Shopping on the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is arguably the world's most famous stretch of coastline, the setting for Silver Screen romances and chic fashion shoots alongside vacationing celebrities, honeymooners, and everyone in between. If you are planning a visit to this stunning coast, be ready to take on the hairpin curves of the famously tortuous highway skirting the shoreline, explore the Instagram-ready towns of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, and relax over a plate of fresh seafood at a seaside restaurant with sighs of delight as the sun dips into the Mediterranean.

amalfi-coast-boat-tour-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Be prepared to shop, as well. The coast doesn't offer the famed cultural landmarks of Rome or Florence - though Pompeii is a quick day trip away - but it does have majestic scenery, elegant dining, and some memorable shopping. From artisan workshops to luxury designer boutiques, there are ample opportunities to choose a special memento of your stay on Italy's iconic Costiera.

Sorrento


The bustling resort town of Sorrento isn't officially part of the Amalfi Coast, but is located slightly to the north along the coast on the Sorrentine Peninsula. A popular day trip from the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento has a pretty historic center overlooking the Mediterranean worth exploring, and is also where visitors can catch a ferry to the island of Capri in the Bay of Naples.

Sorrento(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Sorrento - together with the Amalfi Coast - is famous for its heirloom variety of lemons, and the limoncello liqueur made here and along the coast is perfect to down icy cold after a generous portion of spaghetti alle vongole to help your digestion along or to take back home and store in the freezer so you can savor the taste of southern Italy months after your trip. Though you can purchase commercial brands sold in whimsically shaped glass bottles at any souvenir shop, try searching out the more authentic, less flashy versions made in one of the artisan workshops in town.

The most traditional artisan craft from Sorrento is intarsio sorrentino, or Sorrentine inlaid wood, famous since the European nobility first began visiting Italy's southern coast as part of the Grand Tour in the 19th century. There are still local workshops and galleries which display and sell intricate pieces of inlaid furniture and art, from small jewelry boxes to stunning tables. There is even a museum dedicated to inlaid wood in town, the Museobottega della Tarsialignea di Sorrento, with a collection of historic inlaid wood masterpieces created by local craftsmen over the past two centuries.

lemon-tree-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Amalfi


Once the most important towns along the Amalfi Coast, the former marine republic of Amalfi is now the capital of the coastline's tourist industry rather than its military might. Known for its imposing Romanesque and Byzantine cathedral dating from the 9th century and festive main Piazza del Duomo, Amalfi is a must on any tour of the Costiera.

amalfi-coast-boat-tour-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Just like Sorrento, Amalfi is a dream come true for lovers of anything lemon. Their heirloom-variety Sfusato di Amalfi and Gloria di Amalfi limoni are used to make limoncello liqueur, but also to scent or flavor everything from artisanal body products and home decor to gourmet specialties from the coast. If you see a stack of lemons the size of footballs, however, don't be fooled...you have probably spotted citrons, cousin to the lemon and a main ingredient in Italy's beloved cedrata soft drink.

Amalfi also has a long tradition of paper making, which began in the 12th century and reached its height in the 1800s, when a dozen paper mills were powered by the waters rushing down from the mountain slopes behind the coast through town to the sea. Today there is just one artisan paper mill left, and a number of shops in town sell its fine Amatruda paper, or you can visit the local paper museum where you can learn about Amalfi's fascinating history of papermaking and stop in the gift shop to purchase locally made stationary, sketchpads, leather-bound notebooks, and flower-pressed writing paper.

Positano


This former fishing village-cum-fashionable resort is the epitome of shabby chic, with its colorful jumble of houses that seem to tumble down the cliffside to the water's edge sitting side by side with understated luxury hotels. It was the international jet-set of the 1950s and 60s - including celebrities like Jacqueline Onassis and stars like Brigitte Bardot - who nudged this sleepy town into the international spotlight, where it has stayed as a popular vacation destination ever since.

Positano(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

The somewhat bohemian aesthetic of Positano is captured in its local boutiques, which sell a unique style of flowing gypsy-style skirts and blouses that are part of the “moda Positano”. This distinctive look developed with the arrival of tourists in the mid-20th century who were interested in casual, comfortable clothing to slip over their bathing suit or lounge in during the warm summer evenings. Local seamstresses used hand-dyed lengths of linen or cotton cloth called pezze, or rags, to create loosely fitting dresses, skirts, and blouses that are both informal and chic.

With upscale tourism comes upscale shopping, and alongside its romantic moda Positano boutiques, this steep village is thick with fine art galleries selling pieces of modern and contemporary art by Italian and international artists. Many are one of a chain of galleries, with locations in Positano in addition to Milan, London, or New York. If you are looking for a souvenir that is also an investment, take some time to peruse their exclusive collections.

Capri


Just off the Amalfi Coast, the stunning island of Capri is where the glitterati gather to swim the crystalline waters and unwind in the trendy Piazzetta and nearby nightclubs come nightfall. Capri is famous for its designer boutiques and high-end shops, but there are two souvenirs you can purchase that have deep roots in Capri's more authentic past.

Untitled(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

When you think of Capri, the short fisherman's pants made famous by Jacqueline Onassis may come to mind. Among fashionable Italians, however, the island is known for its handmade leather sandals, which can often be customized while you wait to fit both your size and your personal style. Choose the model, color, and beads, flowers, or other accessory and come away with a one-of-a-kind, artisan souvenir.

Another unique gift found only on Capri is one of the many perfumes made by Carthusia, a company founded in 1948 to recreate the scent first made by the monks at the Charterhouse of San Giacomo in 1380. Today, Carthusia makes about a dozen different perfumes, in addition to body products, scents for the home, and perfumed candles, so you can bring the floral breezes of the island back home with you.

Vietri


The tiny hamlet of Vietri at the far southern point of the Amalfi Coast is largely overlooked by most visitors to the region of Campania, but if you have been anywhere south of Naples, you have almost certainly seen its most famous artisan product: colorful majolica ceramics. Bright blue, yellow, and green tiles cover most floors, walls, and tabletops on and near the coast, all of which are hand-painted by artisans in this famous ceramic center, and festive Vietri tableware is unmistakable. If you love traditional ceramics, a day trip to shop the ceramic workshops crowding the center of Vietri is worth your while.

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Contributor: Rebecca Winke

Concierge in Umbria
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