In Conca dei Marini
Rambling Conca is built on a hillside overlooking a picturesque cove and a tiny beach, Marina di Conca, where a few boats are moored. This quiet hamlet was once an important commercial stronghold for the Amalfi Republic: Its small harbor had boat building and commercial facilities that made it richer than neighboring Amalfi until raiders destroyed the town in 1543. The view from the Church of San Pancrazio (Salita San Pancrazio) is splendid, and the 14th-century Convento di Santa Rosa (where nuns invented the famous sfogliatella of the same name), off Via Roma (above SS 163), makes for a pleasant excursion. In summer, the convent's church, Santa Maria di Grado, hosts chamber music concerts held by the Ravello Concert Society (tel. 089-858149; www.ravelloarts.org).
Discovered in 1932, the Grotta dello Smeraldo (Emerald Grotto) is a beautiful underwater grotto that shines with a unique blue-green light when the sun is high and the sea calm. Less famous than Capri's Blue Grotto, it is still impressive, at 30m (98 ft.) long by 60m (197 ft.) wide, with stalactites, stalagmites, and an underwater ceramic manger that was submerged in 1956. It is accessible by boat from the tiny beach, by swimming, on foot down a long series of steps from SS 163, or via the elevator by the Conca Azzurra hotel and the SITA bus stop (Positano-Amalfi line) on SS 163. Excursions are also offered from Amalfi and Praiano. The grotto is open daily, weather permitting, November to February from 9am to 4pm and March to October from 9am to 7pm. Admission is 6€ and includes the rowboat ride from the beach or elevator (Note: You're not expected to tip the oarman unless he goes especially out of his way to accommodate you.).
Sfogliatella di Santa Rosa -- In the 17th century, the nuns at Convento di Santa Rosa replaced the traditional ricotta-cheese filling of a Neapolitan sfogliatella pastry with a delicate pastry cream and a spoonful of amarene -- candied sour cherries in syrup -- a change that met with immediate success. Today you can taste this delicious creation in local pastry shops such as Pasticceria Pansa in Amalfi and in Conca dei Marini in August during the festival dedicated to it, Sagra della Sfogliatella di Santa Rosa.
Furore is more a sparsely built rural area than a proper village, and little would justify a visit here if it weren't for the local wine and good food. A visit to the local winery, Marisa Cuomo's Cantine Gran Furor, Via Lama 14 (tel. 089-830348, www.marisacuomo.com), is a relaxed business, and the award-winning wine is great. Hikers will enjoy the scenic Sentiero della Volpe Pescatrice (Fishing Fox Trail) (about 45 min.) that leads from Contrada Sant'Elia down to Marina di Furore the small beach at the bottom of the narrow gully -- a fiord, really -- where the local fishermen keep their boats. The long, steep trail was the regular village path that cut down the rocky walls of the fiord created by the brook that still flows at the bottom (furore means rage and refers to the way the sea rises in the fiord during storms). You can also reach the cove by boat, from one of the harbors nearby.
A collection of farming hamlets, Agerola has its administrative center in Pianillo. The most scenic of Agerola's bourgs is San Lazzaro where, past the church to the left, you will find the Punta, a natural terrace offering dramatic views over the sea. Via the road to the right of the church, more awesome panoramas open from the terrace by the former Castle Avitabile (Colonia Montana), and from the ruins of Castel Lauritano. The whole area offers unending hiking opportunities, including the demanding but extremely scenic 5-hour hike to the Vallone delle Ferriere waterfall, starting from San Lazzaro.
Visit a cheese shop to sample fiordilatte, caciocavallo, and scamorze. Among the best are Caseificio Agrisole, Via Case Sparse 81 (tel. 081-8731022); Caseificio Belfiore di Cioffi, Via Belvedere 35 (tel. 081-8791338); and La Montanina, Piazza Avitabile Gennaro 3 (tel. 081-8025272).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.