The Amalfi Coast, Italy
Just to the south of Naples, this postcard-perfect promontory attracts landscape-hungry artists, glamour-hungry film stars and spaghetti-hungry gourmets from around the world. The serpentine coast road weaves around and tunnels through the mountains, never losing sight of the sea. It’s a route made for summer drives with the warm salty breeze in your hair, or for cliff-top hikes and hidden-beach picnics. Crumpled-wedding-cake towns spill down to the shore, where weathered fishing skiffs dock to unload the catch of the day, alongside summer sun-seekers sipping limoncello at the terraced bars of Positano or Praiano.
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When to go
The coast road can be crammed with coaches in the summertime, but the pay-off is the palpable buzz in the air during this time of year. March–May and September–October are quieter periods, and often the weather is still good. Winter can be romantic, although some hotels are closed in the low season.
PlanesBritish Airways, BMI, EasyJet and Alitalia all fly into Naples airport.
BoatsIn high season, you can catch one of the regular hydrofoils to Positano from Naples in high season. There are two harbours: Beverello harbour, just steps away from Piazza Municipio, or Mergellina harbour, 300 metres from the railway station of the same name. A travel tip: if you're lugging large cases you'll need to buy a ticket for each piece of baggage beforehand and present it when you board. See www.metrodelmare.com for more info.
TrainsA wide range of rail links lead from Naples to an assortment of destinations in Italy, including useful Amalfi Coast gateways such as Salerno and Sorrento.
AutomobilesCar rental is a sensible option for travelling from Naples to the Amalfi Coast and exploring the coastline's winding roads. Avis has a branch at the airport (www.avis.com). Praiano is a two-hour drive away.
TaxisHotels can organise a road or boat taxi for you depending on your destination. For the return journey, either go down to the village dock, where there's usually a boat taxi stand awaiting your custom, or call the hotel to arrange a return by road. In Positano, the road taxi rank is at the top of the village, the boat taxi down at the right hand side of the dock. Boat taxi's aren't an option in inland Ravello – the road taxi rank is right in the centre.
Perched on the sublime clifftops of Sorrento, and built on the ruins of a Roman villa, Bellevue Syrene is a baroque, candy-coloured confection of a hotel, with knockout views of Vesuvius and the sun-sparkled Bay of Naples. The sexiest spot in the hotel has to be the Roccia Suite, an undergound seduction chamber with rough rocky walls, atmospheric arches, beautiful parquet and a billowy-draped four-poster set beside a private hydrotherapy pool. Prepare to have you socks knocked off…
Like a side of history with your summer sunshine? Italy's portions are generous. Get an education in Renaissance art by strolling round Florence's glorious galleries, then skip forward a few centuries at fashionable Fifties-fitted retreat, Portrait Firenze. Gaze at the Colosseum over red snapper steak at Hotel Palazzo's rooftop restaurant. Explore the recently restored Villa dei Misteri and the rest of Pompeii's ruins from an Amalfi Coast base like the artsy Capo la Gala. And if you're all Roman-ed out, southern Spain's colourful past has left a trove of treasures to explore. Staying in an 18th-century marble-columned palace like Seville's Palacio de Villapanés should get you in the mood.
Your own convertible, an ocean-side highway and some unironic blasting of The Beach Boys – a California road trip is driving as it's meant to be. Farmhouse Inn, a romantic ranch in wine country, is a great starting point for your adventure, once you've sampled the Michelin-starred food and some local blends (and slept it off, of course). Make a stop at Big Sur for some intimate isolation and dramatic Pacific views at Post Ranch Inn. Alternatively, follow in the tyreprints of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon and take your own feast-fuelled trip around Tuscany (Michael Caine impressions optional). Or, hire a car in Naples, and put Monastero Santa Rosa's address into the sat nav – you'll follow the jaw-dropping Amalfi coastline before tackling a death-defying uphill road to the hotel.