A blossom of history! The scattered around houses of Amalfi really give the impression of how this beautiful town developed spontaneously throughout the course of time according to the collective genius of locals. When in Amalfi it is possible to appreciate how human determination can really make a mark into history's development. Amalfitani have truly made an impressive effort to turn the wilderness of the Coast into a rich and ever famous town of commerce, art and ultimately of tourism. The glory of the Republic of Amalfi is very alive still today, and locals are very proud of their past and of their traditions, which they have managed to treasure, boast and improve.
Amalfi cannot be considered a mere holiday resort as every pebble, every church every square has many stories to tell and many secrets to offer.
Walking on Amalfi's gorgeous beaches, set within amazing cliffs and openings in the rock is an unforgettable experience, and then when one turns back to face the town knows that there is still so much to be discovered. Like a flower Amalfi has many petals each hiding a secret just awaiting to disclose themselves to those capable of appreciating these amazing surroundings. Numerous artists did in fact understand the wonders of Amalfi, coming here to find inspiration and to create their masterpieces. Locals are to be considered artists themselves indeed they had and still have the incredible talent to bring into their small town the most important resources that different epochs were offering and to manufacture these materials into special and original products that would spread the glory of Amalfi around the world. Amalfi has a very strong identity as a tourist resort as well as a historical town. Whoever comes here at one point will have the feeling that his or her roots are somehow linked with the town, no matter how distant their actual homeland is. When in Amalfi one unmistakeably perceives the taming of nature by the hand of man.
Amalfi was chosen as a safe shelter by some fleeing Roman families on their way back from Costantinople and until 838 it was considered part of the Byzantine duchy, however Costantinolpe's distance allowed for the town to grow almost independent and self-sufficient. Indeed in 812 it was one of the few posts that managed to keep the Saracens out of their land. Inner conflicts allowed for Siccardo duke of Benevento to conquer the town and force some of the population to move to Salerno, these managed to rebel to the duchy as soon as Sicardo died, and since then actively worked to resolve local conflicts and work on the development of the Republic of Amalfi, up to 1132. This was the time when commerce with the East and maritime activities reached the highest point, making the Republic extend all over the northern Gulf of Salerno bordering with the duchy of Naples.
Amalfi's maritime code the Tabula Amalphitana became the official document for Mediterranean navigation.
Amalfi's influence reached Jerusalem where Amalfitani built the Church of San Giovanni l'Elemosiniere and where Gerardo Sasso founded the Ordine degli Spedalieri, which was later to become the Malta Knighthood Order. The collapse of the Republic occurred due to the exploitation of new inner conflicts by the Norman conquerors and then in 1137 by Pisani who sacked it at the same time as Atrani. However the maritime prosperity meant that the town continued to grow and boast wonderful commercial and cultural heritage. Since the XIII century Amalfi became famous for its production of paper. Amalfintani had learnt the technique from the Arabs and created worldwide famous paper workshops on the premises of their former wool weaving workshops. Amalfi's glory lasts to this day, and together with the other three former maritime Republics, they run an annual regatta when the old maritime spirit is truly restored.
What to see
The Ancient arsenals
The Compass museum, opened in December 2010 on the premises of the two aisles of the Ancient Arsenal, spared by the terrible seaquake of 1343. The sight is simply magical, the stone architecture, the vaults, the ten pillars which divide the aisles really give the feeling of stepping into the maritime atmosphere of the time. The lighting and the setting was studied in detail and somehow electricity and plastic do not clash with the capes and the costumes of the exhibition. The galley is a masterpiece of carpentry, with blue, white and gold decorations with the winged horse figurehead that seems to be flying away into the wind in the very moment one looks at it. The museum tells of Amalfi's evolution as an independent Republic giving birth to the Tabula de Amalpha, the maritime law for the Mediterranean. The Justinian Pandects are shown in their paper reproduction as they were stolen during the Pisan sack and then lost. Lastly there are some examples of the Tarì, Amalfi's currency that determined the flourishing of local economy and allowed Amalfi's commerce to spread worldwide.
The paper museum
The museum of Paper is located in Nicola Milano's workshop, one of the last paper maker of the region, who already in 1903 sensed that unless his work and that of his fellow paper makers was properly exhibited and explained, the memory of such glorious industry would disappear with them. The Paper Museum is an all round experience of the paper making process and of its technological evolution. The tour in the museum really gives an idea of how hard the work must have been especially for the harsh conditions: heat of steam, being often under earth level and so on. However when touching the thick and creamy texture of the sheet that finally takes shape, it is possible to understand how great the gratificatio must have been for such hard work.
Saint Andrea's Cathedral
The Duomo is famous worldwide for its boasting overlook above the central square of Amalfi, and it is one of the most sought after wedding venues, for those who wish to have the grandest special day ever. Ironically legend says that lovers should never walk up the steps hand in hand as their wedding day will never come and love might end before the end of the holiday.
The Mills Valley
This spectacular walk leads the way to the unexpected botanical beauties of Amalfi. The many streams, the waterfalls the proximity to the beach have created a very unique microclimate that allowed rare species to grow and survive sheltered by the Monti Lattari and protected by Amalfi natural Reserve. The walk in the Mills valley is highly recommended to have a relaxing as well as interesting and stimulating holiday on the Amalfi Coast.
This is Amalfi Coast's hottest beach, it is long and pebbly and most importantly it is always bursting with people, kiosks, music and gossips; really the place to be for a truly glamorous holiday. The beach is just opposite to the town's historic centre. There are very posh bathing establishments and some free bits of beach, however despite being one of the largest beaches on the Coast in summer it can be difficult to find a place where to lie down, not to mention the sunbeds.
This beach is just behind the port, and it is also fairly small thus quite quiet even in summer days. There is chance that your sunbed neighbour will be an industrious fisherman fixing the net or preparing the boat for the night fishing expedition.
This beach is an early birds exclusive resort, indeed it can be reached only by going down (and up of course!) a flight of 400 steps. However the fatigue will immediately disappear when taking a first look at the enchanting colours of the crystal clear water. For obvious reasons it tends to be quite and secluded beach, nonetheless there are a couple of bathing establishments, one of them rents scuba diving equipment and canoes, it is really the beach for the sporty tourist. The sun tends to leave this beach fairly early in the afternoon, when it will be time to move along to an other beach to boast about the amzing experiences on Duoglio to fellow lazier travellers!
This is Amalfitani's favourite beach, it is small, quiet and ideal for a quick dip on hot summer day. Unfortunately the sea erosion had drastically reduced the bathing space so industrious locals created a wooden deck to have more space for the many families with children who prefer these small pebbles as opposed as to Marina Grandes's tricky larger beach stones.
What to do
Regatta of the Maritime Republics This is the ultimate time machine experience. The Regatta is held annually in the four Maritime Republics, in 2012 is Amalfi's turn. On this day the towns of Amalfi and of Atrani simply switch back time to the X century. The ss163 gets closed to leave space for a great period costume parade starting from Atrani's Saint Salvatore Church and ending in Flavio Gioia's square in Amalfi. Everything seems authentic from the days of the Republic, and the Regatta is still today very very important for locals. Discussions over the competitions can go on for days and months, with very unexpected results. This year Amalfi and Pisa were first together, but they argued so much over it that the commission decide to give the trophy to Venice which had calmly arrived third.
27th of June
Festa di Sant'Andrea This religious celebration is an occasion to really experience Amalfi's alive traditions. First of all on this day locals thank the Saint for the storm that he provoked in 1544 when the Turks who were trying to invade the town were kept out of Amalfi and the town was safe. Furthermore the Old man's (as locals refer to the Saint) relic bones apparently leak a substance that here they call manna which brings fertility and luck to the town. On this day the impressive silver statue of the Saint is taken onto procession along town and then fishermen have the duty to bring it back to the Duomo. Fireworks from boats and all along the coast round up the celebration. However the cult for Saint Andrew, protector of fishermen and fishmongers continues all year round, and in November he is invoked every day with an ancient and choral prayer called “coronella”.
31st of August 1st of September
Byzantine New Year The idea for this celebration is fairly recent, indeed it was a local historian who came up with it in 1999 to recreate the Duke's Ordination Ceremony on the day that the Byzantine calendar considered to be New Year Day. Since then it has become an occasion to bring back once again the memories of Amalfi's glory with yet an other beautiful period costume parade involving Amalfi and Atrani. Furthermore the streets are filled with concerts and stalls reproducing the very longed for medieval atmosphere.