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Europe Made Easy

The Amalfi Coast

Italy's most beloved Mediterranean shore has long been a playground for the rich and famous—from Jacqueline Onassis to Francis Ford Coppola—and anyone else in search of la dolce vita. Positano and Capri are the region's obvious classics, but the town of Amalfi itself, with its tangled alleyways and rainbows of parasols lining the wide beach, is arguably just as stunning, minus the sky-high prices. WHERE TO STAY In 1222, Saint Francis of Assisi founded Luna Convento (33 Via Pantaleone Comite; 39-089/871-002; www.lunahotel.it; doubles from $260); by 1822 the Barbaro family had turned it into a 44-room hotel built around a Byzantine central cloister. The clan has since hosted everyone from playwriting greats (Henrik Ibsen, Tennessee Williams) to silver-screen royalty (Ingrid Bergman, Roberto Rossellini). WHERE TO EAT The bread, the zuppa di pesce, even the pasta is made fresh daily at Eolo (3 Via Pantaleone Comite, Amalfi; 39-089/871-241; dinner for two $125), which hovers above the Bay of Amalfi. • Chef Antonio Dipino earns La Caravella (12 Via Matteo Camera; 39-089/871-029; dinner for two $125) a loyal following with local specialties, including cod au gratin over fennel, dried tomatoes, and freshly creamed mint, and risotto with lemon, shellfish, and bottarga di muggine (mullet eggs). • Just across the street from the Duomo Sant'Andrea, Mario and Franco Grimaldi make their mother Gemma proud at her namesake Da Gemma (9 Via Frà Gerardo Sasso; 39-089/871-345; dinner for two $112). Try the melanzane in salsa di cioccolato, a dessert of eggplant coated in chocolate—it's an Amalfi favorite. WHERE TO DRINK Encircled by fig, lemon, and olive groves and covered in magenta bougainvillea, the sparkling white Hotel Santa Caterina (9 S.S. Amalfitana; 39-089/871-012; www.hotelsantacaterina.it) stands above the sea. Rooms start at $410, so rather than spend the night, grab a cocktail at the terrace bar. WHERE TO SHOP You can save a bundle by picking up your own snacks and picnicking on the beach. Pastas, herbs, and freshly made cheeses are sold at Nicola Anastasio (32 Via Lorenzo d'Amalfi; 39-089/871-007), a well-stocked food emporium. • Across the street, a dozen tiny grocery stores keep their stalls overflowing with bright, pendulous Amalfi lemons, sweet cherry tomatoes, and chandeliers of sun-dried tomatoes or hot peppers. • Antichi Sapori d' Amalfi (39 Piazza Duomo, 39-089/872-062) sells some of the best limoncello in the area ($4). • At the 174-year-old Pasticceria Pansa (40 Piazza Duomo; 39-089/871-065), beside the duomo, the shelves are lined with sweets like traditional sfogliatelle (reportedly invented at the convent of Santa Rosa just west of Amalfi), lemon-glazed profiteroles, and rich chocolate. BEST SOUVENIR Europe's first paper mill was built in Amalfi in the 12th century; pick up soft, cream-hued stationery ($10 a pack) at the Museo della Carta (23 Via delle Cartiere; 39-089/830-4561) or at Amalfi nelle Stampe Antiche (10 Piazza Duomo; 39-089/873-6354). WHAT TO DO Inside the geometric façade of the town's duomo stands the famous Chiostro del Paradiso. Originally built in 1268 as a burial ground, the "cloister of paradise" is a labyrinth of interlaced Moorish arches and verdant gardens. SIDE TRIP The beach in Amalfi is broad and vital, but walk a mile east to Atrani, a 10th-century residential area. Sealed off from the main piazza and the busy road, Atrani's beach is tourist-free and tranquil.
—Liz Krieger

Europe's public baths cost far less than spas. Here, five top spots. • ENGLAND Nicolas Grimshaw's long-awaited re-do of the Thermae Bath Spa (Bath; 44-1225/331-234; www.thermaebathspa.com; day rate $83) finally opens this summer. • FINLAND The Japanese-style Yorokobi facility at Haikko Manor (Porvoo; 358-19/57601; www.haikko.fi; day rate $15) combines wet and dry saunas with four pools. • FRANCE When Parisians want to unwind, they go to the Turkish hammam at the Mosquée de Paris (39 Rue Geoffroy-St.-Hilaire, Fifth Arr.; 33-1/43-31-38-20; day rate $19), where a 20-minute rubdown is just $25. • ITALY Steep in mineral springs once enjoyed by the Etruscans at Tuscany's Terme di Saturnia Spa Resort (Saturnia; 39-0564/600-111; www.termedisaturnia.it; day rate $20). • GERMANY Baden-Baden's palatial Friedrichsbad (49-7221/275-920; www.carasana.de; day rate $45) mixes hot, dry air with steam rooms and whirlpools. Prudes, beware: clothing is verboten, even in co-ed areas.
—Jennifer V. Cole

Thanks to three new European companies that are gathering big labels under one roof, the treasure hunt for discount designer clothes has become a lot simpler. • Located in the U.K. and across the Continent—Scotland, England, Wales, Austria, Italy—McArthur Glen Designer Outlets (www.mcarthurglen.com) are not to be missed. The best is in York (St. Nicholas Ave., Fulford; 44-1904/682-720), where you'll find all the British hits—Thomas Pink, Burberry, Paul Smith. • In Switzerland, the Foxtown Factory Stores (www.foxtown.ch) sets the gold standard. Its outpost in Mendrisio (18 Via A. Maspoli; 41-91/646-2111), a 30-minute drive from Milan, sells Prada, Ferragamo, Loro Piana, Yves St. Laurent, and Hanro. Recently a Gucci dress from a few seasons back was priced at just $35. • Value Retail (www.maasmechelenvillage.com) has outlet villages near seven European cities. They stock last season's items from Carolina Herrera, Mandarina Duck, and 150 other labels.
—Laura Begley


Until it earned its independence in 1964, the island of Malta had been conquered by nearly all of its neighbors, from the Carthaginians to the Romans to the Saracens. Today, the 122-square-mile country between Sicily and Libya is being invaded by Hollywood directors, who use it as a double for 1960's Beirut, 19th-century Genoa, and ancient Troy at a fraction of the cost of other European resorts. Film stars (like Brad Pitt, who recently played Achilles here), location scouts, and everyday travelers take advantage of very un-Hollywood prices in Valletta, the fortified capital city, which sits on the sandy north coast, and Mdina, the old medieval capital, nicknamed the Silent City for its traffic-free streets and tiny population (377). Both are best explored on foot, allowing you to slip into the slow rhythm of the place that seems to sit on the edge of the world. WHERE TO STAY Set in a 17th-century palazzo in Mdina, the Xara Palace (Misrah Il-Kuusill; 356-21/450-560; www.xarapalace.com.mt; doubles from $246) has panoramic views, a rooftop restaurant, and period furniture in its 17 rooms. • The Italianate Corinthia Palace Hotel (De Paul Ave., Balzan; 356-21/440-301; www.corinthiahotels.com; doubles from $252), in residential Balzan (the island's bourgeois enclave for more than 300 years), is also close to Mdina. The president often eats dinner in the Corinthia Room, a formal dining hall in an 84-year-old villa on the property that serves French and other Continental dishes; the hotel also houses one of the island's best spas, the Athenaeum. • Jon Bon Jovi and Boy George prefer the Westin Dragonara Resort (Dragonara Rd., St. Julian's; 356-21/381-000; www.westin.com; doubles from $140), a Neoclassical hotel on its own peninsula, in the northern nightlife hub of St. Julian's. WHERE TO EAT Have lunch at Rubino (53 Old Bakery St., Valletta; 356-21/224-656; lunch for two $70): the whitewashed stone-vaulted cellar of this converted early-20th-century confectionery buzzes with the capital's business elite, who come for the mezes (mize in Maltese), pasta with rabbit sauce (fenkata), and other Mediterranean specialties. • You're practically guaranteed to spot a star at La Dolce Vita (159 St. George's Rd., St. Julian's; 356-21/337-806; dinner for two $70), which overlooks Spinola Bay and is famous for its fresh fish. • Sit on the terrace of Ciappetti (5 St. Agatha's Esplanade, Mdina; 356-21/459-987; dinner for two $70), a vine-covered house that has walls dating back to Norman times. The 19th-centurydome of the Santa Marija parish church—also known as the Mosta Rotunda—in the nearby town of Mosta, forms the backdrop for sophisticated interpretations of Maltese and North African dishes. WHAT TO DO Explore Valletta, a mix of florid Baroque architecture, narrow cobblestoned streets, and buildings that span several centuries. Among its many historic sites—all within walking distance of the city center—is St. John's Co-Cathedral, with inlaid marble floors covering the gravesof the 16th-century Knights of St. John. • Tour Mdina's snaking alleys, designed to confound invading armies; its architecture, called Siculo-Norman, is a mix of Arabic, Sicilian, and Norman styles. It's one of the best-preserved Baroque towns in the world.TIP Package tours offer the best value. At www.visitmalta.com/us, a six-night stay in one of the luxury hotels listed above, including airfare, starts at $999 per person.
—Andrea Bennett


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