Q&A: If It's Spring, It Must Be Naples and Amalfi

28 February 2010 - New York Times

My husband and I are planning a two-week trip to the Amalfi Coast of Italy in the spring. Can you recommend a town that would be a nice base from which we could see the area and take day trips to Capri and other scenic areas? We'd probably rent a car. We'd like to avoid the crowds of Positano and find a town with a small hotel that is friendly and charming.

-- Elayne Klasson, Los Gatos, Calif.

The beauty of the Amalfi Coast, on the Sorrento peninsula along the Tyrrhenian Sea, has been praised from antiquity to the present, by artists and tourists alike. The best way to reach this extraordinary landscape is to fly into Naples, which is also worth exploring. Check out Jill Santopietro's ''36 Hours in Naples, Italy'' (April 27, 2008) for information on sightseeing, for where to find the best Neapolitan pizza and on the preserved ancient Roman city of Pompeii, 45 minutes away by car or train. Then it's on to the coast. One option is to make Sorrento, about 30 miles southeast of Naples, your base -- it's an easy ferry and hydrofoil ride to Capri (above) and the Amalfi Coast (you can also get to the coastline by bus or car, but the sea voyage is more dramatic). Sorrento, with cobblestone streets and a seafront promenade, sits on a cliff, with gorgeous views of the Bay of Naples and, on clear days, Capri. (owned by The New York Times Company) offers a list of accommodations in Sorrento, including Maison La Minervetta (, a boutique hotel on a cliff with a panoramic view, and Hotel Mignon Mueblé (, a simple yet stylish hotel.

In two weeks, you could probably visit most of the dozen or so enchanting towns that are perched on cliffs overlooking shimmering blue-green water. Don't miss the impressive centuries-old Duomo and the beautiful cloister in the medieval town of Amalfi, or the gardens and villas in the mountain village of Ravello. And then, of course, there's the limoncello, the after-dinner drink native to the area.

Before you set off for the cliff-hugging Amalfi Drive with your rental car, you might want to read Jerry Garrett's article ''Old Amalfi, New Mouse'' (April 6, 2008), about his experience driving the new Fiat 500 on this stretch of winding ''stomach-churning'' road. But the view, he wrote, was worth it.