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Amalfi Travel guide

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Amalfi Campania
The coastline just south of Naples, known as the Amalfi Coast, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the world. It as an inherent natural beauty characterised by very steep, rocky hillsides falling sheer into the sea, and the local villages, untouched by modern architecture, which used to be dedicated to fishing, have retained all their centuries-old charm. Sightseers, if they really want to absent themselves from this beautiful area, can visit Naples, Pompei and Vesuvius. Ravello, just above Amalfi, has two enchanted villa gardens with views of the coastline. Capri and Ischia are islands nearby, both of extraordinary natural beauty.


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For affordable food and accommodation, you'd do better to push on to Amalfi, the largest town along this coast and an established seaside resort since Edwardian times, when the British upper classes spent their winters here. An independent republic in Byzantine times, Amalfi was one of the great naval powers with a population of some seventy thousand. Vanquished by the Normans in 1131, it was devastated by an earthquake in 1343. A few remnants of Amalfi's past glories survive, and the town has a crumbly attractiveness that makes it fun to wander through.

The Duomo, at the top of a steep flight of steps, dominates the town's main piazza, its decorated, almost gaudy facade topped by a glazed tiled cupola that's typical of the region. Inside, it's a mixture of Saracen and Romanesque styles, though now heavily restored, with a major relic in the body of St Andrew buried in its crypt. The most appealing part of the building is the cloister – oddly Arabic in feel, with its whitewashed arches and palms. Close by, the Museo Civico displays the original Tavoliere Amalfitane – the book of maritime laws which governed the republic, and the rest of the Mediterranean, until 1570. Beyond these, the focus is along the busy seafront, where there's an acceptably crowded beach.

You can visit the Cathedral which was built in the eleventh century, rebuilt in the Arab-Norman style in the twelfth and further altered in the eighteenth. The bell tower was built between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The thirteenth century “Paradise” cloisters, surrounded by an elegant portico with pointed, interwoven arches and supporting columns, was built by Archbishop Filippo Augustariccio as a sepulchre for illustrious people of the town. You can also visit the arsenal of the Republic which is a grandiose Gothic construction, the Cappuccini Hotel which was a thirteenth century convent with cloisters and a loggia, the Civic Museum containing the Tabula Amalphitana which is the oldest navigational manual in the world, and the map museum.

Amalfi Campania - History

According to the tradition, Hercules, strength pagan god, loved a nymph called Amalfi, but his love was short: she died and Hercules buried her in the most beautiful place of the world, and to immortalize her, he gave it her name. According to the history, it was founded after Constantino's death; its origins came from Roman families.

The first news are about 533, during the Greek-Gothic war, with the victory of Narsete against Teia, Amalfi is under the rule of Byzantine Empire and it starts to be a part of Naples dukedom. In the VI century it's a diocese. The bishop absolved religious services and he provided to town's defence. Some aristocratic, landowners, deprived the bishop of his politic power. In 836 Sicardo, duke of Benevento, raided Amalfi, deporting the inhabitants to Salerno. In 839, Sicardo was killed, the Amalfitans rose, conquering a power and an autonomy that remained until the end of the XI century. Amalfi became Republic in 850. Very often Amalfi united itself with Saracens and Ludovico II against Byzantines, that wanted to restore the sovereignty of the Eastern Empire.

Anyway, the alliance with Saracens was unstable and not lasting. In 915, after a very cruel battle, Saracens were defeated and definitely sent away of Reggio Calabria. For all the X century and the beginning of the XI century, the Amalfitans had a commercial increase and a very reliable economic welfare, taking a very important seat in the Mediterranean, the same seat that Pisa and Genova had later. The richness of Amalfi was so big that Guglielmo Appulo wrote that only this town was so rich of gold, silver and every kind of fabrics and it was visited by Arabians, Sicilians, Africans and Indians.

That's because they had by Amalfitans the most ancient codifications, in the famous "Tabula Amalphitana", that was the most accredited code of all the sailor nations of that time. It controlled the relations between ship's master and sailor, between sailors and traders. The same Flavio Gioia's legend, probably lived at the beginning of the XIV century, gives to Amalfi the credit to have perfected the compass for the navigation and given materials about the first medieval nautical papers. Ruler in spices field, in scents, in silk and precious carpets, in the X century Amalfi coined the Golden Coin, the golden and silver Tarμ, that were used in Greek Empire, in Afric and in Longobardo principate.

Amalfi's development was so high thanks to its independence. In 1039 Guaimario V, prince of Salerno, took possession of Amalfi's dukedom, with the dominion of Salerno on Amalfi. Pressed by Salerno, the amalfitans, governed by Sergio IV, asked Roberto il Guiscardo, in 1073, to help them. Salerno capitulated but amalfitans were conquered by the Normans. After the Norman king's death, in 1085, Amalfi tried to get free of Norman power. In 1135 Amalfi suffered a horrible sack by Pisani traitors, called for to help against Normans. It's from this point on that Amalfi's decadence began. In 1343 a terrible sea-quake, described by Petrarca, hit the coast, most part of the town was destroyed (probably with it also the Ducal Palace, mentioned in a document as Palatium Amalphitanum), the fortifications were submerged along with the shipyards and nautical equipment.

Five years later, the famous plague of 1348, described by Boccaccio, completed the destruction among people. Amalfi and all coast towns, that were beautiful places, populated and fortified, rich of beautiful places, decorated by frescoes, marbles, columns, fountains, became modest towns, without richness, coming back to the traditional economy: fishing, local handicrafts, agriculture. Only at the end of nineteenth century, tourism gave to Amalfi a very big boost that turned it to the economic epicentre of all the coast which takes its name after Amalfi.

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