It feels like the end of the world. Some destinations are made greater by virtue of the journey to them; some stand on their own. The Amalfi Coast does both.
From Rome's crowded Termini station it is less than one and a half hours to gritty Naples via the ultra high-speed Frecciarossa. After arriving, an hour on the delightfully named Circumvesuviana will take you around the Bay of Naples, past ancient Pompey and Mount Vesuvius, and into Sorrento, where famous Capri lies just off the coast. From there, a bus around the backside of Sorrento's little peninsula delivers a cliff top throat-in-your chest drive to your destination.
Amalfi Tip 1: Travel light. Really light, if you're not renting a car. Positano is the most vertical town you'll ever visit. We stowed most of our gear in Rome and came with only a backpack each, and we were glad we did. Toting multiple heavy bags is a major undertaking here, and those we saw doing it had the only sad faces in the town.
And what a town it is. The Via Marconi splits off the main coast road and dives through a series of switchbacks from cliff top to shore before snaking back again to rejoin the road at the far side of the village. Scattered amid this is the town itself, pastel-hued and hugging the side of the mountain as it plunges into the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Rock, sky, sea, all combine for sensory overload as landscape completely overwhelms you. We've not seen all the beautiful places in the world by a long shot, but we've seen a few. Nothing else we've ever experienced produced the 'what I am seeing can't possibly real' sensation that remained until the moment we left.
Amalfi Tip 2: We agonized over which place to book for weeks, knowing that we were willing to pay a few euros extra to be sure we had a room with a view. We discovered that every room in Positano has a better view than pretty much any other room on earth and the differences are only a matter of degree. Generally, higher is better, but otherwise don't sweat it.
What should you do in Positano? Not much, hopefully. Stroll, wander, and just be, letting the explosive panorama soak in. You'll always be walking up or down, either along the slope of the road or on one of the innumerable sets of vertical steps. For the dedicated hiker there is the sentiero degli dei, or Footpath of Gods, north of the village which brings wild views even more spectacular than those in Positano itself. Keep an eye out for the ubiquitous lemon trees, and remind yourself that no trip to Amalfi is complete without sampling (and bringing back) some of the excellent limoncello.
In the other direction, take the 500 steps down to the little beach, Spiaggia Grande, which is the hub of Positano. From here, you can enjoy the scenery and grab a boat for a day trip to Capri, if so inclined. Look to your right into the sea and you will see the three Li Galli, islands traditionally identified as the home of the Sirens, strange creatures of Greek mythology whose beautiful singing lured sailors to their deaths on the rocks.
Amalfi Tip 3: From Spiaggia Grande, take the footpath to the left to the more secluded and laid back Fornillo beach.
Above the beach, consider a couple of keepsakes to bring home. Positano is famous for custom leather sandals, made to order on the spot. While you wait for them to be done, browse the galleries and see the multitude of attempts to capture the sublime beauty of this place. Always negotiate, and take your favorite back for an indelible memory.
Stop in at the Delikatessen Positano and get all you need for a picnic lunch. We lounged on our terrace enjoying a bottle of wine and a life-changing Caprese sandwich, feeling we'd never had a better meal. Linger over drinks in the garden at the Hotel Palazzo Murat, and try dinner at Lo Guarracino as night falls and the lights of the village sprinkle the cliffs.
Amalfi Tip 4: Travel during the shoulder season. We were there in September and were rewarded with lighter crowds, mild days, and perfect cool nights. When your stay is over, take the ferry around the peninsula to Sorrento (or all the way to Naples), vow to return as soon as you can, and do your best not to compare everything else you ever see to Amalfi.