Hidden Paradise on the Amalfi Coast
Between the Gulf of Naples and the Gulf of Salerno exist approximately 25 miles of some of the most gorgeous coastline in Italy. This is Amalfi, famous for its glamorous hotels, historic fishing villages, high coastal mountains, and of course, its secluded pebble beaches and cave grottoes. Aside from the most popular inlets, coves, islets, there are secluded options far from the tourist trail due to their inaccessibility.
For the most intrepid travelers, however, all it takes is a little initiative and determination to carve out your slice of Mediterranean paradise. So pack some sandwiches, grab a bottle of limoncello, and hit the Amalfi Coast in search of the most secluded and romantic locales. And if you'd like to widen the scope of your Amalfi adventure, consider a five-day tour of both the coast and Naples.
Arc of Lovers/Runghetiello Grotto (Perfect for Honeymooners)
Just west of the town of Amalfi lies the secluded pebble beach of Santa Croce. Crescent-shaped and hemmed in by mountain cliffs, its stunning scenery, plus the fact it's relatively uncrowded, combine to make it one of the finest beaches in the region. Moreover, adventurous travelers with a thirst for romance can grab a paddle and kayak to the even more remote and secluded Runghetiello Grotto.
The kayak route embarks from Santa Croce and organized tours typically take about four hours. Along the way, you'll pass isolated beaches as well as some ancient watchtowers once used to defend the coast. You'll also pass under the Arch of Lovers, a famous rock arch with a bit of a romantic legend behind it: supposedly if you kiss your sweetheart while under it, you'll enjoy everlasting love.
Eventually, you'll arrive at the Runghetiello Grotto, one of the most hidden sea caves on the entire Amalfi coast. It's large enough that you can paddle into the grotto on your kayak and take some amazing photos. Whether on an organized tour or not, a great place to cap the kayak excursion is at La Vite Beach located in a nearby cove. It's tranquil and intimate precisely because it's only accessible by water.
Bagni della Regina Giovanna (a Hidden Grotto Christened by Royalty)
The "Baths of Queen Giovanna." That's the translation of this beach/grotto formed by a coastal rock barrier and tucked away near Sorrento. For a natural pool, it's as close to perfection as anything you're likely to find anywhere in the world. Hardly surprising that royalty like Giovanna d’Angiò, the 14th century Queen of Naples, decided to make this her personal swimming pool. Above the grotto you can also enjoy panoramic views of Sorrento to one side and the island of Capri to the other.
Another attractive reason to come to Bagni della Regina Giovanna is its location. Located on the Cape of Sorrento, you can arrive at the entrance in a mere fifteen minutes from the city center. From there it's a short hike down to the hidden pool. It's mind-boggling that despite Bagni della Regina Giovanna's close proximity to Sorrento, it's never overcrowded.
Baia di Ieranto (a Secluded Cove Perfect for a Romantic Interlude)
You can't go further off the tourist trail on the Amalfi Coast than Ieranto Bay. There are no roads leading to it, no signs directing you to it, and you can only access it on a 40-minute hike over rough mountain trails. However, if you do make through this natural obstacle course, you'll enjoy a secluded beach, calm and crystalline waters, and little rocky coves in which to steal away for a bit of romantic frolicking in the surf.
The bay is near the little town of Nerano, about 40 minutes south of Sorrento. Once here, your GPS won't be much help to you (and you won't even get reception upon reaching the beach), so the best thing to do is simply ask a local to point you in the right direction. Generally speaking, the trailhead is about a half-mile past the town of Nerano. You can park near the Casale Villarena, an upscale hotel, and they can help direct you to the nearby trailhead.
The name Iero derives from leros, which in Greek means "sacred." Once you wind down the trail and catch your first glimpses of the bay, you'll see how it earned its name. You'll also understand why the ancient Greeks chose this locale to erect a monument to the pagan goddess Athena. Baia di Ieranto is truly an awe-inspiring place.
Fiordo di Crapolla (Where Ancient Romans Came to Swim)
This is another secluded cove/fjord that is hidden and uncrowded due to its inaccessibility. While getting there may be difficult, the rewards make the trek more than worth it. You access Fiordo di Crapolla via Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, a historic village on the Sorrento Peninsula between the Gulf of Naples and the Gulf Serrano. The town overlooks the coast, and you can see out to Capri and the Li Galli islands.
To arrive here involves a 45-minute hike from town down to the coast culminating in a descent of about 650 steps. Remember that to leave requires hiking up those 650 steps, so you'll sure get your cardio in. Once there, though, you'll be treated to unspoiled beauty and ancient history. Fronting the lagoon waters of the little cove are the ruins of an ancient fishing village and Roman villa. Pretty impressive that you'll be lazing in the sun and frolicking in the same waters as the ancient Romans did almost 2,000 years ago.
Furore (a Natural Fjord Becomes a Hidden Grotto)
Between the towns of Amalfi and Positano sits a simple coastal village of around 800 inhabitants called Furore. What's not so ordinary is the natural fjord created by promontories of the Lattari Mountains below the village. It forms a natural, lagoon-like fjord with its own small and charming beach. In essence, the entire area becomes a secret grotto perfect for sunseekers bumming around the Amalfi Coast during the summer months.
Furore remains mostly off the major tourist trail, which is due to its general inaccessibility. The narrow road leading from the village down to the fjord is almost 1,000 feet (300 meters) and is only navigable by moped, though you can reach the village of Furore via public transport on the Amalfi-Agerola and Amalfi-Positano bus routes. This area was originally founded by ancient Romans because of its secluded area and natural defenses, which have allowed it to remain relatively unexploited even to this day.
Grotta dello Smeraldo (The Most Beautiful Emerald Grotto in Amalfi)
Tourists, travelers, and honeymooners flock en masse to Italy's island of Capri and its famous Blue Grotto. This is a sea cave whose waters create a prism for passing sunlight that tinges the entire cavern vivid electric blue. But what if we were to tell you there is another grotto on the coast that features equally brilliant coloring and no tour-boat masses with which to contend? That's what you'll find at the Emerald Grotto.
The Grotto della Smeraldo is located just four miles east of Praiano (known for having perhaps the most beautiful sunsets in all of Amalfi) at the fishing village of Conca dei Marini. An elevator runs down from the main coastal road to the village and rowboats (about 20-person capacity) take passengers to the Emerald Grotto. This cavernous sea cave, filled with hanging stalactites and stalagmites, has certainly earned it's name—it's as vivid green as Capri's famous grotto is electric blue.
Like the Blue Grotto, the color here derives from underground opening that allows light in and creates the display of electric green for which it is famous. Don't miss the undersea nativity scene which was created by a local artisan and submerged in the 1950s. At Christmas time pious divers visit the Emerald Grotto and pay homage to it. The grotto is open every day from 9:30 am to 4 pm, but the best effects of the natural light in the grotto occur from 12 pm to 4 pm.
Li Galli Islands (a Remote Island Paradise Great for Snorkeling)
Also known as Sirenusas (the "sirens"), this small archipelago consists of three small islands just off the Amalfi Coast. The name derives from a local legend that says shipwrecks here centuries ago were the result of songs crooned by the sirens who lived on the islets. The islands themselves are privately owned and the largest, Gallo Lungo, is shaped like a dolphin. Over the years it has been visited and enjoyed by everyone from wealthy hoteliers to famous Russian dancers to even Mariah Carey.
Though it's privately owned, you can access the islands on a boat tour from the nearest coastal town of Positano. Tours take you right up to the rocky grottoes and coves of the isles and even allow time for snorkeling. If you'd rather skip the tour and buy the islands outright, provided they're back on the market, then feel free to make an offer—if you happen to have 263 million spare euros lying around. Budget-minded vacationers can also rent the island for a mere €55,000 or so per week.
Considering visiting Italy's capital of Rome as well? Then get more travel ideas with this combined Amalfi Coast/Rome 13-day itinerary.