The sheer beauty around every corner of the Amalfi coast almost renders the idea of 'recommendations' null and void. It is impossible not to stumble upon a beautiful church, view or meal at every turn - such is the relentless charm of this Italian destination.
Nevertheless, I will try to compile what I reckon would make the perfect ten day holiday on the coast.
Rent a car. It really is the only way to do it. When I look back, it's the coastal drives (stomach-flipping as they are) that stand out from the trip - spaghetti roads winding around lemon groves, colourful villages clinging to the cliffs looking out over the Byzantine blue Mediterranean sea.
Heaven on earth - but your nerves would be shattered doing it on a bus.
Day 1 - 3
I reckon you should get the touristy stuff out of the way first - because while it's worth doing, it's not a highlight. So get your Pompeiis and your Herculaneums out of the way in the first three days. Castellamare di Stabia in Naples is a 25 minute drive from Pompeii, and the perfect place to kick off your trip.
Where To Stay:
This seafront hotel is in an excellent location - with the main attraction being the expansive, stylish outdoor terrace where you can enjoy dinner, drinks and incredible sea views while watching the sunset. The view from the swimming pool is also breath-taking.
Where To Eat
Blu Stone Restaurant - Castellamare
Set on the cliffside in the gulf of Naples, this is the best of Amalfi Coast's gourmet cuisine with amazing views of Vesuvius.
The service is impeccable and presentation high-end. It's reasonably priced and there's gluten-free options.
Mercato Pompeiano - Pompeii Modern Town
This was a really nice surprise for us - the nicest meal we had on the trip in gorgeously cosy surroundings. We were seated upstairs in the dimly lit vault-style restaurant. The steak is measured by weight, and the pasta dishes were second to none. A really great wine list was the cherry on top.
Order the meatballs!!!
Sorbillo, Centro Storico in Naples
They say Naples is home to the best pizza in the world, and Sorbillo serves up the best pizza in Naples, so...
If you want to try what is very possibly the best pizza in the universe - make sure you don't show up during Siesta (1:30 - 4pm). This happened to us - so the closest I got to the best pizza in the world was my nose against the window.
What to Do
I love history - and I found Pompeii to be... fine. I recommend you don't start at the Anfiteatro entrance, as it's the best part and the rest will be a disappointment afterwards. Work up to it.
We all know that the good stuff was moved away to museums which takes the sparkle out of the experience. It's worth doing - but don't pay extortionate prices for a tour guide. I eavesdropped on one tour and there was nothing said that I couldn't have found on Wikipedia.
A shuttle bus will take you from Pompeii as far as you can drive on the volcano. After that it's a thirty minute hike to the top. It's taxing - and worth noting that my mother, a fairly fit sixty-year-old, couldn't walk for two days after summiting.
Your reward is the best view on the Amalfi coast (although we found it surprisingly difficult to pick out Pompeii). Breathing vents at the summit remind you that Vesuvius is a sleeping dragon. Chilling and very cool.
If you must choose between Pompeii and Herculaneum - go with the latter. Ancient billboard ads and frightened-looking skeletons give it the edge. Even furniture and clothing were preserved here thanks to a sea of thick mud that fossilised the village. It's also much easier to navigate than Pompeii.
Day 4 - 6
After driving the length and breadth of the coast, we decided to pitch our tent in Amalfi itself for a few days. The main square at the foot of the Piazza Duomo is a great centre point from which to wander and explore. It's also a short drive from the gorgeous little village of Ravello.
Where To Stay
This hotel in the heart of Amalfi is reasonably priced, with sea views on one side and views of the square on the other - perfect for people watching.
High roofs and huge windows create a feeling of resplendence, and it's just steps away from the beach.
This is a real splurge and is one of the most luxurious hotels on the coast. It's *pricey* - like, eye-wateringly so - but if you want to treat yourself for one night, this is the place.
Guests can access a private beach club (or the centre of Amalfi) by elevator or stairs from the hotel, and the rooms are the stuff of dreams.
Where To Eat
Ristorante La Caravello, Amalfi
Another Michelin-starred spot - it has remained completely unaffected without a trace of stuffiness. A hedonistic haunt that once welcomed Andy Warhol himself - this place doubles up as an art gallery and serves up a seven course tasting menu that is to die for.
Blu Sirena, Amalfi
And now for something completely different... this open-fronted lounge is a really touristy spot that serves up delicious cocktails and filthy sandwiches.
The Wurstel sandwich is a must-order - Wurstel sausage, chips and stringy cheese stuffed into a hunk of crusty white baguette.
What to Do
This charming little village is just a twenty minute drive from Amalfi and was Jackie Kennedy's choice for her 1962 Italian holiday.
Villa Rufolo is at the centre of the village overlooking Piazza Vescovado, and guided tours of both the gardens and the tower-museum are available (and well worthwhile).
I highly recommend you take two days to do nothing but lie on the beach, swim, and sip cocktails in the many beach bars of Amalfi at this point.
It was by far our favourite beach - beach chairs are just €5 for the day, and the view of Amalfi when you swim out and look back in was a highlight for us.
There's a little bookshop, Edicole, that has a really good selection of English books right by the beach at the mouth of the square.
Day 7 - 10
Finish off your trip in Sorrento - a beautiful town with incredible sea views and great access to Positano and Capri.
Where To Stay
Il Roseto Bed and Breakfast, Sorrento
This quaint B&B has deceptively large rooms, a great pool with a pool bar, and is a 30-minute stroll from the centre of the town.
Our highlight was a generous continental breakfast, served in the lemon-tree garden.
Hotel Bristol, Sorrento
Hotel Bristol is perched on the clifftop overlooking the picturesque Marina Grande. The rooms offer incredible panoramic views and the rooftop pool even has areas of SHADE.
What To Eat
La Sponda - Positano
This Michelin-starred restaurant needs to be booked months in advance. The light, simple Neapolitan cuisine is illuminated by 400 candles lit each night. Again, this is pricey (€300 + for two people with wine and dessert), but if we're blue-sky dreaming, this is where you should eat when you visit Positano.
Everyone talks about Bagni Delfino, but we weren't actually pushed on the menu - so we popped next door to Taverna Azzura. The same amazing views of Vesuvius, the gorgeous village climbing the hill and the twinkling lights across the bay, the menu has a good selection of Italian classics that we were craving. Penne Salmon and Spaghetti Bolognese hit the spot.
This is a great spot for a large pasta dish at lunch and some people watching in the heart of Sorrento. The portions are giant.
What to Do
This may be controversial - but we were not bowled over by Positano. Hundreds of steps lead down to the beach, but you never quite feel like you've arrived in Positano. It's missing a "heart", like the Piazza Duomo in Amalfi, but it's a really lovely day out with great gift-shops and dinner options .
Boat to Capri and Blue Grotto Day Trip
You can also get boats to Capri from Amalfi, but it's easier accessed from Sorrento.
The Blue Grotto Day Trip is pure magic. The Blue Grotto cave does close depending on the weather - but is an unforgettable experience if you're lucky enough to make a stop here.
Some highlights on the island (accessed by minibus or cable car), include the Anacapri village, the Piazzetta in the centre of Capri, and the Augustus Gardens.
A fantastic way to round out your Amalfi experience.