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History of the Amalfi Coast

It's no surprise that the Amalfi Coast is said to be home to the singing Sirens of Homer's Odyssey. it's a place with an unmistakable allure. Over the years, authors, artists and actors have flocked to the seaside towns of Amalfi, taking in its serene scenery, sunning on the slopes of the Lattari mountains, and swimming in its azure oceans. And while the Amalfi Coast has all of the makings for an idyllic vacation destination, the region wasn't always a summertime getaway.

During medieval times, it was a booming maritime trade hub, wealthy enough to mint its own gold coins instead of relying on the barter systems in place in the rest of the country. High ticket cargo like grain and salt were traded in from its ports, making for a bustling economy, not to mention prime opportunities for pirates to plunder. But Amalfi's golden years were put on hold in the early 13th century, when a tsunami battered the coast.

Once recovered and rebuilt, the Amalfi Coast began to take advantage of its proximity to Naples and Rome, and settle into its new life as a seaside escape. Monasteries were transformed into guest houses, and hotels and villas catered to visiting clientele interested in getting in on this inviting Italian enclave.

The villages of the Amalfi Coast have been a longtime favorite of the literary set. In the mid-1950's, John Steinbeck traded the American dust bowl for life changing trip he documented for Harper's Bazaar. "It is a dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and beckoningly real after you have gone," Steinbeck wrote about his time in Amalfi, perfectly encapsulating the draw of this magical coastline.  Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen sought out the Sorrento sun when he wrote his scandalous play, Ghosts. Gore Vidal spent his later years writing from a villa he referred to as his "perch" on the Amalfi Coast. For The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith's fictional seaside town of Mongibello was inspired by a romantic getaway to Positano.

These days, the Amalfi Coast is as enticing as ever with its small fishing towns, lush citrus orchards and miles of postcard perfect seaside roads. And while a significant uptick in tourism has transformed the region into an international vacation destination, vestiges of old Amalfi can be found up and down the coast.

On Friday mornings, you'll find a timeless fruit and vegetable market in the Piazza Mercato in Maiori. In Marina del Cantone, seafood suppers have been caught by family fishermen at Lo Scoglio da Tommaso since the 1958, and the dazzling Sant' Andrea festival has been celebrating the region's patron saint for more than 500 years.

 

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