Amalfi district guide







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Amalfi district guide                            (Back to Amalfi main information page)

Set in a wide cleft in the cliffs, AMALFI is the largest town and perhaps the highlight of the coast, and much the best place to base yourself. It has been an established seaside resort since Edwardian times, when the British upper classes found the town a pleasant place to spend their winters. Actually Amalfi's credentials go back much further: it was an independent republic during Byzantine times and one of the great naval powers, with a population of some 70,000; Webster's Duchess of Malfi was set here, and the city's traders established outposts all over the Mediterranean, setting up the Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. Amalfi was finally vanquished by the Normans in 1131, and the town was devastated by an earthquake in 1343, but there is still the odd remnant of Amalfi's past glories around today, and the town has a crumbly attractiveness to its whitewashed courtyards and alleys that makes it fun to wander through.
The Duomo, at the top of a steep flight of steps, utterly dominates the town's main piazza, its decorated, almost gaudy facade topped by a glazed tiled cupola that's typical of the area. The bronze doors of the church came from Constantinople and date from 1066. 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, though the cloister - the so-called Chiostro del Paradiso (daily: April-Oct 9am-9pm; Nov-March 10am-5pm; L3000/?1.55) - is the most appealing part of the building, oddly Arabic in feel with its whitewashed arches and palms. There's an adjacent museum (same hours and ticket as the cloisters), with various medieval and episcopal treasures, most intriguingly an eighteenth-century sedan chair from Macau, which was used by the bishop of Amalfi; a thirteenth-century mitre sewn with myriad seed pearls, gold panels and gems; and three silver reliquary heads - two gravely bearded and medieval, the third an altogether more relaxed and chubby Renaissance character, with elaborately braided hair.

Almost next door to the duomo, in the Municipio , you can view the Tavoliere Amalfitana , the book of maritime laws that governed the republic, and the rest of the Mediterranean, until 1570. On the waterfront, the old Arsenal is a reminder of the military might of the Amalfi republic, and its ancient vaulted interior now hosts art exhibitions and suchlike. In the opposite direction you can follow the main street of Via Genova up through the heart of Amalfi and out the other side, to where the town peters out and the gorge narrows into the Valle dei Mulini , or "Valley of Mills", once the centre of Amalfi's high-quality paper industry. Apart from a rather desultory paper museum, there's not much to see here nowadays, despite the grandiose claims inferred by name, and it's hard to find a mill that is still functioning - although there is a shop on the left that makes and bottles its own limoncello (lemon liqueur), a speciality of the region.



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