Designer and hotelier Carla Sersale - founder of Emporio Sirenuse and owner, with husband Antonio Sersale, of Le Sirenuse, one of the Amalfi Coast's most iconic hotels - shares a deeply personal guide to Positano. Read on to discover coastal villages with the most mouth-watering spaghetti, hidden lagoons and vistas that few tourists will ever see.


 Views, Le Sirenuse © Brechenmacher + Baumann


John Steinbeck once wrote: "Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone." And he was right. Despite the crowds, the heat, and the effort it takes to climb and descend all the stairs that form the town’s dense network of streets, Positano is captivating.

Once it enters your heart, you’re hooked, and will want to go back again and again to marvel at the view, enjoy a plate of spaghetti con le vongole with a glass of Falanghina wine, and bask in its golden light. Here are my favorite spots in Positano.

Where to Stay 

Le Sirenuse: This is my family’s hotel. We live it and love it with a passion. Though Le Sirenuse remains a family home, it offers the service and standards of a 5-star luxury hotel, with the important addition of southern Italian charm. Located in the center of Positano, it overlooks the colorful 16th century dome of Positano’s mother church and the glittering sea below. To the right, the town’s famous pyramid of houses clinging to the cliff makes you feel like you’ve entered a fantasy world, while the Li Galli islands punctuate the horizon. Antiques and contemporary art decorate our rooms as each piece was collected by three generations of Sersales. But guests’ comments praise the staff most of all. In all this beauty, they are our most precious asset.


Views over Positano © Brechenmacher + Baumann


Palazzo Murat: An elegant, 18th-century palazzo frames a beautiful porched courtyard overlooking a heavenly garden. One of the oldest hotels in town, it was built by Napoleon’s brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, as his seaside retreat when he was King of Naples. Perfect for families and couples looking for peace, comfort and space.

Torresponda: There’s an old, terraced garden plot on the edge of Positano laid out around a 12th-century Saracen tower. Scattered around the property are five lovely stone houses, including a five-bedroom villa. Recently, they were made available for summer holiday rentals. Each has a small private garden and an idyllic pool that occupies an entire terrace is available to all. A private beach completes the offering.

Villa San Giacomo: On the old trail that leads to the cemetery are some of the most beautiful historic villas of Positano. One of them is Villa San Giacomo, built in 1741. It can be rented whole for special events, or you can book a room for two. Delicious dinners or lunches are provided by the house chef upon request. There is a large terrace in front of the house with a breathtaking view. Restored ten years ago, it maintains the old, tiled floors and is decorated with antiques.

Casa Privata Ca' Pa': Located in the neighboring village of Praiano, this is a hidden gem with only seven rooms and an incredible landscaped garden that descends all the way to the sea. There is a pool and a plane-tree pergola to kick back and relax in. This is the perfect venue to rent with friends for a family holiday, or a party.


La Sponda restaurant © Brechenmacher + Baumann

Where to Eat

La Sponda & Aldo’s Bar: La Sponda is our gourmet restaurant. It offers traditional Neapolitan cuisine interpreted by our chef, Gennaro Russo. Local ingredients and fresh fish are cooked with love and served on our candlelit terrace, with a mandolin and guitar accompaniment. Aldo’s Bar is our terrace bar with the mood of a relaxed bistro and a highly curated menu that takes in oysters, caviar, raw and grilled seafood, and Neapolitan classics like eggplant parmigiana, paired with dangerously good cocktails and champagnes. The playlists are mixed for us by Arman Naffei, the sonic genius who created the soundscape for Chateau Marmont and other iconic hotels.

Le Tre Sorelle & Chez Black: These two pizza restaurants on the Positano seafront promenade are world famous. Not only pizza, but every kind of pasta dish and delicious fish are served up in an easy-going family-style way. The atmosphere is relaxed and cozy and the tables allow the diners to watch the world go by. 

Da Adolfo a Laurito: Located in a rocky bay just east of Positano, accessible by boat, Da Adolfo is perhaps Italy’s most famous beach shack trattoria.The food is incredibly good and Sergio, the owner, is a six-foot tall, charismatic figure who runs the place with love and kindness, making sure that nothing has changed from when he took over from his father 30 years ago. Mozzarella grilled on a lemon leaf, mussel soup with tomato sauce, spaghetti with green pepper and almond pesto are some of his most famous dishes.

Rifugio dei Mele: Located in the tiny perched village of Nocelle, starting point for the famous Path of the Gods hiking trail, Il Rifugio dei Mele lies 700 meters above Positano. From here the view is absolutely spectacular and my advice is to go early in order to see the sunset. Unlike the restaurants down on the coast, they specialize in grilled meat, but you will also find pasta, rice dishes and fish.

Max & Da Vincenzo: These are two of the best trattoria-style restaurants in Positano. Both serve traditional local food, but they’re located in two very different settings: Max is inside an antique dealer’s store, with no view but lots of charm, while Da Vincenzo has street tables in the center of Positano. Both are worth a visit.

Next 2: Modern cuisine on a charming terrace. If you’d like something different from pizza and spaghetti con le vongole – but still very good – this is the place to go.


Emporio Sirenuse; © Chiara Goia 


Where to Shop

Ceramica Assunta: Hand painted ceramics are made in Vietri sul Mare, a charming small town village at the Salerno end of the Amalfi Drive. But you don’t need to go there to buy your plates. Ceramica Assunta is a historical ‘bottega’ offering an extensive selection of plates and other ceramicware.

Valentì: Limoncello has become a bit of a tourist trap item, but in his colorful workshop on the main road above Le Sirenuse, Valentino Esposito makes his own with care and passion from true Amalfi lemons. He also does a range of marmalades and other products – and you can even sign up for limoncello-making classes.

Emporio Sirenuse: My two boutiques, right in front of Le Sirenuse. One showcases our women’s collections, and the other offers a curated assortment of home and men’s items. I launched the first Emporio Sirenuse resort and beachwear collection in 2013. With time, we added more dresses and design pieces in order to offer a fresh, nuanced, romantic take on Positano’s legendary dolce vita.

La Bottega di Brunella: A classic Positano beach fashion brand, family owned and producing beautiful hand made clothing using made-in-Italy gauze, cotton and linen.

Sandali di Positano: Sandals are hand made in small workshops scattered around Positano. Every little ‘bottega’ has its own style, so I suggest wandering until you find one you like. They will be made to measure there for you.

Ceramica Assunta: Hand painted ceramics are made in Vietri sul Mare, a charming small town village at the Salerno end of the Amalfi Drive. But you don’t need to go there to buy your plates. Ceramica Assunta is a historical ‘bottega’ offering an extensive selection of plates and other ceramicware.

Delicatessen: The best deli in town, which also showcases large ceramic heads, bowls and centerpieces on its rooftop. Opposite the Missoni store, you'll recognize it from the crowd of people taking selfies in front of its curated display of ceramics.

Casa e Bottega: While savoring the most delicious salads, cakes or paninis, you can also browse linen tablecloths or handmade ceramics from the South of France. It’s a true original, refreshingly different from anywhere else in Positano.


Aldo's Bar © Brechenmacher + Baumann 


What to See & Do

A day on the boat to Nerano Bay: Rent a boat and venture out at sea exploring the astonishingly beautiful coastline, swimming in the ‘lagoon’ between the Li Galli islands, or going to eat in some of the most famous places along the coast. The number one location for sure is Lo Scoglio in Nerano, a coastal spot halfway between Positano and Capri, which offers the best spaghetti with zucchini you will ever taste. You'll be welcomed by the beautiful Antonia and served the best antipasti, made with fresh local produce (farmed by Antonia’s father), seafood and love.

A walk in the mountains with a guide (off season): Mountain hikes are not for everyone, especially above Positano where many of the trails are basically long flights of stairs. But if you are fit and a little adventurous, I suggest you take a guide and trek for a few hours. You'll be rewarded by unbelievable views of the sea and coast, and come across secret forest glades and waterfalls that few tourists ever discover.

A wine tasting session with Christian Fusco: Cristian was our sommelier for many years, and he is still a great friend of Le Sirenuse. Recently he started his own Amalfi Coast wine experience company, Swirl the Glass, with his American wife, Jenny. They offer wine tastings at a local Positano restaurant, or private tours of wineries in the Campania region and all over Italy.

A cooking class: If you’d like to experience an evening in a private house learning to make local dishes before you taste them, this is the place:

A visit to Paolo Sandulli: Paolo Sandulli is a painter and a sculptor from Praiano who became very famous for his painted ceramic heads with natural sponge dyed hair. The heads come in different shapes and sizes and are very decorative.

A visit to Villa Romana: The Roman Villa under the main church of Positano dates back 2,000 years. It was submerged and preserved in time by the ashes that rained over Positano after the Pompeii eruption of 79 b.c. It boasts some of the most vibrantly colored frescoes of the time and it’s an hour-long visit that I highly recommend.

A taste of granita in Piazza dei Mulini: Last but not least, if you happen to walk by the Piazza dei Mulini, the always-busy junction between Positano’s internal road
for cars and buses and the pedestrian alleyway down to the beach, you will see a small stand shaped like a boat serving the best lemon granita in the world. Buy a glass, for 2 euros, and you will be grateful. Lemons are the oldest fruit farmed on the Amalfi Coast; all the cultivated terraces from Positano to Amalfi to Vietri sul Mare grow lemon trees. It’s a tradition that goes back to Roman times, and as this granita is homemade with real lemon juice and a touch of sugar, it is delicious.


Da Aldolfo restaurant, Positano © Roberto Salomone