amalfi coast
Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy | Andrea Comi/Moment/Getty Images
Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy | Andrea Comi/Moment/Getty Images
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The Italian Coast You’ve Been Dreaming of Your Whole Life

Some places were just made to be photographed. The Amalfi Coast is painted in pastel colors, all little villas and lemon groves and winding cobblestone staircases clinging to steep seaside cliffs. It’s the kind of impossible picturesqueness that doesn’t feel entirely real to anyone who didn’t grow up there. When you’re imagining Italy as a “boot,” this famous stretch of Medeterranian coastline lies at what would be the front of the ankle, about halfway between Rome and the southern coast. Tourists flock to the colorful towns clustered along this coast for a heady mix of sunbathing and limoncello, and the region is only slightly less famous for its ceramics and seafood. Is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Of course it is. Here are a few of the most pristine, not-to-be-missed spots to put on your itinerary.

Positano

Positano is a mainstay for Amalfi Coast tourism, featuring some of the most quintessentially beautiful pastel-colored houses. Coveted souvenirs include ceramics, sandals, and, of course, limoncello. Check out one of the many, many boat tours on offer, or simply spend your days wandering the steep footpaths that cut up and down the cliffside. Crucially, there’s also a Positano shuttle that transports tourists to and from the airport, which is handy since traffic throughout the coast can bottleneck, especially in the summer months.

Ravello

Ravello is probably best-known for its terraced cliffside gardens, which you’ll want to wander through endlessly on warm afternoons. We know we said to avoid the Amalfi Coast in the peak summer months if you can help it, but it’s also fine if you can’t -- the two-month-long Ravello Festival will help take the edge off your battle with the crowds. You’re in for live music and art shows spanning countless genres, drawing both local artists and ones that are known around the world. And as long as you’re already in Ravello, do walk about 45 minutes (downhill!) to the smaller town of …

Atrani

Stop for lunch and a glass of wine in the central piazzetta (that’s a piazza, but small) of Atrani. In a region full of tourist hot spots, this small fishing village is a less-trafficked breath of fresh air that still holds all the charming elements that drive people into the bigger resort towns like Positano. You’ll find tiers of pastel houses and Baroque churches and winding stone staircases running up the cliffs from the beach. Stroll along the quiet port before you walk a few minutes further into ...

Amalfi

The namesake coastal town of Amalfi is among the most enduringly popular among tourists, and serves as a hub for accessing the neighboring towns by either land or sea. Plan your visit for late spring or early fall, when the temperate weather is at its peak but the crowds of tourists are not (you’re welcome to try in the winter, but a lot of the hotels will be closed until tourist season resumes). And while you’re there, make sure you head to the Piazza del Duomo to visit the ...

Amalfi Cathedral

This 9th century Duomo is notable for its eclectic mix of architectural influences, spanning Byzantine to Gothic to Rococo. Walking up to it, you’ll be greeted by the oldest post-Roman bronze doors anywhere in Italy; they were originally cast in Constantinople. Pack a picnic of local breads and cheeses and find yourself a good view of the Cathedral’s medieval bell tower, covered in glazed Maiolica tiles.
MORE: Heading to northern Italy next? Eat your way through our favorite small towns

Maiori

Maiori boasts the biggest beach anywhere along the Amalfi Coast, and has the added draw of being a bit cheaper than the more popular, better-known resort towns. It’s also a great stop for archaeology and history buffs -- it’s the site of the renowned Roman ruins known as Villa Marittima Romana. When you’re done there, take a boat tour to the nearby sea cave Grotta di Pandora.

Cetara

Neighboring Maiori at the base of Mount Falerzio, Cetara is a no-frills fishing village where you’ll very likely eat the best seafood of your life. Try the tuna and definitely the fresh anchovies. You’re looking to escape the crowds and eat spaghetti alle vongole at your leisure while you take in the sea breeze? Cetara will be the highlight of your trip.

Sorrento

Technically Sorrento, located on the Sorrentine Peninsula, is not one of the 13 municipalities of the Amalfi Coast. But it’s considered a gateway to the Coast from Naples, and it’s every bit as popular a stop as Amalfi or Positano -- and easily accessible from those towns, too. It offers a cliff-top view of Mount Vesuvius that can’t be beat, and makes a great home base if you’re planning to explore farther north.
MORE:40 things you need to know before your first trip to Europe

Praiano

Praiano is a quiet, often-overlooked gem nestled against the cliffs just a few minutes from its crowded, more touristy neighbor Positano. If you’re looking for Amalfi Coast charm with less of its hustle and bustle, this relaxed fishing village is for you. More of a local town than a tourist one, it also provides the perfect location to set off on a loop around ...

amalfi coast
Path of the Gods, Italy | Josef Skacel/Shutterstock

Path of the Gods

If you’re in the mood for a hike (which you should really try to be) set aside a half-day to walk the Path of the Gods. This five-mile hike will take you along ancient mule trails, through luscious farmland and quiet valleys, and along the tops of the cliffs overlooking terraced vineyards and lemon groves and the sea. Start from Praiano, or from Sentiero degli Dei in Bomerano; you’ll end near Positano.

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Kastalia Medrano is Thrillist's Travel Writer. You can send her travel tips at kmedrano@thrillist.com, and Venmo tips at @kastaliamedrano.