Amalfi is the town that gives its name to the whole coast as well as one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world for its history, monuments and natural setting that allowed to be declared by UNESCO World Heitage Site. In the coat of arms it is written "Descendit ex patribus Romanorum": the origins of Amalfi date back to the Roman time, as evidenced by the discovery of a nymphaeum belonging to a Roman villa built under the Emperor Tiberius. The place name also has Latin origin, deriving from Melfi, a Lucanian city whose refugees landed here, or from the "gens Amarfia".
It was bishopric since 596 and was part of the Romanesque-Byzantine duchy until 839, when it became an autonomous republic (the first of the Maritime Republic in Italy) ruled first by Counts elected every year, then by Prefects and finally by Dukes who transformed it in a kind of ducal monarchy. From that moment there was the supremacy of Amalfi in maritime trade with the East and in the whole Mediterranean basin, through a network of settlements in the main ports. The merchant ships of Amalfi, laden with timber, sailed off to the North-African, Syrian, Palestinian coasts and Byzantium, exchanging it with gold, spices, precious stones and fabrics. Amalfi traders soon became very rich, attracting the attention and enmity of new and emerging competitors, such as Pisa and Genoa.
The arsenals, used for the construction of the hulls of the galleys, the maritime code called "Tabula de Amalpha" and the tradition of the invention of the compass by Flavio Gioia are what remain of Amalfi seafaring history.
Conquered by the Normans in 1131 and sacked by Pisa few years later, Amalfi lost its autonomy but, from the economic point of view, entrepreneurship was concentrated in the production of handmade paper according to the Arabic method, in the manufacture of iron and wool.
The decline coincided with the war between the Angevins and Aragonese and, in particular, with a terrible storm, on the night between November 24th and 25th, that destroyed much of the ancient port of Amalfi. Once became a fief, it was ruled by many families: Sanseverino, Colonna, Orsini and Piccolomini.
The tourist history of Amalfi coincides with the arrival of the North-European travelers at the time of the Grand Tour, looking for remains of the Greek and Roman period and Romantic views. From that moment Amalfi and the whole coast were rediscovered even by celebrities as locations for spending their holidays.
Sites of interest:
- Amalfi urban layout, especially in the historic center, has kept intact its medieval aspect, with the city gates (Porta Maria or De Sandala, Porta Occidentale, Porta Hospitalis), narrow cobbled streets, alleys and stairs leading to picturesque squares, overlooked by beautiful medieval palaces and small chapels;
- the lookout towers (Torre dello Ziro, Torre di Vettica, Torre San Francesco or Saracena), part of the defense system designed during the viceregal period in order to defense the coastal people against the pirate attacks;
- the remains of the castle and towers of Pogerola (the ancient Pigellula);
- the ancient arsenals of the Maritime Republic, consisting in two lanes divided by ten pillars, used in the past for the construction of warships. It is the only example of Medieval arsenal in Southern Italy.
- the Cathedral of St. Andrew, preceded by an imposing staircase, overlooks Piazza Duomo. The former Romanesque-style structure is covered by a sumptuous Baroque-style architecture. Built in 987 by the Duke of Amalfi Mansone I, it is caracterised by a basilican plan with transept and apse. The polychrome façade, preceded by an elegant portico, is dominated by the mosaic of the tympanum, the Triumph of Christ, by Domenico Morelli, whose proofs are still preserved in the main hall of the municipal seat. Inside it is possible to admire: an elegant coffered ceiling, XVIII century paintings, a XIII century wooden crucifix, a mother of pearl cross from Jerusalem, the baptismal font (a porphyry hot coming from a Roman villa), two pillars of Egyptian granite coming from Paestum supporting the main arch, spiral columns and pulpits of the XII century. In the crypt there are the relics of St. Andrew from which, since 1304, exudes a dew, called "manna", with miraculous effects. The most valuable element is the bronze door, realized by the wealthy merchant Pantaleone de Comite in Constantinople.
- the Basilica del Crocifisso, adjacent to the Cathedral and once connected to it, dates back to the IX century and was built on a pre-exiting early-Christian building, Initially dedicated to Our lady and, later, to the Saints Cosmas and Damian, it has three naves divided by columns supporting slightly acute arches on which a women's gallery. The restoration of 1931 eliminated the Baroque-style superstructures, returning the original Romanesque architecture. It now houses the Museum of Sacred Art of the Cathedral.
- The Cloister of Paradise, built by the Archbishop Filippo Augustariccio in 1268 as a cemetery for the nobles of Amalfi. It consists of a four-sided portico with intertwined pointed arches in Arabic-Norman style resting on fine twin columns, with six chapels and a beautiful fresco from the Neapolitan school of Giotto. Today there are some Roman sarcophagi, one of the XIV century and the remains of the original façade of the Cathedral.
- the Bell Tower, built in Romanesque style between 1180 and 1276, has a bell cell in Moorish style with majolica tiles in green and yellow.
- the Benedictine Monastery of the Holy Trinity (XVI century), today called Palazzo San Benedetto, seat of the Town Hall and the Municipal Library. At the entrance there is the ceramic panel by Diodoro Cossa (1968) displaying the highlights of Amalfi history;
- the former Monastery of San Basilio, dating from the XII century, now adapted to civilian residences;
- the Church of San Benedetto, in Baroque-style, preserves valuable XVIII century paintings;
- the small Church of Sant'Anna, also called "the dark" for the dark tones used for the painting of the Saint on the main altar;
- the Chapel of Sant'Anna "la Grande", located on the ground floor of the XV century Palazzo Bonito;
- the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, with it beautiful bell tower in Moorish style, was built in 986 by Mansone I Duke of Amalfi and preserves the relics of San Felice, a fine XVIII century nativity scene and important paintings;
- the Church of San Biagio, documented since the XI century, was part of the possessions of the Abbey of Montecassino for long time. Inside it is possible to admire a valuable ceramic floor of the XVIII century and XVI century paintings;
- the ancient Convent of San Francesco, today a famous hotel, was founded in 1222 by St. Francis from Assisi. Inside it is possible to admire a beautiful cloister in Moorish style;
- the ancient Capuchin Convent, today a hotel, was built by Pietro Capuano in 1212. It was granted to the Capuchins in the last years of the XVI century and finally closed due to the revolutionary laws of 1815. The splendid cloister of the XIII century and the magnificent flowered terrace led Stiwell to exclaim: "Who did not see Amalfi, did not see the world, but who did not see Amalfi from the terrace of the Capuchin Monastery, did not see Amalfi".
- the Church of Addolorata, built in the last years of the XVIII century, has XVII-XVIII century paintings, a marble statue of the XVI century representing the Madonna and Child, a Renaissance-style Pietà and a late-Gothic bas-relief. It is also the seat of the confraternity that organizes every year the Procession of Battenti on Holy Friday, singing music and song by Antonio Tirabassi;
- the Church of Sant'Antonio from Padua, dating from the first half of the XIII century, has a beautiful altar piece of the XVIII century, a marble tombstone belonged to a wealthy merchant of Amalfi and a Roman tombstone of the III century;
- the small Church of Santa Lucia (XII century);
- the small Chapel of St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers;
- the Church of Santa Maria dell'Annunziata (1349), with precious paintings of the XVIII-XIX century;
- the Church of Santa Maria in Piazza, also called Santa Maria di Portosalvo, is located in the place where in medieval time there was the very heart of commercial life in Amalfi. It preserves an altar piece in Byzantine style depicting the Black Madonna with Child;
- the Church of Santa Maria del Pino, or del Carmine, was in origin the chapel of the Lupino family, built in the XV century;
- the Church of San Giuseppe dei Castriota (XVI century); - the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, with wooden statues and a Roman urn;
- the Chapel of Santa Maria delle Grazie, in Piccolomini square;
- the Church of Santa Maria della Neve, with a beautiful altar relief, depicting the Madonna with the Child and snow;
- the Church of Madonna del Rosario, in the Valley of the Mills, dating from the XIX century, after the destruction of the existing building due to a landslide;
- the parish Church of Santa Marina, dating from the XII century, in the village of Pogerola, with a nice portico covered by vaults;
- the Church of San Michele Arcangelo, built in 1181 in Byzantine style, in the village of Pogerola;
- the Church of Madonna delle Grazie, built in the first half of the XVI century, by the will of some local families;
- the Church of Santa Maria, in the village of Pastena, with two aisles covered by cross vaults;
- the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, in the village of Lone, was rebuilt after the destruction of the exiting church of the XIII century;
- the Church of San Michele Arcangelo, in the village of Vettica Minore, of late-Medieval period;
- the Church of San Pietro, in the village of Tovere, with important architectural elements in Byzantine style;
- the rocky chapel of the Holy Trinity in the village of Tovere;
- the Monumental Cemetery, a former Benedictine monastery of the X century;
- the remains of the XIII century cloister of the Church of Spirito Santo, with beautiful intertwined arches;
- the remains of the Church of San Bartolomeo (XIII century);
- the remains of an Arab bath of the XIII century;
- the ruins of the ancient paper mills (Nolli, Martino, Milano, Lucibello);
- the ruins of an ancient ironworks, dating back to the XIV century;
- St. Andrew Fountain (or del Popolo) in Piazza Duomo;
- the Fountain of "Capa di Ciuccio" (donkey head) where donkeys watered themselves in the past;
- the ancient Tribunal of Piccolomini Dukes;
- the ancient Domus Campolillo, aristocratic residence of the XI century, rebuilt in the XIII century;
- Palazzo Castriota, belonged to the family of Albanian origin Castriota-Eskanderbergh, preserves two frescoes by Ignazio Lucibello (a student of the Scoppetta school) in the lobby of the first floor;
- Palazzo Piccolomini, dating back to the XII century, takes its name from the noble family that ruled Amalfi from 1461 to 1568;
- the so-called "lampione", remains of an ancient domus of the XII century;
- the ceramic panel by Renato Rossi;
- Cavaliere and Amatruda handmade paper fabrics, where it is still produced the valuable handmade paper of Amalfi;
- the Civic Museum, that houses the famous Tavole Amalfitane (Tabulae Civitatis Malphae), the first text of maritime law that had a great influence until the XVI century. Part of the Foscariano Code, they were found in Vienna and brought back to Amalfi in 1929. There are also some tarì (ancient Amalfi money), nautical instruments and works by Pietro Scoppetta (Amalfi artist belonged to the School of Macchiaioli from Posillipo);
- the Amalfi paper Museum, located in an old Medieval mill of the XIII century. Through a guided tour, it is possible to learn the several stages for the production of the Amalfi paper;
- the Natural Reserve of Valle delle Ferriere, so called for the presence of the remains of ancient ironworks of the Medieval time, is located in a deep valley behind Amalfi. Established in 1972, is characterized by a very special microclimate that allowed the survival of some rare ferns, as the woodwardia radicans.