The Amalfi Coast in southern Italy is as much a state of mind as an actual place. The endlessly deep blue of its sea-vistas, the confetti colors of towns rising out of the cliffs and its seemingly endless sunshine make it the “go-to” place for an escape from the rigors of everyday life. And it’s had that image have made it a vacation haven for two centuries. It’s been both an escape and an inspiration for all sorts of artists from the 19th century to today--Giovanni Boccaccio, Richard Wagner, Pablo Picasso, Gore Vidal and plenty of others.

This stretch of southern coast along Italy’s Gulf of Salerno, is mix of cliffs, sea and picturesque villages, with small beaches tucked in here and there. The two major ports on the coast are Amalfi and Positano; this stretch of the Amalfi Coast is its busiest.  There are smaller and equally attractive villages such as Cetara, Minori and Praiano. The easternmost village is Vietri sul Mare, followed by Cetara, both popular tourist towns. Continuing west, you’ll enter the Bay of Amalfi and find Maiori, Minori, Atrani and Amalfi. Continue from Amalfi to Positano, located in deep cove. This is one of the world’s most visited stretch of seacoast, particularly in the spring and summer, when there are many art and cultural events. The fun begins when the sun goes down on the Amalfi Coast, which has an amazing range of choices. At one bar (actually built into a cave that overlooks the ocean) New Age music meets age-old fishing techniques when local fishermen pull up nets full of seafood at the very edge of the dance floor. There are Irish pubs, wine-and beer bars and wonderful restaurants.

Ferries, which run frequently, can be the best ways of getting, especially because local roads can be clogged in the summer. Then, of course, there is that famous coastal road, with its images of carefree jet-setters in shades and scarves tooling along its famous hairpin bends, precipitous drops and heart-stopping views. Traffic can be heavy and you’ll be sharing the road with aggressive Neapolitan drivers, so consider using an alternative mode of transportation such as bus, taxi or chauffeured car.

Dining out, in fact, is a major part of the Amalfi experience. You’ll find some of the world’s best fish and seafood here. Tucked into the narrow streets of small villages are creative chefs producing menus based on whatever the fishermen brought in that day--pasta and clams, fish sauce and pesto. Other restaurateurs bring a contemporary twist to regional classics.