Myth is the god Hercules built the city on the spot where he buried his loved nymph Melphe. Other sources indicate Amalfi came to be as a result of its location between Rome and Constantinople, and the city came to be somewhere around the 4th Century AD. Whether Hercules or the Romans, the Amalfi we see today is nothing like the Amalfi that used to be.

The town had a privileged relation to Byzantium thanks to its ability in the commerce

Amalfi was one of the four Maritime Republics of Italy. The town is know for its maritime history as well as introducing paper to Europe. When in Amalfi, visit one of the old paper mills. Just walk down the main street.

1st September 839 Amalfi separated from the Ducat of Naples and became an autonomous town.

The coast was part of the Duchy of Naples, until 839, when Amalfi declared its independence and became an autonomous republic. The Duchy of Amalfi was ruled by Duke Manso I (Duke of Amalfi as well as the Prince of Salerno). He was responsible for the building of the Cathedral of S. Andrea Apostolo. The Duke was successful in have Pope John XV designate Amalfi an archiepiscopal. Although Manso's brothers Ademarius and Leo claimed co-authority for Amalfi until at least 998. In 1131, after a series of successful attacks, Amalfi was annexed to the Kingdom of Sicily.

But in 1135 Pisani came again to Amalfi and destroyed it, while its navy was fighting against Saracens. Amalfi commercial power completely declined also because of anti-Byzantine politics of Norman rulers: Amalfi could no more trade with Byzantine towns, but only with the ports of Southern Italy.

Waterways at an old paper millIn the 12th Century there were a number of paper mills in the valley behind the town and Amalfi. Amalfi picked up the skills from its trading with Arab countries. The paper replaced sheepskin parchment that was being used in much of Europe.

In the night between 24th and 25th November there was a terrible landslip that submerged the port.

Pictured to the right are some of the old water ways that fed the paper mill. In Amalfi you can still tour some of the old mills.

The location of Amalfi was a key factor for its dominance on the seas and in the trade routes at the time. Amalfi traded grain, salt from Sardinia, slaves from the interior of Italy, timber to as far away as Egypt and Syria and silk from the Byzantine empire.

Before the rise of Venice, it was as powerful as Pisa and Genoa. At one time, the population is recorded as reaching 70,000 - hard to imagine today when one visits the small town of Amalfi, but it is impossible to picture what Amalfi used to look like as much of the town was slept into the sea as a result of a landslide and storm.

The ‘Tabula Amalphitana’ was accepted as maritime law. You can see the document in the museum in Amalfi. Its role with the sea is also evident by the credit it receives for the invention of the compass, although I have seen a number of articles that say this is true myth. The mythic inventor Flavio Gioia never existed despite the statue to Flavio Gioia at the entrance to the city. Oh well, who needs facts to ruin a good story, and the fountain is certainly there!

From about 533 AD, Amalfi was ruled by the Byzantine Empire for three centuries although through the election of its own leaders it held a fair amount of autonomy.

The Longobards, from the northern part of Europe, battled and won Amalfi in 838. They took most of the citizens to Salerno. But, Arab Arab mercenaries helped, Salerno was basically burned to the ground.

Duomo in AmalfiAfter that, from around 850 to the 11th Century Amalfi did very well and was an independent republic controlling a large area that included the area between Cetara and Positano, together with Capri and Li Galli isles. In fact, in the 10th century Amalfi was producing its own currency, the "tari".

Amalfi's strategic location on the busy trade routes between Rome and the east lead to a diverse culture. The Arab influence is seen in the design of the Duomo and the cloisters of the Cathedral of S. Andrew. Walk up the 62 steps of the grand staircase to enter this cathedral that dates from the 9th Century. It was almost completely rebuilt in 1700.

Cathedral Saint Andrew DoorsThe huge doors were made in Constantinople in 1066. The shipping of those doors to Amalfi must have been something! Inside columns, Baroque gold decorations, frescoes, and coloured marble create an impressive site. Downstairs the decorations are even more impressive in the Chapel of Christ Crucified. In the crypt are the remains of Saint Andrew. They were brought back from Constantinople during the IV Crusade.

Work on the bell tower begun in 1180 and took almost a century to complete. Romanesque in style with four small Arab style towers with interlaced arches show the influence of the cultures. The tower was actually used for defence during attacks.

The Chiostro del Paradiso date back to 1266. It was at one time a cemetery for the noble families of Amalfi. Now, as cloisters, there are slim white columns with pointed slim arches reflect the influence of Arab architecture. There are Roman and medieval archaeological items in the walkway area as well as some fragments of the original cathedral.

Religious event in AmalfiThere were a couple of disasters in Amalfi. A landslide and storm washed away much of the town and in 1643 there a terrible plague killed about one third of the population. No one could life along the coast. The noble families moved to Naples and most of the general public moved to other locations. By the XVIII century Amalfi was almost uninhabited.

In XVIII century Amalfi was almost uninhabited, the noble families had moved to Naples.

In 1807 Giuseppe Bonaparte was visiting the Amalfi Coast and like most people, he was taken with its beauty. Good for him as he made the decision to build a road that would extend form Naples to Amalfi. It took a number of years to complete with the work ending in 1854.

In XX century Amalfi became a famous tourist destination, the “dolce vita” arrives from Rome to Capri and Amalfi: film directors, artists, actors and actresses came to this Coast.