Winding down the Amalfi Coast

amalfi-coast-862299_1920The Costiera Amalfitana offers an exceptionally picturesque stretch of coastline to stir the senses. Lying along the southern borders of the Sorrento Peninsula, the Amalfi coast is a cliff-lined headland, proudly jutting out from the mainland at the southern end of the Bay of Naples. Explore pastel-hued towns cleverly terraced into hillsides, drive corniche roads with a backdrop of verdant mountains and drink in the expansive vistas across turquoise waters.

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Drive from Salerno, enjoying amazing viewpoints of the dramatic shoreline along the weaving coastline, visit gorgeous sandy beaches (the best at Maiori) and fascinating ruins of a 1st century AD Roman villa (Minori); before heading inland towards Ravello. Considered to be one of southern Italy’s most romantic and beautiful small towns it is perched on terraced slopes adorned with lush gardens, sun-drenched corners and sensational views from its lofty setting.

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Situated off the main square, home of Ravello’s music festival concerts, The Villa Rufolo and gardens are splendid; the panoramas superlative.

Nearby, take lunch on the terrace at the exceptional Al Ristoro del Moro to enjoy exquisite local cuisine, outstanding service and a sublime view of the bay below.

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Set course to the coast on the corniche road to celebrated Amalfi, one of the world’s oldest maritime sea trade ports. Enjoy the cosmopolitan seafront setting with buzzing cafés and enticing boutiques. Culture abounds: but do not miss the Duomo di Sant’Andrea, Amalfi’s magnificent cathedral complete with 11th century byzantine bronze doors. Continue west along the corniche road where stopping at the Grotta dello Smeraldo, a charming marine cave with luminous emerald waters, is recommended. Travel on past the impressive Vallone di Furore gorge, where precipitously scenic Positano awaits you, strewn with top restaurants, sparkling hotels and kaleidoscopic villas. Journey’s end is the bustling coastal village of Sorrento, straddling the majestic cliffs, looking over the sea towards Naples and Mount Vesuvius where you can immerse yourself in a final taste of Italy’s la dolce vita.

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The Egadi Islands, Sicily

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The Egadi Islands are one the most undisturbed parts of the world, with a permanent population of only 5000 people spread out across all three islands, it is still possible to explore isolated coves and bays as well as hike along the deserted mountain paths. It is the perfect place to relax in a tranquil environment.

The three islands, Favignana, Marettimo and Levanzo are located off the coast of Trapani (western Sicily). There are a few places of interest such as the Fort of Santa Caterina on the island of Favignana, which was originally built by the Arabs as a watchtower and then was enlarged and used as a prison by the Bourbon Kings. In addition to this there is the Grotta Del Genovese on the island of Levanzo and the Grotta del Cammello on Marettimo. These are caves containing art of the Stone Age where human messages were carved into the rock using paintings of humans and animals. Barely anyone owns a car on the islands, as they are all so small it is easy to cycle around, so the islands remain unpolluted and historic and the sea water surrounding them crystal clear. So the best way to get around is by boat!

In 241BC, the Egadi Islands were the scene of an important battle at sea called the First Punic War, between the Romans and Carthaginians, where the Romans were victorious. Remains of a Punic ship can be seen in the archaeological museum in Marsala on the main land. The name of Cala Rossa on Favignana (meaning ‘Red cove’) is said to have come from the blood of Carthaginians washing ashore.

Despite the islands being low in population there are still many places to eat as you admire the stunning views across the ocean, such as Nautilus, Sotto Sale, Il Veliero and Il Giardino Nelle Cave. The waters surrounding the islands are ideal for snorkelling and scuba diving as well as fishing.

Back in Sicily there are festivals every week and mountains to explore along with public beaches scattered across the coastline and more peaceful hidden gems. During the middle ages the Normans conquered Sicily. While they were there they built cathedrals that can be seen by the public and capture one’s imagination with vaulted ceilings and mosaic floors. There is also open road racing which takes cars speeding up into the mountain roads and all across the island. It creates excitement for visitors and attracts more and more tourists.

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Big swimmers – turtles galore!

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Ancient, endearing and intelligent, observe the gentle sea turtles in the Andaman Islands.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are inhabited by a variety of marine cultures, but the most treasured are the sea turtles. During the winter months every year, the largest turtles in the world choose to nest here, flocking in their thousands.

Kalipur Beach in Diglipur is the only beach in the world boasting four types of sea turtle that specifically come to nest. These protected species are the Leatherback Turtle, Olive Ridley, Green Turtle and Hawksbill. From December to February they lay their eggs and local forest officials duly collect them and bury them in a completely safe location to ensure not damage and guaranteed hatching. After 45 days the babies emerge, the guards collect them for brief observation then release them into the ocean.

It is an incredible sight to see these tiny turtles independently speed across the sand towards the water and swim away, their heads just visible above the water. The officials say that the amazing thing about the babies is it’s very rare they travel back up the beach, but instinctively head for the waves! A magical experience to be part of, Andaman Islands conservation work for turtles is helping mother nature ensure these exceptional creatures are given every opportunity to thrive.

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