Praiano has less wealth and sophistication than its more famous neighbors and more olive and lemon trees than tourists. From afar, it looks as alluring as a landscape painting. Up close, apart from the town piazza and the nativity scenes in an enclave on the eastern edge of town, it can easily feel like just a village-along-a-road. However, meandering off the main road to explore the quiet spots and scenic views reveals a peaceful oasis that captivates many travelers.
The town's name comes from Plagianum, as the people who first inhabited the site were called. Back in the 13th century, King Charles I of Anjou founded a university here, the doges of Amalfi established a summer residence, and, for a while, Praiano was renowned for its silk industry. But the decline of Amalfi's 12th-century maritime republic hit hard; the charming parish church of San Luca, at the top of the village, is a reminder of those headier times. A medieval lookout tower on the rocks still keeps guard over the coast, and hidden coves are for boating, bathing, and sunning off the rocks. The views are splendid, especially at sunset looking toward Positano, and you can clearly see as far as the Faraglioni rocks in Capri from here.
What really makes Praiano worth a stop is the vast bayside piazza, in the Vettica Maggiore area of the village; it almost seems to levitate over the water. This is a fine place to stretch your legs and view distant Positano, the coast, and the sea. Paved with an intricate, colorful pattern in majolica, the piazza is a fitting setting for the Chiesa di San Gennaro, rebuilt in the 16th century, with its notably ornate facade and a gleaming majolica-tile dome. Paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries include Martyrdom of S. Bartholomew, by Giovanni Bernardo Lama, decorating the side chapel. You'll find a pretty but hard-to-reach cliffside beach if you follow the "Spiaggia" signs from the church; it's at the end of an olive grove, hidden at the bottom of the hillside, next to a tiny anchorage.