After receiving such a great response about my Guide to the Beaches of Amalfi, I’ve decided to expand the series to cover another favorite spot on the Amalfi Coast. Of course, I’m talking about Positano! Now these aren’t your usual top beaches of the entire Amalfi Coast type guides. These narrow down to the beaches you can easily reach in or nearby a specific village and provide the sort of tips you’d expect from an insider.
What lovelier insider could you ask for than Eleonora Baldwin? You likely know her from the popular website Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino. Eleonora is also co-founder of Casa Mia – a cultural association that provides food and wine experiences in Rome, Florence, Sicily, Naples & Amalfi Coast. She also happens to love Positano just as much as I do. Ready to hit the beach in Positano? Let’s go!
Guide to the Beaches of Positano
Whether for its unique architecture, crystal coves, stellar food or the small alleys and stairs that snake up its sensational vertical village, Positano is one of the Amalfi Coast’s most loved destinations. Portrayed in novels, in art and sponsored by an entire movement in the 1970s, Positano is a magnet for anyone enamored of the Mediterranean and the local Italian joie de vivre.
The majority of beaches on the Amalfi Coast are for the most part rocky. Forget long sandy stretches: shores in this part of Italy are pebbly coves pulled from towering cliffs, with rapidly plunging deep blue sea underfoot.
Positano is often known for its main central beach, but the “natural crèche village” boasts on the other hand several beaches to choose from. For a soak in Positano’s azure waters, you can pick one of the ones listed, and lounge there all day, or hop from one to the other, chasing the sun as it starts to dip behind the mountains as the evening approaches.
This is Positano’s main beach, easily recognizable thanks to its colorful rows of umbrellas. Stretching east from the town for about 300 meters, part of this beach is managed by one lido called L’Incanto, which rents out sun beds, chairs and umbrellas and provides guests with changing rooms, showers and a fine restaurant. At the end of the beach is the “Scogliera” a rocky terrace that accommodates topless sunning and the night club Music On the Rocks.
In the middle of the beach, in the “spiaggia libera” – the free beach of Positano, where you can just throw down your beach towel without paying rental fees – there is a small jetty from which boat excursions and rented boats depart to and from Capri and small coves nearby; while at the far west end is the actual dock for larger boats and ferries.
Legend has it that in this smaller, more secluded beach, at the time of Emperor Tiberius, were a series of furnaces for bread baking (hence the name “fornillo” which is a dialectal shift of the word “forno,” Italian for oven). By way of a romantic path that climbs west, away from the Positano dock, you can reach the neighborhood of Fornillo, and its lovely beach. If you’re looking for a more quiet day, away from the crowds, but don’t want to travel outside of Positano, this is your best bet.
If you’re not staying in Positano proper but driving there, you can choose to reach Fornillo by way of either the Strada Statale, and then negotiate the climb down (and then eventually back up). The best thing to do in that case is park your car at the Pupetto lot which is owned by the same people who run the namesake lido on Fornillo beach.
Laurito is Positano’s best kept secret. Small and wild, Laurito for decades has been the place where locals escape the noise and crowds of summer. The name derives from the abundance of laurel shrubs that grow wild in this small cove.
The small stretch of pebble beach is managed by two businesses: a small non-descript hotel and a fabulous restaurant. Da Adolfo is a fantastic, family-run informal eatery that serves super-fresh fish on a deck just a few steps from the shore. Throw on a sarong and order your meal and a carafe of white house wine with peach slices.
You can reach Laurito via a steep ramp of stairs that plunge down from Hotel San Pietro, connected with public Sita and Flavio Gioia bus lines. But the best way to get to Laurito is by boat. From the Positano dock, Da Adolfo runs a shuttle gozzo (local fishing boat), which departs every half hour, and which is easily recognizable by the red fish sign on the mast. Making a reservation is smart, especially if you want to relax on a sunbed after lunch.
The Arienzo beach is also known as the “300-steps beach,” because that’s the number you’ll be counting down (and back up!) to reach it from the Strada Statale main road. The walk down is fantastic, since the switchback ramps are immersed in perfumy greenery, and from here you can peek into some of the Amalfi Coast’s most luxurious villas hidden in the verdant corners of the mountain.
The beach has a free section, as well as a lido that rents out beach chairs, sunbeds and brightly colored umbrellas. Given its southwest exposition, Arienzo is also the one Positano beach that enjoys the longest amount of sunlight past 6 p.m.
Driving out of Positano headed towards Amalfi, pass Hotel San Pietro and keep going for another 800 yards until you reach the stairs down to Arienzo beach. If stairs are not your thing, there is also a nifty boat shuttle service from Positano and Praiano.
Discovering Hidden Beaches by Boat
In addition to these fabulous Positano beaches, you can always rent a small power boat and reach secluded coves and inlets to enjoy the pleasure of having tiny, secret beaches – that are only accessible by sea – all to yourself!
West of Positano, along the coast, you can moor your gozzo or gommone (rubber dinghy) in beautiful and secluded swimming spots, where the crystal waters and cicada song carry you into Homeric dreamland. One is La Cattedrale – a sheer rock wall that descends into the blue Mediterranean sea from 200 meters above, with flat rock formations surfacing from the water that appear to have been designed purposely for sunbathing – the other is Il Germano, a protruding rock that resembles the profile of what legend has it was a German officer. Both places are perfect for snorkeling and diving off the side of your vessel, or just to lazily relax, floating away from beach crowds.
Insider tip: start your day early. On most of Amalfi Coast beaches the sun sets behind the mountain in the mid-afternoon. In order to enjoy the full day of swimming and sunning, wake up early and hit the spiaggia!
Food and lifestyle writer and Italian culinary/travel show host, Eleonora Baldwin provides insight on the Rome dining scene, as well as private culinary tours of Rome and other cities, for small groups through her co-owned company Casa Mia Italy Food & Wine.
She is the author, editor, photographer of popular blog Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino. She has contributed to numerous travel and lifestyle publications, and her writing appears regularly in several online food columns. Her first cookbook-memoir is due for publication in 2016.