When one hears of the famous Amalfi Coast, the towns of Amalfi, Positano, and Sorrento pop into his/her head. And yes, all three are undeniably beautiful, but they’re also touristy and extremely crowded in the summer. For a real taste of la dolce vita, skip the big tourist attractions in favor of the region’s smaller, hidden gems.
Conca dei Marini
The tiny, quaint fishing village of Conca dei Marini is often overlooked by tourists en route to the larger and more famous Amalfi Coast towns of Amalfi and Positano (the village is nestled between the two). Unlike the other towns, Conca dei Marini doesn’t feel like a tourist destination at all. The village is a cluster of old, cream-colored houses tucked at the base of a cliff, curling down toward a small bay that flows out into the Tyrrhenian Sea. There are a handful of excellent mom-and-pop restaurants (Risorgimento does a great seafood risotto), a small church, a 16th-century watchtower, and a quiet, tourist-free beach.
Don’t miss: Grotta dello Smeraldo, a spectacular 100-foot-tall sea cave carved into the cliffs by the shore, named after the water’s unearthly shade of emerald green.
Monastero Santa Rosa
Perched on the hills high above Conca dei Marini, you’ll find the jewel that is Monastero Santa Rosa, a 17th-century convent-turned-luxury hotel. Only four years old and with just 20 rooms, it doesn’t have the renown of Ravello’s Hotel Caruso or Positano’s beloved La Sirense—yet. But what it does have is an intimate charm you won’t find at any other hotel on the Amalfi Coast: the chiming of the monastery bell at your arrival, home-cooked meals made with garden-fresh tomatoes and artichokes, bowls overflowing with Amalfi lemons in every room, and staff that make you feel like family. The icing on the cake? An infinity pool, perched at the edge of a cliff, that boasts the best views on the coast.
Don’t miss: Al fresco dining at the hotel restaurant, Il Reffetorio. Chef Christoph Bob uses only organic, local ingredients—sourced mainly from the hotel’s own herb and vegetable garden—in his Mediterranean-style dishes.
Like any tourist destination, the Amalfi Coast abounds with overpriced, mediocre restaurants that cater specifically to outsiders. Skip the English menus and head straight for Da Adolfo, a casual trattoria on Laurito beach, a 10-minute boat ride from Positano. It would be generous to call the 40-year-old eatery shabby-chic—think barefoot waiters, sand-between-your-toes dining, paper tablecloths, and chalkboard menus. But the food sings of Amalfi flavors: grilled mozzarella on lemon leaves, spaghetti with fresh octopus and zucchini, anchovies tossed in green peppers, and mussels in a tangy tomato sauce. Washed down with a carafe of chilled white wine, one meal will make up for every overpriced, inauthentic restaurant you’ve ever visited.
Don’t miss: A breezy, post-lunch snooze on the lettino, or beach bed, provided by the restaurant.
Like Conca dei Marini, Praiano is a tiny but beautiful fishing village overlooked by tourists. In contrast to Conca dei Marini’s fairly uniform, cream-colored cityscape, Praiano boasts pretty pastel cottages, colorful mazes, and majolica-tiled votive shrines, constructed by local families to protect their houses. The town is known for its steps—there are steep stairways all across Praiano, which lead down to peaceful Vettica beach, 300 feet below the town’s center, and all the way up to Piazza San Gennaro, where you can enjoy a sweeping view of the Amalfi Coast and Capri. But what you’re really here for are the sunsets—they are, according to locals, the best on the Amalfi Coast thanks to the town’s optimal west-facing position.
Don’t miss: La Cala Gavitella, the only beach on the Amalfi Coast that stays unshaded until sunset.
Cantine Marisa Cuomo
With Italy’s abundance of world-class wine regions, it’s no surprise that Amalfi’s small stretch of coastal vineyards flies totally under the radar. But that’s slowly changing, thanks to Cantine Marisa Cuomo, a winery in the cliffs of Furore—a town tucked between Praiano and Conca dei Marini—that makes wines as beautiful as the landscape itself. Here you’ll find crisp, fruity whites made from little-known native grapes like Fenile, Ginestra, and Ripoli, and vibrant, sun-kissed reds made using the local Per ‘e Palummo grape. Wine aside, the estate is worth a visit for the views alone—25 acres of lush, terraced vineyards overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. Bellissima.
Don’t miss: The award-winning Furore Bianco Fiorduva, a zesty, almost tropical white wine made from Fenile, Ginestra, and Ripoli grapes.