The origin of Amalfi go back
to ancient Roman times and even to the Byzantine Empire.
Visitors often marvel that a town so small and picturesque was
once a “maritime republic”, but geography and the nature of
those times help explain Amalfi’s moment of global (or at
least Western) prominence. The town declared its independence
in A.D. 839, and its perfect strategic location – opening onto
a natural harbor at the mouth of a valley rich in water, yet
protected by the forbidding Monti Lattari from the incursions
of both Turks and Normans – allowed Amalf to develop into
Italy’s first maritime republic, before either Pisa or Venice.
For 2 centuries, Amalfi was a maritime power to be reckoned
with: Its navy kept the Turks at bay, and its maritime code –
the Tabula Amalphitana – was recognized as law in the
Mediterranean. The small republic was rich and cosmopolitan,
and its coins were widely used across the Mediterranean from
the Greek empire to Africa to the Longobard territories.
Amalfi also dominated the markets in spices, perfumes, silk
and valuable carpets.
Amalfi’s toehold among the
cliffs eventually became a liability, however; the limited
size of its land area and comparable lack of military power
obliged Amalfi to accept Norman rule in 1073. Pisa – which had
developed into a powerful maritime republic itself in the
meantime - then sacked Amalfi in 1135, and in 1143 a terrible
seaquake destroyed large parts of the harbour, including the
fortifications and the shipyards. The Amalfi of old was
completely annihilated 5 years later, when the plague struck
in 1348. Afterwards, Amalfi became a pretty fishing village,
until it was rediscovered as a tourist destination by 19th
Full of mementos of its
glorious past and decorated with gardens-olive trees, oranges,
and lemons, the groves sloping all the way to the sea-Amalfi
is a jewel of a small town. Its central square Piazza
Flavio Gioia, commemorates the inventor of the compass
(or, at least, the man who perfected it for marine use).
Indeed, Amalfi’s mariners were the first in Europe to use the
properties of magnetism for navigation, starting back in the
12th century; they provided material for the first
nautical charts of the Middle Ages.
Amalfi & the Industry of
Amalfi is believed to be the
first European location where paper as we know it today was
made. The process was discovered and perfected by the Arab,
the original name was bambagina referred to the special kind
of paper that became known as paper of Amalfi, made
from recycled cotton, linen and hemp cloths.The process was
then exported to Amalfi through commercial relationship the
republic had with the Arab world. The oldest sheets still in
existence date from the 13th and 14th
centuries. The bambagina of Amalfi is still
highly appreciated by many – for example, the Vatican uses
Amalfi paper for its correspondence.