5 Reasons Why I Love The Amalfi Coast (and G Adventures)

I’ve been laid off from my job as a travel consultant since April 2020 (due to COVID) and I really miss “talking travel”. My “job” isn’t just “a job”, it’s a career I’ve built up over three decades, more than half my lifetime, building relationships with colleagues, clients and suppliers.

Over the course of 30+ years of being in the travel business, I can tell you that I’ve visited some AMAZING places….places which literally take your breath away and every May, for the past four years, my thoughts are taken back to one of my all-time favorites….the Amalfi Coast, Italy.

epic views along the Amalfi Coastline

I had been to Italy when I first got into travel. I was fresh out of travel school, no certificate to prove I’d graduated, but a sweet man named Mr. Joseph Gideon hired me in good faith. Mr. Gideon led faith-based groups around the world, and it was just my good fortune that my first trip overseas (not including going to Croatia with my Mom, Dad and little sister) would be one that included Italy.

grainy photo as this is a photo of a photo – Mr. Gideon and me in Italy

During that trip we visited Rome, Florence, Assisi, Venice….that part of Italy. Fast-forward to 2017 and I’m presented with the opportunity to visit another area of Italy….the Amalfi Coast. Some basic geography: when most people hear “Amalfi Coast”, they picture the town of Amalfi, which is lovely, but there are many other picturesque towns along that coastline (Positano, Ravello, Praiano, Minori, Maiori, Atrani, Furore….they’re all small, population from just over 800 to about 5600).

My visit to the Amalfi Coast was something entirely different and the reason is because I went with G Adventures.

If you don’t know this already, G Adventures does small-group, experiential and immersive travel. As per their website, “We keep our group sizes low so you have the freedom to move around and get involved with your surroundings, as well as more personal attention from our local guides. This intimate size ensures that your group will not crowd your experience. You can expect up to 15 travelers on a trip but the average is 10. Check individual trip pages for maximum group sizes.”

Sure, you can do Amalfi on your own, I’ve arranged F.I.T. (fully independent travel) for clients, but for a first time visit, I strongly recommend doing it as part of a small-group.

G Adventures has what they call “CEO’s”, or Chief Experience Officers on every group. These are local people who know the destination like the back of their hand. Our CEO for Amalfi was Anna and she was fantastic! Anna was (and still is!) knowledgeable, funny, friendly; she made sure that each of us was comfortable and that nobody felt excluded and made sure everyone had the best possible experience they could. Anna made sure everything ran smoothly; when there was a change in plans (which is to be expected, after all, nothing in life is perfect), she informed us immediately and gave us options to choose from.

Going with a small group and having a CEO means you’ll learn much more than you would on your own. Anna is like a living breathing encyclopedia….but more more animated and interesting!

I personally am an introvert, so I don’t do well with large groups, but our group had a total of 13 people, which was for me, perfect. And because we were like-minded, there was always plenty to talk about….or not. I had lots of time to myself, not because I’m anti-social, but because I need alone-time to recharge my personal energy.

Another advantage of going with a small group means you have safety-in-numbers. There is, of course, plenty of free time throughout the day and night, but exploring with about a dozen people is, in my mind, comforting. I felt safe, knowing that I wasn’t alone. The age-range for the group that I was with was from about mid-20’s to about late 60’s and everyone got along wonderfully.

Ok, here we go….5 Reasons Why I Love The Amalfi Coast (and G Adventures):

  1. The food! Our trip started in Naples. Truth be told, I didn’t really enjoy Naples. That could be because I’m not a “city person”. If you’re a city person, you’d love Naples. It’s loud. It’s hectic. It never sleeps. There’s fabulous shopping (think, Italian design, perfumes, jewelry and fashion) and wonderful eateries are abundant (always make sure you save room for dessert in Italy!!).

One thing I DO like about cities, is the architecture, and since Naples is so old (dating back some 4,000 years, it’s one of the oldest cities in the world) the architecture is beautiful. The only problem: graffiti. I LOVE street art, but this isn’t street art. The vandals have taken out their frustrations at the local politicians and sports teams on those beautiful buildings and it truly is a shame.

The BEST thing about Naples, in my humble opinion: the pizza! As I mentioned in a prior post, Naples is the birthplace of pizza and wow, do they ever know what they’re doing! There are so many varieties! But more importantly, they use quality ingredients and you’d be hard-pressed to not find a pizza you’ll love.

From Naples, we moved on to Pompeii. History was never my favorite subject in school, so having a private tour of the ruins was very insightful (also very sad!!). If you’re planning on going (well, for one thing, contact me privately! I’ll be happy to help you!), keep in mind that you cannot take backpacks into Pompeii. Sadly, people (and by “people” I mean selfish idiots) have been stealing parts of the ruins! Lockers are provided at the entrance to stow your belongings safely.

2. Our accommodation was simply sublime. Not because it was 5 star….but because it was 10 stars!! There was no glitz or glamour, nothing fancy at all but I give the Agriturismo Sant Alfonso 10 stars for the following reasons:

Great location – quiet and tucked away, but just a short drive to anything you may want or need

Epic views – photos don’t do it justice, you truly need to see it for yourself!

The owners are lovely; you can’t help but admire all the hard work they do to ensure their guests are comfortable.

All the food is prepared on-site with the best-quality ingredients.

The staff is never in your face but all always discretely available to attend to your requests.

The bedrooms are basic (after all, this used to be a monastery in the 16th century) and have retained their historical feel, but with modern updates, such as a private en suite bathroom.

Our room had ceramic floor tiles, shutters on the large window, two twin beds, washroom with shower, large armoire and trunk for clothing storage and the most peaceful view I’ve ever woken up to. There may have been a TV in the room, maybe not, I truly don’t recall, because our days were so full (nicely full, not hectic!) and we really just went to our rooms to freshen up and to sleep.

morning view from my room

The grounds are lovely. This is technically a “farm stay” but there are no cow-patties to worry about. They do have some animals (including a gorgeous peacock) on site, but the grounds are pristine and you don’t have to worry about stepping in anything stinky. There are fruit trees, rose bushes….everywhere your eye lands, it lands on something beautiful.

We ate all our meals al frescho, except the last breakfast before our departure. That morning it was like Mother Nature was as sad as we were to be leaving and it rained, so we enjoyed breakfast indoors. Breakfasts and dinners are included in this program.

Lunches are not included because at lunchtime you’re always away from home-base, discovering the local interests, on your own schedule (as long as you are at the meeting spot on time to get driven back to your home-away-from-home). By knowing where to go (thanks to Anna), you can have a HUGE lunch, for just a few Euros. I’m including here a photo of my hand next to the “sandwich” I got for lunch one day in Ravello. Keep in mind, I have large hands….and you can’t see the side-view but it was a good 10 cm (4 inches) tall, stuffed with sliced meat and cheese….this thing was HUGE (and so fresh!!).

“sandwich” lunch, purchased in Ravello, including a Coke, about $6CAD

Breakfast was always freshly prepared (the baked goods! oh my gosh the baked goods!!).

quality over quantity

We had two cooking demos also included in the program (well, not so much “cooking”….we learned how to make fresh pasta….and we learned how to make a proper tiramisu).

I loved that the food was all about quality over quantity. I had one meal at dinner, oh my gosh, I don’t even know what it was to be honest, it was pasta with cheese of some sort and an amazing sauce….I honestly have no idea what it was called but if I die today, I die happy because it was one of the best meals I’ve had in my life!

Of course, Italy is world-renowned for its wine. Usually I can’t consume alcohol, it just doesn’t agree with me, but the wine I had in Italy was phenomenal and it didn’t upset my belly at all. The other alcohol I tried during my stay on the Amalfi coast was lemoncello. I happen to love pretty much anything made of lemon, so this was a perfect “dessert drink” for me (and very refreshing at the same time). I later came to discover (in Sorrento), they also have meloncello (honeydew melon) too, and it’s delicious!

a variety of “cellos”

Agriturismo Sant Alfonso is a hill-side property (so great views from anywhere); on the upper portion (ie above the bedrooms) there are sun-loungers and a hot-tub. On what I call the main level there is a lovely pergola made of grape-vines (lovely area to gather and have a drink before dinner). They often have weddings at this property (Follow them on Instagram).

Because the property is on a hill, there are lots of steps, which I love but if you have mobility issues, this isn’t the best place for you. With that said, this “Local Living Italy – Amalfi Coast” program is for the active traveler. There are four hikes included (we opted to do three, and then spend one day in Sorrento instead of doing a fourth hike) and you do need to be in good physical shape to participate. With that said, at the time I did the trip, I was 50 years old. I walked everyday here at home (and still do) but by no means was I an athlete; I had absolutely no problem keeping pace. The only reason I was slower than most others in our little group was because I kept stopping to take photos.

view upon arrival at Agriturismo Sant Alfonso – lots of steps but when the view’s spectacular, the exercise is worth it!
outdoor dining with gorgeous sea view
lovely peaceful seating area with amazing sea views

3. Speaking of hikes….that was my third favorite thing about experiencing the Amalfi Coast with G Adventures. Because we were a small group, our transportation was Mercedes vans, driven expertly by two local gentlemen (the roads are super-windy on the coast, and I’m normally not the best passenger, but I never once felt unsafe in the safe hands of the Italians). After breakfast, we would be driven to a spot in town and then we’d start our hike….not around town, but into nature, and then ending up in town for lunch.

Our first hike was basically a tester….to see how the group would fare with the level of difficulty. On a scale of 1 to 10 for difficulty, I would rate this hike a 1….it wasn’t difficult at all….more like a stroll, with lemon groves scenting our way.

Our second hike was along the Path of the Gods, which is known to be one of the best hikes in the world. The trail averages about 500 m (1640 feet) above sea level.

The main section of the hike is 6.5 km (4 miles) between the small villages of Bomerano (in Agerola) and Nocelle (above Positano). There are beautiful views of the Tyrrhenian sea and coastal towns below along the way. 

This hike was more physically demanding (from 1 to 10 for difficulty, I’d give it a 5), but we weren’t in a race, everyone went at a pace comfortable to them, and everyone made it safe and sound. If you’re going to do just one hike on the Amalfi Coast, I recommend it be this one.

that “little” tree poking out in the middle of the photo is the huge tree at Sant Alfonso
views for days
a view fit for the Gods
Positano

Our third hike was what our guide Anna called, “5000 steps”. I didn’t have a Fitbit at the time, but I would bet my right arm that we took about 50,000 steps….and they were all uphill….on craggly steps that felt like they were barely holding together!!

I say this in fun though, because we all had a good sense of humor, even as our energy levels were being drained away haha!

This was truly a difficult hike and from 1 to 10 on the difficulty scale I would give it a 9 (10 being scaling the Himalayas haha). Some of our group opted not to do this hike because Anna warned us at dinner the night before that it would be a challenging hike, so they stayed at the Sant Alfonso and had a relaxed day.

Another thing I love about travelling with G Adventures….unlike travelling with large groups (I’m talking 40-45 people, ie a large motor coach), because we were in a small vehicle (well, not SMALL, but smaller than a motor coach) we could easily zip in and out of places a large bus couldn’t go AND, we were never standing around waiting for someone.

I’ve been on several large group tours and it’s par for the course to wait for someone in the group to go back to their room to get their jacket or sunglasses or whatever. With a small group, you kind of keep each other accountable and on track so to speak.

In addition, with the large escorted groups, sometimes you have even more than just one motor coach….the last large group I was with (Greece and Egypt) we had five coaches (I think…maybe 4, maybe 6….let’s say fiveish haha)….and with all due respect, 95% were over 70 years of age, so we moved at a glacial pace…..which is all well and good if you have time, but with the escorted tours, they’re on a pretty strict schedule to get you from place to place, to have time to see what’s in the itinerary, etc.

With a small group, it’s totally more relaxed. After our hike, we were shown where the meeting spot is and what time to be there and then we could go wherever we wanted and at whatever pace we wanted. I loved that!

Anyway….moving right along….

My favorite towns were Atrani and Ravello. Positano is well-known for being beautiful, and it IS, but its also very touristy and expensive. The smaller towns of Atrani and Ravello are more my cup of tea..low-key….artsy…..with something interesting around every bend. If you love ceramics and pottery, you have to check this area out!

4. My fourth favorite thing (I kind of touched on this already)…and this has more to do with G Adventures and our CEO Anna than Italy itself….I love that there’s structure, but there’s also flexibility. The program technically includes four hikes, but Anna took the temperature of the group during dinner one night to see if we all wanted to do hike number four, and most didn’t, so we decided to do a day-trip to Sorrento instead. I love that flexibility. If you were travelling on your own you could be that spontaneous, but if you’re travelling with an escorted bus group of 40 or more people, there’s no way you could be that spontaneous.

Again, me not being a city person, Sorrento didn’t “do it” for me. It’s a city. A lovely, lively, vibrant city, but a city none-the-less.

Another heads-up. And I mean no disrespect when I say this: Italian service is probably not what you’re used to. For example, I was trying to use an ATM in Sorrento, but was having issues with my credit card, so I had to go into a branch. I went into the branch and stood “in line” (there was nobody in front of me, I was the ONLY customer in the bank) and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.

There WAS staff in the bank….I could see them seeing me, but they simply couldn’t be bothered to ask me if I needed help.

Finally a lovely man (and by lovely I mean tall, dark and handsome) came into the branch and stood behind me. After a few minutes he too became irritated with the wait and we started chatting (he spoke fluent English). He was able to get a staff member to help me finally.

Likewise, at restaurants. They are masters at getting your attention, to come into their restaurant, but once seated, it’s not unusual to wait a half hour just to get a glass of water and a menu.

With that said, tipping in Italy isn’t the same as tipping in North America. In Canada we are generally expected to give a 15-20% gratuity. You are not expected to tip in restaurants in Italy. A service charge is sometimes added to the bill, ranging from 1 to 3 Euros, or 10% – 15% and this charge must be indicated on the menu.

Keep in mind, dining in Italy isn’t like dining in North America either, generally speaking. Here (I’m in Canada) we go out (well pre-COVID/lockdown we did!) for dinner, sit down, get a menu almost instantly and within an hour we’ve eaten and are ready to head home.

In Italy, they take their time. They actually have a term I adore: dolce far niente (“pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness”)….their relaxed attitude toward living life at a slower pace is reflected in their attitude and service. So pack extra patience when you go to Italy (I say this with all due respect; life is too hectic in North America, we can stand to learn a thing or two from the Italians).

I’d like to add here another perk of going with a small group. I’ve traveled with escorted group tours, 40 or more people on a full-sized motor coach and can tell you, you will never have the same dining experience with 40 people as you would with a dozen people.

Restaurants aren’t set up to seat and serve 40 people at one time and the dining options as a group that size are limited….you typically have a set menu.

On the other hand, restaurants LOVE small groups. We typically had dinners at the Agriturismo, but when we ate out at a restaurant as a group, we could choose from the full menu and getting served was much quicker than when I’ve traveled with large groups.

5. The fifth and final thing I loved about my G Adventures adventures was the excursions that are offered. I also loved that there was no pressure to purchase them. With that said, prices are a bit of an unknown if you’re trying to budget before you leave home.

I think for the one I did (which I talk about below), on the “Know Before You Go” info G provides, it said the cost was 25-60 Euro (or something like that). The reason for the fluctuation, I learned, is because it depends on how many in the group decide to go….the more who go, the lower the cost. (so if you’re budgeting, take the higher figure cost and then you will for sure have enough)

The excursion we opted as a group to do was the day-trip to the magical island of Capri. Again, since we were a small group, we had our own private (speed) boat (and handsome Captain I may add), which gave us the luxury of taking our time to really appreciate the surrounding beauty.

Faraglioni, on the way to Capri (by private speed boat)ā€¦.legend is that you have to kiss whilst going through the rock opening.

I LOVE being on the water. I just feel more alive, I can’t explain it.

There are many grottos (including the White Grotto which we stopped at) but the most famous one is the Blue Grotto. This to me, as lovely as it might be inside, is a tourist trap. When you get near the Blue Grotto with your boat, there are other smaller boats that will take you inside the grotto…for a hefty fee. In speaking with people who’ve gone into the Blue Grotto, they all felt like they didn’t get their moneys’ worth.

Anyway, our Captain took us to Capri, where we docked at Marina Grande. From there, six of us hired a convertible taxi….

……who took us on a little tour, and then up to Anacapri, which, truly, must be seen to be appreciated!

Capri

Anacapri

Capri is known as one of the worlds’ most beautiful islands….and Anacapri is the crown jewel. We took the cable car up to Monte Solaro, where I experienced one of the top five views of my life (the others, for reference/perspective, in no particular order: Denali in Alaska, Jade Mountain St. Lucia, Eagles Eye Restaurant in Golden, BC, Mt. Pilatus in Switzerland and Great Wall of China).

view from Monte Solaro
more views for days

And there you have it…..5 Reasons Why I Love the Amalfi Coast (and G Adventures).

This had been my first experience travelling with G (but not my last….more recently I went to Iceland with them) and I can tell you, hand on my heart, that it’s because of them that I had such a positive and memorable experience during my stay on the Amalfi Coast.

I debated calling this post, “5 Reasons Why I Love G Adventures” but there are more than just five reasons. By the way, this is not a sponsored post; I gain nothing in return for writing this (except personal satisfaction in giving kudos where they’re due).

I know we can’t travel internationally right now, but some day we will. If you would like to work with me for your travel to Italy (or anywhere else for that matter…I specialize in F.I.T) please send me an email or Comment below.

Thank you for giving me fiveish minutes of your day today….well, I think it was probably more like 10-ish minutes, but to try and cram all I love about the Amalfi and G Adventures into five minutes would be a disservice to both! I hope I was able to virtually transport you to one of the most beautiful places on the planet!

2 Comments

  1. Haha I laughed at your comment of The Greece and Egypt group- mostly aged about 70. Ahem! I was 57.

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