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La Dolce Vita on the Amalfi Coast

Discover why these Southern Italy shores have long inspired artists and travelers alike
2F762GN Tourists waiting to enter the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) by rowing boat on the Island of Capri, Italy, Amalfi Coast
Low-slung excursion boats, designed to slip under cave openings, crowd the entrance to The Blue Grotto, Capri’s most famous attraction. Photo by Martin Bache/Alamy Stock Photo

It’s no secret that the island of Capri and the stunning Amalfi Coast have epitomized glamour, beauty, and sybaritic indulgences for the rich and famous for centuries. When Roman emperors such as Augustus and Tiberius claimed the area for personal pleasure, it became synonymous with a rarefied type of la dolce vita that was later relished by notables such as Richard Wagner, Gore Vidal, Sophia Loren, and Elizabeth Taylor, to name a few.

Begin your adventure when you hop aboard a hydrofoil in the chaotic Naples harbor, where hordes of day-trippers fill the rocking boats for a voyage to Capri’s craggy, 2-by-4-mile rocky surface. Upon disembarking, skip the long funicular queue that can take over an hour. Instead, hand your suitcase to a porter, who will transport it to your destination, and then hail an open-air taxi to take you as close to your hotel as possible. (That means you will be dropped off somewhere in the vicinity of Capri and Anacapri, the two towns where most hotels are located.)

G3T1FG An old-fashioned boat for taking tourists to the blue grotto in the harbour on the Isle of Capri in the Bay of Naples, Italy
Capri’s Marina Grande is alive with tourists boarding vessels bound for The Blue Grotto. Photo by Barry Mason/Alamy Stock Photo
Amalfi Coast, vista from balcony of Tiberio Palace hotel
At the Capri Tiberio Palace hotel, a chef-prepared breakfast is laid out on a balcony. Photo courtesy of Tiberio Palace Hotel

Once ensconced in your hotel, you can turn over sightseeing arrangements to knowledgeable staff members who can orchestrate the nuances of life on this rocky needle jutting out of the sea. Request advance reservations for a boat excursion to The Blue Grotto, where you will be exhilarated by the color of the water. And don’t miss the splendor of touring the Gardens of Augustus. Grab a taxi to enjoy an overview of the island, but be sure to allow ample time to wander around the two towns and explore the magnificent shopping on foot.

2A74X37 Capri promenade in a beautiful summer day leading to Gardens of Augustus, Campania, Italy
A high wall covered with flowering vines lines a walk in the Gardens of Augustus. Photo by Francesco Bonino/Alamy Stock Photo

By late afternoon, most day-trippers have piled back onto vessels bound for the mainland, leaving Capri at its best. After the mass exodus, this fragrant island of myrtle, juniper, oleander, heather, and lemons seems to sigh with relief, rewarding overnighters with views bathed in its eternal light. In the distance, the outline of the coast switches on, and Piazza Umberto, the social hub of the island, fills with a quieter crowd. Now is the time to savor moments of gazing out to sea over a glass of wine while the sky is electrified with incandescent streams of aquamarine, hot pink, bright orange, and violet. You are sure to hear the sound of music wafting from a local gathering spot or perhaps even someone singing opera—quite appropriate for this beautiful scene.

skyline of the mountains and water along the Amalfi Coast
Guests enjoy dramatic views at the Capri Tiberio Palace hotel. A rooftop splash pool connects to the Bellevue Suite. Photo courtesy of Tiberio Palace Hotel

Just off the piazza, the Capri Tiberio Palace hotel is lavished with a throwaway-chic sensibility and plenty of stop-in-your-tracks views. The indoor/outdoor pool is a favorite place to chill out away from the crowds. Book a treatment in the Spa Tiberio, dine on fresh Mediterranean fare at the Terrazza Tiberio, and enjoy a nightcap in the Jacky Bar.

PRFMP3 Restaurant at a narrow alley, old town of Sorrento, Peninsula of Sorrento, Gulf of Naples, Amalfi Coast, Campania, Italy
La Lanterna’s outdoor tables offer another flavor of Capri’s dining scene. Photo by Helmut Corneli/Alamy Stock Photo

There are casual eateries and pizzerias tucked into improbable nooks everywhere. Le Grottelle, whose kitchen is in a cave, features sublime seafood with views of the Amalfi Coast’s Li Galli Islands, while L’Olivo, in the iconic Capri Palace hotel, boasts memorable two-Michelin-star fare.

dining by the water, Il Riccio. Photo by Alberto Blasetti
Cocktail time is best enjoyed with a crisp Italian wine and delectable canapés over riveting water views, such as those from Il Riccio at the Capri Palace hotel. Photo by Alberto Blasetti
where to shop on the Amalfi Coast, clothing at Farella
Be sure to visit the beautiful linen and cashmere shop Farella. Photo courtesy of Farella

Shopping is an art form on the island and was first encouraged by Emilio Pucci, who opened his original boutique here in the 1950s. It seems that almost everyone on Capri sews or is an artisan, so visitors are tempted around every curve of the road by windblown garments hanging from limestone rock faces or fine handmade jewelry that fills up shop windows and specialty boutiques.

where to shop on the Amalfi Coast, sandals at Canfora
Vintage black-and-white photos, including ones with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, document the long history of Canfora’s sandal-making enterprise, dating from 1946. Photo courtesy of Canfora

Canfora, the island’s most famous sandal maker, is known for having shod Jackie Onassis. Family-owned Farella makes irresistible knitwear, while Autori Capresi features luxurious resort clothing for all ages. Be sure to stop at Carthusia, the perfumer with roots as far back as 1380, when a monk unexpectedly created a fragranced water. Everything is so bespoke and beautiful that it will be hard to pick a favorite scent. Also check out 100% Capri, known by many as having “the finest linen in the world.”

Italian shoemaker creates a sandal at Canfora
Choose a style and leather color, get measured, and pick up your bespoke sandals the same day. Photo courtesy of Canfora

After a few pampering days in Capri, hop on a boat for the mainland and spend some additional time taking in the sheer beauty of the Amalfi Coast, a veritable cornucopia of stacked towns, Roman ruins, monasteries, coves, gardens, and fishing villages. The ideal way to experience this gorgeous slice of heaven is to choose one or two overnight spots and then plan day trips to the others.

Farther north, 4,000-foot-high Mount Vesuvius, mainland Europe’s only active volcano, smolders over the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii. And don’t miss the iconic destinations of Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento, and Ravello.

BWX110 Old ruins of a forum with Mount Vesuvius in the background, Pompeii, Italy.
Mount Vesuvius, towering above the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, is a must-see. Photo by incamerastock/Alamy Stock Photo

Carved into the cliffs in Positano, Il San Pietro, one of the most romantic hotels in the world, appears to be an architectural wonder. Up the road, Le Sirenuse is another beauty known for its superb service and cuisine. Honeymooners flock to the evening champagne service, over which they can relish canoodling in romantic nooks with views of the bay.

Ravello, site of the famed summer music festival, offers a dramatically different mountain perspective. And be sure to stop in at Hotel Villa Cimbrone, set over the sparkling sea amid flower-filled gardens.

Wherever the tortuous roads take you on the Amalfi Coast, you are sure to be rewarded at every turn. Its natural beauty and miraculous light continue to inspire artists and travelers who are drawn back year after year.

Where to Stay, Shop & Dine on the Amalfi Coast

Lodging

Shopping

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By Marion Laffey Fox

November December 2021 cover of Flower magazine featuring a Christmas tree and mantel decorated with a garland and potted amaryllis flowers in the blue-and-white living room of Tina Yaraghi, founder of The Enchanted Home

This story appears in Flower magazine’s November/December 2021 issue, available on newsstands November 2. Subscribe, find a store near you, or sign up for our free e-newsletter.

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