that offer sun beds and beach service, Ristorante Da Teresa and Ristorante Santa Croce. Both offer boat service from Amalfi if you’re coming to their beach to rent a sun bed or go to the restaurant. During the summer there’s also a paid boat service from Amalfi for a few Euros each way.

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We always go to Da Teresa, which is the restaurant with the bright orange umbrellas. They have a dining terrace with incredible views and equally incredible food. This is the place to go for seafood – so fresh since it’s just been caught from the sea a few steps beyond the restaurant.

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The day at Santa Croce always goes too fast, but it felt especially so yesterday. Summer this year seemed to slip by so quickly. I know there are plenty of beach days ahead before the season ends, but as I left Santa Croce I looked back and hoped I would indeed be back soon.

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I’m not ready for summer to be over yet. Not the intense heat, not the massive crowds—those have been enough—but that feeling of knowing that the days of relaxed summer fun are ahead. I want to hold on to that just a little bit longer!

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How to Enjoy Summer on the Amalfi Coast

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August has arrived and with it the peak summer season on the Amalfi Coast. The beaches are crowded and colorful, the water is refreshing and the days perfect for heading to the beach. Whether you’re packing your bag for a summer holiday on the Amalfi Coast or simply dreaming of your next getaway, here’s a look at some of my favorite ways to enjoy this splendid time of year on the Amalfi Coast!

 

Grab A Beach Chair

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The beaches of the Amalfi Coast are justifiable famous for their dramatic shores and incredibly blue sea that changes in color from deep cobalt to brilliant turquoise and every shade in between. Yet there’s another thing you should know about the beaches before you arrive ready to relax – they are rocky. It’s better to come prepared, which definitely means packing a pair of flip flops (preferably a pair you don’t particularly love) or beach shoes. A lot of people wear them just to the edge of the water to protect their feet from the hot hot hot hot stones that are for some people (even locals!) uncomfortable to walk on.

So with all those rocky beaches, just throwing a towel down isn’t always very comfortable. The way around that is to rent a sunbed and umbrella for the day. It’s very much worth it! The local beaches all are well equipped to ensure a comfortable day at the beach. The other advantage of renting a sunbed from a stabilimento balneare is that it generally means you can take a shower and take advantage of the changing cabins as well. They area also usually attached to restaurants or have a beach bar where you can get sandwiches and drinks. Very handy!

Not sure where to go? Check out my guides to the Beaches of Amalfi and Beaches of Positano for some ideas!

 

Bring a Good Book

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Got a sunbed? Got an umbrella? Perfect! Now all that you need is a good book and you’re set. Why not make it a book set on the Amalfi Coast or nearby to really immerse yourself in the area? I made a list awhile back of great Summer Reads for Amalfi Coast Lovers. You can dip into that list for inspiration, but it does need a bit of updating. For instance, I just finished reading Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and Famiglia from my Italian Mother-in-Law by Katherine Wilson. And I didn’t want to put it down even to take a swim in the sea just steps away! Put it on your summer reading list if you love the Amalfi Coast, Naples, Campania, Italy … or all of the above. You won’t regret it!

 

Get Out on the Water

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(Image courtesy Exclusive Cruises)

A day (or two or three or four …) spent relaxing by the sea is a must while visiting the Amalfi Coast during the summer. Yet if you’re here this time of year there’s another way to enjoy the beauty of the Amalfi Coast – from the sea. One of the best ways to get around is to take the ferry on the Amalfi Coast, since you get to see the epic coastline and avoid all the traffic and crowded buses. However, if you have the time and love the sea, there’s no better way to see the Amalfi Coast than by getting out on a private boat.

With a small boat you can cruise along very close to the rocky cliffs, discover little coves and beaches only accessible by boat, go into stunning caves and grottoes and swim in the most incredible spots like around the Li Galli islands. All at your own pace! If this sounds like heaven, you’ll want to drop my friend Valeria at Exclusive Cruises a line. They know all the best spots and can help you plan an incredible day out on the sea on the Amalfi Coast or anywhere in the area!

 

Dining By the Sea

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If your normal idea of going out to eat means getting in your car and driving to a restaurant, then there’s something fun you can do on the Amalfi Coast. There are a lot of amazing restaurants near Amalfi, Positano, Conca dei Marini and other towns that are only reachable by boat (or sometimes a ton of steps). This is a fun way to get out on the water and dine right on the beach overlooking the sea. Most restaurants have complementary boat service from the largest town nearby. You might like to try Da Adolfo in Positano or Santa Croce in Amalfi – two of my favorites!

 

Don’t Miss White Wine with Peaches

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Perhaps you’re thinking that you can put peaches in your white wine at home, and that’s certainly true. But what you can’t quite capture is that delicious combination of Amalfi Coast Falanghina wine with ripe peaches mixed with the salty breeze from the beach and sound of waves tumbling onto a rocky shore. Heck I can’t even recreate it in my own home here! While you can find this heavenly concoction at many beachside restaurants, my favorite is at Ristorante Da Teresa at the Santa Croce beach just west of Amalfi.

 

Evenings Are Magic

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After the summer day tripping crowds reluctantly leave, something magical happens. I love the Amalfi Coast any time of the day, but during the summer when the days are long and hot there’s nothing quite like heading out in the evening. Sunset is particularly gorgeous from Praiano and Positano, but in Amalfi the evening hours are very special, too. The town turns pink, families bring their kids out to play along the the waterfront and the sea becomes an Impressionist painting of shimmering colors. Most of all, compared to the hustle and bustle of the day, there’s a peace that settles over the villages. These are the long, languid days of summer that we never want to end!

 

What do you do to enjoy the best of summer on the Amalfi Coast?

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Bitten by the Amalfi Coast Bug

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Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.

John Steinbeck wrote those oft-quoted lines after visiting the Amalfi Coast in 1953. While his words have resonated with every traveler smitten by this temptingly beautiful coastline ever since, I am sure he was not the first visitor to fall in love with the Amalfi Coast. Yet Steinbeck captured an intense emotion in his seemingly simple description. There is certainly something tempting about this landscape that is hard to pinpoint – a certain something that captures the imagination and dreams.

Everyone who loves this part of Italy has a different story to tell about how they were bitten by the Amalfi Coast bug. Perhaps it was a romantic honeymoon, tracing family heritage or maybe a dream vacation. So how did I end up here? I’ll share a little bit about what lured me here and what compelled me to stay. I do hope you’ll share your own story about how you fell in love with the Amalfi Coast in the comments below!

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One late February day in 2007, I arrived at the Naples airport – without my luggage and, much more importantly, without my mother. Thanks to a blizzard in the midwest, I had lost both en route to Italy. (Fortunately, both arrived the next day!) My mom had planned a week holiday on the Amalfi Coast after seeing the coastline briefly during a day trip from Naples the year before. It was her dream since she was a young girl growing up on a farm in rural Nebraska to live in Positano. (Yes, loving the Amalfi Coast is in my DNA!) But, as fate would have it, I was to spend my first day on the Amalfi Coast missing my mom. Yet it was also that very same day that I met the man who would become my husband – a very charismatic tour guide from Amalfi. Life is strange, no?

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Not really having any idea what to expect, I stepped down off the bus in Amalfi and looked up the mountainside. That was the exact moment I was bitten by the Amalfi Coast bug. Later that evening back in the hotel I wrote in the handmade paper journal from Amalfi (a gift from my mom from her first visit to Amalfi) that this place was going to be important in my life but I wasn’t sure why. Yes, life is strange.

That incredible holiday on the Amalfi Coast with my mom was nearly 10 years ago now. It has been quite the adventure at times living here, but I’ve never doubted that this is where I’m supposed to be. It’s not just Positano that bites deep, it’s the entire Amalfi Coast.

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There are roads you follow that sometimes lead you to surprising places in your life. And then there are places that stop you in your tracks and make you stay put. That’s what happened to me on the Amalfi Coast. Yes, I’ve definitely been bitten the Amalfi Coast bug … and I hope there’s no cure!

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

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This blog post is part of a monthly series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers tackle a new theme, and you can read about this month’s topic – Bugs – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

Italy ExplainedWhat Bugs You About Italy?

ArtTravBugs That Look Like Jewels at La Specola

BrigolanteOf Flowers and Bees, Butterflies and Dreams: Il Lavandeto di Assisi

Moments of Sea Glass

Photo Copyright Laura Thayer

Photo Copyright Laura Thayer

A quiet afternoon not long ago I found myself walking along the waterfront in Amalfi with my husband. Sometimes hand in hand and other times meandering along, bumping into one another as you do when walking on uneven cobblestones. Somehow that has become just as romantic as walking hand in hand, perhaps even more so since it feels so natural.

As February approaches, I often find myself thinking back over my time in Italy. My first visit was a particularly sunny and warm February nine years ago now. Nine years. As I watched the waves roll in and the white foam create delicate patterns on the beach, only to be washed out again seconds later, it felt like the last nine years was something just like that. Beautiful, soothing and fleeting.

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Photo Copyright Laura Thayer

With a few crashes of pounding angry waves along the way of course. Perhaps there’s nothing quite so good for reflection as the sea. There’s certainly no better time for that in Amalfi than during the quiet days of January and February. I treasure these days like you might a little piece of colorful sea glass washed up on the shore, nestled amid rough edged rocks and tidbits of intricately pattered yet somehow still old fashioned looking ceramic tiles. It seems like a gem and a gift all at once.

That’s when I’ll reach for my husband’s hand while we walk along, tucking this beautiful moment into my pocket like that piece of sea glass.