What can I say about Vietri Sul Mare, the gateway to the Amalfi Coast? I can start by saying this quaint small town has everything you need if like me you aren’t a party animal. If you like fresh local produce cooked beautifully, a nice glass or two of wine, scrumptious patisserie and a (daily) gelato then this is your place.
I truly am a girl of simple tastes, but I know what I like. Overpriced tourist traps I do not. Who does? If you are looking for the bright lights of the big city then head a couple of miles down the coast to Salerno. There you will find the nightlife. It’s a university town so bars and clubs are a plenty.
For me, I like the quieter pace of life. A true sense of Italian culture and you certainly get this in Vietri Sul Mare. Unlike many other towns and villages along the Amalfi Coast, it doesn’t rely heavily on tourism. Vietri and Cetara, a neighbour, are still predominantly fishing towns with Cetara being THE place to eat freshly caught anchovies and tuna. In fact, some say it is here you will sample some of the best seafood on the Amalfi Coast.
Vietri Sul Mare nestles on the craggy rocks that jut out of the sea forming the base for the Amalfi Coasts famous skyline. Mountains covered in lush green foliage, lemon trees and vines dominate the view with houses in all shades of gold, pink and white scattered precariously amongst them.
The town itself has everything a local would need. Plenty of fruit and veg shops, bakeries, patisseries, fishmongers, butchers as well as numerous very good restaurants and bars. I visited the last week of May (2019) and the holiday season hadn’t fully kicked in. In fact, I was able to walk the streets in the most part without hearing another English or American accent or bumping into busloads of tourists that no doubt will come.
Vietri Sul Mare is world famous for its ceramics. There are many, many shops selling brightly coloured plates, bowls and dishes. You can pretty much guarantee that most meals served in restaurants will have been made and fired here. Ceramica Artistica Solimene being the biggest and most famous. Make the big warehouse/shop at the top of the town a stop off for a traditional souvenir to take home. You will be spoiled for choice with the wonderful selection.
With Vietri being the gateway to the Amalfi Coast you will find great bus and train links. The train can take you to Salerno for transfers back to Naples and the nearest international airport or elsewhere in Italy for your onward journey. The SITA buses from Vietri will stop off at every town along the coast with connecting buses to the villages in the mountains. I found the public transport easy to use. Just make sure you buy your ticket for the bus beforehand otherwise you won’t be allowed on. Tickets can usually be purchased from newsagents but in Vietri Sul Mare you can purchase them at one of the ceramic shops near the main bus stop. Tickets are cheap but only one way so if you need a return, buy two. At my time of travel, a single to Cetara was €1.20 and Minori and Amalfi €2.00.
I stayed in Vietri Sul Mare for five nights and visited quite a few bars and restaurants. On the whole, the restaurants are really good with seafood being a speciality alongside pizza of course. Here is a list of places of note.
Ristorante Dal Pescatore – Via Cristoforo Colombo, 50
Good quality to price ratio restaurant serving freshly caught fish on the most part. I did find our waiter a little grumpy but the food was tasty and well cooked. You will find Dal Pescatore in the marina part of Vietri.
Evu – Via Diego Taiani, 1
A great little restaurant in the centre of Vietri. A warm friendly service with top notch local food. I had the tuna and it was amazing. Try the Rum Baba for dessert!
Lucia 34 – Via Scialli, 48
Situated on a small square near the centre, it has home-cooking style. I had the fish of the day simply grilled with a green salad. A bottle of good local house red will cost you €8.00. You will receive friendly service here.
Divina Vietri Pizzeria – Via Passariello, 31
Recommended by my Air BnB host and owned by her brother, this pizzeria specialises in sourdough bases and locally caught fish toppings. I had the Divina Positano. A pizza with the famous Cetara anchovies, fava beans and tomatoes.
Sesta Stazione – Via Aniello Ferrigno, 23
A cute bar and restaurant serving ‘slow food’ as well as craft beers and wines. I stumbled across this place whilst hunting out Lucia 34. They are neighbours. We stopped for a drink and were given a flatbread covered with anchovies and salad for nibbles. Delicious!
Bar Miramare – Corso Umberto
A great spot for people watching in the square with a view of the ocean. I enjoyed a great Spritz and negroni on two separate visits.
Cafe Pasticceria Russo – Corso Umberto
I stopped in for a drink on the first evening in Vietri Sul Mare. Cute place, friendly staff until they tried to charge me £30 for two drinks. When questioned it was reduced to £12. Still a lot for a glass of local wine and a beer. Be wary!
Things To Do
Like I said previously, Vietri Sul Mare is known as the “Gateway to the Amalfi Coast” and has good public transport links if like me you don’t fancy renting a car. Driving on the other side of the road scares me silly plus having seen those winding, narrow roads teetering on mountain edges I am more than happy leaving it to the professionals. I used the SITA bus service most days which was cheap and pretty regular if not always running to the timetable. Each of the places I talk about later I visited by the same bus that runs from Salerno to Amalfi.
Cetara is a close neighbour of Vietri Sul Mare with the journey bring approximately 15 minutes each way. A small town with a long history of anchovy and tuna fishing. For an anchovy lover like myself it felt like a pilgrimage. I had read about a restaurant there called Al Convento so wanted to visit to sample the local fish. A mixed anchovy platter with marinated anchovies, anchovies on toast, little fried anchovy balls and deep fried anchovies as an appetiser followed by tuna cooked rare with vegetables. I washed it all down with a glass of local white wine.
Take the time to wonder around this quaint village and stop for a coffee and gelato at Bar Miramare with views out over the ocean.
Take the SITA bus to Minori which takes about 35-45 minutes depending on the traffic. You notice here that Minori is more geared up for tourists. Many a bar, restaurant and cafe line the promenade as well as the squares and side streets.
I wondered around the town and stopped for a coffee and a sfogliatelle. Sfogliatelle are pastries particular to the Campania region and definitely worth trying. The crispy layered pastry acts as a casing for the smooth custard like filling flavoured with cinnamon. The fillings do vary from town to town as later on in my travels I had a sfogliatelle filled with a delicious citrus filling.
The Santa Trofimena church just set back from the promenade is worth a visit. It’s beautiful yellow facade is very eye catching and inside equally stunning. Also worth visiting is the Villa Romana. An archeological ruin from the 1st century.
I used Minori as the starting point for a climb to Ravello, way up in the hills above the town. If you are relatively fit I can’t recommend this walk enough. It’s challenging in the respect that it is continuously uphill for about 45 minutes. Steep step upon steep step but my goodness it’s so worth it. The trip to Minori with the walk to Ravello was a particular highlight for me. I love being outside and being able to be at one with nature. You barely see another soul. It maybe a steep climb but I did it in trainers and a pretty summers dress. If most certainly does not require any special clothing. Take you time and enjoy the views on route. Once you get to Ravello reward yourself with an Aperol Spritz or a beer in the square.
Ravello is my kind of town. Yes, it’s touristy but it’s not rowdy or tacky. Ravello is a classy tourist destination and I would highly recommend a visit. In fact I enjoyed my visit to Ravello so much I wrote a blogpost about it. Read about my afternoon in Ravello here.
Amalfi in contrast to Ravello is far more “tacky” touristic in my opinion. Don’t take my words the wrong way. I like Amalfi; it’s got an air of old school sophistication from times past. Unfortunately that has been dampened a little by the hoards of tourists. My visit in May would have been nothing compared to the giddy heights of the tourist season of July and August. I felt blessed that I could still manoeuvre myself through the streets without bumping into too many other people.
I took myself away from the crowds of the main town and headed down to the marina to check out the boats and get a view of the town from a little further afield. The marina had an air of calm about it that I relished before heading back to the hustle and bustle. My plan was to explore the streets, pick up some bits and pieces for a picnic lunch and visit the famous Church of Santa Maria Assunta.
Pastries purchased from Pasticceria Andrea Pansa and fruit from a a chap with a small fruit and vegetable shop on one of the side streets became my picnic lunch on the steps of the cathedral. Watching the world go by whilst enjoying my lunch was very welcome. The steps of the cathedral were probably the least busy part of the town and a great vantage point.
Lunch finished, I made my way up the steps to the cathedral entrance. I paid my €3 entrance fee and headed inside. The cathedral is not only visually splendid from the outside it is spectacular on the inside. Frescos, statues and marble work galore you can’t help but marvel at the work that went into creating this beautiful cathedral. I think that it beats all of the other churches and cathedrals on the Amalfi Coast hands down with its beauty and possibly anywhere else in Italy. The entrance fee is €3 well spent.
Before catching the SITA bus home I stopped off at a beach side cafe for a delightfully red Campari Soda. Delicious.
Le Vigne Di Raito
If you are looking for a great way to spend a day or an evening whilst on the Amalfi Coast why not try a vineyard tour and tasting? I was lucky enough to have a small organic and biodynamic vineyard a short drive from where I was staying in Vietri Sul Mare. Raito is a village on the hillside overlooking Vietri with views to die for out over the ocean and the coastline either side to the left and right. Nestled within the village is Le Vigne Di Raito. The smallest vineyard on the Amalfi Coast owned and run by one of two female winemakers in this area, Patrizia Malanga.
I spent the evening with Patrizia and her team alongside a few other visitors enjoying a tour of the vineyard, a tasting and a delicious home cooked supper and can’t recommend the experience enough. For me, it was a highlight of my week long holiday. I have written a blogpost for you about my visit. Read it here.
Despite the rather miserable weather on occasions my spirits weren’t dampened too much and my 5 days on the Amalfi Coast were memorable to say the least. Vietri Sul Mare was the perfect base for my holiday with fantastic bus and rail services which made getting around the villages and towns a breeze. With flights from Exeter, my home town direct to Naples I am pretty sure this won’t be my last trip to the Amalfi Coast. Hopefully my little guide will help you plan your holiday, give you advice on things to do and places to visit whilst visiting one of the most visually stunning parts of Italy.