It had been nine years since my last visit to the Amalfi Coast and somehow I had managed to forget just how breathtakingly beautiful it was…We were married a couple of hours down the road at The Santavenere Hotel in Maratea in the Basilicata region of Italy so this part of the world will always hold a special place in our hearts.
For our 10th wedding anniversary we wanted to take a walk down memory lane and spend a couple of days in Positano, as we had done all those years ago, before heading further south to The Santavenere.
The 1.5 hour drive from Naples to Positano, first past the imposing and ominous Mount Vesuvius, then along the achingly beautiful, if not slightly heart stopping, high and winding coastal road to Sorento and then onto Positano soon reminded me why I fell in love with this place all those years ago.
When you first make that decent into Positano town itself it is like you are looking down on and are then part of a 3D oil painting, not metaphorically, but literally – it is that picturesque…
Best hotels Positano
Being of a particularly romantic inclination I booked us into the Sirenuse hotel in a Deluxe Sea View room – the same as we had the pleasure
of occupying 10 years before. A top tip to all our followers out there – push the boat out (or more likely ‘launch’ the boat out given the prices in the Sirenuse) and pay the extra for the Sea View room – this is not the place to be frugal and you will regret not waking up to that view every morning.
The decor in the Sirenuse is traditional and the whole ambience takes you back to those wonderful bygone eras such as the 20’s and 60’s when style and class ruled the riviera. The hotel has accommodated stars of stage and screen, super models, rock stars, presidents and royalty and you can wistfully imagine the likes of Bardot, Jagger and Kennedy having graced its beautifully appointed rooms.
The Deluxe Sea View room was large, beautifully furnished and the view from the terrace draws you in from every angle – trust me, you won’t be eating breakfast anywhere else!
There is a small but adequate pool bordered with lemon and lime trees to add that extra bit of nostalgia and there is a lift to take you down to the beach for those less inclined to walking the steep streets.
The price for 2 nights in the Deluxe Sea View room was a few Euros over €3,250. I’m sure you can find a multitude of extremely pleasant hotels in Positano but there is only one Sirenuse and generally you tend to get what you pay for in this world…
Best restaurants Positano
Right now I am sure I should be waxing lyrical about the Sirenuse’s in house Michelin star restaurant La Sponda… but I’m afraid I can’t.
Unfortunately, for me, it’s (and I am deliberately careful with my words here as some people like that ‘Michelin’ kinda thing) just like any other Michelin star restaurant I have been to – all delicate (and frankly pretty bland) foams and presentation wins over flavour.
Don’t get me wrong, the food isn’t bad, but it also isn’t great and I can eat Michelin star fare in London any time – I come to Italy to eat its heart and soul and favour more rustic, simple food.
If you are going to eat in the Sirenuse try the Oyster bar. It has a relaxed, unpretentious vibe and views to die for (everywhere in the Sirenuse is built around those views).
Now I am finished running down one of the finest restaurants in Positano (and probably Italy) I should better explain myself and quickly introduce ristorante Lo Scoglio. First the caveat – you will need to get a boat there – but this is not a problem as you can rent a water taxi down on the main beach and they run all day / night. Alternatively you can hire your own skippered boat for the day but we can get to that later…
The restaurant sits on its own mini pier directly over the crystal clear Tyrrhenian sea and the ambience inside is relaxed and buzzy with the clientele a mixture of locals and tourists alike. Dress code is very much casual yachting attire with plenty of customers (including us) coming straight from their own private boats.
Don’t be surprised to be rubbing shoulders with an A list celebrity or two as this restaurant has that shabby chic vibe and reputation likely to lure Jay Z, Beyonce and the Clooney’s off their super yachts for lunch.
Anyway enough teasing my little gastronaughts…now to the food!
We started with a simple Fruits De Mare which consisted of fresh clams and sea urchins. My previous experience of sea urchins in the Bristol hotel in Paris (another Michelin star!) didn’t go very well and I was left wondering what all the fuss was about. Thankfully this experience was far better and I finally understand why Rick Stein describes them as having the taste of the sea.
This was followed by sautéed mussels and clams in a lovely, garlicky butter, mopped up with freshly baked bread.
Next up was fresh pasta with home grown vegetables (courgette, aubergine, broccoli, carrots) coated in a silky, moorish olive oil with chopped tomatoes that gave the dish an almost ratatouille type taste and left the taste buds in ecstasy.
The main was a whole, filleted sea bream, cooked with potatoes in olive oil and lemon juice – simple but perfectly cooked and packed full of flavour.
We washed all this down with a crisp local white (annoyingly I didn’t note the label) before heading back to our yacht, bellies full and hearts warmed.
Things to do Positano
If you can tear yourself away from your own private balcony (with that view!) there are many things to do in and around Positano. Most involve food and drink, or at least they did for us…
First up you really should make sure you explore the Sirenuse – you will have paid a lot of money to be there and the hotel really is an exquisite property to behold. There is a good spa in house so a day of pampering is a good option if you need to wind down from the usual rat race.
Positano is a beautiful town and you can lose yourself for hours just strolling around the labyrinth of snug alleyways covered in wisteria. Flex your Amex in the vast array of shops selling anything from top grade olive oil and soaps to designer shoes and garments. I personally couldn’t resist purchasing an oil painting to give me a permanent reminder of the town during those long, cold London winters.
Hire a yacht for the day and explore the beautiful Amalfi coastline and Capri. Personally I think this is one of the best ways to see Positano and the surrounding area. We hired a 42 foot yacht for the whole day (total cost 1,400 Euro all booked through the Sirenuse) and it was a truly memorable experience. The Prosecco never stopped flowing and our captain, Antonio, was an excellent host – he struck the perfect balance of being informative and knowledgable whilst respecting your space and privacy.
Le Bon Lifestyle Top Tip! Stop for lunch at Lo Scoglio and save Capri until the end of the day. By 4 o’clock the crowds have started to disappear and you can have the Grottos to yourself. You will also get to see the island at dusk when the light is at its glorious best.
What to wear
Guys should pack plenty of designer shorts, Polo tops and Havaianas for the day with chinos and designer loafers the trend for the night. Don’t forget those Villbrequins for the pool!
Girls bring some Grecian maxi dresses with pleats and gladiator sandals. The yachting look is also very much the rage so shorts and stripped t-shirts are a good choice. By all means pack your Loubs but bear in mind the streets are steep and cobbled so an embarrassing fall is highly likely!
How to get there
We flew business class with British Airways (£600 pp) from London Gatwick to Naples and the Sirenuse arranged for a nice Mercedes to pick us up from the airport. Top Tip – ask for a driver called Poppie!
There is also the option of private yacht transfer (around 1,000 Euro) or helicopter (roughly 2,000 Euro) for those with slightly larger wallets.