Rising dramatically from the turquoise seas to meet the unbroken blue skies of summer is the picturesque town of Positano, on Italy’s Amalfi coast. This is just one of a series of majestic landmarks on this beautiful stretch of coastline, punctuated by steep gorges, hidden bays and centuries-old coastal resorts.
Working its way along this rocky coastline is a narrow road, known as the Nastro Azzurro, or Blue Ribbon, that weaves its way around coves, through fishing villages and over breathtaking cliff drops for many kilometres to the east. Most visitors to the area arrive by car, descend on their chosen resort and leave only to relax on the beach or admire the coastline from the comfort of a day trip on the water.
But there is another way to discover the Amalfi coastline, and that is on foot. The ancient town of Positano itself is one of the most picturesque towns in the world, rising from the harbour and beaches of Spiaggia Grande and Fornillo up a seemingly never-ending series of stone steps to the heart of the old centre which towers over the town, appearing to cling onto the walls of the cliff by the tips of its ancient fingers.
From here we leave the town, joining the Nastro Azzurro and passing the Punta Campanella watchtower on the way. This is one of a series of watchtowers that was constructed along the length of the Amalfi coast to keep it safe from attach over the ages, many of which remain intact today. Our destination is the world heritage town of Amalfi, some 20 kilometres from Positano along the Nastro Azzurro. Despite the distance and the summer heat, the time passes in a flash of turquoise waters, swooping white gulls, bobbing fishing boats and cruising gin palaces. With every stretch and turn of the coastline, the exquisite views out over the Tyrrhenian Sea provide an ever-changing backcloth.
Praiano makes a delightful alternative to Positano for those searching for a more low-key but equally attractive setting in which to base themselves for their holiday on the Amalfi coast. Here another well-preserved watchtower, perched on the rocky outcrop, is joined by a small collection of whitewashed and stone houses that stretches away towards the little fishing village of Furore. It is well worth checking the cultural calendar before you visit as Praiano itself plays host to a number of colourful festivals and events during the course of the year, which provide a fascinating window onto local life and traditions.
Beyond Furore the trail drops down to Conca dei Marini, a charming fishing village that is home to the towering Grotta dello Smeraldo, the huge cave that takes its name from the green hue it adopts when the water comes flooding in at high tide. The final few kilometres along the Nastro Azzuro bring us out at the UNESCO World Heritage town of Amalfi with its enormous Gothic cathedral and winding narrow roads flanked with pretty white houses piled seemingly on top of each other.
Amalfi makes the perfect spot to enjoy a well-earned early evening meal al fresco, washed down by a glass of the famous local limoncello before hailing a taxi back to back to Positano for a good night’s sleep.