The Picturesque and Popular Town of Positano is a Gateway to the Amalfi Coast:
Positano is one of the gateways to the Amalfi Coast region (Costiera Amalfitana), reputed to be one of the most scenic stretches of coastline in Italy. It also has a reputation as the playground of the rich and famous. With books, films and travel brochures painting an idyllic picture of the Amalfi Coast’s legendary landscape, sun-drenched beaches and la dolce vita, it’s no wonder that thousands of visitors flock to Positano and the Amalfi Coast each year. So when our tour of Italy allowed us a three-day stop in Sorrento we too were excited at the opportunity to visit Positano.
The Road to Positano
Our convoy of two mini-buses, left Sorrento in the morning to make the thirty-minute or so trip to Positano. Whether these vehicles have a maximum passenger capacity or not didn’t seem to register with the drivers, we were packed in like sardines. The winding coastal road clung to the cliff’s edge and the long and perilous drop of the cliff made many of the women rather nervous … and there were a few very nervous shrieks along the way. I stood on the right side of the bus, hoping to take snaps of the scenery along the way, but my plan was useless as the sun was facing in the wrong direction in the morning. Just before the descent into Positano town, we made a stop at a viewpoint so that people could enjoy the magnificent views and take snaps. Unfortunately, this side of the coast was in shadow, but it does give a mysterious look to the place.
If you’re driving, this lookout point is just to the right of the Positano road sign. The coastal road is rather narrow, with hardly room for cars to overtake so this lookout is the official stopping point for cars and vans.
Positano Upper Town
Our mini-bus deposited us at the top of Positano town and from there Via Cristoforo Colombo leads all the way down to the beachfront. If you have mobility problems, be aware that there are many steps to manoeuvre in Positano. The main section of Positano town is at mid-level of the hill and here you’ll find the many shops, art galleries, restaurants and cafes. The main street and the many alleyways that branch off it are covered by shades and vines providing welcome relief from the hot afternoon sun. When it gets too hot on the beach, this is where the majority of visitors retreat to, to enjoy lunch or some shopping. We were told that La Zagara has great cakes so that was where went to take shelter.
Picturesque, Romantic and Charming
Down at the beachfront there are more shops, restaurants and rent-a-boat businesses.
We walked to the eastern end of the beach where Le Terraze Restaurant is, and from here we took in the picture-postcard views of Positano. The many luxury villas and mansions built on the hill look like a pyramid of houses. Movie fans will recognize this particular spot of the beach in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. Positano was the home town of the handsome Marcello with whom Frances has a romantic encounter. With its magnificent scenery, Positano has been used as a location in a number of romantic movies.
Positano’s 300-metre long Spiaggia Grande is one of the largest of the Amalfi Coast beaches. The rows and rows of deck chairs and colourful beach umbrellas make for a graphic image. Judging by the number of beach furniture, it must get busy here. However, if this is where the fabulously rich and celebrities hang out, nobody stood out this afternoon.
The Changing Tides of Positano
Positano’s prosperity rose and fell like the coastal road that we travelled to get here. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Positano was a prosperous town when it was a port for the Amalfi Republic. With the advent of steamships, and with Positano not having a harbour, its fortunes declined and Positano was reduced to being a poor fishing village. The majority of the population emigrated, mostly to America. It was only when better roads were built and writers like John Steinbeck and painters like Picasso and Klee started to portray the beauty of the region that tourists started coming to Positano.
Today the Amalfi Coast is the playground for the rich and jet-setting crowd and tourism is the major industry in Positano. Although there are a few monuments in town, such as the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria, with its majolica tiled dome, most visitors come here to enjoy the sun, sea, food and the shopping.
From Positano you can also take boat trips to Amalfi, Capri, Salerno, Sorrento and Naples. The ferries leave from a landing at the western end of the beach and there are booths selling ferry tickets here. Having established that we could return to Sorrento easily by ferry, we ditched our mini-bus return trip and instead enjoyed a relaxing boat trip back.
Positano reminds us very much of the Cinque Terre and Vernazza where we stayed. Only Vernazza doesn’t have the glam reputation of Positano, but in a way we like it better for the intimacy of the place.
Hotels in Positano
Positano is a popular summer holiday destination and hotels are expensive during the peak holiday season, especially those offering million-dollar views. For the complete list of Positano hotels see Here.
How to Get to Positano
The most convenient transport means to Positano is by bus or ferry. See here for more information.