Amalfi, the history of this beautiful land
Queen of the sea and of the Amalfi Coast
Amalfi, queen of the seas and of the Amalfi Coast, and namesake of the town and the entire coast, is presently a small, pretty municipality that is a destination for thousands of tourists from all over the world. There was a time when Amalfi was a Marine Republic and undisputed ruler of the seas, able to compete politically, economically and administratively with the greatest maritime powers of the past. Looking at Amalfi now, this is hard to imagine but, it is historically irrefutable. Its great past as maritime republic can be sensed in every alley, in every angle of a territory where architectural beauty, historic footprints and ancient traditions alternate with naturalistic beauty and landscapes. Tourists disembark from tourist buses, boats and hydrofoils which, replace the sailing ships, galleys, boats and rafts that once invaded the port. Entering Amalfi from the bay at Porta Marina, the ancient access to the town, you are immediately in the historic centre of the town which is dominated by the magnificently impressive cathedral, dedicated to the Apostle Andrew.
The Arab-Romanesque and Mediterranean architectural traditions radiate from this splendid example of cultural contamination. It is well worth the effort to climb the impressive staircase that gives access to the building and a closer look at the splendid enamels and mosaics of the facade and the impressive bronze door, built in Constantinople during the 11th Century. The famous Cloister of Paradise, an authentic Arab-Romanesque jewel, is definitely worth a visit. If you happen to be in the vicinity on the feast day of the patron, Saint Andrew, the procession, the fishermen's run through town and up the staircase of the church with the statue of the patron on their shoulders is a breathtaking sight. This is an ancient, anthropological rite and a demonstration of an almost acrobatic ability without equal.
This same ability once characterized the men and women of Amalfi who were able to carry huge baskets of 'sfusato Amalfitano' - the DOP lemons which grow only in this area - balanced on their heads. There is still no other way, no mechanical means, of transporting the lemon crop from the hanging gardens, nestled in the hills, where they grow. You can admire some of these gardens and terraces by going up the Valle delle Ferriere in the elevated part of town. The area is presently a biogenetic agriculture and protected naturalistic reserve. The Moorish influence, Arab traditions and the great Mediterranean civilizations can be appreciated to their best by penetrating the alleys of Amalfi, the internal piazzas, the hidden streets that flow like ripples in a river and open onto the main street,always crowded with tourists. As labyrinthine as they may seem, all the streets of the town have the sea and the port as their natural outlet. Admiring the art on a ceiling in Amalfi, or losing yourself in the narrow internal alleys of the town is a unique opportunity to understand how the sea and navigation run - even in the architectural shapes – in the very veins of this historic place and everywhere bring to mind the sails, the bow and the magnificent arc that the sail unfurls to the wind.
The Orient, its traditions and innovations, can be felt in the present economic structure of Amalfi, evidently committed to commerce, with its many little shops crowded like in a casbah. Its colourful emporiums and bazaars abound with gastronomic delights, spices and precious hand made goods that reflect its glorious past. Among all these things the hand-made paper, still manufactured according to the custom passed down from the Chinese monk that invented it. This art can still be learned and admired by visiting the Paper Museum located in the centre of Amalfi, a lovely museum/laboratory that offers the chance to admire ancient instruments and manufacturing techniques. The construction techniques of the famous 100 - oared Amalfi galleys - magnificent boats used in commerce with Oriental markets - can be admired, instead, by visiting the Ancient Arsenals of the Ancient Republic of Amalfi located in the centre of town.
The boat that is used every 4 years to compete in the famous historic regatta of the Antique Marine Republics is kept here. This historic rowing regatta is an appointment, as well as a sporting competition not to be missed. The event is hosted alternatively by Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa, and Venice and is an authentic Italian sporting event with splendid historical processions opening the manifestation and it shares the taste for challenge, the wild fans, the marvellous beauty of the playing field and the revisiting of traditions and unforgettable characters of Italian history in splendid costumes with the Palio of Siena. The big difference? Here, no horse wins instead of a man. Ten rowers on each team and for each antique historical boat compete and try to reaffirm - with the strength of their arms - their supremacy as antique rulers of the seas. It is the art of rowing at its maximum and demonstrates authentic relish for the purest and most cultured athletic spirit. Moreover, with a sea and a horizon like this, it is difficult not to be caught up in the celebration... Imagine admiring it while tasting local delicacies on the terrace of one of the many characteristic restaurants or from a lounge chair in a bathing establishment along the coast. Amalfi Coast Accommodation helps you to choose the best self-catering accommodation near Amalfi.
Read Amalfi Coast Travel Guide - All you need to know about Amalfi Coast and Surroundings