This is an excerpt from the book “The Amalfi Coast“.
Amalfi was once a seafaring Republic, rivaling Genoa, Venice, and Pisa, from the ninth to the eleventh centuries. Today that competitiveness is exemplified by their participation in the Trophy of the Four Ancient Maritime Republics; a Regatta held each May in Venice.
Near the waterfront are the piazza del Duomo and the ninth century Cathedral of Saint Andreas (St. Andrew), whose remains are said to be buried in the crypt. Extensively rebuilt last century and superbly maintained, this fine Cathedral reflects Amalfi’s original importance.
Starting at the Piazza del Duomo there is a pleasant scenic walk to the Molini Valley (Valley of the Mills) where paper mills were established in early times, introducing the paper to Italy. From the Piazza, alleys lead under white arches where curious little shops display ceramics ranging from huge jars to small jugs, all glowing with the appealing colors and designs of the region.
Exploring the Town
Near the sea, there’s Flavio Gioia square with a monument for the compass’ inventor. From here you can see the remains of the arsenal in which were built the big galleys with 116 oars, the biggest of X – XI century. What you can see today, it’s just a part because it was destroyed by the sea storm in 1343.
In the Duomo square, you can see the baroque fountain said of S. Andrea or Popolo built in 1760. In front of the fountain, you can see the cathedral. It’s composed by two basilicas: the lower is dedicated to the Assunta and then to the Crocefisso, about the VI century, it has an aisle-less because the left nave is a part of the Paradise cloister and the right is just a storage; the high basilica, dedicated to S. Andrea has the transept and the crypt, it’s about 839 when it was violated by the prince Longobardo of Salerno, Sicardo.
CHIOSTRO PARADISO: The atrium in the Duomo also leads to the lovely Chiostro del Paradiso (Paradise Cloister) an elegant Arabian-style structure built in 1266-68 and contains the broken columns and statues, as well as sarcophagi, of a long-gone civilization. The aura here is definitely Moorish, with a whitewashed quadrangle of interlaced arches. Once they formed parts of columns and altars, a specialty of this region of Italy.
A minor attraction, good for that rainy day, is the Museo Civico, Piazza Municipio, which displays original manuscripts of the Tavoliere Amalfitano. This was the maritime code that governed the entire Mediterranean until 1570. Some exhibits relate to Flavio Gioia, Amalfi’s most famous merchant adventurer. Amalfitani claims he invented the compass in the 12th century. “The sun, the moon, the stars, and Amalfi,” locals used to say. What’s lefts from the “attic” of their once great power are preserved here. The museum is free and open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm.
For your most scenic walk in Amalfi, start at Piazza del Duomo and head up Via Genova. The classic stroll will take you to the Valle dei Mulini (the Valley of the public is said to have acquainted Italy with the use of paper). You’ll pass by fragrant gardens and scented citrus groves. If the subject interests you, you can learn more details about the industry at the Museo della Carta, Via Valle dei Mulini. It’s filled with antique presses and yellowing manuscripts from yesterday. It’s open Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 1 pm
Where to stay in Amalfi
Hotels, villas, B&Bs, and apartments: search and make reservations here.