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Surprise Observations from Living on the Beautiful Amalfi Coast in Italy

By Linda Ward August 26, 2023 Travel

This spring and summer my husband and I spent three months in Maiori, Italy, a town on the Amalfi Coast. After the grueling air flight, complete with stopovers, delays, and upright airplane seats, we made it there!

Finding our 3-month rental apartment from the directions was not simple. We wheeled our suitcases on the cobblestones, looking like the typical tourists with bags falling and confused looks on our faces. Once we located the building, we met our Italian landlord. Through broken English and our limited Italian, we had all our questions answered and we settled in.

The Location

The interior of the apartment was updated, even though the exterior of the building was old and worn from standing proudly for many years by the sea. The town itself was quaint, stunningly beautiful, walkable, and situated right on the Tyrrhenian Sea. The streets throughout the town were narrow, some barely accessible by car. Almost all were paved with old cobblestone, that survived through many centuries.

In the town center there was a triple wide street and center median area where tables with large umbrellas were set up. On several occasions we enjoyed cappuccino, gelato, or a restaurant’s evening meal under those umbrellas.

Deep dark espresso with its fragrant aroma could be found in many coffee bars. Italians stand at the bar to have coffee (1.20 Euros) while tourists like me usually end up sitting at a table like we do in American coffee shops. A seat at a table adds a few coins to the bill. Several Patisseries lined the streets, making for endless possibilities of various sweet and savory additions to the espresso!

Travel Came in Many Options

Without a car, the train, bus, or water ferry were our choice to get around from town to town. The water ferry gave us an incredible view of the Italian coast. As I close my eyes right now, I can envision the rock formations, cliffs and caves, and the sea as it washed up on the coastal shores. I will never forget those beautiful views.

Italians Are Just Different

Many times, we wondered why the local Italians were so kind and gracious to us. We came to find that they are just that… kind and gracious. After three months we found it sad to leave them to come back to our home in the US. Some of our new acquaintances had tears in their eyes as they gave us their final hug and Italian kisses.

Surprise Observations from Our Time in Italy

Here’s are some things learned about Italy while living there.

Unique Town Patron

Every town has a patron saint that they adore. Celebrations center around bringing a statue of this saint on a parade route, as the Italians follow behind.

Daily Grocery Shopping

Grocery stores are typically small and visited almost daily by Italians. Fresh is best, with fruit and veggies supplied directly from nearby countryside farms. Products have different names, not just Italian names, but could be called something quite different altogether. Several products I have grown to depend on in my cooking could not be found at all, such as chicken broth, rotisserie chicken, and premade meals.

Greeting Everyone

The most compelling and surprising part of our stay were the Italians themselves. Every day we were greeted by almost everyone we met on the street with a heartfelt “Buongiorno!!” Shop owners wanted to know our names and then they remembered them.

Random Invitations

One day as we sat on a bench, enjoying a morning in a park, an Italian woman came over for a chat. She spoke very little English, and we spoke very little Italian, but we spent the next 45 minutes talking and laughing together (with the help of our phone translator). She invited us to join her in her home for homemade tiramisu. What an honor to be invited into a local home, treated with tiramisu made from her long-held family recipe.

Everyone Knows Everyone

All the shop owners and locals really do know each other. This small Italian town of about 5000, knew the sons and daughters of neighbors and shop owners. It sometimes took a long time to walk a short distance with an Italian as they stop to catch up with friends, shop owners, and neighbors who walk by.

On the 3rd anniversary of the death of a young man who lived and grew up in Maiori, locals posted a large sign in his memory. Tourists had no idea who this person was, and why he was being honored, but would find out that the town had lost a young person that everyone knew, and everyone still grieved this loss years later.

Families Own Businesses and Work Together

We were surprised to learn that coworkers were all related in some way: siblings, cousins, parents, grandparents. The beautiful lemon and olive groves that lined the mountains have been in family hands for generations. The owners use their family secrets for harvesting and supplying the world with the delicious fruits of their labor.

Italians work hard together, and many live together, or close, to care for each other. Shops close from approximately 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. to have time off in midday for lunch with family or to rest before going back to work for the evening.

Celebrating Traditions

Celebrations and parades are based on years of traditions that made no sense to us. Some of the parades were quite weird and odd looking to foreigners yet loved by and very important to the locals. One thing we could not understand was the frequent fireworks. Almost every night we could hear them, with no obvious reason given. We came to learn that fireworks are used to celebrate large and small events and are very much part of Italian tradition.

Soccer Games

The Italians are very much into soccer. During our stay, one of the teams had won a match and the entire town celebrated with whoops and hollers, singing and fireworks! This celebration was spread out over several days. All this action happened without the overuse of alcohol, as it is frowned upon to drink heavily in public.  

No Crime

The locals would always respond “no crime,” when we asked them questions about the current crime rate. We were skeptical of this answer, but we asked various people around town, and they responded the exact same way. We researched and found the crime rate is very low, which was obvious by how people leisurely walked the town center after their evening meals.

Moms pushing strollers, little kids walking with parents, older people out for a stroll enjoying gelato is normal after dark and after the late evening meal. This was the most refreshing for us. We didn’t think or worry about gun shootings, car jackings, or any number of violent things that were happening in the US while we were gone. It just didn’t exist there.

Work Background Doesn’t Matter

Italians were not interested in what we did for jobs or how we made a living. We were never asked to answer this. What they wanted was for us to enjoy living. They readily explained or gave information on anything we asked, and then wanted to give us espresso or feed us something! No wonder living in Italy is called “the dolce vita!” (The good life.)

Read about my previous experience in Italy here.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What observations have you made from living in a different country? Are the locals similar to what you’re used to, or are they quite different? In what ways? What did you love the most about your foreign stay?

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Joseph Ficarra

I agree with all your comments about t Phe Italian culture as was your experience. My wife and I will be headed your way in 30 days. For the first half of our Italian adventure we are headed to Sorrento for our base of operations. For the first week we’ll be doing the Amalfi coast towns, Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum. I lived in Naples during the 70’s and up north in the 80’s, so I am well familiar with the points you made. This will be my wife’s first trip to Italy and she is very excited about going. We will be in Umbria for the second week of the trip. We have pretty much filled both weeks with tours in both regions. Thank you very much for sharing your reflections on your trip.

Linda Ward

Joseph, I wish you and your wife the most amazing time! I’m confident that your wife will fall in love with Italy. She could react like Toni, who commented (below) that she wanted to sell everything and move after her trip to Italy! I’d love to hear your reflections on your trip when you return. Ciao! Linda

Joseph Ficarra

Signora Linda, d’accordo. We will get back to after our return. Ciao and bone notte… Joe

Joseph Ficarra

Pardon the mispelled Italian words. My phone keyboard wouldn’t cooperate.

I loved this post and was fascinated to hear about your positive experiences in Italy. In my recent trip to France I felt so welcomed by the French shopkeepers and wait staff who were patient with my slow attempts at speaking French. I was traveling alone, but soon felt comfortable everywhere I visited. It’s nice to see that in France and Italy people often take the whole month of August off, and are generally driven by the desire to lead a good life, rather than by making the most money possible. Good values!

Linda Ward

First of all, good for you to travel alone! You didn’t let fear hold you back, and you had an amazing life changing experience.
I observed their desire to lead a good life for themselves, their family, and for others to be their driver in life too.
When and where will you travel next? ☀️


Hi, what an amazing experience!!!I would love to know how you found your rental? Would be possible to share ? Thank you.

Linda Ward

Hi Angelica,
We found the rental apartment through long term airbnb. If you are serious about going to the exact same town, I can give you the landlord’s contact information. He was so good to us!


My family and I spent 3 nights and 4 days in an amazing villa hugging the cliffs abive Maiori this summer. We too found this small coastal town a gem along the Amalfi coast….the food, lsndscape, and generosity of the people in this quaint village made this our favorite place in Italy.

Toni Stritzke

I went to a small town on the Gulf of Liguria to walk the Cinque Terra in 2016. It was part of my middle-aged gap year, having missed out on one raising my two children on my own.
I agree whole-heartedly with your words. Italians know how to live properly when most of us in the Western World have forgotten.
I wanted to sell up and move there after a week and I would have done so if not for my children and grandchildren. Perth being just too far away,

Robert Clark

The biggest surprise must have been the Adriatic, eh, Vespucci?


Not to mention Italy winning the World Cup! 🤦‍♀️

J. Magnasarvei

Snark aside (and I love snarkiness), here are my two euro cents:
For starters, Maiori is on the Tyrrhenian Sea, not the Adriatic. Buongiorno is not spelled with a ‘j’, and maybe you meant the local football club won a game; the last time Italy won the World Cup was in 2006.
It’s clear that you enjoyed your vacation and tried to learn as much as you could about the area, which is more effort than many tourists who come to Italy are willing to make. However, given the many erroneous declarative observations you make here, it’s clear that a fundamental lack of language skills (Google translate and the like are not substitutes for linguistic/cultural complexities aside from basic phrases). I think it is a bit of a disservice to others to present your observations as statements of fact. While there is some truth in much of what you’ve written, it is, on balance, not really an accurate reflection of life on the Amalfi Coast, let alone other regions, provinces, cities and towns. Furthermore, it is reminiscent of the Frances Mayes mindset, one which sees Italy through a guazy romantic filter; one that any foreigner who’s really lived here for any length of time will tell you is best disregarded if you wish to really understand the myriad complexities, contradictions and marvels that comprise the country that is Italy. While your efforts are laudable, I don’t believe that your post, however well-intentioned, serves any real or beneficial purpose for the traveling public. I say this as a business owner in the HORECA sector in Italy, and one who cares deeply about sustainable tourism in general.


How rude of you

Terri Gregory

Not all Italians are delightful. I lived and worked near Napoli and had a variety of experiences. It was wonderful.

Linda Ward

Buongiorno J. Magnasarvei!
I love the myriad complexities, contradictions and marvels that comprise the country that is Italy. As a tourist and someone who is very interested in all these aspects, I’m still learning and admit to having so much more to know!
I’m not offended by any of your snarkiness or corrections. I rather like it! I tried to learn as much about the area and the language before leaving for Italy. I fell so short on this (evident after arriving there) that it’s proven to me I need to take an Italian language course and study more before returning.
You are right, the amazing Tyrrhenian sea Sea (not Adriatic) was sparkling and captivating. We only had to walk one block from our apartment to get a perfect view.
Regarding my statement about the World Cup, here’s the correct information. “Napoli is the reigning Champions of Italy. Having won the Series A title in the 2022-2023 season. Napoli has won three Series A titles, six Coppa Italia titles, two Supercoppa Italiana titles and one UEFA Cup” (Wikipedia). Thanks for correcting and clarifying. The celebrations around this event were full of so much joy, and continued for days. It was fun to be there with the streamers and flags of the team proudly displayed.
As far as providing a beneficial purpose for the traveling public, my post was not for that purpose. It was solely for stating what I observed. Ciao, Linda


Linda, everyone has their own interpretations and experiences…I LOVE italy and Maiori…you gave your thoughts through your eyes and your heart…


Nice vocabulary absolutely outstanding ! Now I will type to you that the post is 100% accurate and I can say personally I have been here and it’s absolutely amazing. But I bet it took you a long time to type all of that lol.


My beautiful Italian.mother often reminded me, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”

The Author

Linda Ward is a Writer and Life Coach living in Minnesota. She specializes in helping mature women find everyday happiness and a satisfying life. She zeroes in on life after divorce, retirement transitions, and finding courage no matter what the circumstances. Her inspiring new eBook is called, Crazy Simple Steps to Feeling Happier. Linda’s Professional background is Social Work and Counseling.

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