Amalfi’s foundations originated with the Romans, but from the IXth century onwards there was intense rivalry between the ‘Repubbliche Marinare’ (Maritime Republics) of Amalfi, Pisa, Venice and Genoa for the control of the Mediterranean Sea. These states competed with each other both militarily and commercially and, from the 10th to the 13th centuries they built fleets of ships both for their own protection and to support extensive trade networks across the Mediterranean, leading to an essential role in the Crusades.
In memory of that period, every year a crew of Amalfitan rowers participate in a Regatta using traditional boats, which is a sporting event of historical commemoration. The event is hosted in rotation between the four cities and is preceeded by a parade through the streets of the host city where traditional costumes are worn which clearly mark out each of the ancient republics.
Amalfi was also one of the first centre’s of paper making in Europe, the skill having been acquired by the Amalfitans from the Arabs. Amalfi contends with Fabriano as to which exported the art of paper making to the continent. Nevertheless, the famous 'Bambagina' of Amalfi was born and continues to be made only here, respecting an ancient artisan craft that is unchanged in time.
In 1997 ‘Unesco’ declared Amalfi and the other towns along the Amalfi Coast a World Heritage Site, because of its unique geographical characteristics and betwitching scenery and, whilst Amalfi is not the easiest of locations to access either on foot or by car (the famous ‘Amalfi Drive’ is testiment to this!) a visit is an absolute must.
Positano has been a holiday destination since the time of the Roman empire, thanks to the mild climate and the beautiful landscape, typically characteristics of Positano are the hillside steps from the top of the town right down to the beach and the cascade of brightly coloured houses. Today Positano is considered the undisputed ‘Queen’ of tourism around the Amalfi coast and is the centre for many prestigious occasions and world events. Along the narrow streets, which are full of character, you can find many clothes shops offering very colourful fashions which are handmade and intricately crafted – recognised as the ‘famous Positano Fashion’.
Pompei today attracts millions of visitors to rediscover the splendors of the Roman Empire. Following the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius in AD 79 Pompei was almost completely destroyed and forgotten about. Excavations of the area commenced in the 18th century and gradually, the previously affluent town of Pompei was revealed, having been wonderfully preserved over time. The excavations uncovered magnificent villas with painted frescoes and an Ampitheatre – denoting a very rich commercial centre. The excavations continue today, revealing always more treasures.
Whilst Pompei was the commercial centre of the area under the control of the Romans, Ercolano was the renowned seaside resort where some of the richest Roman citizens passed their summer vacations. After the AD 79 eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, the city was completely buried under volcanic material but thankfully, many frescoes and objects were preserved and can still be seen today. Unlike neighbouring Pompei, the citizens of Herculaneum (Ercolano) died of thermal shock from the extremely hot pyroclastic surges, rather than buried under heavy ash. Part of the original Ercolano remains buried and work continues to uncover other items of archaeological and cultural interest.
Initially Capri was joined to the Sorrento Peninsula but subsequently was partially submerged by the sea and then separated from the mainland. The coast is indented with numerous coves and bays that alternate with steep cliffs. The caves, hidden beneath the cliffs, were used in Roman times as the sacred ‘water room/water place’ of the sumptuous villas that were built there during the Empire. The most famous is undoubtedly the Blue Grotto, where magical light effects were described by many writers and poets. In the 1960’s Capri was ‘rediscovered’ and became very popular with many rich and famous people from around the world.