Five Jewels of the Amalfi Coast

Welcome to the Amalfi Coast, considered one of the worlds most exotic and breathtaking coastlines. The sight of whitewashed villas tumbling down the vertical hillside to the ocean’s edge is enough to delight any tourist. Yet there are gems to be explored and worthy of a visit that you won’t want to miss.

Sun Worshipping on the Amafi Beach
Sun Worshipping on the Amafi Beach

There are many sandy beaches offering ocean frolics, umbrella’s, and tasty refreshments. No matter which way you look, you are surrounded by Italy’s coastal treasures.

St. Andrews Cathedral, Amalfi
St. Andrews Cathedral, Amalfi

Rising majestically off the Piazza del Duomo, St. Andrews Cathedral was built in the 1200’s on the site of an older cathedral, which was built on the remains of a previous temple. A flight of steep stairs takes you up to the Arab- inspired facade. An older basilica with the famed Cloister of Paradise resides next to it. St. Andrews’ remains, which were brought over from Constantinople during the 4th crusade, are kept inside the crypt of the Cathedral. A 13th century wooden crucifix, medieval frescoes by Andrea del’Asta and Egyptian granite columns add to provide an engaging atmosphere.

Grotta dello Smeraldo in neighboring Ravello
Grotta dello Smeraldo in neighboring Ravello

Flooded with translucent blue and emerald light, the Grotta della Smeraldo can be reached by boat. Discovered by a local fisherman in 1932, this grotto had remained virtually untouched for many years. The cavern roof is 24 meters above water level, hosting dramatic rock formations.

Terrace of Infinity at Villa Cimbrone, Ravello
Terrace of Infinity at Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

Originating in the 11th century, the Terrace of Infinity, also known as the belvedere of the Villa Cimbrone has predominately remained in custody of families of nobility. As the historian Ferdinand Gregorovius stated after a visit to the Villa,….“incomparable…..where the most beautiful flowers you can imagine flourished, coming from numerous plants of the South….redesigned and enriched with countless….ornamental features, small temples, pavilions, bronze and stone statues.” Truly not to be missed.

My Brochure of Amalfi with the Mystery Tower

There are actually 30 towers like this one down the coast, originating from as early as the 12th century. Saracens were known to pirate the waters often, so when they were sighted, fires were built on top as a signal to the inhabitants of pirate activity. At this warning, they would all leave the beach and literally ‘head for the hills.’

Amalfi is an excursion into the senses, filling your mind with exotic images and dramatic landscapes. My thoughts are never far from it, and still the scent of lemons on the ocean air brings me close to heaven.

Amalfi Coast vs. Cinque Terre: Deciding Between Italy’s Most Popular Coast Lines

Casanova in the Doge’s Prison

Venice Bridge of Signs

Casanova Walked the Bridge of Sighs

“It has always been my opinion that when a man sets himself determinedly to do something and thinks of naught but his design, he must succeed despite all obstacles in his path.”  Casanova

Giacoma Casanova, Latin lover and debaucherer, had gone too far. In 1755 everything caught up with him. Refusing to change his ways, he was sentenced in his hometown of Venice to the Doge’s prison, the dreaded prigioni, for depravity and blasphemy. Crossing the Bridge of Sighs from the Doge’s palace, so named by Lord Byron after the ‘sighs’ of condemned prisoners at their last glimpse of light, Casanova was put into a lead-lined cell inside the infamous Leads prison. No convict had ever escaped the sweltering vaults.

Corridor of the Leads
Corridor of the Leads (Prigioni)

Giacoma Casanova

Casanova had previously traveled extensively throughout Europe, supporting himself as a soldier, violinist, spy, entrepreneur, businessman, Homeric translator, novelist, and librarian. He actually considered becoming a priest at one point which, minus his robust sexual appetite, might have worked. His involvement as a notorious libertine, gamester, disturber of the public peace, and inability to stay out of debt worked against him as his womanizing contrivances, seemingly untamable, spiraled him further downwards.

Casanova's House, Venice
Casanova’s House, Venice

He didn’t spend idle time in his prison cell, however. Finding an iron rod, he managed to dig a tunnel in the corner. Later, after being forced into another cell, he passed the bar to a renegade monk named Balbi, who occupied the cell next to him, with the idea that the monk would dig a tunnel to his cell and another tunnel leading out. Balbi burrowed through the ceiling, freeing them both and using the bar to pry open lead plates on the roof. Breaking into a room through a dormer window, they continued to force open doors and gates until they reached the water. Finally, Casanova having spent fifteen months in prison, they made their escape by gondola to central Venice.

Casanova and Balbi were free…never to return to the Doge’s prison. They parted ways with Casanova fleeing to Paris, where he engaged in the creation of the French state lottery, finding himself wealthy and enjoying the charms of high society once more.

“I then turned and looked at the entire length of the beautiful canal, and, seeing not a single boat, admired the most beautiful day one could hope for, the first rays of the magnificent sun rising above the horizon.”  Casanova

Steeped in myth, what is the truth regarding Casanova? Was he as risque as history describes him? A legendary memoir penned by Casanova, conveniently named Story of My Life, has been kept in private hands until just recently. Stay tuned as I explore the unsuspecting contents that will amaze and surprise you about Giacoma Casanova in my next post.