When we first went to the Amalfi Coast, we drove over the mountains from the Naples side of the Amalfi peninsula. We drove through curvy switchbacks and through work-a-day villages straight through to our apartment rental--a cliff hanging villa in Conca dei Marini with views of the sea and the Furore bridge far below us. Il Conca is not really a village... it's more of a location. But two notches in the cliffs over to the west was sprawling, work-a-day community of Praiano.
I say "sprawling", because the houses are not tucked into one notch in the seaside cliffs as Amalfi town or Positano are. There really isn't a central piazza, as other towns have. There are parallel streets clinging to the broadside of the mountain, connected by hairpin turns going up, up, up the cliff side. This is what real Amalfi living is like. The local taxi is a golf cart. You need a very small car to navigate the streets here. Hold your breath if a bus tries to pass. There is a surprise at every turn... an alimentari (grocery) here, a bar-tabacchi there, then suddenly a duomo... with dramatic views of the sea from everywhere.
And then there's the beach far below, tucked into a natural notch of the mountain as it meets the Tyrrhenian Sea. It's one of the rarities on the Amalfi Coast--an actual, sandy beach. Not big, but amazingly picturesque with it's bobbing blue boats the hugging precipices on either side of the small harbor.
Another unique thing to look for in Praiano is the art. It is literally everywhere. Painted walls, tile murals, ceramic sculptures... they are all over the town in unexpected places. Praiano has a reputation for being very artistic and a bit eccentric. Enjoy their passion.
All in all, if you're going to stay on the Amalfi Coast for more than just a few days, staying in Praiano would be a great way to really experience the Amalfi lifestyle, without having to put up with the huge tourist crowds in the more popular towns like Positano, Amalfi or Maiori. It's also central enough to be a hub for exploring the Coast Road, Naples, Vesuvius and Pompeii.
Next, we have Atrani... a bit further east on the Amalfi Coast road, and the lost twin of Amalfi-town. They were once joined but an earthquake and tsunami in 1348 washed the lower part of Atrani into the sea. Today, it's one of the more relaxed villages on the Amalfi Coast, but with everything a Voyager could want: great shopping (especially the food shops), picturesque architecture, a sandy beach, fantastic restaurants and decent parking (either in their public parking, or in the parking garage built into the cliff between the two towns).
I love the way the Coast Road goes over an arched bridge past the town, with the village tucked in just under it. It's a walking town... and you can even walk the old donkey paths to visit Amalfi. It takes about 20 minutes to walk between the two, and if you'd like, you can explore the paths further up the mountain where you'll come across amazing gardens and views. You might even run into a worker with his donkey carrying a load of bricks to a cliff side villa. These paths are still used to bring materials up to peoples' homes--how else would they get stuff up there?
So, if you want to buy some colorful ceramica, bottles of limoncello or just soak in the sun while staring at a sea view from your balcony, try either town... they are both worth the trip. The Amalfi Coast is one of the most amazing places I've been... ever.