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Amalfi Coast Little Jewel Town, Praiano

Nov 9, 2007
Most tourists exploring the magnificent Amalfi Coast just south of Naples stop at the two big diamonds, Positano and Amalfi and ride right through little jewel town of Praiano, about half way between Positano and Amalfi.

What a mistake! Why not stay in beautiful Praiano like I did? It's smaller, less crowded and feels less touristy than its more famous neighbours.

This September I wanted to hike the mountainside pathways between Positano and Amalfi (another story for another time!) so chose Praiano as a good point between the two. A three day stay full of delights!

My single room in Hotel Perla on the edge of Praiano opened on to a sunny, little balcony with good views of the coast of dry, brown and green steep mountains falling to the blue sea. Perched above the Amalfi Coast road the hotel is quiet, but you walk only a few steps to the bus stop for buses to Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi or Salerno.

I enjoyed a good buffet breakfast on the sea view terrace and the convenient Internet service in the lobby. Hotel La Perla, perlahotel.it Phone: 089-874246. Doubles range from 100-150 Euros.

Best of all, a staircase a few feet along the main road from Hotel Perla takes you down past a Saracen tower to a great restaurant on the sea that doubles as a beach spot during the day.

The Paradies Restaurant sits on a patio on rocks above the water's edge so you look out along the coast, watch boats come and go and admire the lights sparkling over the sea as darkness falls. I liked it so much I went twice!

The fish soup was full of prawns, mussels, squid, octopus and clams in a delicious tomato broth. The roasted peppers with capers and black olives with good quality olive oil were excellent. The outgoing owner gave me good advice on what wine to order by the glass. I spent about 27 Euros.

My third day, back from lots of sightseeing, I ambled down the same stairs to find a sun cot to laze on by the sea for a couple of hours and found the same restaurant owner. When I asked him how much the sun cot rental was, with a big smile he exclaimed, "For you, it's free!" He sure knows how to make people feel special! Terrazze Paradies in Praiano, Via Terramare 6. Phone: 089-874534.

A two minute walk east along the Amalfi Coast road from Hotel Perla takes you to a little sandy beach. You can also catch a water taxi from here to Positano where you take boats to Capri or along the coast.

Walking west for about 20 minutes on the pretty, sea view back roads from the hotel past houses, gardens, school, shops and hotels takes you to the centre of Praiano. To go there by bus, you can catch the cheaper, local orange buses or the more expensive, crowded Amalfi Coast SITA buses.

For local orange bus tickets at 1 Euro you pay the driver directly. For SITA buses, you buy your tickets first in designated places like some coffee bars. Tourist tickets good all along the coast are 5 Euros for a 24 hour period.

A SITA bus driver told me SITA won't sell foreigners 1 Euro local tickets unless they can prove they're local residents. A small thing but it left a bad taste in my mouth.

In Praiano's town centre I descended into the large main piazza dominated by the gleaming, white San Gennaro church with its striking dome of white, blue and yellow tile and tower with yellow and green tile roof.

Inside the church I got a really nice surprise, a very pretty Baroque interior in yellow, green and white. On the piazza I gazed out over the sea along the coast to Positano. What a beautiful view!

I followed steps below the church on streets too narrow for cars past homes, gardens and patios with tomatoes hung to dry, down to the other beach, a series of patios on the rocks, with views of Positano, sun cots and umbrellas, beach bar and restaurant. The 5-10 minute climb up or down the steps is good exercise!

I was in Praiano on September 19, the festival of their saint, San Gennaro, so what better place to have dinner than Trattoria San Gennaro set right above the main piazza. At my open air table it felt like a dinner theatre.

In the piazza brass bands were playing. The church was outlined in strings of white lights. The piazza was all dressed up in big flower forms of yellow, green and white lights. Children ran around the piazza playing with new toys bought at the stands. What a magical sight as the sun set in pink and orange over the sea!

My linguine allo scoglio loaded with fresh tomatoes, parsley, prawns and other seafood and my bountiful salad of lettuce, arugola, tomatoes, fennel, carrot and radicchio were excellent. Trattoria San Gennaro, Via G. Capriglione. Phone: 089-874293.

I would have loved to stay longer in Praiano and hang out for some carefree days at its beaches and eat more fish and drink white wine. Praiano is a little jewel set between two big diamonds, the perfect quieter spot to base yourself as you explore the busier, more famous Positano, Amalfi and Ravello.
About the Author
Margaret Cowan of Vancouver, BC owns a tour company, Mama Margaret Italian Cooking Holidays at http://www.italycookingschools.com.

They ran their first Italian cooking, wine and walking tour in 1995. Margaret and her local Italian tour partners offer tours all over Italy from Piedmont to Sicily.
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