Scooter and passerby in an Amalfi tunnel, shot on a Zenit E

The Amalfi Coast is one of the most popular tourist spots in Italy; synonymous with romantic getaways and honeymoons, a string of small towns hugging cliffs linked by hair-raising road journeys.

The Amalfi Coast’s popularity has skyrocketed since the 1950s, and it’s one of the country’s biggest tourist draws. Thousands flock to the terrace restaurants at Positano and the main square at Amalfi, the cliffside views of Ravello and the beaches of Maiori.

Despite being one of the most tourist-choked parts of Italy – along with Florence,  Rome and Venice – the Amalfi Coast’s a brilliant photographic destination.

I went to the Amalfi Coast in 2011; an old friend I used to work with in a pub nearly 20 years ago was getting married there.  Researching the area beforehand made me realise what a superb location it was. I based myself in Atrani – a stone’s throw from Amalfi itself – and used the few days around the wedding to explore Amalfi and its surrounds.

Not far from the madding crowd…

Spring is the best time to visit the coast; the temperatures haven’t yet hit their fiercest, and while the coast is busy – very busy – it’s not as crammed as it can be in July and August. The squares and passageways reward a little planning; scanning for the spots where the light will be best.Amalfi is the centrepoint of the coast, boasting a justly-famed cathedral, and with streets full of restaurants, gelaterias and shops and boutiques. The main streets are a hive of activity, with coachloads of tourists arriving on coaches from nearby Sorrento and Naples.

Even on the town’s main street, Via Della Cartiere, the crowds peter out, leaving islands of isolated calm. The scooter shot is from the quiet end of the street, some minutes walk from the crowds clustered around the cathedral. I shot this on a  Zenit E, a Soviet camera built in the many, many millions from the 1960s. It’s one of my favourite pics from my travels around the world.

Even in the heart of the crowd, it only takes a few turns before you’re out of the masses; on day trips, most people instinctively stick to the busy areas. The cross-processed shot of the metal handrail on the whitewashed wall was metres away from the main street but felt like half-a-world away.  Quiet lanes, shaded by white stone walls, attract only the most inquisitive.

Atrani, a 10-minute stumble from Amalfi – and that’s if you dawdle along the way – is in stark contrast. There’s no direct access to the winding coast road, meaning it’s only access is to the sea. This has kept the town’s main square an oddly quiet spot, considering its proximity to one of Italy’s busiest towns.

I shot these pics on three bodies and a range of films; a Zenit E, a Pentax ES and a Pentax ES II, all of which use screw-mount lenses. This meant I could experiment with films – colour print and slide, cross-processed slide and black and white, and use the same lenses with all the cameras. Everything I needed for shooting (including the wedding) could be packed into a Crumpler shoulder bag, film and guide book included. Then it’s just a case of finding the best places to explore.

Check out more shots from Amalfi here (I’m sure my friends won’t mind you seeing their wedding shots) and check out his blog from a fellow film photographer with some great shots from the Amalfi Coast.

Atrani boats on cross-processed Fuji Velvia
Fishing from the cliff between Atrani and Amalfi, another shot on the Zenit E which cost me £4
Local life on an Amalfi side street
Blue jeans and a blue Fiat – could me any time from the last 40 years
Cross-processed Veliva, with no post-processing…
A young lad prepares to make the leap into the Med
The most peaceful spot on the Amalfi Cast? Atarni’s main square

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Stephen Dowling
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Turquoise Compass
10 years ago

I love this turquoise bike. I am always looking for turquoise treasures.

9 years ago

Hello TC – it was a lucky find. Thanks for reading.