Around Us / The Amalfi Coast
The Day of Judgement, for those amalfitans that go
to heaven, will be a day like any other.
Renato Fucini, 1878
The incomparable beauty of the Amalfi Coast has enchanted visitors from all corners of the earth. The lush green terraces, suspended over a sparkling sea, the wealth of art and the architectural characteristics, make it one of the most celebrated places on earth.
The little villages that dot the “divine coast” are all to be explored, enjoying a clear blue sea, the stupefying views, the artistic treasures and the lively high society life. Shopping is also a venerated activity: in the characteristic boutiques of “Positano Fashion”, the ceramic shops of Vietri or sampling a delicious meal of traditional cuisine.
Those who enjoy hiking will find a system of 34 signposted trails that traverses the entire area, the most evocative of which being the “Sentiero degli Dei” (Trail of the Gods).
Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone. Its houses climb a hill so steep it would be a cliff except that stairs are cut in it.
The small curving bay of unbelievably blue and green water lips gently on a beach of small pebbles.
John Steinbeck, 1953
Set into the mountain, surrounded by rich mediterranean vegetation, Positano is so picturesque as to seem a spontaneous stage setting. Seen from the sea it looks like a huge nativity scene, a waterfall of little multicoloured houses clinging onto its sides.
The homes, one on top of the other, are painted in pastel colours, giving it the look of a multifaceted precious stone. It is not for nothing that Positano is called “the gem of the divine coast”.
The narrow streets, lined with boutiques, run downhill between the houses flowing onto the Spiaggia Grande, a wide beach. From here there is a beautiful view of the sea, as well as of the town as it clambers up the mountainside.
Positano is also synonymous with summer fashion. In the labyrinth of alleys the miracle of “made in Positano” fashion was realised: dozens of boutiques show off their whimsical summer-wear, by now known the world over.
The heart and soul of the coast is Amalfi. In the serene blue of the sky and sea, Amalfi, guarded by its port, seems held in the palm of a hand. Above, the scenic drapery of the mountains, hinged like a backdrop, dotted with houses; below, a picturesque weaving of alleys and steps, all the way to the Piazza, where the Cathedral dominates from the top of its majestic stairs. A unique scene, where historic memory intertwines with unforgettable natural beauty.
The picturesque alleys of Amalfi today host a large number of tourists, but there was a time, when the powerful Marine Republic had its moment of maximum splendor between the 10th and 12th centuries. In the Civic Museum the Tabula Amalphitana, the first navigational code in history, has been preserved.
The town of Amalfi is characterised by the famous Duomo (9th century). Its scenic position at the top of steep stairs, that open up among the houses gathered around the small square, give a particular flavour to Amalfi’s historic centre.
The imposing polychromatic façade of the church, illuminated by gilded and enameled mosaics, is impressive. Traces of the middle ages are to be found in the elegant Cloister of Heaven, with its arabesque lines. From the cloister go to the Crucifiction Chapel, where the Diocesan Museum is hosted. In this chapel is the entrance to the crypt, dating back to the 1200’s. The complex is one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in southern Italy.
One of the gems of the Amalfi coast is Ravello. Famous for its tranquil and serene atmosphere, Ravello offers architectural gems of rare elegance. The 11th century Duomo, dedicated to San Pantaleone, is rich with artistic treasures like the grand bronze central door and its mosaics.
To the right of the Cathedral a square tower marks the entrance to Villa Rufolo. Immersed in a verdant park of exotic and mediterranean flora, the original structure dates back to the 13th century; and even today some of its arab-siculian architecture is evident. The polychromatic arabesque colonnade is splendid. The garden is one of the most beautiful in Campania.
Nature and man’s touch compete to create a highly evocative atmosphere: villas lined by lime trees and cypresses, cascades of flowers. From the belvedere the sea seems infinite. Each summer, in the gardens of the villa, the concerts of the Ravello Festival are held. Wagner’s inspiration for the Klingsor Garden, in his opera Parsifal, came from the gardens of Villa Rufolo.
Villa Cimbrone was, originally, a simple hut. It was bought in 1904 by Ernest William Beckett, who transformed into an exceptionally fascinating Villa. It has hosted many celebrated personalities, from Winston Churchill to Greta Garbo. There is a very special feeling in the cloister of the villa, still showing elements of the ancient arab-sicilian style it was built in. The belvedere is a terrace that gives on to infinity, and has no equal in the world.
San Giovanni del Toro and Santa Maria a Gradillo churches, both built in the 12th century, also merit a visit. The San Giovanni del Toro church has a pulpit rich in mosaic decorations. The Coral Museum is also interesting.
Today no trip in Campania is complete without a visit to this charming spot, pervaded by the intense smell of lemons and full of steep, winding roads that run down to the sea.
This is the land of the sirens, the wooers of Ulysses, where the nature is still on the wild side, the sea an emerald green, and the architecture features houses clinging to the rockface and churches with majolica domes. Amalfi, Ravello, Positano, Furore, Atrani, Vietri… every settlement along the Amalfi coast is a foretaste of paradise, every view remains imprinted in visitors’ hearts and minds, and every place is full of attractions, whether natural or cultural. In short, you won’t want to miss anything, and everything will give you the urge to come back.