The Amalfi Coast: Positano, Amalfi & Ravello
The town climbs the hill in steps, with the oldest houses in the upper part of Positano, either faded red or pink, decorated with Baroque stuccos. Via Pasitea, a vehicular free street going down to the sea, penetrates the heart of the town, with its narrow stepped alleys, houses with vaulted roofs, terraces and tiny gardens that defy the rock. The shops here display the brightly colored cloth bags and beachwear that Positano is famous for.
Local craftsmen are only too happy to make sandals for you while you wait! Near the beach sits the colorful church of Santa Maria dell’Assunta whose cupola is covered with yellow, blue and green majolica tiles. Along the Marina Grande you can find the fishing boats, as well as bars and restaurants. Boats are available to explore the inlets and the Emerald Grotto; the Amalfi Coast’s version of Capri’s Blue Grotto, this grotto is a spectacle of stalactites and prismatic colors.
A plaque under Amalfi’s Porta Marina bears this inscription “The judgment day, when Amalfitans go to Heaven, will be a day like any other”. One visit to Amalfi and this is easy to understand. Tucked in between the mountains and the sea is Amalfi, a favorite of many visitors due to its scenic beauty, original architecture and glorious history as a powerful maritime republic. Amalfi’s cathedral, the Duomo di Sant’Andrea was founded in the 9th century and rebuilt in the 11th century and then altered several times. Walk up the 62 steps leading to the carved bronze doors that were cast in Constantinople around the year 1000. The sophisticated portico, baroque interiors and tympanum with a mosaic depicting Christ are also impressive. The adjoining 13th century Cloisters of Paradise is a mixture of Romanesque austerity and Arab fantasy. Uphill from town, was for centuries Amalfi’s center for papermaking. The Museo della Carta (Museum of Paper) finds its home in a 15th century mill; paper samples, tools of the trade, and old machinery, offer an enlightening experience.
Ravello, where on one of the many bright blue days you are unable to see where the sea ends and the sky, begins. Perched atop a ridge of Monte Cerreto, sits the lovely town of Ravello gazing down on the Bay of Salerno and the fishing villages below. This is a lovely town to catch your breath. Overlooking the Amalfi coast, Villa Rufolo – with its tall pines and cypresses and terrace full of flowers- was Wagner’s inspiration for Klingsor’s magic garden from his opera Parsifal. The Villa with its 165 opulent rooms, extravagant towers, masterful Moorish cloisters and arcaded stories is home to the Ravello Music Festival. Walk along the Via San Francesco passing the churches of San Francesco and Santa Chiara and you come to the Villa Cimbrone, built in the late 1800’s and today a boutique hotel with the gardens open to the public. Here you can catch the spellbinding view of the coast from the legendary Belvedere of Infinity. The ultimate aerie, this medieval style fantasy was made world famous when Greta Garbo found sanctuary from the press when she vacationed here with Leopold Stokowski in 1937.
Salerno, one of the largest provinces in Italy, is home to one of the more interesting historical centers in Southern Italy. In the very hear of the city stands the Cathedral (Duomo) built by the Normans in the 11th century. A splendid portico and mullioned windows with five lights, inside a nave and two aisles with mosaics and Roman and medieval sarcophaguses make this one of the more famous Italian monuments. The Museo Provinciale (Provincial Museum) stands behind the Cathedral and contains a wide selection of archaeological finds from the area. A walk worth taking, go up the hill to visit the Arechi Castle. This fortification stands atop the hill and offers breathtaking views, once called “Bonadies” or “Good Day” as it is possible to see the sun rise over the entire gulf from this spot. Of course a shopping trip along the Corso or a leisurely stroll along the Lungomare is always an option while staying in Salerno.