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The Dramatic Amalfi Coast - Best coastal drive

Updated on August 22, 2011

The Amalfi coast is as dramatic as it gets. It has one of the world’s great coastal drives right up there with California’s legendary pacific highway. It’s also a feat of engineering because much of the road was constructed in the 16th century.

Here the land falls in the sheer cliffs into the Mediterranean. Winding through it is a precipitous 45 kilometer road threading it’s way between Positano and VIetri Silmare and it’s said to have more than 1000 bends.

In May 1953 John Steinbeck wrote an article for Harper’s Bazaar on the town of Positano. Now up until then it would have been a town of poor fishermen. But with the magazine’s seal of approval, the rich and the famous started flooding in. Elizabeth Taylor, Lawrence Olivier, Liza Minelli, Robert DeNeiro the list goes on. They’ve all passed through Positano. In the 60’s Europe’s passion for the Bikini took off on this town’s beach.

The town itself is how Stienbeck described it – Unreal or rather impossible – it tumbles into pastel avalanche down to the blue putal water. Its blade thin alleys are stuffed with shops touting local lace and leather, majolica and other tourist takeaways that are definitely a cut above the usual seaside fair.

The one thing to remember about Positano is that it is hell in summer the streets are rammed with tourists. It is also easier to understand why it was Italians who developed small family run around because places like this question the fundamental viability of the car culture.

The coastal road winds on, of course everyone’s dream is to drive it but in all honesty the amount of concentration that’s required and lack of parking means it can be a nightmare. The public transport system is very good and it might be your best option.

Amalfi is highlight of the coast to which it gives it’s name it has a population of 5000 but in it’s hay day this was a city of 70000 people. Amalfi was one of the great mercantile duchesses of the middle ages.

Probably the most famous is the backdrop, the Webster’s bloody play The Duchess Amalfi. It had commercial ties all over the Mediterranean trading with Christians and Arab alike and the influence of the latter can be seen in the town’s number one attraction.

The Cathedral of St Andrew is a showcase of architectural fusion, Moorish meets Gothic. The arches on the façade are reminiscent of those in the famous Mezquita in Cordoba. The bronze doors were the first of their kind in Italy.

There had been a church here since the 500s but the cathedral was built in the early 13th century as a result of Smash and grab raid on the great Christine capital to the east Constantinople. The infamous 4th crusade bypassed the holy land and instead captured Constantinople ransacking its palaces and churches. The Amalfitans got their hands on the relics of St. Andrew one of Christ’s first Apostles and they built a cathedral to house them. Today they are kept here in the crypt.

Amalfi makes a great base for exploring this region or it’s worth half a day on your tour itinerary but the real magic of this place is the coast itself whether you drive it or you’re driven. It’s one of those places where man and nature have combined to create an unforgettable experience.


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