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From: Wind Surf Cruise Review


ABOVE: A panoramic view of Amalfi, Italy.

photoAmalfi has been a city since at least the 6th Century A.D., and by the 8th Century it was the center of a maritime trading empire that reached from Italy to Northern Africa.

Its trading influence declined in the 12th Century, but the citizens of Amalfi found new outlets for their enterprising nature: They invented and perfected use of the magnetic compass in navigation, and they established a papermaking industry using technology borrowed from the Arabs. (The Museo della Carta on the via delle Cartiere offers a close-up look at Amalfi's papermaking heritage.)

For today's tourists--and especially for those arriving by cruise ship--Amalfi's history is less important than its spectacular setting. Houses, churches, and vineyards spill down a mountainside toward the sea, where cruise ships anchor just beyond the tiny harbor and excursion boats seem to arrive and depart almost constantly from jetties along the waterfront.

photoDuring my cruise, the Wind Surf dropped anchor at 7 a.m. for a six-hour stay. Local boats provided a frequent shuttle service between ship and shore.

photoFrom the tender landing on the waterfront, I explored the staircases and passageways of the town center until the Duomo, a.k.a. the Cattedrale di S. Andrea Annunzio, opened at 10 a.m. The cathedral is said to be one of the finest in Southern Italy, and it's a remarkable find in a such a small town.

photoMy inexpensive ticket provided entry to the Cloister of Paradise with its ancient fragments and pretty garden, the 6th Century Basilica of the Crucifix (now the cathedral's small but interesting museum, the Crypt (which supposedly houses the skull and bones of St. Andrew), and finally the new Cathedral ("new" as in 1100 A.D.), a over-the-top Baroque confection overlaying the original Romanesque structure.

I was still in a walking mood, so I returned to the waterfront and followed the eastbound road to the Torre di San Francisco (now the site of a restaurant) , which was a great spot for taking pictures of the harbor. I then walked a few meters downhill to a staircase that led up to a pretty little church, the Chiesa di San Antonio da Padova.

photoAfter peeking inside the church, I struck uphill via the staircase and encountered a construction crew that were using donkeys to bring materials up the stairs from the main road. From there, I followed the Via Capo di Croce and the Via S. Lorenzo del Piano to the Via Sopramuro, a staircase that led back to the cathedral square in the center of town.

  • Tip: The Amalfi Carta Turistica is an inepensive, nicely printed, easy-to-read map of Amalfi. Numbers on the map are keyed to names and descriptions (in Italian) of sights and tourist attractions. A reasonably priced and illustrated book in English, The Coast of Amalfi, is worth buying as a guidebook and souvenir. You can find both publications at local bookstores and souvenir shops.

Shore excursions. Wind Surf offered two tours from Amalfi: a 3-1/2-hour trip to Ravello, perched high on a platrau overlooking the Amalfi Coast; and a 6-1/2-hour Pompeii and Sorrento tour that returned to the Wind Surf after the ship's afternoon crossing from Amalfi to Sorrento.

Next page: Sorrento

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Marseille-Rome cruise: ports and sights

Porquerolles, France
Alghero, Sardinia
Trapani, Sicily
Rome (Civitavecchia)

Also see:
Wind Surf photo gallery