I hate wasting a minute of my holidays. That doesn’t mean that there is no downtime, but I am a planner and details are important to me. It drives Steve, my husband, crazy because he is quite the opposite. Planning what to do with a day in Positano was easy because the town is quite small.
There is no doubt about it that the Amalfi Coast is a spectacular part of Italy. Positano lies more or less in the middle of the 48 km scenic drive, south of Naples. The town clings to the sheer cliffs of Monti Lattari, while the pastel coloured landscape provides a stunning contrast to the azure ocean kissing the beach below.
The strict building code has enabled the town to preserve its charm. The skyline has probably looked much the same for centuries.
Where did the name Positano come from?
Legend has it that a Turkish boat became beached not far from the town. On board was a painting of the Virgin Mary. The captain heard the painting whispering “posa posa” which translates as “set me down”. He threw the painting overboard and suddenly his ship began to float on the tide. A church was built where the painting washed ashore.
Another legend claims that Poseidon founded the town to show his love for a nymph name Pasitea. I am not sure if I believe either, but I always enjoy hearing the local tales.
How to spend a day in Positano
What’s there to do in Positano? To be honest, not a lot! The town is designed for tourists. There are loads of steps that link the alleyways and houses. The streets are not much more than small lanes and its difficult to move around when there are tourists everywhere. It’s also not a particularly pleasant experience either. If you want to avoid the crowds then get an early start to your day. There is only one road that crosses the town, Viale Pasitea where cafes, hotels shops and villas crowd together. The more interesting places are tucked away and can only be reached on foot.
Head to the beach
Naturally, the main beaches Spiaggia Grande and Spiaggia del Fornillo are busy, but once you are in the water admiring the epic views you won’t notice the people. You can laze on the beach or hire a deck chair for the cost of €10. This is probably a good idea if you are planning on spending a couple of hours tanning because the beach is pebbly and I am sure that it will soon become uncomfortable. The beach is the longest and most glamorous on the Amalfi Coast.
Rent a boat
If you are on the beach you may want to rent a boat. You can either explore the coast as part of a tour or hire your own boat for more flexibility. You can go diving or snorkel to discover the many grottos and underwater caves along the coast.
Santa Maria dell’Assunta
This is the church of the legend above and is also linked to the Benedictine monastery of St. Mary. The church is famous for the 13th century Byzantine Black Madonna and Child that is above the main altar. The icon was supposedly stolen in Constantinople and smuggled here by pirates.
The towering majolica-tiled dome is a colourful feature on the landscape and can be seen from all over town.
The Roman Villa
In 2000 archaeologists made a surprise discovery below the church of Santa Maria Assunta. It is considered to be the most significant discovery on the Amalfi Coast in recent years. The villa was buried by a rain of ash in 79 AD when Vesuvius erupted burying Pompeii and Herculaneum at the same time. There are amazing frescoes and some stunning mosaics which are an insight into how the wealthy lived in days gone by.
Read more: Visiting Herculaneum
I saw quite a number of galleries in town. They offered a huge range of paintings and a variety of other mediums as well as sculptures. You may also find some local artists down near the beach painting the ever-changing vistas of the town.
The town is geared for tourists so there are more than enough shops to keep you occupied. Many of them have the usual tacky souvenirs, but there are also fancier shops selling quality merchandise catering for the more exclusive end of the market.
If you like shopping for shoes the local craftsmen make leather sandals while you watch, so you can have a custom made item. Brightly coloured pottery of the region is also found everywhere and there is an abundance of cheerful prints and beachwear wherever you look.
Have a meal
Being a foodie, spending a day in Positano has to include at least one meal and other delectable treats to try during the day. After all, I probably won’t be back and there is so much that looks delicious. Like all over Italy the seasons play a big role in the food here as well. I have never seen lemons as large as the ones I saw on the Amalfi Coast anywhere else in the world. They feature prominently in desserts and of course Limoncello.
Being on the ocean it’s natural that much of the food will be based around the freshly caught seafood. We had a divine meal at the water’s edge of spaghetti alle vongole.
The tomatoes are also really delicious and you can’t beat a simple Caprese salad with beautiful fresh buffalo mozzarella topped with big shiny basil leaves.
If you don’t want a formal meal then look for a rosticceria which wells roasted meats and antipasti. Request that they pack the food “da portar via” which means as a takeaway, and head for the beach for a picnic.
When to go
Summer is packed with tourists and very hot. The sun beats down mercilessly and the moving around the town can become unbearable.
The ideal times are May- June and September – October. I have visited in April and while it’s not ideal weather for the beach, with a chill in the air, the days are still beautiful.
Rain is not normal in winter so this is a great time to visit. Hotels are also much cheaper so you can find some good deals. However, some restaurants are closed so check in advance if you are planning to go somewhere specific.
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