Amalfi – Discovering the Historic Heart of the Amalfi Coast

December 14th 2010 by Laura Thayer

As the namesake town of the Amalfi Coast, the seaside town of Amalfi has gorgeous beaches, an idyllic mountain setting and a fascinating medieval heritage to discover.

It’s easy to fall in love with Amalfi. Glimpsed from the sea, Amalfi is settled into a river valley and surrounded by rugged mountains creating the dramatic backdrop to one of Campania’s most charming towns. Amalfi’s intense natural beauty and romantic setting have captivated travelers, artists and writers for centuries. Walking along the town’s harbor and through the maze of narrow streets and alleys, climbing the same steps as the locals or swimming in the azure sea – yes, it’s easy to fall in love with Amalfi.

In the Middle Ages, this small town was the heart of the Republic of Amalfi, which vied with the likes of Venice, Pisa and Genoa for wealth and power. Amalfi’s trading ships once ruled the Mediterranean seas, sailing as far away as Africa and Constantinople in the East. Her sailors even defined a maritime code, called the Tabula Amalphitana, that was used throughout the Mediterranean until the 16th century. The town’s fortune began to shift in the 12th century when it could no longer compete in military strength with the larger Republic of Pisa. Wars, plague and natural disasters eventually turned the town into a sleepy fishing village.

A sleepy fishing village with quite a story to tell! All around Amalfi you’ll spot signs of the town’s medieval heritage, and none more impressive than the Cathedral of Sant’ Andrea. This magnificent church towers above the town’s central piazza and holds inside it the wealth and history of Amalfi. Climb the grand staircase of the Duomo, as it is called in Amalfi, and step into the serene Cloister of Paradise from the 13th century. Be sure to visit the museum filled with treasures from Amalfi’s illustrious past before descending into the crypt of Sant’ Andrea (St. Andrew). This is the heart and soul of Amalfi, where the relics of the town’s patron saint and protector are held in a lavishly decorated crypt.

After discovering Amalfi’s medieval heritage, the next thing to do is hit the beach. The town’s most popular and largest beach is called Marina Grande, which is located right in the center of town. During the summer months the beach is lined with rows of colorful umbrellas and sun beds. The water is cool and clear, and the setting is perfect for enjoying the warm Mediterranean sun. Swim out from the beach for a marvelous view of the town with the bell tower and top of the Duomo peeking over the beachfront buildings.

If you’re looking for a quieter beach getaway on the Amalfi Coast, head to the Santa Croce beach just west of Amalfi. This isolated and rocky beach is just a short boat ride from the port in Amalfi, and during the summer months a boat service runs regular connections to Santa Croce. Here you’ll find a peaceful setting, excellent restaurants and one of the most beautiful spots for swimming on the coastline.

After relaxing on the beautiful beaches, consider going on a scenic hike up into the beautiful Lattari Mountains high above Amalfi. Follow the ancient pathways connecting Amalfi with the villages in the mountains, and from above look down on the town sitting peacefully by the sea. Just be careful, it’s easy to fall in love with Amalfi!

Credits: Laura Thayer

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Amalfi – Discovering the Historic Heart of the Amalfi Coast