A day in Amalfi

With its white houses, scented lemon groves and pa­per-mak­ing tra­di­tion, each year, this pearl on the Amalfi coast, at­tracts thou­sands of vis­i­tors from all over the world

Where Naples Coast & Islands - - OUT OF TOWN -

Although it is only a small town nestling be­tween the head­lands and the coves of the Amalfi Coast, Amalfi of­fers scenic and cul­tural trea­sures that, each year, at­tract thou­sands of vis­i­tors from all over the world. Amalfi was the first of

the four Ma­rine Re­publics (the oth­ers were Pisa, Genoa and Venice) which, for many years, mo­nop­o­lized trade with the East. To­day, this pretty, petite town boasts an ag­glom­er­ate of white houses perched on the rocks, con­nected one to the other by small streets and stair­ways. On reach­ing the his­toric cen­tre you will be sur­prised by the brightly coloured

Pi­azza Duomo, dom­i­nated by the ma­jes­tic cathe­dral in Arab-Si­cil­ian style en­hanced by a long stair­case. From the left-hand end of the porch, you en­ter the breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful Chiostro del Par­adiso, built in the 13th cen­tury as the ceme­tery for the city's re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal elite. The Clois­ter, in Arab-Si­cil­ian style, not only of­fers an un­real sense of peace and cool­ness but also mag­i­cal plays of light cre­ated by the rays of the sun that fil­ter be­tween its arabesque arches. The chapel ly­ing to the right of the en­trance leads to the Basil­ica del Cro­ci­fisso, hous­ing nu­mer­ous pre­cious trea­sures, in­clud­ing the beau­ti­ful Angevin Miter, en­crusted with gems, gold, enamel and a pavè of 19,000 pearls, the mag­nif­i­cent col­lar of the Or­der

of the Golden Fleece and rare pieces of sil­ver­ware of the Neapoli­tan school. Ly­ing be­neath it is the Crypt of St. An­drew, hous­ing relics of the saint, the pro­tec­tor saint of Amalfi who is ven­er­ated, twice a year, with solemn masses. The Cathe­dral not only hosts a num­ber of ex­quis­ite paint­ings and ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments that are worth ad­mir­ing but, above all, the first bronze doors ever seen in Italy. The doors, a gift from an Amalfi

pa­tri­cian, were made in Con­stantino­ple by a

Syr­ian artist around 1060. Its ma­jes­tic façade was built in 1891, fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the orig­i­nal one and is dec­o­rated with a stun­ning mo­saic of gold leaf and ma­jolica. After vis­it­ing the Duomo, walk through the small nar­row streets of the town where the

scent of lemons fills the airs. While strolling be­tween its small white houses, you will reach

Pi­azza Mu­nici­pio where a 16th cen­tury palazzo, for­merly home to a monastery, now houses the Town Hall. Once in­side, you can ad­mire an­cient Amalfi coins and cos­tumes worn dur­ing the His­toric Re­gatta. The Re­gatta is held ev­ery year in sum­mer and, in ad­di­tion to the ac­tual com­pe­ti­tion, in­cludes a pro­ces­sion of vil­lagers wear­ing pe­riod cos­tumes. The route lead­ing to the Valle dei Mulini starts in Pi­azza dello Spir­ito Santo, the me­dieval seat of the town’s old pa­per mills. Just a lit­tle fur­ther on, the Pa­per Mu­seum still lov­ingly pre­serves the orig­i­nal pa­per presses which are still in full work­ing or­der. The pa­per pro­duced in Amalfi, called Charta Bam­bag­ina, is made us­ing an­cient, time-hon­oured tech­niques. Stan­dard cel­lu­lose used for or­di­nary pa­per is mixed with rem­nants of li­nen, hemp and mac­er­ated cot­ton. The dev­as­tat­ing flood that struck Amalfi in 1954 caused the de­struc­tion of al­most all the work­shops. How­ever, thanks to the ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment of fam­i­lies liv­ing in Amalfi, this ex­quis­ite pa­per is still pro­duced to­day us­ing the same pro­ce­dure that made it fa­mous in the past. At the end of the day, after vis­it­ing the town’s land­mark at­trac­tions and pur­chas­ing sou­venirs and lo­cal prod­ucts from the nu­mer­ous ar­ti­san work­shops scat­tered through­out the city, we sug­gest a stop at one of the area’s many restau­rants to sam­ple Amalfi’s culi­nary spe­cial­i­ties. Among its many culi­nary de­lights, Amalfi is renowned for its so-called ‘sfusato’ lemons. A hall­mark in­gre­di­ent of the coast’s culi­nary of­fer­ings, its dishes are of­ten in­fused with the juice, pulp and even the leaves of the lemon. How­ever, above all, these mag­nif­i­cent golden fruits are used to make mouth wa­ter­ing pas­tries and desserts and, last but not least, the re­gion’s fa­mous limon­cello.

Duomo

Pa­per Mu­seum

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