Positano is a cascade of colours
Positano has long been favoured by artists, writers and jet-setters. Arriving from the Amalfi Coast road, it can seem at first as if there are rows and rows of houses and streets stacked on top of each other in haphazard fashion, but go down towards the sea and look back and it all makes perfect sense. The town is built almost vertically into a steep gorge that widens as it reaches the sea. Rows of terraces rise up the sides, each with white, pink and yellow houses, their flower-filled balconies and porticoes overlooking the Mediterranean. Spend some time pottering around the colourful boutiques, galleries and cafes in the town's little streets and it's easy to see Positano's draw.
Despite the crowds of well-heeled tourists (more couples than families), day-trippers and the odd celebrity, it is still a lovely place and it's always possible to find a quiet, shaded corner where one can rest and observe the masses or escape, whether it's a shaded garden in a restaurant or a cliff-top hotel terrace from where you can sip sundowners and admire the views.
A comfortable bed
Positano knows how to do luxury hotels and Le Sirenuse, Via C Colombo 30 (www.sirenuse.it; 00 39 089 87 50 66) is one of the most well-known. The glamour factor is high, with a champagne-and-oyster-bar terrace and a pool terrace, and most rooms have sea views. A double room costs from €380 (Dh1,821) per night, including breakfast and taxes.
Another luxurious haven, set on its own promontory overlooking the sea, is Le Agavi, Via G Marconi (www.leagavi.com; 00 39 089 87 57 33), which has a cliff-edge pool and a funicular down the cliff to a private beach. Double rooms start from €290 (Dh1,390) per night including breakfast and taxes.
In the centre of town, Palazzo Murat, Via dei Mulini 23 (www.palazzomurat.it; 00 39 089 875 177) is an elegant hotel set in a restored 17th-century palace with large gardens. Double rooms start from €150 (Dh719) per night including breakfast and taxes.
Just outside town, with spacious terraced gardens set on a cliff overlooking the bay, is the exclusive Il San Pietro di Positano, Via Laurito 2 (www.ilsanpietro.it; 00 39 089 875 455). It also has a private beach. Doubles start from €420 (Dh2,012) per night including breakfast and taxes.
Find your feet
Most of Positano is pedestrian-only - wear comfortable shoes for climbing steps. Luckily, there is a porter service that delivers luggage to hotels. Find the porters at Piazza dei Mulini or call 00 39 089 875 310.
One of the best ways to arrive in Positano is by sea. The beach at Spiaggia Grande is a hub of activity with boats coming and going, water sports and plenty of restaurants and cafes. Nearby in the main piazza is the 10th-century Santa Maria dell'Assunta church with its colourful tiled dome.
Charter a boat and be captain for the day. Try Lucibello (00 39 089 875 032) or Cassiopea (00 39 089 812 3484) - and choose anything from a motorboat to a sailing yacht. Ask your hotel to make you a picnic lunch with local produce such as mozzarella, ricotta, tomatoes, olives and citrus fruit. Set off along the coast, stopping off at the small coves and inlets that are accessible only by sea.
Meet the locals
Positano's main industry is tourism, so locals are friendly and helpful. The beach-side restaurants are great for people-watching. La Zagara tea room on Via dei Mulini draws a crowd in the evenings for post-dinner treats and live music on its terrace.
For nightlife, try Music on the Rocks beside Spiaggia Grande, a restaurant and piano bar that also runs a late-night club with DJs.
Positano is packed with boutiques, crafts shops and galleries. Floral-print dresses (from about €100, Dh482) and scarves by local designers hang outside shops, and beachwear is a speciality, as are handmade leather shoes. Everywhere you look, decorated ceramic tiles, pottery and fashion goods compete for attention with local delicacies such as olives and lemons, both grown abundantly on the terraces. Many shops sell all things lemon - from soaps to lemon cakes and drinks.
Book a table
The seafront has a good choice of restaurants and La Cambusa is one of the finest, with plenty of fresh seafood on the menu. A three-course dinner without wine costs on average around €65 (Dh316) per person.
For Italian atmosphere, Da Vincenzo (www.davincenzo.it), further up the town on Via Pasitea, is a family-run restaurant with excellent local cuisine. Dinner costs on average €30 to €40 (Dh145 to Dh194) per person. Don't miss Ristorante Scirocco in Montepertuso (www.ristorantescirocco.it), a village above Positano. It has beautiful views and runs a complimentary car from the town. Steak Fiorentina is a speciality. Dinner costs from €20 to €45 (Dh97 to Dh218).
For elegance, La Sponda in the Le Sirenuse hotel (dinner from €70 to €100, Dh340 to Dh486) and the Il San Pietro hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant (dinner from €75, Dh364), both have romantic settings with candles and ocean-view terraces.
What to avoid
The Amalfi Coast road is narrow and full of bends so it can be challenging to drive. Parking is limited in Positano but some of the hotels have garages. Positano Car Service (00 39 089 87 55 41) will organise private transfers from airports and you can also hire a limousine with a driver by the day.
From the Spiaggia Grande, facing the sea, walk along the Via Positanesi D'America to the right. This cliff path leads to Spiaggia Fornillo, a smaller, quieter beach.
Take a trip by boat to Li Galli (or Sirenuse) - the three islands just offshore. They were said to have been the dwelling place of the enchanting sirens of Greek mythology, the songstresses who lured boats onto the rocks. Another popular destination to visit by boat is the Grotta dello Smeraldo - the Emerald Grotto - just along the coast. The islands of Capri and Ischia are also within reach by boat.
If you're feeling energetic, try one of the hiking trails above Positano. A stairway of 1,700 steps leads up from Montepertuso village to where the Sentiero Degli Dei (Path 0f the Gods) begins - an elevated trail with spectacular coastal views.