Amalfi on the Amalfi Coast.

Located just south of Naples, Italy’s Amalfi Coast is famous for many reasons, not least of which is their ill-advised practice of wedging homes and businesses into the rocky ravines—most of this region would slide down into the Mediterranean Sea if you shook it hard enough. I mean, sure, it looks beautiful, but you quickly learn that visual attractiveness comes at a very real cost to your lower extremities.

Italy’s Amalfi Coast will straight up destroy your knees.

Italy’s Amalfi Coast
The hills behind Amalfi.

When planning a trip to see the pastel-colored abodes of Amalfi, it’s easy to forget that the modern elevator wasn’t invented until the 1850s. Getting your bags to your accommodations can, therefore, require schlepping them up literally hundreds of steps. That’s right, I said hundreds.

I wanna say, Positano.

And not the nice, uniform steps you find in modern developments. I’m talking about the rocky, uneven, and unpredictable ones that Romans built long before the International Residential Code standardized their design. Just like snowflakes, each step is unique and capable of sending anyone over 30 years old tumbling into a full-body cast.

Tired, old, or handicapped? You’re gonna hate Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

Downtown Amalfi
The flattest place in Amalfi

Italy’s Amalfi Coast is the antithesis of handicapped-accessible. Located high up in Amalfi’s eastern hills, our rooftop Airbnb was effectively off-limits to anyone with a wheelchair, a heart condition, or an empty wallet.

The steep hills of Amalfi.

To get our luggage up the seventeen flights to our place, we had to pay four swarthy, young Italian guys ten Euros per bag! It was money well-spent as, otherwise, we would’ve spent the rest of our 10-day vacation abusing Italy’s highly regarded and nearly free healthcare system.

We later learned that these savvy young men offer this same service to all the hotels in Amalfi. They astutely bank on the laziness of out-of-shape tourists who have more money than leg strength. It’s a job that makes NYC bike messengers look like wimps by comparison, and certainly explains why Italy’s Amalfi Coast isn’t a hot market for anyone selling stair-climbing machines.

The coast is so slanted, you’re always in danger of going swimming.

Amalfi by night
Amalfi by night.

Ever since a friend showed me his photo of the place, I’d wanted to visit the Amalfi Coast. It’s appeal, I think, stems from the audaciousness of building homes and businesses wedged into the side of cliffs. Seriously, whose insane idea was that?!? (“It’s a great view, Jacapo, but where’s the nearest outlet mall?”)

Italy’s Amalfi Coast
Building up a cliffside.

Living life at a 45-degree angle presents some unique challenges to the people who live here. Due to the region’s tilted geography, sprawling public plazas (piazzas) are in short supply. So socializing Italians—aka, all Italians—tend to congregate on, and often meander into, the one main road that runs along the waterfront. 

Fortunately, Italy’s roads are too dangerous to speed on, and the country’s buses and cars aren’t big enough to cause much bodily harm if they hit you (Vespas® on the other hand…). Along Italy’s Amalfi Coast, flat planes are exceedingly rare, but one flat place we found was the rooftop of our awesome Airbnb.

Want to rent this place? Check it out on Airbnb.

Our Airbnb inspired a lot of questions about Amalfi.

Italy’s Amalfi Coast
The East side of Amalfi.

Its location near the top of Amalfi afforded us a lovely view down on the entire town and what passed for a “beach.” From the comfort of our rooftop couch, we’d while away the hours drinking Aperol Spritzes and wondering how the hell people got furniture up this far. I mean, the nearest IKEA® is 40 miles away, and I bet their delivery guys charge a bit more for hauling a FRIHETEN up 17 flights of stairs.

The IKEA® FRIHETEN couch

Impractically, the ancient Roman architects overbuilt these structures, so they’ve stood intact, more or less, for hundreds if not thousands of years.

That’s fortunate, because new construction in these hills would likely be cost-prohibitive, requiring helicopters, sky-cranes, and tons of dynamite. As a result, the look of Italy’s Amalfi Coast hasn’t changed much since the invention of movable type.

Italy’s Amalfi Coast
View from the top of Ravello, Italy.

The Amalfi Coast is an unbelievably beautiful and stupid place to live.

The cliffs of Capri.

For most of its meandering length, the mountainous Amalfi Coast of Italy plunges abruptly into the Mediterranean Sea without much adieu—in fact, you’ll only find towns where natural valleys create gaps in its otherwise imposing cliff walls. And you don’t find many beaches here, either.

The pebbled beach of Amalfi.

What beaches that do exist within these gaps are of the pebbled variety—that is to say, the shitty kind. (For beaches of the sand variety, see Clearwater, Bali, Hawaii, Tahiti, Bora Bora, etc). Nonetheless, when dotted with moored boats, colorful umbrellas, and seaside restaurants, the coast is undeniably attractive.

Our cliff-side hotel in Sorrento, Italy

And that’s the basic problem with this place. Italy’s Amalfi Coast is effectively all façade—there’s nothing behind its ancient, stone buildings other than even older mountain rock. There’s none of the stuff Americans usually look for in a hometown, like shopping malls, multi-lane expressways, ample parking, and easy access to opioids.

There’s seemingly no point to these towns existing other than simply looking spectacular. And there’s no point to living here if you aren’t employed by tourism, a novelist, or in witness protection.

Capri, Italy: where rock meets water.

Italy’s Amalfi Coast is worth burning some vacation time here.

Sorrento, Italy

While the Amalfi Coast lacks any real raison d’être, it’s certainly picturesque enough to make you wonder what other reason you need to come here.

Italy’s Amalfi Coast
The one road around Amalfi.

Sure, there are other places on the planet that kinda look like this: America’s West Coast, Thailand, and Santorini immediately come to mind. But none of those places are in Italy. None of those places are populated by the people who’ve known how to live life properly since they basically invented it.

Taken all together—the vistas, the food, the wine, the people—you won’t find a better place to kill vacation time than Italy’s Amalfi Coast…at least, not one that isn’t somewhere else in Italy.

More specifics about towns along Italy’s Amalfi Coast: