Valle delle Ferriere, Amalfi Coast
Concierge.com's insider take:
Most visitors think of Amalfi as a seaside town—and it's true that the Republic's glory days in the early Middle Ages were founded on its maritime prowess. But to really understand the place, you need to run the souvenir-shop gauntlet of the main street, Via delle Cartiere, until you emerge in the quieter upper part of town. There, a series of abandoned paper mills bear witness to one of Amalfi's two "inland" trades—you can learn more about the history and technique of Amalfian paper-making at the Museo della Carta (24 Via delle Cartiere; www.museodellacarta.it). The other was the smelting of iron ore, which was brought from Elba or Puglia and carried up the valley by donkey convoy. Today, the Valle delle Ferriere, or "valley of the ironworks," is a protected nature reserve and an enchantingly cool, green spot even in the height of summer. Take a seat at one of the picnic tables surrounded by waterfalls and rock pools, rare species of orchid, and giant fern. A footpath leads to the hamlet of Pontone in around 90 minutes (www.valledelleferriere.com, Italian only). From here, a paved staircase provides an easy shortcut back down to Amalfi.