Meeting Atrani on the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast was a destination on my wish-list since I was 18, way back in 2001. I saved a picture from a bridal magazine of the place for all those years until we went in 2015. It was a dream come true to go. When planning this year’s trip, we weren’t going to go because we didn’t know if we could fit it in. Then we changed our minds and fit it in. I am so glad we did because I got some more perspective on the place. Also, it was a great opportunity to really see Amalfi and Atrani which we didn’t visit properly, having stayed in Positano last time.

The Amalfi Coast is a 150km stretch of coastline which encompasses a dozen or so towns. Positano is by far the most popular. We decided to stay in the next major town of Amalfi this time, but our booking for our hotel was cancelled because ‘our credit card didn’t go through’, which is rubbish. We figure the hotel wanted to make more money on our room and made up this lie, since it’s the same credit card that has booked everything else quite successfully. This meant a last-minute search for accommodation in the area…that led us to the next town of Atrani. Thankfully, the Airbnb we found was in our price range and close to the bus stop. Also, it is only a 10-minute walk to Amalfi, so no harm done. We got to stay in a less-touristy place and be amongst locals. This is something we like to do. It feels more authentic and true to eat where the locals eat. Swim where the locals swim. Greet a cat around every cute little corner. Come across your neighbours in their jocks. You know, there’s something for everyone.

We actually really loved Atrani. True, there were sand flies that bit the heck out of me, true, the apartment was close to the bus stop…but also several steep steps down, and then a meandering and narrow cigarette-smoke-filled alleyway up and up and up to our actual door, true, the close walk to Amalfi got tiring after the first two times…all this is true. But we still loved Atrani and would recommend it. Amalfi is also wonderful. It is a tourist town, but unlike Positano which is FULL of stairs and people, Amalfi is pretty flat and more achievable. It’s smaller, too, so easier to get a sense for the place and not feel like you’re missing out on anything.

Don’t get me wrong. Positano is amazing. In the shoulder season. Please don’t go in summer unless you are wealthy and can afford a private boat or something. It is a bit much. We did make the long bus-ride to Positano from Amalfi (which took about an hour) and after finding some lunch, we were a bit overwhelmed with the sheer number of people and the extreme heat.

I remember our time there in 2015 with much fondness. We stayed in an Airbnb that time too, and it was a massive apartment with plenty of space and an amazing view of all the colourful buildings. It was not too hot to be outside the whole day, slowly enjoying the shops and gelatos and not minding the steps everywhere. I remember thinking back then ‘I wish it was hot so I would feel like swimming!’ but trust me, in Positano, you can’t afford to swim, darling. All the beaches in these places are divided neatly into private companies that rent you a little postage-stamp space with seats and a shade umbrella. The rent for this privilege can run you as high as 35 euros per person! That’s for prime real estate, of course. The back rows are cheaper. But still. I rented us a space in Amalfi (fourth row) for 30 euros total. This included the use of cold showers (a hot shower is an extra couple of euros), and the spot for as long as we wanted. Positano was a dream in April. It would be great in May. It would be good in September or October. In July, it is a bit much. Atrani was perfect for us in July.

Our day to Positano as mentioned was just the journey there, a lunch, a gelato, a visit to two or three shops, and then the ferry back to Amalfi. The ferry ride back was 9 Euros each and we were able to get in line to board immediately. It took a very long time to board the vessel, though. Each time I thought ‘that’s it, they cannot possibly fit more people on this boat’, they let on another 20 people. We had snagged a spot up top so I could take some photos of Positano from the water. This had been my wish when we went this time; to rent a boat and float around the water for an hour or so. This adventure also runs very expensive. We’re talking in the hundreds of Euros. Since we are working with Australian dollars it was a bit too much. We opted for the much cheaper ferry and I got my views. I didn’t get to enter the sea via a waterslide attached to a yacht as I imagined…but we can’t have everything in life, can we? Maybe one day after winning the lottery.

Once back in Atrani we showered and then went down to find dinner in our piazza which had about five dinner options all looking into the centre of the piazza. While eating, a marching band came to play for us. We had seen them previously as the Amalfi area was celebrating the Festival of Sant’Andrea (Saint Andrew) Patron Saint and protector of Amalfi. Apparently, in June 1544 Saint Andrew caused a storm that prevented a fleet of pirates from taking over Amalfi. On the 27th of June, Amalfi celebrates its Patron Saint. This is a very important summer Feast day where spirituality, folklore and popular traditions come together. The most awaited and beloved tradition is the running of the statue of Sant’Andrea up the stairs of the Cathedral.

We witnessed the statue being brought out of the Cathedral (it wasn’t ‘run up the stairs’ this time, as there were heaps of tourists), and saw and heard the fireworks, music, and festivities. The band we saw play in Atrani that evening must have walked from town to town, playing for the people. It was quite special drinking my wine and watching a music performance right in front of me.

The next and final day Callum and I parted ways for a few hours. Callum wanted to re-walk the ‘Il Sentiero degli Dei’ (The Walk of the Gods) which we did 7 years ago. I wasn’t interested as I knew about the 1000 steps going down and the hike to Positano where the walk ends (or starts, if you’re a maniac). Callum did it soooo much faster on his own this time than when we did it together. Granted, last time we stopped so I could do a little painting, but still. While he was doing that, I was editing photos and writing for this blog. I jogged down to the piazza to grab a take-away coffee and a couple of mini-croissants, but that was it. Eventually I had to stop and get changed for the walk to Amalfi and our agreed upon meeting point of the afore-mentioned rented space with umbrella. We went up to the adjoining café for a panini lunch and then swam in the ocean to cool off. Afterward we walked into Amalfi for a look around and a Spritz, enjoying our seat right in front of the cathedral and all the tourists taking their selfies.  Then we returned ‘home’ to Atrani for showers and a rest before our next activity: revisiting Ravello.

Ravello is a mountaintop town with a couple of beautiful gardens and restaurants. It is also a great place for one of the best views in the area. We went in 2015 and were amazed at every viewpoint. We returned for the late afternoon and bought our admission to the gardens where the entry is just in the main piazza. These gardens are called Villa Rufolo and we were at first disappointed that some of the main areas were being taken over by some sort of scaffolding seating. However, the rest of the place was just as beautiful as I remembered, and I scampered around gleefully with my camera. We even came across a bride and groom taking their wedding pictures…imagine getting married there! What a dreamy landscape.

While in the gardens I looked up to see an advantageously placed hotel and restaurant. I said, “I wish we could eat up there tonight!” And we did. We didn’t realise when we picked the restaurant that it would be the very one I saw from down below. We were lucky to get a table as most places require a reservation. It’s so hard to make reservations for me because websites and menus are hard to find at many popular places. I need to make sure it’s affordable, and that there is something I want to eat on the menu, as I don’t eat seafood (gasp!) or mushrooms (double gasp!) so finding food to eat worldwide can be tricky. Also, if I’m going to have to pay over $100 for dinner, I want it to be something that I will actually find tasty and not just something I could make myself at home. You know? So, it’s a big tricky job finding places to eat. It’s not something I thought would be a problem in Italy, but it has been. Anyway, I had a beautiful meal and we had a great view, and it was wonderful spending an evening in Ravello.

That marked our end on the Amalfi Coast, as we left the next day enroute to Florence. Ah, Atrani, what a treat to meet you!


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