WELCOME TO ITALY AND THE AMALFI COAST

  VIA SFPNN VICARIOUS TRAVEL

 

 

It's impossible to capture the beauty of the Amalfi coast in words or photos. You have to experience this bus ride through one of the most beautiful places in the world.   On Rick Steve's website he says, " The Amalfi Coast offers one of the world's great bus rides: The coastal trip from Sorrento to Salerno will leave your mouth open and your film exposed. You'll gain respect for the Italian engineers who built the road — and even more respect for the bus drivers who drive it. As you hyperventilate, notice how the Mediterranean, a sheer 500-foot drop below, twinkles."

I have to agree that the narrow winding road up the Amalfi coast is truly one of the most scenic roads in the world and no doubt in the top ten of white-knuckle drives. 

At the time we were staying in Seiano on the Gulf of Naples, a short distance from Sorrento.  We took the Circumvesuviana Train out of Seiano to Sorrento then boarded a SITA bus to Positano and Amalfi to experience this incredible bus journey. The drivers have their own language and honk when they are rounding one of the multitude of hairpin turns to alert drivers coming the other way so they will yield.  (sit on the right side of the bus for the spectacular views heading in this direction).  The route requires a lot of concentration, skill and endurance from the driver. Oncoming traffic tends to drift over the center line, the buses take up the entire road around some corners, and there are often parked cars in the way. It's a continual obstacle course.

 

 

 

Here is a view of the coastal highway. It's more treacherous looking in person.

The road hugs the side of mountains while you can see the sea straight down the cliffs. I kept thinking, "How did they ever build this road?"

 

Looking  straight down. Not for people with fear of heights !

 

The bus stopped in Positano and we got off to explore this small village overlooking the sea. According to legend, the Greek God Poseidon created Positano for Pasitea, a nymph he lusted after. The main part of the city sits in an enclave in the hills leading down to the coast.  Positano was a relatively poor fishing village during the first half of the 20th century. It began to attract large numbers of tourists in the 1950s, especially after John Steinbeck published his essay about Positano in Harper's Bazaar in May, 1953: "Positano bites deep", Steinbeck wrote. "It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone."

Positano has one narrow road in, which winds as close to the bottom as possible and then winds back out. The only way to get to the sea is to walk down narrow streets lined with cascading, heavily-scented flowers.  We walked down the road and stopped half way at a small cafe and ate lunch outside enjoying the view, the weather and the locals who walked and drove by our table.


Positano has been featured in several films, including Only You (1994), and Under the Tuscan Sun (2003), as well as being mentioned in the 2009 musical film Nine in the song "Cinema Italiano". Also, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones wrote the song "Midnight Rambler" in the cafes of Positano while on vacation.


 

 

One of the many views of Positano

 The Best Western Pasitea we passed on our walk

 

We walked back up the road and waited for the next bus to continue our journey to Amalfi.  Below are some of the magnificent views of the coastline . . . . . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived in Amalfi and started to explore this beautiful coastal town.  According to legend Amalfi was founded when the girlfriend of Hercules was buried here. Amalfi is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Committee decided to inscribe this site considering that the Costiera Amalfitana is an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape, with exceptional cultural and natural scenic values resulting from its dramatic topography and historical evolution.

One of the main attractions is the historical Duomo at the heart of  town - The Cathedral of Amalfi, dedicated to St. Andrew who is the patron saint of Amalfi as well as Scotland and Russia. The brother of St. Peter, Andrew was a fisherman and one of the first apostles.

The power of Amalfi is evident in the approach to the cathedral, which is set atop more than 60 broad steps with  imposing bronze doors -  the first in Italy -  which were cast in Constantinople before 1066. Silver incrustations on the doors, now difficult to see, are images of Christ, Mary, and saints. 

 


There has been a church on this site in Amalfi since 596 AD and the one built in the 9th century still stands today.

 

The Bronze Door and a close-up of one of the door knockers

 

 

The complex of the cathedral includes the "Cloister of Paradise", the Basilica of the Crucifix, the Crypt of St. Andrew, and the Cathedral. To describe this in one phrase it would be a garden, museum, mausoleum, and church all rolled into one. The Cloister of Paradise is a series of interlaced arches in a garden setting where Amalfi's elite were once buried. The Basilica was the original church and now is a museum.

 

 

 

Around the cloister you will find several sarcophagi, including two fine examples dating from the first half of the 2nd century.

 

 

The sarcophagus in the photo below shows a scene from Greek myth of “The Rape of Proserpine.” 
 

 

 Nave of Cathedral

 

This really caught my eye as a very unusual pulpit. It is the statue of an eagle, standing upright, wings outspread, about five feet high.

The statue represents St. John the Evangelist. Every evangelist is represented by an animal. The eagle represents St. John because in his Gospel, St. John sees with the unflinching eye of an eagle the highest truths in the divinity of Christ.

 


There are small chapels filled with frescoes from the 14th century. The fresco pictured below has been attributed to Roberto d’Oderisio, one of the most important painters in the region of Campania in the latter half of the 14th century. In this Crucifixion scene, you can see Christ, with the suffering Virgin Mary in the center with John and Mary Magdalene and soldiers in Angevin armor.

 

 

Below are photos of some of relics from The Basilica of the Crucifix (museum)

 

Wood carving of the Madonna delle Grazie o dell'Idria, dated to the second half of the 14th century. She is portrayed in a pose frequently used in Constantinople. She holds the Christ Child in her arm, presenting him as "The Way to Salvation."

 

A rare 18th century traveler's sedan chair used by the Bishops called a "portantina"

 The original  "Pope Mobile" ?

 

 

18th century monstrance in silver-gilt decorated with ruby colored glass paste (in reference to the blood shed by Jesus)

 

 


We continued down the stairs to the Crypt of St. Andrew. It is the heart of Amalfi, because here are preserved "the head and other bones" of St. Andrew. St. Andrew had evangelized Greece, ranging as far as modern day Russia and was crucified in Patras. From there Cardinal Pietro Capuano took his body first to Constantinople and later to Amalfi. The bones reached Amalfi on May 8, 1208. Today the occipital bone of the skull is kept behind the altar and is shown only on certain occasions. The other bones are hidden under the 13th-century high altar in this exceptionally beautiful crypt adorned with marble statues sculpted by Pietro Bernini, father of the famed Gianlorenzo Bernini.

The bones of St. Andrew are enclosed in three beautifully decorated cases. Since 1304, these relics have yielded a liquid called Manna, that is collected in a glass bowl. Amalfi’s Cathedral was a place of pilgrimage and up until the 1500’s, miracle health cures were attributed to the manna of St. Andrew.
 

 

The magnificent artwork and ceiling in the crypt, which is decorated with beautiful Baroque murals from 1660.

 

 

Looking at the Altar from the side

 

The bronze statue of Saint Andrew in the cathedral was sculpted by
Michelangelo Naccherino, a student of Michelangelo.

 

 

Saint Andrew’s Fountain at Piazza del Duomo. The fountain is baroque in style, being built in 1760. It originally faced the cathedral but was later moved to the side of the square. The water runs continuously and is fresh - perfect for replenishing your water bottles.

 

The Amalfi Coast is truly a must see on any trip to Southern Italy.  MAGNIFICO !

 

"The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo." -- Mark Twain

 

© Patty