Italy’s Amalfi Coast is one of the most spectacular stretches of coastline in all of Europe. The essence of its former glory is rife as you traverse the coastal road, it’s seaside villages, and strikingly romantic vistas.
The medieval town Amalfi remains the heart of the coast, a once affluent maritime hub and centre of International trade. With busy merchant routes from the Middle East, Africa and the Byzantine Empire, the melting pot of culture that flowed through Amalfi over the centuries left an indelible influence on its architectural beauty. So much more than an idyllic tourist stop with a beautiful beach, Amalfi’s glorious history and visual magnificence will dazzle the eyes as well as the soul.
What to see in Amalfi
St Andrew’s Cathedral
The Romanesque-Arabian bell-tower of St Andrews Cathedral is the centrepiece of town, perched in the heart of La Piazza Duomo. With 62 steps leading up to the entrance, the 9th century black and white outer façade is a glorious sight to behold. A peek inside extends the wonder. Replete with Roman columns, gold Baroque-era decorations, multicoloured marble and ornate frescoes, the remains of St Andrew lay inside surrounded by architectural beauty.
Chiostro Del Paradiso
Directly next to St Andrews, the Chiostro Del Paradiso (Cloister of Paradise) is a stunning structure encompassing slanted archways and an array of slim Arabian-style columns. Ferns grace the interior garden area and yield an essence of paradise. Formerly the gravesite of noble Amalfis, the Chiostro today is home to a wealth of mosaics and paintings from the early 1200’s.
The Piazza is the bustling heart of town, a main square where St. Andrews Cathedral and Ciostro conjoin. Lanes and alleys connect at the Piazza, festooned with souvenir stores, fine dining restaurants, cafes and tucked away bars.
Museo Della Carta
Amalfi is famed for being an early producer of paper, with numerous paper mills sprouting up in the area around 1200AD. Though the industry dwindled over time, The Museo Della Carta is a testament to the interesting history of the secret art of paper-making in Amalfi.
The ‘Municipal Museum’ is located in the Town Hall, near the town centre, and is home to a range of historical documents and artifacts, most importantly the “Tavole Amalfitane”, the original copy of an ancient maritime code that was developed here in Amalfi.
Easy Daytrips from Amalfi
Ravello is a small settlement perched high above Amalfi, with spectacular views overlooking the Mediterranean. Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo are two famous gardens that adorn the panoramic Ravello lookout areas and serve as home to a series of dazzling classical music concerts between March and November. Ravello is accessible by bus, as well as a scenic, if not slightly exhausting uphill walk from Amalfi.
Atrani is Amalfi’s little brother, a short 500 metre or ten minute walk around the coastal track. A collage of pale terraces positioned on a mountain curl, Atrani is a sleepier experience to that of Amalfi though no less appealing to the eye. Though a small town, it bears host to six beautiful medieval churches.
Just 25 minutes by ferry, Positano is equally romantic, beach adorned and idyllic, slightly more touristy, but no less beautiful. Restaurants, cafés and five star hotels are par for the course in this heavenly location.
Minori and Maiori
These two cosy fishing villages lurk further east around the coastal road and provide a lovely change of scene.
Amalfi Tips and Favourites
Wining and dining is a forte in Amalfi, with an array of wonderful restaurants to choose from. The seafood everywhere is fresh, so if you’re a fish or lobster fan, you’ve struck gold. With only a brief time in Amalfi, we couldn’t explore the full gamut of gastronomic choices. However, the places we did frequent hit the spot nicely.
Da Zaccharia, despite the lack of menu and substantial cheque, is a great culinary experience. Perched romantically over the water, we enjoyed a sunset meal here that was unforgettable. Let the waiter bring you food on his recommendation, just make sure you’ve got the Euro to cover it.
For a more ‘home-style’ nightcap, we couldn’t resist a few sessions up at Willy’s Pub, an uphill walk along the Strada Statale. An englishman and eleven year Amalfi resident, Willy pulls a mean pint and provides a nice respite from the norm.
On a hot summer afternoon, watch life go by at any of the lovely cafes in Piazza Umberto in Atrani. Drink Limoncello to your heart’s content. Before the sun departs, soak up the rays on the Amalfi and Atrani beaches and have a soothing dip in the salty Mediterranean.
For accommodation we chose the cute, budget Hostel A’Scalinatella, a quiet, family run lodge in the heart of Atrani.
A few days in Amalfi will have you begging for more. A week or two, however, would be ideal to really take in the visual splendour and rich culture. Summer gets extremely busy and traffic can be a nightmare, so if you want the beaches and restaurants to yourself, maybe try to work around July and August. Early June for us yielded a nice balance of vibrance, relaxation and fine weather.
Written by Cam Hassard for EuropeUpClose.com