On the Amalfi Coast route: the devilish road of the gods


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Italy is full of impressive roads that unfold between wonderful landscapes, full of myths and history, but perhaps the most spectacular is the one that runs along the Amalfi Coast, from the south of Naples to Vietri Sul Mare, to the southwest of the Italian peninsula, on the blue Tyrrhenian Sea, between the gulfs of Naples and Salerno and overlooking the island of Capri.

In 1997 Unesco declared the World Heritage Amalfi Coast . Does anyone give more? The villages in this area hang on the slopes of the Lattari Mountains, which fall to the sea peak and mark the orography of these localities.

Over the centuries, its inhabitants have managed to adapt to this rugged terrain by building terraces to grow vineyards and fruit trees, like lemon trees with whose fruits the famous limoncello is made, typical of the region.

Until the 19th century the only way to access them was by boat to Amalfi. Then, to get for example to Ravello, more inland, you had to make the route on foot or by donkey.

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Amalfi: one of the most beautiful coasts in the world © Getty Images


Between 1832 and 1850 a first road was built bordering the coast that in 1953 became the SS 163 or the Amalfi Strada.

They are just over 60 kilometers of a winding road, with only two senses and quite narrow stretches that zigzags along the slopes of the mountains.

The area of ​​the Amalfi Coast is formed by 16 communi (town halls) from Positano, 13 of them directly on the SS 163 looking at the Gulf of Salerno.

Locals call this route Sendiero degli Dei (Way of the Gods), as a 7km hilly path between Positano and Nocelle is also known, with spectacular views of the coast, or Nastro Azzurro (blue ribbon), name he used a popular beer, known worldwide because it sponsored at one time Valentino Rossi, the MotoGP rider and Italian national hero.

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The colorful facades of Positano turned to the sea © Getty Images


The road, drawn between the steep mountains by the land side and cliffs cut to the sea, is winding, with steep curves that offer a spectacular view at every turn, which has led to define it as one of the coastal roads Prettiest in the world.

Keep in mind that traffic is hell almost all year, but even more so in the summer months. It is very easy to cross buses, trucks, motorcycles and cars that locals, used to the route, drive as if they were on a highway. To this is added that between September and May we can find works that retain traffic.

A road not suitable for newbies, but exciting for lovers of the wheel. Those who suffer from vertigo are better to do it from south to north, to move along the lane attached to the mountain, because not in all the sections there are quitamiedos.

In any case the best time to trace the curves of this road by car is spring and autumn. We will find less traffic, easier parking and prices will be more reasonable, because it is one of the most famous and expensive tourist destinations in the world. For the hottest months the motorcycle is a better alternative.

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One of the most beautiful roads in the world but also one of the most dangerous and turned roads © Getty Images


Our route goes from north to south and part of Sorrento, the last point on the Gulf of Naples, where we have a spectacular view of Vesuvius, the still active volcano that buried neighboring Pompeii in 79.

Entering the Gulf of Salerno, we arrive at Positano, one of the most emblematic towns, built to peak over the sea, where you have to leave the car and pull in a good way to go up and down the stairs that run through the town center and lead to the beach and the Fiordo di Furore, a small beach between mountains 30 meters high.

This Italian town owes its international fame, especially to the US Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, who lived here for a while and wrote about it.

From its viewpoints you can see the small islands Li Galli, where mythology locates the island of the sirens of which Ulysses spoke. The only one of the three inhabited belonged to Rudolf Nureyev, who lived in a villa designed by Le Corbusier.

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Positano, one of the most emblematic (and steep) locations of the Amalfi Coast © Getty Images


Further on, Praiano is a small less touristy seaside town but from where you can see spectacular sunsets with Capri in front.

A few more than 10 km later, before reaching Amalfi, we stop at Conca dei Marini to visit the Grotta dello Smeraldo (similar to the famous Grotta Azzurra de Capri), a cave bathed in emerald light that was discovered in 1932.

Amalfi, the white city off the mountain that gives its name to the coast, was a rich independent republic in the Middle Ages thanks to its trade with the East, which can be seen in its streets and in the spectacular cathedral, the Duomo di Sant ' Andrea

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Ravello, a balcony 350 meters above the sea © Getty Images

But the best are the fish they serve in the trattorias, foods that inevitably culminate with a limoncello. From Amalfi it is essential to deviate from the main road and climb up to Ravello on the SS 373, about 6.7 km. This small town is a balcony 350 meters above the sea, with unique and impressive views that makes you feel like you are flying.

The stay of the German composer Richard Wagner, around 1880, as said in Villa Rufolo, inspired his opera Parsifal. Every year this visit is remembered with a music festival between June and September.

It is also essential to visit Villa Cimbrone, a luxury hotel that has its origin in a villa from the beginning of the 11th century, with one of the most spectacular gardens in Italy, which can be visited even if you do not stay at the hotel, where you did sleep from Greta Garbo to Richard Gere.

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One of the gardens of the Villa Cimbrone hotel, through which they passed from Greta Garbo to Richard Gere © Getty Images


The relations of this region with world literature are very close. Already in the fourteenth century it was one of the favorite places of Giovanni Boccaccio, author of the Decameron, DH Lawrence found here the inspiration for Lady Chatterly's lover (1928) and at the Amalfi Moon Hotel, built on a convent founded by San Francisco of Assisi in 1222, the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen wrote Dollhouse (1879), specifically in room 5, where he stayed.

But it was in the twentieth century when the literary boom occurred, especially after World War II, when the place became well known in the United States. Living then in this part of the world was very cheap and attracted many writers who continued to leave their mark on their works, the landscape and the hotels and villas in the area.

In this area lived and wrote Truman Capote, the French Nobel Prize winner André Gide or Patricia Highsmith who with the cinematographic rights of Strangers on a train spent a season on the Amalfi Coast that inspired him The talent of Mr. Riple (1955).

Tennesse Williams and John Steinbeck, who with an article about the town, published in 1953 in Harper's Bazaar, shot their international fame, stayed at the Le Sirenuse hotel in Positano.

Gore Vidal, who had traveled the coast in 1948, bought a villa in Ravello, La Rondinaia, in 1972, through which John Huston, Orson Welles, Lauren Bacall, Jackie Kennedy and all the influencers of the time passed .

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Amalfi: a road trip you'll never forget © Getty Images

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The impressive mountains of Furore © Getty Images