Favorite Road Trips
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The winding road: Amalfi Coast
Why: Italy and spirit-soaring ocean views—need we say more?
What to expect: Considering its outsized fame, you'd think that the Amalfi Coast is bigger than it actually is: just 25 miles. But, oh, those miles! The road itself snakes around the cliffs of the Lattari Mountains, seemingly held over the deep blue of the Tyrrhenian by a whim of gravity. Yes, it's twisting, and yes, it's so narrow that oncoming cars will kiss your side mirror. But what to really watch out for? Those August traffic jams.
Start your engines: Naples is less than 50 miles to the northwest—a great spot to pick up a rental (get an Alfa Romeo if you can). The Amalfi is sandwiched by Sorrento and Salerno—with the delicacies of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello between. Most of the hotels are in Amalfi, and the best roadside views are from above Ravello, but the pastel-sprinkled, tiered village of Positano (which is most definitely a walker's—not a driver's—village) is a charming option too. Easy on the Bellinis, though—somebody's gotta steady-hand it back to the hotel.
Road secrets: The scene can feel overwhelming, but there are villages without the tourist throngs. In fact, just outside Amalfi is the minuscule village of Atrani, with less than a thousand residents. As the village is snuggled in between a huge cliff and the sea, space is at a premium: The highway actually runs partly over the central square. Nonetheless, the place is as welcoming and unpretentious as its neighbor is bustling. An afternoon simply drinking espresso and eating pizza will give you an idea of an older, more serene Amalfi Coast.
Shack up: One of the more unusual views of the coast is from Hotel Santa Caterina's glass-walled elevator, which travels from the property's 62 cliff-side rooms down to the water itself, where there is a saltwater pool and sun-lounging area. The views from the gorgeous, tile-floored rooms to the yacht-choked harbor isn't too shabby, either.
Hotel Santa Caterina
Tel: 39 89 871 012
Doubles from $514