Feb 12, 2011

Amalfi Coast

This postcard was bought by my mother many many years ago, when she was studying in Naples. It shows Amalfi Coast.

Declared one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites for its undisputed beauty and the uniqueness of its natural landscape, the Amalfi Coast is the land characterised by the oxymoronic combination between mountain and sea, the farmer and the fisherman. The mountain, that thanks to the intense work of man, has been adapted to the demands of life over the ages. It plunges steeply into a sea, creating charming coves, deep fjords, cliffs, caverns, bays, natural arches and small pebble beaches; natural elements that have created, over the centuries, an enchanting, sinuous and seductive landscape: it is certainly not a coincidence that this area is known as the land of the Sirens, in the Homer's epic poem "Odysseus". Typical houses, painted in warm pastel colors, follow the natural slope of the foothills of Mounts Lattari, leaning against each other, creating a very picturesque landscape. From the characteristic terraces, built with dry stone walls, expands the intense scents of the lemon groves, the vineyards, the broom, the bright colors of bougainvillea which, combined with the smell of salt air, creates a unique sensory experience.
Amalfi was founded by the Romans in the IV century A.D. (in the coat of arms reads "ex Descendit patribus Romanorum"). The town became independent from the Byzantine Empire in 839, and proclaimed itself Maritime Republic (the first of the four most important ones with Pisa, Genoa and Venice). The core of its wealth was produced form the trade with the East. Amalfi reached its maximum splendor in the XI century with its powerful and agile fleet, with berths in the main ports of the Mediterranean. The Arsenal of masonry, used for the construction of the hulls of the galleys, are today two stone brick halls, divided by ten pillars. The sea front and the ancient port of Amalfi were swallowed by the sea, after an underwater landslide, caused by a powerful current of Libeccio in the night between 24 and 25 November 1343.
The local traditions narrate that the mariners of Amalfi were the first to use the compass during their voyages, identifying the name of the inventor Flavio Gioia
The present town, which lies on the higher grounds in the valley, features a series of white houses, most with barrel vault ceilings and built on terraces within a picturesque web of alleys and stairways.
The main monument and symbol of the city is the Cathedral of St. Andrew, preceded by an imposing staircase. The original structure is in Romanesque style, currently covered with sumptuous Baroque decorations. The polychrome façade, preceded by an elegant portico, is dominated by the mosaic tympanum, Christ's triumph, artwork of Domenico Morelli, whose proofs are still preserved in the hall, entitled to him, in the Town Hall. Inside the Cathedral preserves a wide selection of masterpieces: an elegant coffered ceiling with paintings of the XVIII century, a wooden crucifix of the XIII century, a mother of pearl cross from Jerusalem, the baptismal font (a basin of porphyry stone from an ancient Roman villa), two pillars of Egyptian granite from nearby Paestum that support the main arch, spiral columns and an Ambon of the XII century. In the crypt are preserved the relics of St. Andrew, from which, since 1304, exudes a dew, called "manna", which is collected in a glass bowl that for the locals has miraculous effects. [amalficoast]

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