A couple months back, I was on a plane ride and looking through a United Airlines magazine. I recognized an image of a beautiful landscape I have seen as a painting in my grandfather's living room many years ago. You can tell how charming the landscape is by its diverse scenery: blue and white, but also very colorful, small houses along the coastline with many remarkably, steep cliffs. Not knowing where this particular landscape could be from, one would most likely assume it portrays a place somewhere close to the Mediterranean Sea, possibly Italy or Greece. For many, it resembles the perfect romantic getaway! The front cover of this magazine revealed its location: Amalfi in Italy.
Such a Charming Landscape
Amalfi is a coastline in Italy that stretches from Salerno to Sorrento. It captures such an enchanting atmosphere. You see many pastel colors in one spot radiating calmness and a relaxing lifestyle. The combination of the sea being so close to steep cliffs with its narrow, zig-zagging lanes and the nearby lemon groves is quite rare but indeed captivating. As a typical resort, Amalfi offers so many options for natives and visitors alike. You can go hiking up the 4 miles-long "Path of The Gods", hang out at the Arienzo beach or take a boat trip to the Island of Capri- all here. Imagine going on an adventure and riding your bike up and down the narrow and zig-zagging lanes, feeling the pleasant breeze on your face, running through your hair, while smelling the scent of citrus fruits and seeing the view of the coastline in front of your eyes the whole time. You would be so in awe; you might even get lost in the beauty around you.
Approaching Amalfi with Genuine Curiosity
After looking at more and more images of this region, my curiosity is intrigued. I want to know more about this glamorous place, understand the history of it and ideally learn about how the people live their everyday lives here in Amalfi. But how can I go about this? There are many different approaches, and you must find what works best for you. As a cultural anthropologist, you would research into its culture before spending time there. At least a year living among the native inhabitants would be needed to conduct fieldwork, which would be based on learning the local language, but also include observing and conducting interviews as a way to better understand the local, authentic culture of Amalfi and its people who are known to be very hospitable. Apart from the scientific approach and within the framework of this short article, it makes sense to explore more about its history first.
In the beginning of its existence, Amalfi was considered a Roman colony. However, as soon as the Roman Empire fell apart, it turned into a diocese in the year 596 AD. The Amalfi coast became a Republic that declared its independence in 839. With time, the fishing town became more and more well-known, blossoming into a maritime commercial center that was doing trade with others, not only within the peninsula but also with North Africa, Middle East and the Byzantine Empire. The locals in Amalfi would buy precious spices, stones, carpets and fabrics from the Eastern part of the world and sell it across its own borders. Unfortunately, due to its wealth, Amalfi increasingly became a target for pirates. As a result, Amalfi experienced some setbacks when it fell under Norman reign in 1073 then later when attacked by the Pisans twice in 1135 and after a heavy sea storm in 1343. A period of limited trade, mainly focused on Southern Italy followed.
During the 12th and 13th century, Amalfi started to regain its strength and power because the sailors from Amalfi were among the first to even use the newly invented compass to navigate their way on sea. In the 1230s Amalfi became one of the first places for paper production due to its connections with the Eastern part of the world and being a base of a ravine with its Valle dei Mulini (Valley of the Mills). During this time, Amalfi owned its own gold currency that started to be used in many parts of the world, this helped it to reach the status of high influence.
In 1643 the region was hit by the plague that killed a third of its population. This affected the economy so much that it had no other choice then to rely on certain foods, such as olives, vines and citrus fruits (especially lemons and blood oranges) but also the crafts industry. For the longest time Amalfi remained geographically isolated but returned to a calmer state that attracted lots of tourism from European travelers during the late 19th century. These travelers rediscovered Amalfi's romantic side, its unique history, as well as unchanged landscape and impressive architecture. As soon as Ferdinand II, the Bourbon King of Naples invested in connecting the villages with roads along the coastline, Amalfi became more accessible and, therefore, an even more popular place for people from all over the world to come and explore.
On My List of Must-See Places
As you can tell, Amalfi's history alone is quite fascinating. There is certainly more to discover about it. I would love to visit there one day. If you get a chance to visit, I would suggest to do so, not only to see it with your own eyes but to dive into a very beautiful place that will awaken lots of positive emotional responses & experiences that you can take home with you and share with your loved ones.