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Amalfi, Province of Salerno, Campania

Amalfi is located in the Gulf of Salerno at the mouth of a deep ravine, at the foot of Monte Cerreto (1315 meters a.s.l.), surrounded by steep cliffs and picturesque coastline landscapes; it is the main center of the Costiera Amalfitana, and an important Italian tourist destination, included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The toponym is certainly of Roman origin and could derive from the expression "a Melfi" (from Melfi), a center in Basilicata, whose transfuges settled on the Thyrrhenian coast, or from the Roman gens Amarfia, which settled here in the 1st century AD.

Info

  • Population: about 5,100 inhabitants in 2017
  • Zip/postal code: 84011
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 089
  • Demonym: amalfitani
  • Patron saint: Sant'Andrea, celebrated on 30 November
  • Frazioni & Localities: Lone, Pastena, Pogerola, Tovere, Vettica Minore.

History

Amalfi is first mentioned in the 6th century AD, and soon acquired importance as a maritime power, trading its grain, salt and slaves from the interior, and even timber, for the gold dinars minted in Egypt and Syria, in order to buy the silks of the Byzantine empire that it resold in the West.

Merchants from Amalfi were using gold coins to purchase land in the 9th century, while most of Italy worked in a barter economy. In the 8th and 9th century, when Mediterranean trade revived it shared with Gaeta the Italian trade with the East, while Venice was in its infancy, and in 848 its fleet went to the assistance of Pope Leo IV against the Saracens.

It was then an independent republic with a population of some 70,000, until in 1131 it was reduced to obedience by King Roger II of Sicily. In 1135 and 1137 it was taken by the Pisans, and rapidly declined in importance, though its maritime code, known as the "Tavole Amalfitane", was recognized in the Mediterranean until 1570.

The harbor and shipbuilding structures were submerged following a submarine landslide caused by a powerful storm of Libeccio (Lebeche, a warm southwest wind moving from the Sahara Desert), which occurred on the night between 24 and 25 November 1343. The event gave the coup de grace to a mercantile and maritime situation already declining.

Presently, the maritime code called "Tabula de Amalpha" and the invention of the compass remain part of the maritime history of Amalfi. This code is kept in a 17th-century paper copy at the Civic Museum; drawn between the 11th and the 14th century AD, its chapters contain surprising information about the advanced Amalfi seafaring expertise.

It is now almost certain that the Amalfitans invented the compass as an instrument of magnetic maritime orientation, and spread it in the Mediterranean within the first half of the 13th century. The mythical Amalfitan inventor Flavio Gioia, in honor of which there is a bronze monument made by Alfonso Balzìco in the square facing the sea, actually never existed, being an interpretation mistake of Renaissance writers from central Italy. Instead, an ancient tradition tells of one Giovanni Gioia as inventor of the seafaring instrument.

[the text above is derived from Wikipedia and is subject to the GNU licence]

What to see

  • The Cathedral of Sant'Andrea, in Arab-Sicilian style, a complex building made up of overlapping and tiling of various churches from different eras.
  • The Church, convent and cloister of St. Anthony, founded in 1220 with the name of Santa Maria degli Angeli, according to tradition by St. Francis, who came to visit the relics of St. Andrew. The cloister, which can only be visited on the afternoon of the feast of the Paduan saint, reflects the simplicity of Franciscan architecture.
  • The 16th-century Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie, or del Latte, in Pogerola, built after a vow made during a plague epidemic. Pogerola and "the miracle of milk" of the Madonna delle Grazie. In the right breast of the statue there was embedded a gray stone on which, it is said, a drop of milk of Our Lady had fallen while nursing Jesus, during the flight to Egypt. At 2 pm on 14 August 1500, it is said that the bells of the church began to toll; the parish priest and the villagers who immediately came to the spot found the church closed. On entering, they saw a large quantity of milk flowing from the breast of the Virgin's statue. Immediately the Archbishop was called who, having checked the prodigy, had the stone closed in a vial. Since then, the Madonna delle Grazie is celebrated on August 14, the day of the miracle.
  • The Museo della Carta (Paper Museum), a former paper mill turned into a museum in 1969 at the behest of Nicola Milano, owner of the paper mill and belonging to one of the historical Amalfi families that in the centuries manufactured the Amalfi paper.

Where to stay

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