Naples, Positano, Amalfi and
(Napoli) is Italy's most controversial city: You'll either
love it or hate it. Is it paradiso or
the inferno? It's louder, more intense, more unnerving,
but perhaps ultimately more satisfying than almost anywhere else in Italy.
unfamiliar with the complexities of the multifarious "Italys"
and their regional types, the Neapolitan is still the
quintessence of the country and easy to caricature ("O Sole
Mio," "Mamma Mia," bel canto). If Sophia Loren (a native who
moved elsewhere) evokes the Italian woman for you, you'll find
more of her look-alikes here than in any other city. Naples
also gave the world Enrico Caruso.
lies on the southern strip of the Amalfi drive and the
architecture of the town shows its Moorish history. Positano
lies on the Tyrrhenian Sea and its legendary Sirenuse Islands,
supposed to be the siren islands of the Odyssey, which form
the mini-archipelago of Li Galli or The Cocks. The city
was once a rival of Venice and the two were constantly trying
to prove their dominance over the other in the seas. It was
part of the powerful Republic of the Amalfi. After the Second
World War American troops were stationed in nearby Salerno,
and this in all probality resulted in Positano becoming famous
as a resort, when once it was just a sleepy village that had
been visited by painters and writers, Paul Klee, Tennessee
Williams being two of the more famous ones.
The city of
Amalfi was once a great seafaring republic.
It was as powerful as the great maritime powers of Genoa and
Venice. In the 9th century the people of the city created a
maritime code called the Tavole Amalfitane, and this code was
followed in the Mediterranean for hundreds of years. The
importance of Amalfi as a great power diminished after a
series of raids by the Saracens. Also a great flood ravished
the city in the fourteenth century. It is now rising in power
and influence again as a major resort on the Amalfi drive.
come from Positano, or Salerno, the road into Amalfi will take
your breath away. It overlooks the Bay of Salerno from its
position on the slopes of the steep Latteri hills. Modern
Amalfi depends on tourist traffic for the affluence of its
populace. Most of its regular hotels and pensions are located
right in the middle of the town, while the star rated
accommodations and the finest hotels are built on the
outskirts of the town.
had decided that the legendary home of the Sirens, of Odyssey
fame, was situated at Sorrento. Ulysses
managed to escape the call of the sirens by closing his, and
his crews, ears with wax. But since then this enchanting city,
on the edge of high cliffs overlooking the bays of Naples and
Salerno, has been sending out its own siren call for centuries
luring not just sailors, but everybody from Homer to Lord and
Lady Astor and to the busloads of international tourists, who
come regularly every summer.