Scenic Drive on the Amalfi Coast

Positano Amalfi Coast
Italy is full of scenic drives. There are the honey-colored sunsets of Tuscany, sepia-toned ruins of Ostia, and the snow-capped cityscapes of Torino. But if you want a ride with the bluest of blues then the only place to find yourself is along Campania’s La Costiera Amalfitana, The Amalfi Coast. This coastal road links Sorrento with Salerno and is dotted with candy-colored fishing ports and fortified ancient towers. There is so much to see on this magnificent stretch of road that your agenda should include several different itineraries because it is difficult to tackle it in just one day. So, rent a car and explore the road that is sure to take your breath away as you climb the hills out of Sorrento and head toward key stops along the way to Salerno.

Positano Amalfi Coast
1.    Positano – There is a lovely little lemonade stand just before reaching Positano.  It affords those postcard views you always see of this famous cliff-side town.  The rest stop itself caters to tour buses but ignore the masses and climb down the steps for some of the best photo ops you can imagine.  Parking is extremely difficult in the heart of Positano and after taking your great shots from the rest stop you would be much better off bypassing the center and heading further south.

Furore Room with a View Amalfi Coast
2.    Furore – is an ancient municipality highlighted by a beach at the bottom of a towering fjord, which then rises some 550 meters to the village of Agerola. Furore is at once majestic in its raw beauty with mountains that reach toward the sky and waves that crash along the fortified towers which dot the coastline. Furore itself is comprised of several smaller villages, one of which is the pretty port of Praiano.

Praiano San Gennaro Amalfi Coast
3.    Praiano – is an ancient fishing borgo. (OK, so all of these villages offer fishing but that’s just how it is when you’re a coastal community!) Again parking is difficult but a stop in Praiano is worth it if you can climb down to the piazza in front of the oft-photographed Church of San Gennaro.  Its dome rises before you as you come around the bend and is even more spectacular when viewed from a boat on the water.  You should also make your way down the steep and winding road which leads you to the beach. It may be small in size but is enormously full of charm and the warmth of the locals who greet everyone as old friends.

amalfi coast
4.    Amalfi –comes upon you as a pleasant surprise, as the road directs you to the port and the bustling area around the marina. It is hard to imagine that this tourist-filled area was once a major maritime powerhouse for over 400 years. A leading trading port in the Mediterranean between 839 and 1200, Amalfi has kept many of its ancient traditions alive in the 21st century and has been named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Parking here, as in most of the ancient Amalfi Coast villages, is difficult but is best found if you turn right at the central taxi stop and head toward the end of the pier. Then journey up the hill and absorb the view that awaits you in Amalfi’s central Piazza del Duomo. Your first glimpse of St. Andrew’s Cathedral is something not easily conveyed in words or photos.

La Costiera Amalfitana is more than just scenic drive in Italy.  It is a road of dreams and I have but barely scratched its surface.

—-

Lisa Fantino is an award-winning journalist-turned attorney and nearly fanatical vagabond.  Her passport is always at the ready and she is the Italy travel consultant behind Wanderlust Women Travel and the Italy destination wedding site Wanderlust Weddings; she also writes travel features for MNUI Travel Insurance.

Photos © Emilio Labrador, Lisa Fantino (1, 2), nenita_casuga, toastbrot81

2008 Year-End Article Round Up

I am still trying to figure out how to manage a toddler and a newborn and find time to keep this blog up-to-date. But I have been keeping track of the numerous articles about Italy that have come out in the past couple of months. So, enjoy the following links and have a Felice Anno Nuovo!!

Boston Globe
Eating Up Miles, Drinking Up Scenery, Motoring From Nice to Tuscany
(road tripping between France and Italy)

L.A. Times
American Military Cemeteries in Europe Honor Heroes in Both World Wars
(profiles Sicily-Rome Cemetery)

The Globe and Mail (Canada)
Roman Holiday, Reconsidered
Your Palazzo in Florence Awaits
Escape From San Domino

The Independent (U.K.)
Madama Butterfly, Floria Tosca – They All Came From Lucca
Puglia Is a Food Lover’s Paradise

The Guardian (U.K.)
Flying Visit to Florence
Flood-Hit Hoteliers Offer Packages With Free Wellies (Venice)
Go With the Flow (Skiing on Mt. Etna)
A Taste of Italy at Harvest Time (Le Marche)
Turin On A Plate
On the Trail of the Leopard (Sicily)

New York Times
Florence, Then and Now
Venice: In Laguna Da Toni
Savoring Italy One Beer at a Time

The Telegraph (U.K.)
Mesmerizing Relics of Byzantine Brilliance (Ravenna)

Wall Street Journal
Starling Stalkers Try to Scare the Birds out of Rome

Wine Routes in Tuscany

Sharing a carafe of Chianti while the autumnal Tuscan air swirls around you is one of life’s great pleasures. Of course, there’s more to Tuscan wine than the everyday Chianti, and fall is the perfect time to explore the region and its many vineyards.

Did you know that there are 14 wine routes in Tuscany, also known as Le Strade del Vino? By clicking on the image to the left, you can visit the Tuscan Wine Trails website, where, ostensibly, you can devise your own vineyard driving tour. (A note to technically-minded Italophiles: on my wishlist is a Google Maps mashup of these trails.)

The 14 wine routes are as follows. Thanks to waytuscany.net for sorting these out by province.

Province of Arezzo: Strada del Vino Terre di Arezzo
Province of Florence: Strada del Vino Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Strada del Vino di Montespertoli, Strada dei Vini Chianti Rufina e Pomino
Province of Grosseto: Strada del Vino Monteregio di Massa Marittima, Strada del Vino Colli di Maremma, Strada del Vino di Montecucco
Province of Livorno: Strada del Vino Costa degli Etruschi
Province of Lucca: Strada del Vino Colline Lucchesi e Montecarlo
Province of  Massa Carrara: Strada del Vino Colli di Candia e di Lunigiana
Province of Prato: Strada Medicea dei Vini di Carmignano
Province of Pisa: Strada del Vino delle Colline Pisane
Province of Siena: Strada del Vino Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Strada del Vino di Montepulciano

Happy sipping!

Photo © N1ck P Harris

The Ultimate Italian Driving Adventure

If you’re the type of traveler who likes to go it alone and doesn’t mind injecting a little technological know-how into your trip, then a GPS-driven self-guided tour may be the ticket.

Information about Zephyr Self-Guided Adventures through Italy just crossed our desks over the weekend. The company offers walks, biking, and driving tours through Tuscany, Umbria, and parts of Lazio, all of which are powered by GPS navigation. According to a press release:

The GPS Navigation systems have pre-loaded waypoints along the driving routes and are designed to accompany written turn-by-turn directions. With simple touch commands travelers can easily get from one destination to another. These portable systems not only allow for a comfortable traveling pace, but are also a cheaper alternative to the typical guided vacation.

In addition to the GPS Navigation systems, these driving tours come with a “virtual tour guide” in the form of a Portable Media Player loaded with short videos. In these videos, Zephyr Adventures President Allan Wright gives a daily route talk summarizing what to expect for each day while certified Italian guide (and Zephyr in-country support representative) Giovanni Ramaccioni gives entertaining cultural and historical presentations about sights on the route. The cultural videos were filmed at the exact spots the travelers pass through.

The combination of these two technologies allows for the ultimate driving adventure.

While Zephyr may have touched on a rather novel concept, we also like the fact that they have worked in the price of hotels and rental cars, so you don’t have to do any extra legwork (unless, of course, you choose to walk or bike your way through central Italy). Rates start at $1,250 per person, not including airfare.

Italy Article Round-Up

In case you missed these recent articles on travel to Italy…

New York Times
Sicily, Through the Eyes of the Leopard

The Washington Post
See Naples…And Eat

Sydney Morning Herald
Ready for Super-Bol (A Search for the Best Ragu in Bologna)

Los Angeles Times
Exploring Sun-Splashed Venice’s City Squares

The Guardian (UK)
Instant Weekend…Turin

The Boston Globe
Eat Them All, Pray For More, Love the Neopolitan Pie
Ancient Capri Still Casts Its Powerful Spell

Seattle Times (Rick Steves’ Europe)
For Italy In the Extreme, Go to Naples

The Independent (UK)
See Italy – From the Wheel of a Ferrari
Lyrical Charm in Capri

The Vancouver Sun
How To Enjoy Rome With the Kids

The Financial Times
Do You Need Another Reason to Visit Florence?

Italy’s Most Scenic Drives

 

tuscandrive

Today’s tip from Fodor’s looks at the best driving tours in Italy. They include the Via Aurelia, the Grande Strade delle Dolomiti, and – my favorite – the S222 through Tuscany, also known as the Via Chiantigiana.

I’m certain there are more than just three drives in Italy that will make your jaws drop. Did you know that you can chart your own course, with driving instructions and toll and gas information, on Michelin’s Via Michelin website? Besides providing excellent tips on hotels, restaurants, and travel throughout all of Europe, Via Michelin is a sort-of Mapquest for the continent, doling out info on the quickest, shortest, and most economical driving routes as well as the most scenic.

To test it out a sample “Discovery Route,” I searched for directions from Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano to Piazza San Giovanni in Florence. Okay…perhaps you wouldn’t want to drive right into Firenze’s Duomo (and with traffic patterns the way they are, you probably couldn’t), but this route is interesting, taking a driver along a few highways but also along the old Via Salaria and past the Certosa of Galluzzo outside of Florence.

In short, this is a great tool for a first-time driver in Italy or for someone who wants to check out some of the backroads of the Italian countryside. Do you know any other great driving tools or routes for Italy? If so, please let us know!

Photo from Fodors.com