«Qui è il giardino che cerchiamo sempre e inutilmente dopo i luoghi perfetti dell’infanzia. Una memoria che avviene tangibile sopra gli abissi del mare, sospesa sulle foglie degli aranci e dei cedri sontuosi negli orti pensili dei conventi».
Salvatore Quasimodo, “Elogio di Amalfi”, 1966
di Umberto Garibaldi
The Amalfi Coast, magically suspended between the blue sky and the sea that gives iridescent reflections, seems born from the palette of a painter who wanted to use the hottest shades of color and lives to create a landscape that would enchant the visitor at the first stroke, giving emotions unique and wonderful panoramas to make you doubt, for a moment, to be real.
It’s the land where the sweet scent of zagare and lemons harmonizes with the aromatic one of the Mediterranean and the most acrid of the saltiness; where the bright colors of the majolica cupolas and the bright colors of the bougainvilleas and the carnations give an evident chromatic touch to the typical houses, climbing halfway up and clinging to the last slopes of the Lattari Mountains that precipitate dizzily towards the sea. A vertical landscape where there is a picturesque maze of stairways, streets and alleys that connect the two elements that characterize the coastal territory: the mountains and the sea.
A continuous succession of headlands and inlets, bays and fjords, interspersed with pebbly beaches and rocks on which stand tall towers of sighting of the viceregal age, the first defensive bulwark of local populations against Saracen attacks. From the sea, then, seamlessly we move to the mountain, whose ridges have been “terraced” over the centuries, shaped by the work of man to create patches of cultivable land and compared, already in the Renaissance, to the legendary vegetable gardens Esperidi from the writer and naturalist Giambattista Della Porta.
All the towns of the Amalfi Coast are connected to each other by the panoramic SS.163, built during the Bourbon period in the first half of the nineteenth century and has always been considered one of the most beautiful roads in Italy. Following the natural trend of the coastal strip, the route is rich in curves, between the rocky wall and the sheer cliff, giving new and spectacular glimpses to the exit of each tunnel or hairpin. Before the realization of the coastal road, one arrived from one country to another through mule tracks and mountain paths, still existing and particularly appreciated by trekking enthusiasts for the evocative scenery that you can admire. There are 13 municipalities located on a strip of land kissed by the sun and declared by UNESCO “World Heritage Site”:
Amalfi, the town that gives its name to the Costiera, is located at the mouth of the Valle dei Mulini; it was the first of the four Maritime Republics and for a long time held the monopoly of trade with the East. It looks like an agglomeration of white houses, clinging to the rock and connected by covered alleys and stairways. At the center of the main square dominates the Cathedral of Sant’Andrea with the spectacular staircase, the bell tower in Arab-Norman style and the charming Cloister of Paradise. Interesting is the Paper Museum of Amalfi as well as the ancient and evocative Arsenals of the Republic.
Atrani, a beautiful village located at the entrance of the Valle del Dragone, opens up to a natural amphitheater towards the sea, offering the visitor evocative and picturesque views and the pleasure of being able to relax in the little square near the beach, away from mass tourism. In the beautiful Church of San Salvatore de ‘Birecto (10th century) the official investiture of the Amalfi Doges took place.
Cetara, a fishing village grouped around the main church dedicated to San Pietro, is known for being an active fishing port specialized in fishing for anchovies and tunas, in their processing and subsequent conservation, creating culinary dishes particularly appreciated (such as, for example, the famous anchovy sauce).
Conca dei Marini, a village that boasts a centuries-old seafaring tradition, is a natural balcony overlooking the sea, surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation and terraces cultivated as “sfusato amalfitano”. In the monastery of Santa Rosa, clinging to the steep walls of a rocky spur, according to tradition, the first Santa Rosa sfogliatella was made.
Furore, also called the “country that does not exist” due to its urban layout characterized by scattered settlements, surrounded by terraces of vines. It is also known as the “painted country”, for the beautiful “en plein air” artistic murals that give a chromatic touch to the furorese homes. But Furore is, first of all, the country of the fjord, dug over the centuries by the stream Schiato and where, every first Sunday of July, there is a stage of MarMeeting, the World Championship of diving from great heights.
Maiori, the ancient Reghinna Major, became the favorite setting of the neo-realist director Roberto Rossellini after World War II. The wide promenade is bordered to the east by the Norman Tower and to the west by the marina and Miramare Castle; the historic center, instead, presents next to the neoclassical buildings, typical houses with vaulted ceilings that constitute the first residential areas of the coastal town and that were built near the medieval fortress of Thoro-Plano. Also interesting is the medieval Badia of Santa Maria de Olearia, located along the SS. 163 “Amalfitana”.
Minori, the ancient Reghinna Minor, boasts an ancient tradition in the production of artisanal pasta as well as in the processing of c.d. “yellow gold” of the Amalfi Coast. Surrounded by lush terraced gardens, the small town of the Divina hides rare architectural treasures, such as the remains of the Roman maritime archaeological villa, dating back to the first century AD, the Basilica of Santa Trofimena and the Norman-style bell tower dell’Annunziata.
Positano, fashionable, is certainly one of the most famous places on the Amalfi Coast, for its striking staircases, the whitewashed houses that follow the natural course of the mountains, creating a vertical landscape. Appreciated by artists and jet-set characters since the early post-war period, the town is famous for the production of leather sandals and cotton and linen clothes (so-called Positano fashion), for the beautiful nineteenth-twentieth-century buildings and postcard landscapes with the background of the majolica dome of the Church of the Assumption and the Li Galli islands.
Praiano, the country where you can breathe an authentic and genuine atmosphere, away from mass tourism, with its alleys that make their way through the Mediterranean scrub, terraces and picturesque houses and lead directly to the sea. Evocative and romantic are the sunsets that you can admire, with the purple sun that slowly disappears behind the mountains, illuminating in the background Capri with its Faraglioni and the Sorrento Peninsula with Punta Campanella. Ravello, the town of Divina already praised by Boccaccio in the Decameron and that, with its postcard landscapes and its noble atmosphere, was a source of inspiration for Richard Wagner who, in the gardens of Villa Rufolo, imagined the magical Gardens of Klingsor. Buen retiro of jet-set characters, is home to one of the oldest Italian music festivals, the Ravello Festival, that annually presents a new theme that embraces all artistic disciplines. Next to sacred buildings, often from the Middle Ages, ancient palaces and noble villas and contemporary buildings coexist, such as the Auditorium designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. The panorama that can be admired from the viewpoint of Villa Cimbrone is certainly one of the most famous in the world!
Scala, the oldest village on the Amalfi Coast that gave birth to Fra ‘Gerardo Sasso, founder of the Order of the Knights of Malta; surrounded by dense chestnut woods, it has managed to preserve a quiet and relaxing atmosphere that blends well with the rich monuments, evidence of the wealth of the population during the Middle Ages, composed mainly of noble merchants. The ruins of the Basilica of Sant’Eustachio, situated in a panoramic position on the village of Pontone, still show the splendid inlays on the outside of the apses, the precious frescoes and marbles of this which was the largest church in the Duchy of Amalfi.
Tramonti, a hilly village on the Amalfi Coast immersed in the green of the Lattari Mountains, among chestnut woods and terraces of centuries-old vineyards that produce strong wines (dyer), is the ideal place to stop and appreciate the authentic flavors of the peasant cuisine, in particular, dairy products, bread and pizza, prepared since the Middle Ages in rural ovens with rye flour, millet and barley and flavored with spices and lard.
Vietri sul Mare, the first municipality of the Amalfi Coast coming from Salerno, is famous all over the world for the production of artistic ceramics in vivid and sunny colors, of which it has been known since the fifteenth century. It is a town in which the beautiful noble palaces of the center harmoniously coexist, with often richly decorated facades, with the splendid hilltop villages of Raito and Albori, where you can breathe an atmosphere with an ancient flavor, the organic architecture of the Solimene Factory of Paolo Soleri with the neoclassical forms of Villa Guariglia, where, in Torretta Belvedere, there is the Provincial Ceramics Museum.