Positano, where it is said the Greek Gods used to holiday, has long been revered for its incredible produce and cuisine by food-lovers from all over the world. In this food travel guide, we’ve put together our hotlist of foodie things to do in Positano, the type of experiences that this picturesque coastal town is so famous for.
The seaside village of Positano on the Amalfi Coast of Italy clings gravity-defyingly to the Lattari mountains and could be considered one of the most elevated towns in the world. But that did not stop local farmers from chiseling lemon terraces, veggie patches and vineyards into the mountainsides, resulting in some of Italy’s most amazing local produce and dishes.
So, once you’ve enjoyed some sea and sun, you can concentrate on the most important part of getting to know this magical place: eating and drinking your way through Positano. Make sure you don’t miss a thing. Buon Appetito!
# 1 Start each glorious day with a Neopolitan pastry and espresso
Italy’s most famous dessert, tiramisu may come from the north but when it comes to pastries and desserts there’s no question that the Southern Italians have it in the bag.
Neopolitan pastry makers have mastered the delicious rum-soaked baba, deep-fried zeppole (Italian donuts) and Torta Caprese, an almond and chocolate tart with a hint of lemon that was apparently invented by chance when an unnerved pastry chef forgot to put in the flour when baking for Al Capone.
Ricotta and citrus are key ingredients but chocolate, especially Nutella often makes a star appearance. Amalfitans are not that big on breakfast and the little bakeries in Positano such as Collina’s and La Zagara are a-buzz first thing in the morning with locals popping in for their quick sugar hit and an espresso before they start their day.
Just follow their lead and do exactly that (more space for lunch!) and if you have to choose just one pastry make it a sfogliatella. This shell-shaped confection is made of hundreds of flaky golden leaves of pastry and filled with sweet ricotta, semolina and citrus peel. If you are in luck they will be hot from the oven – this is the stuff that dreams are made of.
# 2 Spend long lazy days at the beach, interrupted only by eating and drinking
Representing a singular slice of jet-set life in the 50s and 60s when screen sirens frolicked on the beaches of Positano, as illustrated in the work of renowned filmmakers such as Fellini, the Amalfi coast’s shoreline is a tempting drawcard – not only for the mind-blowing setting but also for the alluring attitude Italians bring to their beach-going.
Surrounded by all that glorious blue water splendidness you are naturally going to want to spend as much of your time possible on the beach, and so you should. But don’t fret that this will eat into your culinary exploration time, as the pastime of eating and drinking is as much a part of beach life on the Amalfi Coast as swimming, tanning and flirting.
Although Italians may not like straight queues when say for instance waiting in line for gelato, contrary their bagni are arranged with amazing linear precision to make the most of premium space. There is often a smaller free space on the beach where you can throw your towel, but generally, beach chairs and umbrellas take up most of the prime real estate and come at a fee.
It is totally worth it though as it enables you to secure a great spot, especially if you plan to spend the day. If the weather’s fine – and it almost always is – pack a picnic for the beach using the best local ingredients and you will have a gastronomic treat at street-food prices.
Otherwise, head over to a beach club, which is an integral part of the seaside scene on the Amalfi Coast. It can be a little chichi, seen-and-be-seen kind of vibes, but most are relaxed and family-friendly.
Da Adolfo just 15 minutes outside Positano is a great choice and reachable by shuttle boat from the main beach in Positano (be sure to book your spot, up to two weeks in advance). Here you get to take a break from your sunbathing in true Italian style with a lingering sit-down lunch at the seaside alfresco restaurant.
A good way to get a taste of the local specialties is to ask for the house antipasti. This is usually a combination of fresh mussels, grilled octopus, grilled vegetables, mozzarella on lemon leaves, arugula pesto pasta and much more. It is also popular to have local grilled fish such as pesce spada (swordfish), tuna, or clams and shrimp.
Wash it all down with the summer drink on everyone’s lips – pesche al vino (white wine with peaches). Bellissimo!
# 3 Discover everything lemon!
Lemon trees are everywhere you cast your eyes in Positano. They are grown on the steep terraces on the coast, along the roadside, in gardens and you will see many potted on balconies. The snaking roads of the Almalfi coast are dotted with fruit stalls proudly displaying gorgeous knobbly Amalfi lemons.
The fragrant lemons that grow in this area are of the oldest cultivars and have a thick bitter pith, few seeds and produce at least 25% of its volume in juice making chefs go mad for the stuff.
It plays a starring role in many local dishes, and you should not miss a thing – from thirst-quenching aqua de limone to mozzarella baked in hollowed out lemon halves (or on the leaves from the lemon tree), lemon marinated anchovies, spaghetti al limone, and ravioli de ricotta with grated lemon peel and mozzarella – you have to dig in and try it all.
On the sweet side, you have to try the famous delizia al limone (sample one at La Zagara) – a simple little half-moon-shaped sponge cake soaked in lemon syrup and covered with lemon cream.
Oh, and the most favoured product made from all this lemon deliciousness is of course the famous Limoncello, a refreshing lemon liqueur which is usually served ice cold after a meal, the perfect ending to a lovely summer meal.
Planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast? Then you are in the right place. This hotlist of our best stays for food lovers in Positano is especially for you.
# 4 Taste your way through Cucina Povera
When someone says mangia in Italy, you can always count us in and in Positano there is no shortage of amazing local produce to delight in. At street markets, there are olive oil, olives and cheese, sun-ripe tomatoes, crisp perfumed fennel and whatever fruit is in season.
These homegrown foods are the ingredients of la Cucina Povera (the “poor cuisine”). The northern Italians once snubbed these ingredients of the south as being too humble to be interesting.
But today chefs have returned to their roots and we are immensely thankful that they did as it is one of the most delicious cuisines, and to all accounts healthy too. They cook traditional, inspired dishes with the slow-dried, flour-and-water kinds of pasta from Gragnano, raw-milk cheese, extra-virgin olive oils, salted anchovies, and a multitude of unusual fish.
Neopolitan cuisine today exemplifies the inventiveness of cooking with inexpensive local ingredients to create simple, but delectable dishes that make the most of seasonal vegetables and abundant seafood such as Mozzarella di bufala alla caprese (Caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella) and Parmigiana Melanzane (Eggplant Parmesan).
These are the types of dishes that make the food of the Amalfi Coast delicious and memorable, and that you should look out for during your visit. Bite into oozing arancini (rice croquettes), garlicky spaghetti con pomodorini (spaghetti with cherry tomatoes), rich and crunchy pesce bandiera gratinato (flag fish grilled in breadcrumbs) and reviving risotto con gamberi e limone (lemony prawn risotto). Satisfaction guaranteed!
# 5 One of the most satisfying things to do in Positano is to eat pizza created by a master pizzaioli
Naples, only a few kilometers up the Amalfi Coast, is famed as the birthplace of what we today call pizza, so expect to eat incredible pizza in Positano. Let’s start with what some may consider the inconveniences – you get to choose between only a handful of variations such as margherita and pizza marinara.
So why then do we recommend that you eat pizza in Positano? Because it will be some of the best pizza you will ever have in our opinion!
Here master pizzaioli have been handmaking the stuff for over a hundred years by using slow-raised dough, the best fior di latte mozzarella, olive oil, hand-picked basil and San Marzano tomatoes all baked in a traditional wood-burning oven. Not a crazy topping in sight.
# 6 Make seafood a part of every single meal
Every day fishermen haul their boats ashore beneath the colourful majolica dome of the parish church Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta ensuring that the trattorias have no shortage of fresh seafood on the menu.
Seafood is a staple of local cuisine and an integral part of day to day life. Try Scialatielli con Vongole e Limone (pasta with lemony clam sauce), salty frutta misti del mare (mixed plate of small fish and squid) and risotto alla pescatora (Seafood Risotto) – you won’t be sorry!
One of the most typical local seafood dishes is the delicious Pesce Aqua Pazza (fish in crazy water), prepared with a whole seabream delicately poached in olive oil and water, flavoured with some garlic and a handful of pomodorini (cherry tomatoes) to aromatic effect. Mop up the fragrant sauces with crusty focaccia and watch the sky turn slowly from mauve to midnight blue. Life does not get any better than this!
# 7 Immerse yourself in the local cuisine with a cooking class
Learn the finer nuances of Neopolitan cuisine from a local food expert. Of all the foodie things to do in Positano it is hard to beat the pleasure of joining a local cooking class.
There are few things that will bring you closer to the heart of cucina povera than cooking it! After all, Nonna knows best.
There are several cooking classes in Positano that are worth joining where you will learn to cook a variety of favorite local dishes, from seafood to homemade pasta and pizza.
The Positano Pizza Experience is perfect for pizza lovers of course. Located just out of town and up the hill in Montepertuso, it’s a fun way to spend the day, and then you get to eat what you cook.
Ristorante Donna Rosa not only serves amazing traditional food but also offers classes at Donna Rosa Kitchen School where you can learn how to cook some of their best Italian specialties.
Il Ritrovo Cooking school is another delicious and fun option and really gets you involved in the kitchen.
# 8 Enjoy gelato at the gelateria, on the beach, under a lemon tree, on your vespa.
Make as many trips as possible to the gelateria. It goes without saying of course, but the Italian’s fame for making the best ice cream cannot be overstated.
Add to that the sun, sea and multitude of steps you have to take to reach wherever you want to go in Positano and you’ve got the recipe for your best gelato experience yet – earning it just adds to the satisfaction.
The brasserie of Covo dei Saraceni situated right next to the harbour has, in our opinion, the best gelato in Positano, but some of the locals disagree, preferring the more bespoke artisanal range of flavours of Mulino Verde. Just to be sure test both, as many times as possible.
# 9 Embrace the splendid Italian tradition of the aperitivo and make the most of the magnificent vistas
In Italy the tradition of the aperitivo, a pre-dinner drink specifically meant to whet your appetite, is observed with as much fervor as Sunday mass and soccer. It takes place at the end of the workday as a kind of warm-up to dinner.
It is one of those quintessential things to do in Positano and a way of life that is easy to get behind. What food lover could possibly object to eating and drinking as a way of getting ready for, well yes, eating and drinking! Besides, if you don’t take part in this tradition during your visit you will be missing one of the core cultural expressions of Italy, not to mention the best way to enjoy the incredible sunset views of Positano.
The custom is to drink something with a certain bitterness at this hour and the drinks menu reads like an old-fashioned novel – think Aperol Spritz, Negroni, Martini and Campari. The are many spots in Positano to enjoy aperitivo but none better than the Champagne Bar at the exceedingly glamourous Le Sirenuse hotel.
The ambiance, spectacular views, and raw bar with oysters and other seafood in a white marble crib might just make you linger longer, well past the time of your dinner reservation.
# 10 Walk and feast with the Gods
One of our favourite things to do in Positano is to head for the mountains on a warren of paths and spectacular stairways along the Sentieri degli Dei, or Pathways of the Gods, all the way to the quaint villages of Montpertuso and Nocello.
Walking the coastline will let you get away from the crowds disappearing high into the Lattari mountains on ancient mule tracks that dip and climb between vineyard and sea. Lemon groves by day, stunning fishing villages by night, cobalt coves for cooling along the way – trekking isn’t meant to be this good, plus you will reach your Fitbit goals in less than an hour and of course, work up a roaring appetite!
You can do day-long treks and take transport back to Positano, or join a self-guided hotel-to-hotel walking tour through companies such as Inntravel who will carry your luggage ahead.
Whatever your choice the end goal is always to stop along the way for multiple picnics and to end the hike feasting on local dishes washed down with wines from the Campania at one of the incredible traditional restaurants in these small villages such as Ristorante Donna Rosa in Montepertuso, where nonna’s recipes rule.
So there you have it, 10 not-to-be-missed foodie things to do in Positano that will keep all the senses engaged and delighted for one of your most delicious trips ever.
Steep walks to the beach, swimming in the sea and healthy Mediterranean cuisine mean those of strong resolve, who can resist the flavoursome pasta dishes, delectable Italian ice cream and fragrant regional wines, could, at the very least, come away from a break in Positano feeling revitalised and cleansed.
But, if you are like us and you live to indulge in la dolce vita, you will experience this piece of heaven as a dream-like place that seems too good to be real when you are there.
However, when you leave Positano, you will find that it’s had such a strong effect on you, that you yearn for it and can’t wait for your return.
Photography: Liezel Norval-Kruger, Ernest Porzi, Justin Aikin, Raghu Nayya, William Fonteneau, Sander Crombach, La Zagara