The Amalfi Coast is undoubtedly one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, and for good reason. With its pastel coloured towns, picturesque beaches and stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea everywhere you look, it embodies the essence of Italy’s dolce vita in both substance and style, striking a perfect balance of ineffable elegance and simple charms.
Positano, Amalfi and Ravello are the best-known destinations but this 40 kilometre-long (25 miles) stretch of coastline is replete with hidden gems that lay largely overlooked. Hiring a local guide who knows how to navigate this region is an enormous asset and can help travellers experience a more authentic side of this beautiful place.
Guido Gambone, a luxury travel consultant with a wide breadth of knowledge of the Bel Paese, lives in a little town perched above Vietri sul Mare and is passionate about promoting this lesser-known corner of the coast. “Most ferries don’t reach the towns of Vietri and Cetara so they’ve been sheltered from mass tourism and have remained more authentic through the decades,” he explains. “Positano is beautiful but if someone wants to experience the real Amalfi Coast, they should venture off the beaten path and visit these historically working-class towns.”
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To reach these locations, head east past Ravello to reach Cetara, one of Italy’s last authentic fishing villages, and Vietri sul Mare, home to an important ceramic legacy that lives on to this day. The bucolic towns are spared the heavy foot traffic of more famous destinations and reward visitors with a more local atmosphere and important cultural legacies that have withstood the test of time.
Set in the foothills of Monte Falerio and recognised by its small port and medieval tower, Cetara feels worlds away from the crowds of Positano. This colourful town is one of the few remaining fishing villages in Italy and holds on to its maritime past, visible by the small boats bobbing in its harbour. Tuna and anchovy fishing have been important industries for centuries and Cetara is well-known for producing colatura di alici, a salty syrup made from anchovies that is highly prized for its umami flavours. Colatura is a major export of the town and is served at its local restaurants so you can’t miss it.
For lunch, we head to Ristorante AcquaPazza for a platter of salted anchovies and a bowl of Spaghetti Voiello con la Colatura di Alici, spaghetti sautéed with oil and garlic and then drizzled with the anchovy syrup. This charming restaurant has a small artisanal production of colatura and ages the anchovies in wooden barrels made of chestnut wood, according to ancient methods.
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Vietri Sul Mare
A short distance from Cetara lies Vietri sul Mare, the first gateway to the Amalfi Coast when arriving from Salerno. Vietri sul Mare is a delightful seaside town that has been producing ceramics for centuries. Its historic centre is filled with ceramic laboratories and shops selling beautiful painted dishes, whimsical vases and decorative objects of all shapes and sizes. “Today, Vietri is all about old and new ceramics,” says Gambone. “The town has been famous for ceramics since at least the 1700s and today many local artists are reinterpreting the historic designs. One of the best ceramicists in town is Lucio Liguori who uses the colours and shapes of the past in a contemporary and fresh way.”
Lucio Liguori and his brother Pasquale come from a family of ceramicists and learned to shape, fire and paint pottery at a young age. Together they have a shop in the centre of town that sells their famous ceramics, which are in high demand abroad and along the coast. Colourful ceramics are ubiquitous along the Amalfi Coast, both for practical purposes as well as purely decorative pieces. You’ll often see brightly coloured tiles adorning church domes and used as floor tiles, as well as in tableware. The pottery is made from red European clay which is shaped by a potter, fired, cooled and then painted by hand, creating cheerful designs that are perfect in their imperfection.
While you’re in Vietri sul Mare be sure to wander into the church of San Giovanni Battista, itself topped by blue and yellow majolica tiles, and pay a visit the Museum of Ceramics located in Villa Guariglia, along the road to Raito. Our favourite pick for sunbathing? The sheltered bay of Spiaggia della Crestarella with its 16th century tower, twin sea stacks and crystal-clear water.
Photography by Livia Hengel
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