It’s been 25 long years since I last climbed the steep steps of the Amalfi coast and am immediately transported back to the sparkling blues of the Mediterranean and the sweet smell of fresh lemons – and that one of a kind cliff top drive from Sorrento.

The mission is to uncover some of the hidden gems, the local artisans and traditional eateries, authentic yet affordable. My mid 20’s memories of Amalfi never fade, I recall in detail the endless summer nights, picnicking on the beach with a jamon baguette in one hand and a bottle of local vino in the other.

Fast forward and the Amalfi coast has been discovered aided by the advent of the digital age and there’s Instagram stars a plenty. Prior to arriving I ponder if the coast I remember would be trampled by the masses, making it hard to manoeuvre through those narrow streets and laneways.

We pick the smaller towns adjacent to the popular destinations of Positiano and Amalfi. Making our vacation both valuable and relaxing at the same time and we opt to go early September, post the peak European school holidays.

Praiano is our first stop and we get the heads up from some well-seasoned Amalfians to stay up the hill from the popular ‘Marine de Prai’ at the picturesque Hotel Margarita, circa 1964. Steeped in history the hotel was created by two New York migrants Joseph and Margherita after their stint in Praiano with their popular beach bar.

Margherita’s daughter Suela has recently taken over the reins, but you can still find the lively Margherita baking delicious breakfast cakes daily. She also hosts a weekly cooking class, where we learn to make traditional dishes like fresh ricotta gnocchi, eggplant parmigiana and of course local limoncello.

We navigate the coast by boat and hire an inflatable self-drive zodiac. We discover the jade grotto, a local favourite; it’s an age-old cave with its own private beach. Dotted along the coast are magnificent clifftop manors and pop up summer eateries, accessible by boat only. 

We pass by the picturesque, bustling town of Positano, as popular as it is beautiful. We drop the anchor and feast on the sweetest tomatoes, homemade pesto, parmigiano cheese and local anchovies’. There are fresh fruit and vegetable pops up and Tabacchi’s pretty much everywhere on the coast- a bottle shop, delicatessen and milk bar wrapped into one.

Our final destination Atrani is the quieter beach just north of the town of Amalfi. Rumoured to be Italy’s smallest town, Atrani is literally a retail square with a duomo and tiny laneways that lead to holidays rentals. We stay in an affordable two-bedroom character filled apartment that is perfectly positioned just a few steps from the Mediterranean.

Atrani has a relaxed vibe, local fruit vendors and deck chairs complete with striped umbrella and bar service are half the price from neighbouring beaches- 15 dollars gets you a full day of seaside pleasure.

As dusk is falling we peel ourselves off the beach and catch a local bus to one of the highest points on the Amalfi Coast, Ravello. We are greeted by stunning panoramic views and an awe-inspiring sunset. With those summer feels in full swing we sip on an aperitif accompanied by complimentary snacks, an Italian tradition. The Italians eat their main meal at lunch, siesta then awake to a fresh light dinner, topped off nicely by a home made gelato.

The Amalfi Coast has the bluest of seas, incredible architecture and an abundance of local produce. Pick your timing, head off the trodden paths and you’ll have an affordable yet authentic holiday at arguably one of the most desirable locations on the planet.

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*Eat- Trattoria Da Armandino, Praiano-lunchtime pasta special $20, Fruit & Vegetable carts-local produce picnic $20 for 4 pax