AMALFI – a land of history, myths and culture
The legend recounts that the area was named after the nymph Amalfi. She was a beautiful girl loved by Hercules and, after she died, the hero decided to bury her on this stretch of coast. He must have been attracted by the emerald colours of the water and the mildness of the climate, so much so that he built the town of Amalfi in memory of his love.
The origins of Amalfi go back to ancient Roman times and even to the Byzantine Empire. Visitors often marvel that a town so small and picturesque was once a ‘maritime republic’, but geography and the nature of those times help explain Amalfi’s moment of global (or at least Western) prominence.
The town declared its independence in AD 839, and its perfect strategic location – opening onto a natural harbour at the mouth of a valley rich in water yet protected by the forbidding Monti Lattari from the incursion of both Turks and Normans – allowed Amalfi to develop into Italy’s first maritime republic, before either Pisa or Venice. For two centuries, Amalfi was a maritime power to be reckoned with: its navy kept the Turks at bay, and its maritime code – the Tabula Amalphitana – was recognised as law in the Mediterranean. The small republic was rich and cosmopolitan, and its coins were widely used across the Mediterranean, from the Greek empire to Africa to the Longobard territories.
Amalfi’s toehold among the cliffs eventually became a liability, however; the limited size of its land area and comparable lack of military power obliged Amalfi to accept Norman rule in 1073. Pisa – which had developed into a powerful maritime republic itself in the meantime – then sacked Amalfi in 1135, and in 1143 a terrible seaquake destroyed large parts of the harbour including the fortifications and shipyards. The Amalfi of old was completely annihilated five years later when the plague struck in 1348.
Amalfi became a pretty fishing village until it was rediscovered as a tourist destination by 19th-century travellers.
For those looking to explore Italy’s Amalfi Coast, there are special experiences to be had: visit inspiring art galleries, immerse yourself in local culinary culture and explore ancient sites. Wine touring is popular – the ancient Greeks called southern Italy ‘Oenotria’ – the land of wine. But by far the most significant aspect of Amalfi is the sea – life has centred around it for centuries.
Amalfi is one of the most important tourist destinations in Italy due to its beautiful scenery and exclusive services. Every year Amalfi attracts thousands of visitors who wish to discover her unforgettable attractions.