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Amalfi Coast / Capri cheatsheet

Sweet the memory is to me | Of the land beyond the sea, | Where the waves and mountains meet; | Where amid her mulberry-trees | Sits Amalfi in the heat.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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View from the top. Photo: Pavia Rosati


First things first: Italians pronounce it correctly as "CAH-pree;" Americans get it wrong as "cah-PREE." The small island is divided in two parts: touristy Capri and less touristy Anacapri. Travelers arrive by boat, usually from Naples, at Marina Grande. From here, you can take a taxi or a funicular into Capri town, the center of the action. The Amalfi coast on the mainland stretches from Sorrento down to Salerno. The Sorrentine peninsula and Positano are on the north end; Amalfi and Ravello to the south.


It's a journey to get to Capri. Flights connect to Naples (Rome, Milan, and Frankfurt are the easiest connections), then it's a quick taxi to the ferry terminal in Naples. Once you've arrived at Marina Grande on Capri, convertible taxis whisk travelers everywhere, and a funicular goes up to Capri town. Ferries connect several times per day to other seaside ports of call, Sorrento (for access to the Sorrentine peninsula and Positano) and Amalfi (for Amalfi and Ravello). Private boat companies abound, too.


Capri is a small island, though twisty roads can make short distances longer. That said, you're never far from where you want to be. Transportation options are efficient and ready to handle crowds, from convertible taxis to public buses to ferries to funiculars. Driving on the Amalfi coast doesn't deserve its bad reputation. The roads can be narrow and the cliffs can be steep, but if you like to drive, it's gorgeous. Word to the wise: Sometimes a boat is the shortest way to get where you want to go.


This part of Italy gets so crowded that it's best avoided in August, when Italians take vacation. The loveliest months are September and June — the the water is warm enough to swim but the hordes have not yet descended. Be careful about planning trips in the off-season: Many hotels and restaurants, even those that are world-famous, close from christmas until easter.


ATMs ("bancomat") are easy to find and everyone accepts credit cards. Businesses are used to travelers, and servers expect tips, usually around ten percent at restaurants.


Come hungry: The combination of seaside air, mountainous terrain, and volcanic ash in the soil produces great stuff. Tomatoes, lemons, and eggplant are the fruit of the vine; the surrounding waters provide abundant fish (orata, branzino) and seafood (sea urchin, clams, mussels). Neapolitans are known for their sweet tooth, so don't skip gelato or pastry. And spend time getting to know the local wines, especially white varietals like Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo, and Falanghina.


Pack your preppy, beachy best: crisp linen pants and tops, shirt-dresses, oversized sunglasses, wildly patterned scarves, embellished swimming trunks, miniscule bikinis, lots of jewelry. People like to show off on Capri, and it's a look that works here.


Leave room in your suitcase for gold jewelry, a ceramic plate, a white linen shirt, anything coral, a bottle of limoncello, pasta made with Gragnano wheat, and red pepper flakes. The kitschy souvenir to get is a horn, the Neapolitan good luck charm.


, Axel Munthe's popular and beloved account of how he and his sons spent summers transforming a Roman ruin into Villa San Michele, is the ultimate story of Capri and its kooky characters.


Leave your agenda at home: The best thing to do in Capri and on the Amalfi coast is as little as possible. Find a good perch, a favorite restaurant, a in the sun, a scenic walk — then order an aperitivo. People come (and come back) for big meals with friends, naps in the sunshine, and one too many bottles of wine.

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