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There’s possibly nowhere that does beach time quite like Positano, Italy. Visiting Italy in the summer without going to the beaches is missing out on the idyllic culture that is summer in Italy. But beach time is just one of the things on our list of what to do in Positano.
There are countless choices for beach experiences when you travel to Italy: locals-only locations like Forte Dei Marmi, international jet-setter scenes like Sardegna’s Costa Smeralda, scenic places like Taormina, and romantic spots like Portofino. But for old-school Italian glam (Loren, Taylor), it’s all about Positano.
Why Visit Positano, Italy?
When I lived in Italy, I’d spend every free summer weekend seaside, but it would often just be a quick jaunt to the nearest beach. Classic places like the Amalfi Coast towns are reserved for more extensive vacations (like in August when most Italians take holiday), even for Italians.
Positano is a place whose mere mention gets people all wanderlusty as they picture the turquoise water, the cliffside town, the umbrella-clad beach, and some of the most postcard-perfect views anywhere. And the history—a laid back southern Italian fishing town frequented by A-listers of days past—makes it that much more glam.
Positano has a reputation that very much proceeds it, and the expectations get set seriously high. Despite many tourists (many Americans on cruise ships) during the high season (i.e., the summer months), it doesn’t disappoint especially when you consider that the options of what to do in Positano are many.
Stay At A Splurge-Worthy Positano Hotel
Positano is not the place to look for a hotel deal. Sure, you can find something affordable at the right time of year, but it’s worth saving up to go all out and enjoy the legendary hotels along this stretch of Italian coast. Visitors have different priorities, from all-out relaxation to exploring Positano attractions so, of course, you’ll want your lodging to meet your needs.
On a recent trip to Positano, we splurged as in rented a storied villa—Torre Di Clavel—where Picasso and Depero (aka the artist who designed the original Campari label) used to hang. I could go on and on about Torre Di Clavel—how it is the only watch guard tower on the Amalfi Coast with geometric architecture, thanks to the Egyptologist-owner; how there are secret passageways and underwater caves; or how chef Nicola and I would cook together daily, be it a cinnamon ciambelle or eggplant parmigiana.
But, even if you don’t stay in a villa, the hotel options are just as jaw-dropping. Le Sirenuse is a luxury boutique hotel, just small enough to feel intimate but large enough to have everything you need. On the other side of town is Villa Franca, a boutique hotel with a pool with one of the city’s best views.
For an intimate teacup-sized boutique property that’s historic and gorgeous, head just a few minutes out of town to Villa Tre Ville. But the most renowned hotel in the area has to be the San Pietro, with its cliffside elevator and private beach.
What To Do In Positano: More Than Ten Ideas
Whether you have a few hours or ten days, here are tips for how to enjoy Positano and the Amalfi Coast:
Explore Positano Town
When looking for what to do in Positano, you must know that the town is very much Italian. Okay, yes, it’s shoulder-to-shoulder with tour groups during the day, but the locals are there, too, and they’re super friendly.
Wake up at sunrise to see the local fishermen come into the dock with their catch; sidle up to the beachside cafes for a midday coffee; stroll the town at sunset to see the older generation arm-in-arm as they do the passeggiata; and make sure to look out for all the photo ops (which, by the way, is pretty much around every corner).
Go For A Hike
Schedule a morning walk sometime during your stay; the summer gets humid and hot, so you’ll want to do any serious walking before 11 AM, or you’ll be miserable.
If you’re motivated, look into the many hiking trails in the area. The most legendary hike is the Sentiero degli Dei or Path Of The Gods, which starts in Nocelle and seemingly goes forever along the coastline. (Our travel clients love meeting our local expert, who mixes hiking with farm visits.) Otherwise, just walking the town of Positano and navigating its many stairs and winding streets is rewarding.
Shop Positano Town
The town is known for having some of the best shopping on the Amalfi Coast, so add it to your list of what to do in Positano. Seek out locally-crafted wares like ceramics, linen, and leather sandals. Skip the touristy shops with tchotchkes and head to local boutiques like Safari for handmade sandals, La Bottega di Brunella for luxe linen, and Emporio Sirenuse for chic resort wear.
Get Active On The Water
This is a must when trying to figure out what to do in Positano! Positano’s main beach has a lively scene, but to get a feel for the local scene, you’ll want to head out on the water (where you’ll get spectacular views back on the town, by the way).
Start your day with some exercise—a sea kayak or stand-up paddleboard down the coast are perfect ways to explore the various coves, caves, and beaches. And, FYI, you can rent anything from stand-up boards to kayaks at Pupetto Café on Fornillo Beach.
Spend A Day At The Beach Clubs
When considering what to do in Positano, be sure to clock in plenty of beach time. The various beach coves up and down the coast are one of the major gems of Positano, so be sure to explore them. Some are little beach inlets where you can paddle up for a private swim, while others have full-on grottos and sea caves.
If you’re like me, you’ll want a purpose to your paddling, so head south to the cove that houses the Bagni Arienzo beach club. This quiet cove is the perfect place to sunbathe or grab a Spritz.
Another must-visit cove is the one with arguably the best lunch spot around, Da Adolfo. Take a shuttle from the main beach and plan to spend the afternoon. Da Adolfo is where you eat whatever is freshest, so trust in the waiter’s recommendations (the swordfish pasta, grilled anchovies, and lemon leaf mozzarella were all excellent).
Get A Boat For The Day
Positano is an incredible destination in and of itself. But, if you’re staying in Positano for a few days, plan on doing boat tours for one or multiple days. You can charter a boat at Lucibello (we highly recommend them), and they’ll take you wherever you want, be it as far south as Salerno or to swim in a sea cave along the coast.
Just wandering around in the boat for the day would be fun enough, but try to do got up the coast and do lunch in Nerano at Lo Scoglio. It’s a family-run joint on a deck halfway between Positano and Sorrento, and the food never disappoints.
Day Trip To The Island Of Capri
You could do Capri in a lot of different ways. You could go and hang with all the cruise ship tours and be miserable. Or you could do it right.
And one place to do it right is the beach club La Fontelina (which is so picturesque Gray shot it on his last trip). I’ve been daydreaming about hanging it since I was last there—that’s how much I like this beach club nestled in the rocks. Yes, it’s not cheap. And, yes, you need a reservation a thousand years in advance, but the atmosphere, the view, and the whole experience is worth it.
But, even more, important is that you head to Anacapri and go to La Gelsomina for a meal. I didn’t get there this trip but sent my family, and they have not stopped talking about the pasta and the service.
Day Trip To Ravello
Another of my favorite day trips from Positano is heading south to Amalfi and Ravello. There is a direct (20-minute) ferry to Amafi from Positano, then a 15-minute (though pricey) cab up the hill to Ravello. I’m partial to the historic hillside town of Ravello, where there is seemingly always an art or music event.
I think some of the best views on the Amalfi Coast are at the Hotel Caruso, where you can have a cliffside lunch or wander their gorgeous gardens. Also, check out Villa Rufolo for live music, the grounds at Villa Cimbrone for incredible views, or head to Mamma Agata for cooking classes.
Day Trip To Naples And Pompeii
If you’re in the area for more than a couple of days, plan to get a driver or hop on a ferry to explore the city of Naples. While Positano is seaside relaxation, visitors head to Naples for street food and the legendary history. You can simultaneously plan a visit to Pompeii (though it would be a very long day) or make another day trip to tour Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius.
Eat The Local Dishes (And Drink The Local Wine)
I wouldn’t say I like to play favorites, but I have to call a spade a spade and admit that the Campania region has some of the best food in Italy. And, many of the classic dishes from here that use tons of tomatoes and eggplant—Caprese Salad, Pasta Alla Checca, Eggplant Parm, and Margherita Pizza—the food is especially on point in the summertime.
The seafood is also exceptional here, so be sure to order local tuna, anchovies, and calamari when you see them on the menu. And the local wine goes great with the food—my favorites were the whites made with Aglianico or Falanghina varietals.
Especially The Pizza and Pastries
You’ll want to head to the homey La Zagara for some of Positano’s best pastries, pizza, and coffee. Grab a few slices of their pizza (especially the zucchini with ricotta and the spicy salami), stop by the adjacent deli for some wine and a salad, and make a leisurely picnic lunch down by the water.
And Seek Out The Seafood
The seafood up and down the coast is some of the best you’ll get in Italy, but in Positano, some of the best we had were at Le Sirenuse (see below), Da Adolfo (see above), Bar Bruno, and Next 2.
It makes up for what Bar Bruno lacks in décor with its fresh seafood. The restaurant is more laid back than other places in town but still has good service and better food. Some of the bites I loved were the marinated seafood, the Sorrento-style gnocchi, and the Classic Caprese Salad.
While Bar Bruno is on the homey side of the Positano dining scene, Next two is on the chic side. The all-white restaurant has excellent service, a sophisticated scene that’s not too scene-y, and a creative menu that mixes regional specialties and twists on classics.
Have Sunset Drinks
Even if you don’t stay at the swanky hotels, head to a cocktail bar or two at those hotels. Any hotels I mentioned above are great options for aperitivo or sunset drinks, so you can’t go wrong.
But if I had to choose, I’d make a reservation at the Champagne & Oyster Bar at Le Sirenuse Hotel so you can sip on some bubbles and try seriously fresh local fish while the sun sets over the Mediterranean. Or, for a more intimate aperitivo, head to Villa Tre Ville—a teacup-sized boutique property that’s historic and gorgeous and the perfect place to watch the sunset.
Dive Into Positano Nightlife
Positano is more about long days and more extended dinners, but there is a teeny bit of a night scene. For drinks under the stars, head to Franco’s, where I had one of the best Gin & Tonics I’ve ever had in Italy. If you want more of a scene, head to Music On The Rocks—even if the music is cheesy, you’ll still be on the cliffs of Positano, so it can never be too bad!
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