Amalfi Italy was the first town we visited on our trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Not because it was the coast’s namesake, or because it was an important maritime port in the 9th Century, or even because it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No, we chose it because our friends found a killer Airbnb there.
Amalfi Italy is the OG of the Amalfi Coast.
Located on the Amalfi Coast, south of Naples, the town of Amalfi lies at the mouth of a deep ravine, surrounded by dramatic cliffs and coastal scenery. Sure, that sounds impressive until you realize that the same description fits pretty much every town along Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
Luckily (for the sake of avoiding duplicate content, if nothing else), Amalfi has a number of unique features that make it worth visiting on its own. For starters, it’s basically the only town on the Amalfi Coast with an actual downtown.
Walking around downtown Amalfi Italy.
In the center of town, there’s a huge public plaza (or “piazza,” if you’re Italian) where people gather to take selfies in front of Amalfi’s great whopping Saint Andrew’s Cathedral. Saint Andrew’s central location acts as a social anchor for the community and the town’s many buildings that surround it. It also acts as a church, I think.
The main square in downtown—aka, Piazza del Duomo—was once the center of this important trading port, and is now basically an elaborate tourist trap.
Downtown Amalfi has sidewalk cafés and souvenir stores everywhere, with wall-to-wall shops selling pottery, paper, linen, clothing, gelato, and limoncello. You can even buy limoncello in penis-shaped bottles, because why wouldn’t you?
Amalfi Italy is the most town-like town of all the towns we visited.
While the other so-called “towns” along the Amalfi Coast are certainly tourist magnets, Amalfi seems like it was once more of a real town where actual people lived and worked, presumably in the once-burgeoning industries of axe-grinding, chain-mail weaving, and Viking repelling.
Today, most locals appear to be employed in the service industries of tourism, restaurant, retail, grocery, and noisy, early-morning garbage collection. There aren’t a lot of visible trade or factory jobs around here, though I imagine there’s good money to be made repairing Vespa® scooters and Riva® boats.
We didn’t see a ton of office buildings there, either. None, in fact. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any office jobs being done. In fact, since many multinational companies now offer remote work options—thanks, COVID!—I’d expect to see a lot more WFA employees (“Working From Amalfi”).
Amalfi Italy has a beach, it’s just not a great beach.
The beach here doesn’t look amazing, to be honest. Unlike the sandy beaches of Tahiti or Bali, Amalfi’s beach is made up of small gray rocks. Sure, they’ve eroded over the eons to become tiny, smooth pebbles, but they’re still more rock than sand. So Amalfi’s beach feels like somebody spilled a ton of ball bearings. It doesn’t hurt or anything, it just feels slippery and weird.
Nonetheless, the beach still makes a fine place to sit under an umbrella and drink multiple Aperol Spritzes while you try to forget that, back home at work, Carl is probably screwing up your project right now. Gods, somebody needs to fire that guy—he’s such an idiot.
Amalfi Italy is best enjoyed from a rooftop patio.
Located high up in the hills above Amalfi, our Airbnb offered a great view of the town and a rooftop patio from which to view it. That made up for the fact that most of the available TV channels were in Italian. Without television shows we could understand, we were forced to spend our downtime gazing off into the Mediterranean Sea.
The only downside to being so high up the mountainside was the 160-step climb down to town 6-8 times a day for money, meals, and medical assistance. That worked out to hiking about 16 floors, well above the limit for taking the elevator in the ’States. (NOTE: There is no elevator.)
We paid porters to carry our bags up the stairs when we first arrived, but we were soon able to make the climb without wheezing or coughing up a lung. By the end of our stay, our legs and butts looked like those of a Tour de France medalist—not the winner, maybe, but a finisher, at least.
To climb Amalfi’s hills, we had to fuel up several times.
There aren’t a lot of restaurants in a town this small, but we refused to cook. The Marina Grande is a solid Michelin-rated restaurant right on the water, overlooking Amalfi’s gray, gravel beach. You pay a premium for the view here, so get a table near the windows.
Taverna Degli Apostoli was a nice dinner place to the left of Saint Andrew’s steps—look for the pictures of Marilyn Monroe in the windows(?) The food and service were good, but they didn’t serve coffee for some reason—you’ve been warned! Further up the hill, Bar Della Valle served a passable impersonation of a hamburger and french fries. It wasn’t great, but fast food was a nice change from Italian food.
They grow a lot of damn lemons around Amalfi Italy.
Okay, not lemons exactly, the proper name is “sfusato amalfitano.” These gigantic lemon-like fruits are at least double the size of other, lesser lemons. They’re grown all around the coast, but you’ll find them everywhere in Amalfi, and I mean everywhere.
Yeah, alright with all the fucking lemons, Amalfi! We get it. Lemons grow around here. Good for you! But do you have to emblazon them on everything? Dresses, shirts, and coffee mugs I’ll give you. Fine. But boxer shorts? Come on, give it a rest, Giacomo!
A sad tale of sex, secrets, stabbing, and strangulation.
In 1490, at the ripe old age of twelve, Giovanna d’Aragona was married off to the future Duke of Amalfi. The union ended after eight years when the Duke was stabbed to death by his rival, Count Stab-a-lot.
Five months later, the Duke’s only son was born and made the Duchy of Amalfi. Giovanna became Regent and ruled in his stead. Widowed and horny, Giovanna banged a servant named Antonio in secret, got married in secret, and somehow had two children in secret.
With Antonio’s third secret kid on the way—damn, bro, keep it in your pants!—the couple moved to Ancona, Italy where they hoped to escape her family’s influence. But Giovanna’s dick-bag brother, the Cardinal, ordered them expelled.
The couple fled, but were intercepted by agents of Giovanna’s family, who brought them back to Amalfi. Antonio escaped, only to be assassinated in Milan. Giovanna and her children were all strangled to death by order of her dick-bag brothers. Several long books have been written recounting this story in more detail—but that’s the gist. Oh, shoot…I forgot to say [SPOILER ALERT!]
No one owns a paintbrush in Amalfi Italy, apparently.
For reasons I never figured out—probably, because I never asked anyone—Amalfians never paint over exterior walls whose paint has chipped off. Everywhere you look in Amalfi there are walls with huge missing sections of paint. They surely must leave the chipped and flaked paint for some reason.
But I just don’t understand why. Is it a tax avoidance thing? Is there a law against painting these holes? Is paint so expensive that it’s rationed? If so, I think we need a GoFundMe page to raise the money to paint the place. Seriously, how expensive can paint be in Italy? More importantly, how hard is it to find a reliable painting contractor in Italy? What about that Michelangelo guy, what’s his availability these days…?
In hindsight, I’m not sure I would consider the small town of Amalfi Italy a “must-see” destination. Don’t get me wrong—it’s great, in the way that all Italian towns are great, but I liked other places we visited on this trip a bit better. Some places, for their better views, some for having more stuff to do, and some for simply having enough money in the town budget to paint over chipped walls.
More specifics about towns along Italy’s Amalfi Coast:
- Naples, Italy
- Amalfi, Italy
- Positano, Italy
- Ravello, Italy (pending)
- Sorrento, Italy (pending)
- Capri, Italy (pending)