Port Spotlight: Amalfi, Italy
| April 13, 2015
Photo by guest Mary Stuart Miller.

Photo by guest Mary Stuart Miller.

Amalfi was one of the original maritime republics. It has a glorious history. Compared to the ancient cities of Campania it was founded rather late – around the 6th century – yet Amalfi flourished while other ancient towns were in decline. Its inhabitants were expert sailors and built up an extensive trade with the east, founding churches and hospitals and making their town the richest in the south of Italy. The Amalfi fleet, together with those of Naples and Gaeta, defeated the Saracens who were about to launch an attack on Rome in 849. The 11th century saw the town at its pinnacle of greatness. Its dockyards built ships for foreign countries as well as Italy’s own fleets. Amalfi minted its own money and had its own maritime laws. The famous “Tabulae Amalphitane” is kept in the town’s museum.

Amalfi sailors were the first to use the compass. The founder of the order of St. John of Jerusalem also came from Amalfi . Amalfi was, alas, defeated by Pisa, and although it was among the first maritime republics to rise, it was also the first to fall into decline. It became part of the principality of Salerno, losing and regaining its independence under the Normans, only to lose it again under Norman Roger II. After belonging to a succession of different lords, it was taken by the Aragonese, with a subsequent history similar to that of other Campanian towns. The Cathedral of Amalfi , atop its great steps, remains a testimony to the town’s ancient glory. It is dedicated to St. Andrew. A great statue of St. Andrew, sculpted by Michelangelo Naccherino, stands in a 13th century crypt along with the statues of St. Stephen and St. Lawrence by Pietro Bernini. The so-called Cloister of Paradise is attached to the Cathedral. It is accessible via an arched passageway decorated with frescoes by Pietro Cavallini. Sarcophagi, Roman and medieval objects d’art are kept here. The other tower, built at the same time as the Cathedral’s bell tower, is now annexed to a hotel that occupies the old 12th century monastery.

The Amalfi and Positano Coasts have astounding views. Photos by Kathi King.

The Amalfi and Positano Coasts have astounding views. Photos by Kathi King.

While there take a ride up Positano and the Amalfi Coast Positano and Amalfi Coast
By motor coach and public boat.

The tour starts from Amalfi. You will enjoy a scenic drive up from the harbor to Positano and you’ll stop along a stretch of coast in Positano where you’ll walk from the coach park to the village. Admire the white, Moorish-style houses clinging to the slopes around a small, sparkling bay.

In 1953, when writer John Steinbeck lived here, the town was a forgotten fishing village, loved by artists. Since then it has become a retreat for the wealthy and a popular resort area. Spend some time browsing in some of Positano’s 200 boutiques, which sell the casual, locally made cotton clothing that the town is famous for. You will have some time at leisure to explore the village.

Then meet your guide and board the public boat for a ride back to Amalfi . Amalfi has a Spanish flavor and a prestigious history. Its white houses sit atop rocks facing a bright blue bay. After an introduction by the local guide, you will be free to visit Amalfi ’s Cathedral and village on your own, or walk to the landing pier to return to the ship.

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