Amalfi is a popular town centrally placed on the equally popular - and very scenic - Amalfi Coast, just south of Sorrento. As well as the general appeal of the village and its location you can also see a lovely cathedral in the town.
History of Amalfi
From the 6th century until the 14th century Amalfi was a very large and important Italian port town. The decline began in the 12th century when the town was besieged and changed hands a couple of times, including once by King Roger of Naples in 1131.
It's fate was then sealed by an earthquake and tsunami that hit Amalfi in 1343 and destroyed much of the lower town, transforming a large town of 70000 residents into a village with just a few thousand residents.
The town was never to regain its earlier importance, and has remained a quiet harbour town since that date - until the arrival of tourism in the 20th century.
Amalfi is in a very impressive location, below Monte Cerreto that rises steeply behind the town and on the beautiful Amalfi Coast. It is the largest of the towns on this part of coast, and has several attractions to admire over and above the general setting.
Start exploring with a stroll along the attractive streets, lined with whitewashed houses that often contain restaurants and boutiques.
Finding your way around is straightforward, with the marina to the south, the cathedral square just behind the harbour, and a main street called Via Lorenzo d'Amalfi continuing north from the square. The tourist office is in Piazza Municipio, 100 metres east of the cathedral, and most of the streets of the old town are within a couple of hundred metres of these central points.
The main square in Amalfi and the centre for a visit is the square with the cathedral, Piazza Duomo (not a surprising choice of name since duomo is Italian for cathedral.
The 11th century Saint Andrew's Cathedral is a very striking building at the top of a flight of steps that lead up from the square, with the facade almost entirely in a very distinctive striped style - although this particular version is actually a 19th century reconstruction of the original, but you wouldn't know it to see it!
This striped style of church architecture has Arabic and Norman origins. The tower with its glazed majolica roof is also very distinctive. Admire the 11th century bronze doors that were brought here from Constantinople then step inside.
The interior of Amalfi cathedral is in baroque style and there are some large paintings and statues in marble and bronze to admire as well as 12th century mosaics.
The 13th century Chiostro del Paradiso (the cloisters next to the cathedral) owe their style as much to the Arab world as to the European cloisters that they also resemble. They contain a selection of interesting remains dating in part back to Roman times, and in the 13th century were where the noble families of Amalfi were buried.
There are also a couple of small museums here and the Arsenal near the waterfront sometimes has interesting art exhibitions but otherwise you are now free to spend the rest of your visit to Amalfi just strolling around, window-shopping and spending an unnaturally long time having lunch!
Places to visit near Amalfi
Atrani, a little way to the east, is also attractive and much less visited than Amalfi and easily reached on foot. There are also several walks that leave from Amalfi and head into the hills behind the town. The Smeraldo Cave (Grotta dello Smeraldo) is a few kilometres outside the town, and can also be reached by boat from Amalfi. A lift takes you down to the grotte itself, where a boat will carry you across the deep green water.
A little further and the whole of the Amalfi Coast is worth exploring both for the villages and for the scenery. While Sorrento is a common base to explore the region you could also consider Salerno to the east as a more down-to-earth alternative.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Campania guide.