A picturesque fishing village, isolated from the traffic, Atrani is the smallest
municipality in the whole Southern Italy. The typical white houses, with balconies
full of flowers, form a cascade along the ledges of the surrounding hills (Mount
Civita towards East and the Mount Aureo towards West), interspersed with lemon groves,
in the valley of the river Dragone, as far as the beach. There are no certain traces
about the origins of the town's name: according to some, in fact, it derives from
the Latin word "atrum" (dark, with reference to its particular geographical location),
according to others from an ancient Greek settlement (Atranes).
From an urban point of view, Atrani preserves a typical medieval town structure
with narrow streets and alleys, mostly covered by vaults and arches, which wedge
among the houses and then intersect in a square or in a wide stretch. Piazzetta
Umberto I, at few steps from the beach and surrounded by a typical block of houses,
for its fresh and lively atmosphere brings to mind the well known square in Capri.
Atrani, like all the other towns of the Amalfi Coast, was the residence of noble
Roman patricians, evidenced by the sumptuous villas that archaeological excavations
are bringing to light. It was mentioned for the first time in a letter of Pope Gregory
the Great, in 596.
During the time of the Maritime Republic of Amalfi, Atrani was the residence of
local nobles and the ancient Church of San Salvatore de' Birecto was the place were
the Doges were crowned with a ducal cap ("birecto").
Among the most important historical and architectural monuments, worth of mention
- the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, built in the XIII century on the
ruins of an ancient medieval fortress as a vote to thank the Saint for having liberated
the area from the Saracen occupation. Rebuilt several times in later centuries,
at present it features a Baroque style, with an elegant glazed dome and a square
bell tower in dark tufa. Inside important paintings are preserved, including "L'incredulità
di San Tommaso", masterpiece of the artist of Salerno, Andrea Sabatini, and valuable
- the Church of San Salvatore de' Birecto, built in the X century with a square
plan and preceded by an elegant portico. The current façade with the clock and the
spectacular staircase was designed during the Baroque period. At the time of the
ancient Marine Republic of Amalfi it served as Palatine Chapel: here, in fact, the
Doges were elected, crowned and buried. Inside it features a fine marble Byzantine
pluteus of the end of the XI century, a tombstone of a noblewoman of Atrani (XIV
century), and a portal in bronze, forged in Constantinople in 1087 on request of
the nobleman Pantaleone Viaretta, the same who 20 years earlier donated the bronze
portal to the Cathedral in Amalfi.
- the small Church of the Immaculate, adjacent to the Church of San Salvatore de'
- the Church of the Madonna del Carmine, built in the early XVII century, features
a simple façade flanked by a fine bell tower in Moorish style. The interior, characterised
by one nave plan with decorated marble floors, preserves an organ with a wooden
balcony, a XV century fresco depicting the Madonna on the main altar and, during
the Christmas period, it features an XVIII century nativity scene, whose shepherds
are a faithful reproduction of the inhabitants of Atrani, at the time when the statuettes
- the Church of Santa Maria del Bando, built in the X century on top of Mount Aureo,
under the Torre dello Ziro. The name derives, according to local traditions, to
the fact that the Virgin Mary granted the grace of a man unjustly condemned to be
hanged, an event depicted in the XV century fresco surmounted on the altar. For
the historians, instead, the name derives from the fact that here, in the Republican
period, edicts and judgments were proclaimed. Inside a Roman burial urn is preserved.
- The Church of San Michele Arcangelo (XI-XII century), built in a cavity of Mount
Civita and used as a cemetery until 1927.
Not to miss:
- Masaniello's Cave on the eastern slope of Mount Aureo, where the famous popular
leader (Tommaso Aniello d'Amalfi) sheltered, after the Neapolitan insurrection against
the Spanish Government in 1647. The mother's home of the famous revolutionary was
historically situated not too far from the cave.
- The Grotto of the Saints, not far from the Torre dello Ziro, decorated with frescoes
in Byzantine style. This is all that remains of the ancient Benedictine monastery,
entitled to the Saints Quirico and Giulitta, founded by Archbishop Leone I in 986.
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