The Amalfi Coast of Old

Not into tourists, souvenir shops and inflated prices? Then Cetara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the Amalfi coast town for you.

It's a memory of what this whole coast was like back in the 1960s. A town that still lives from fishing, where the priority is the sea beyond and not the sea of tourists.


Old Fashioned Stress Relief

The weight of the world slips from my shoulders each and every time I check into the absolutely delightful Albergo Diffuso. I unpack and step out into my "happy place".

I arrive full of nervous energy. Three days here and that has gone.

I don't rush from one thing to the next, I don't need to stick to rigid self-imposed deadlines and I'll forget to check my phone for hours on end... sometimes all day.

Problem is that once I leave here I find it hard to go back to the rushed life elsewhere. The life I'd rather live is that quiet and tranquil one lived in Cetara.

What to See in Cetara?

Cetara Alleyway"Cave like" lane in Cetara

Well, you mostly come for atmosphere, to experience the real Amalfi Coast. You come to eat the famous seafood dishes, spend time in a town as pretty as a postcard and to relax on the beaches. The uniqueness of this little town is such that it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

I also love getting lost in the little lanes behind the beach; they meander their way upwards through the town, almost cave like. Suddenly you're in a dimly lit tunnel and then, suddenly, a view of emerald hills or turquoise sea. 

Even without the views these stairway "caves' offer enchanting cameos of life in Cetara: children play on landings, housewives chat away. Sometimes, as I stop to catch my breath, an elderly resident will effortlessly sail past me, carrying shopping bags galore.

There are a couple of historical attractions too, these are the main ones:

A 16th Century watch tower

At the end of the beach, built to defend the town after a Turkish raid led to most of the town being transported away as slaves.

The Church of St Peter the Apostle

A truly beautiful church that dates back to the 9th century. Saint Peter is the town's Patron Saint and the focus of the annual festa held on 29 June each year.

Even if you aren't Catholic and speak no Italian do try to attend the Sunday Mass in the church - it is truly moving. You'll see all the town's fishermen and their families here, they are still strong in faith and never fail to thank God for bringing them back safely from the sea.

To be a part of the Mass is to understand the town. 

The Church of Saint Frances and the Church of our Lady of Constantinople

These are the other two churches in Cetara and both are worth visiting. The frescoes in the Church of Saint Frances (San Francesco in Italian) are particularly beautiful.

The Happiest Town on the Amalfi Coast

Why are they so happy here?

Maybe because they aren't swarmed with tourists or maybe just because that's how they are.

Whatever the reasons you'll find it infectious; I challenge you to spend a few days here and not feel the happiness, not to find a smile always upon your face.

Eat like a Roman

Acquapazza Restaurant, CetaraAcquapazza Restaurant

Locals tell me that the tuna and anchovies fished here are the best in the world. In fact, they tell me that a lot of the catch is bought by the Japanese and flown straight to Tokyo. 

Of course they keep some of the best for themselves and for you, their guest.

Their best kept secret is the special sauce made by the fishermen from the "juice" of the anchovies. It sounds a bit disgusting but the taste is simply delicious.

It was the legendary Garum sauce, much loved by the Romans and largely lost to modern cuisine... except in Cetara of course.

To try it, ask for spaghetti with colatura d'alici - if you love anchovies you'll love this.

The place to try it is at Acquapazza at 38 Corso Garibaldi: Corso Garibaldi is the main street leading up from the port.

If you're here in August do attend the Sagra (a type of festival) dedicated to tuna and other fish. It is normally held the first week or second week of August.

In the evening the area near the port transforms into a huge outdoor restaurant, tables are set up under the stars and fairy lights twinkle in the trees. Music is traditional and so are the seafood dishes served - a great way to get a taste of the happy life of Cetara.

Time for the Beach

Cetara has a pretty little beach, right in front of the town. Mostly sand mixed with gravel but pleasant nonetheless.

There's a pay section near the watch tower, but, alongside that, there's a free part which is lovely and clean and, except for weekends in July and August, it isn't normally over-crowded either. 

For an even better beach, walk down to the tower at the end of the main town beach and follow the path to Spiaggia Lannio. The walk is easy, takes about 15 minutes. The only slightly strenuous part is a flight of around 50 steps leading down to the beach itself.

You'll be glad you made the effort; the beach is beautiful: soft sand and sea so blue, so crystal clear.

Getting Here

You can drive, but parking is very limited and always difficult to find in summer. Best is to arrive on the Sita bus that runs up and down the coast. Alternatively, catch the ferry from Salerno or Positano - Travelmar operate the route.

Street in Cetara

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