I will always recall the first time I set foot in Positano. Like you, I had read the blogs (or travel articles, as they were so quaintly called in the distant past!), I had looked at many photographs in printed guides and brochures …. But, truly, nothing really prepared me for the dazzling reality that is this picturesque destination town on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
My trip to Positano followed the general route – a flight into Rome followed by a leisurely rambling drive along the Italian coast, stopping at Naples and Sorrento and eventually arriving at my villa haven perched above Positano. The sun was setting over the Tyrrhenian Sea, the pretty houses and villas of the town were bathed in a golden light and the bougainvillaea hung over terraces like exotic jewels. I had found paradise.
I’ve returned many times to this remarkable town and the ‘love at first sight’ feeling that wooed me all those years ago has only deepened with the years. Regardless of my plans as I book an amazing Italian villa which is usually to decompress, read a stack of books and simply potter by a pool, I am invariably drawn to explore the diverse activities that are within reach of my doorstep. Here are some of my very favourite…
Things To Do In Positano
1. Visit Pompeii and Herculaneum
You might not consider yourself to be much of a history buff. In fact, the idea of antiquities might leave you a bit bored but let me assure you whether you know a Doric column from a marble fresco, a tour of Pompeii and the lesser-known Herculaneum will ignite the spirit of Indiana Jones or Lara Croft within the most jaded heart.
When Mount Vesuvius blew her top in 79AD, she poured a 4-meter veil of ash, mud and lava over the city of Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum.
These UNESCO protected sites, discovered in 1748 and 1738 respectively, offer visitors an opportunity to wander down ancient Roman streets, walk around buildings like the Central Thermae – public bathhouses segregated for use by men and women – snoop into private villas and admire multi-coloured marble work and surviving frescos.
There are so many architectural features and remnants of lives that were extinguished so suddenly almost 2000 years ago. Many skeletons have been discovered during the excavations and exact replicas of these, cast in plaster, are left in exactly the places from which they were lifted.
This really raises the experience from a purely historic tour and makes it feel very human and moving. Both sites are still being excavated and it’s an extraordinary experience to witness the layers being peeled back to allow us to glimpse into a vanished world.
Wear closed in footwear so you can traverse the stony and sometimes uneven surfaces.
A hat is a must as you will be out and about under the elements.
Take water, of course.
There is so much to see at both sites, you could easily dedicate an entire day to this expedition. A very interesting add-on for the sure-footed visitor is to climb Vesuvius herself. The hike to the top isn’t too challenging for the able-bodied and the views from the summit wonderful. From the edge of the crater, the entire Bay of Naples will be laid at your feet.
2. Take a Ferry to Capri
Now that you’ve filled your brain with ancient wonders, it might be time to get out on the water and make the short voyage to what is a must-do in Positano.
Capri! This 10 sq kilometre island is a mere 30 minutes by high-speed ferry from Positano pier. The general rule is that you travel out in the morning early, returning on the last ferry at about 4 pm. Do check with local timetables and it’s well worthwhile getting to the pier at least 30 minutes prior to departure to avoid queues.
The fast ferry is a refreshing way to get to Capri and gives you ample opportunity to take spectacular photographs of Positano as it fades into the horizon and of Capri as she unfurls her beauty as you draw nearer.
For the ambitious, why not reserve a scooter that will be ready for you when you disembark. A fun way to explore the island’s many wonders. Again, there is a wealth of ancient sites and interesting ruins to visit but I think it’s mother nature who has provided the best in the way of natural wonders.
About Mairead Moriarty
Born and raised in Co Kerry, lived in London, New York, San Francisco, Dublin. Owner of one very battered suitcase, a well-worn passport and a million memories.
It seems very fitting for a travel writer that my surname translates as ‘Skilled Navigator’. Apart from an occasion when, aged 3, I got lost in a Supermarket in Tralee, I have managed to live up to my name! Curiosity is probably the driver that has sent me on magical mystery tours around the world. I want to ‘feel’ a place. I want all my senses to be engaged: from the history and geography that has influenced a country or city, the arts and achievements of its natives, anything and everything really. Regardless of whether I am on a local train travelling through Morocco, or poking around in Marconi’s study in Bologna or on a canal boat weaving through the heart of the English countryside, the same rules apply - ask questions, talk to locals, eat what they eat, sit quietly with nature and simply be. Assimilate as much as is possible so as to understand the soul of a place. That is my passion. That is the compass by which I navigate.