Have you ever planned a trip, knew you would be surrounded by beautiful scenery and eat delicious food, and then somehow when you actually experience it, it exceeds every expectation? That was our trip to the Amalfi Coast for our honeymoon.
Everyone we told who had been there lit up with excitement for us, offering their suggestions about where to go, what to see, where to eat, and what to do. But they all said the same thing: You’re going to love it. And we absolutely did. The sweeping landscapes in Ravello are unlike anything you’ll see anywhere in the world. You’ll never believe how blue the water is in Capri, or how sweet and tart the lemons are (the lemon gelato will bring you to your knees!). And you’ve seen Positano on Instagram enough to know just how picturesque this town built into the Italian cliffs are.
But there are some things about our trip we’d change — you know for when we go back on our 10 year wedding anniversary. Even though we had the most amazing time, my husband Peter and I wanted to offer you some tips for when you’re planning your trip to the coast, so you won’t have to change a thing.
Peter gets the credit for this one because his thorough planning and research found us this underrated and under appreciated mountain town on the Amalfi Coast. Sitting higher up the mountain than its more famous cousins in Sorrento and Positano, Ravello is smaller and more isolated from the crowds thanks to the tricky roads you have to traverse to get there. But the people who find it are rewarded with luxury accommodations, incredible views and some of the best food you’ll find anywhere in the world. It feels like another world, like a dinosaur might come charging out of the green mountains at any time.
Walk through the square and you’re transported in time back before cell phones and iPads, with charming streets and an adorable town square bustling with locals and tourists alike. This may come as a shock, but we much preferred our time in Ravello to Positano despite the acclaim and hype. This was the biggest (and most pleasant) surprise of our honeymoon.
Where to stay — Palazzo Avino
There are a handful of five star hotels in Ravello, but we chose the Palazzo Avino, a former personal residence transformed into an opulent boutique hotel overlooking the water with incredible marble and stone architecture to make you feel like royalty. Our room had a mini-terrace that overlooked the courtyard and provided breathtaking vistas from our very own window.
One of the perks of staying at Palazzo Avino is its main restaurant is the Michelin starred Rosselini’s. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, I highly recommend dinner there. It’s hard to imagine a better venue for a meal just about anywhere in the world.
Where to eat — Cumpa Cosimo
Sure, you could eat at fine dining restaurants every night on the Amalfi Coast; it’s built for tourism and people come from all over the world to drop serious cash on dinners. But you don’t have to. In fact, we ran into a couple at our hotel, one of whom worked for Conde Naste Traveler, and their favorite place to go was Cumpa Cosimo. We had already planned to go, but saw them at the restaurant later that night finishing their meal as we arrived!
There is literally a grandma walking around seating everyone, offering you limoncello or tiramisu compliments of the house for dessert. When you order a glass of wine, they bring a carafe. It’s the kind of Italian restaurant you’ve always wanted to go to, but have never actually found. We found it. It’ll be cheaper than any other dinner you have on your trip and every bit as tasty.
What to do — Mamma Agata cooking class
It’s worth coming to Ravello just for this. Two weeks in some of the most incredible locations on Earth and Peter and I agreed this was our favorite part of the honeymoon. It might take some doing to get into one of the classes, but if you can, you have to go. You’ll learn with a group of people from around the world (or around the block for us. We met a couple who literally live just down the street from us!) from the daughter of Mamma Agata, Chiara. But don’t worry, Mamma is in the kitchen helping out, she just doesn’t speak a lot of English.
You’ll spend hours learning Italian techniques cooked with ingredients from their property. They make their own wine, cheese, and grow their own tomatoes in an incredible garden built into the hillside. You’re constantly tasting and refilling your wine glass. At the end, they course out everything you learned to make and have a feast that will leave you full for days. We cancelled our dinner reservations later that night because we were so full!
Few places in the world have captured the imagination of the rich and famous like the island of Capri. In fact, it’s been a hotly contested piece of land going back to the Roman emperor Tiberius. The island, with the most incredible blue water you’ve ever seen, will leave you wondering if you somehow took a ship to another world. No, that boat just took you to Capri.
With beaches, dozens of shops, luxury hotels, street vendors and coffee shops, there’s something for everyone at every price point, though you’ll feel luxurious no matter how much you have to spend. Just being there makes you feel like royalty.
Where to stay — Hotel Caesar Augustus
In full disclosure, this isn’t where we stayed during our honeymoon, but it is the hotel to stay at on Capri with an infinity pool like no where else. We stayed at Excelsior Parco, a charming former villa with views overlooking the bay. We stayed in the former owner’s master bedroom that came with a terrace and a hot tub.
Breakfast served on your private terrace on Capri … has anything ever sounded more perfect?
Regardless of where you decide to stay, it’s important to know there are two ends of the island. There’s Capri and Anacapri. The famous Blue Grotto is actually on Anacapri, on the far end of the island. Anacapri is less crowded and has more homes on it, but Capri is where you’ll likely land and has more restaurants and shops.
Where to eat — Bagni Tiberio Capri
You aren’t likely to find this restaurant on any other guide books or websites. It was a recommendation from our boat tour guide (more on this in a second) and they have little boats that come ferry you from your bigger boat to the restaurant propped on the beach. We splurged and got the lobster special along with pasta vongole, which is linguini with clams, the specialty of the region.
It was easily the best version of the dish we had on our trip and the ambience simply couldn’t be beat. From the boat valets to the pasta and the wine, if a more perfect lunch exists, we haven’t had it.
What to do — A private boat tour
Don’t be intimidated thinking this will be too expensive. It’s not. We had our travel agent book our boat through Capri Whales, but you can just go up to one of the shops and ask. There are a fleet of boats ready to take you on tours of the island where you’ll get to stop, swim and enjoy the amazing cliffs and blue water. Our boat came with snacks and Prosecco and our guide gave us history about the island.
Sure, you could do a group tour if you wanted and if you have a group, that would be just as fun. But if you’re on a couples trip like we were, it’s so much more romantic to lay out on the boat with your beau than worry about if your swimsuit is covering enough of your body to prevent a creepy tourist from leering at you.
If Mamma Agata was No. 1 on our trip, this was definitely No. 2.
I don’t need to sell you on Positano. It’s one of the most picturesque places
on Instagram, in Europe, in the world. Here’s what I’ll say about Positano: you should definitely go there. It’s as beautiful as Instagram leads you to believe. It’s also mobbed with (American) tourists, and there’s not actually that much to do if the weather doesn’t cooperate as it didn’t when we went. There are wonderful restaurants and a couple unbelievable hotels, but three days in Positano would be too many. Come, enjoy a pizza at Chez Black on the beach. Lay out. Enjoy an amazing dinner at La Sponda, then go to Capri or Ravello where life is just better.
Where to stay — Hotel Il San Pietro
Again, this isn’t where we stayed, but only because we didn’t book in time. There is a famous elevator in the mountainside that takes guests down to their private beach. That alone is worth experiencing. This is classic Italian luxury. For another higher-end experience, La Sirenuse represents the the other peak glam experience. But half the fun of staying here is being able to just walk down to their amazing bar or restaurant and have a glass of champagne overlooking Positano. It’s truly incredible.
We stayed at Palazzo Murat, a hotel we loved and is a little more affordable, but is still situated perfectly in the midst of the bustling Positano streets, just 10 minutes from any restaurant worth tasting.
Where to eat — La Sponda at La Sirenuse
Speaking of tasting, this tasting menu is out of this world. The dining room, lit up by thousands of candles, also overlooks the inlet with the water to the left of diners and the city lit up to the right. It’s hard to imagine a more romantic venue for a meal. Every course here sparkles with local ingredients. We did the wine pairing, which I’d highly recommend as well. If you’re going to splurge for one meal on your trip, this is the one. You can eat well just going to local, more casual places all along the Amalfi Coast, but if you’re celebrating, this is your place.
What to do — Beach Club
Positano’s No. 1 itinerary item is enjoying the scenery as much as possible and that means the beach. It’s not the white sands or the clear waters you’ll find in the Caribbean and that’s half the fun. These beaches are rocky and the water is so richly blue you’ll swear it has food coloring in it. Most of the beach clubs also have bars and food service so you can enjoy an Aperol Spritz and fresh pasta or pizza while you catch the rays in the magnificent Amalfi sunlight. You can make reservations ahead of time or just show up. If you’re staying at Hotel Il San Pietro you won’t have to worry about any of that, just talk to your hotel concierge!
The nostalgia I am feeling as I write this post is so strong! If you haven’t been to the Amalfi Coast, I hope you plan a trip soon. And if you have, well I’m sure you’ll be back like we plan to be.
We had quite a full itinerary for this trip, so if you have any other questions – leave them in the comments below!