There’s one thing I remember loving for as long as I can remember. Surely you have something like that, right? For me it’s paper. There was magic held in the pages of my favorite picture books I read as a little girl. Hours spend folding colorful pieces of paper into impossible origami shapes (with varied success). Cracking open a brand new textbook on the first day of school and taking a good long whiff of that new book smell. In later years my love of paper led to a passion for printing, the history of typography, and words in art. This fire was later fueled by jobs working at small paper stores while in college and grad school. So file it under “funny how life works out sometimes” that I would end up living in town that is famous for — yes you guessed it — paper!
Amalfi has a long history with paper making that dates to the Middle Ages when the town was a rich maritime republic with vast trading connections all over the Mediterranean and east to Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire. Amalfi’s merchants brought back the knowledge of paper production, which flourished in the river valley above town. While most of the paper mills lie in ruins among the Valle delle Ferriere, there is still handmade paper produced in some of Amalfi’s mills.
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One of these paper mills, which you can spot with the curved roof just above the bridge, was a functioning paper mill until the 1990s. Thankfully this important piece of Amalfi history was saved by Andrea De Luca, who is the mastermind behind the beautiful La Scuderia del Duca paper stores in Amalfi. The paper mill and much of its historical elements have been restored and transformed in a gorgeous store that is hard to categorize. It’s a multimedia experience that brings the history of Amalfi’s paper making tradition to life and showcases products created with the handmade paper as well as a rich collection of historic postcards, prints, antiques, and ceramics. In essence, it’s my idea of heaven.
Just inside you’ll find a working mill that spins and a few steps leading up to a darkened room with evocative scenes created out of paper and historic items. Here you can choose from a variety of postcards and insert them into a mailbox to see videos and hear stories (in Italian and English) as travelers, artists, and writers extol the beauty of Amalfi, remark on major events, and share travel experiences. Look around and you’ll also find elements of the original paper mill and antique pieces like a stereoscope set up with a stereogram of Amalfi tucked away in an alcove.
Dalla Carta alla Cartolina, which translates as From the Paper to the Postcard, is more than the multimedia experience, which is certainly worth a trip in itself. However, take time to explore the entire two level shop, which is decorated with antiques and a beautifully curated selection of paper items, prints, and artwork.
Continue up a few steps to the upper level in the back, which was originally a church in the 13th century dedicated to Santa Maria de Flumine. The name flumine indicates “river” and refers to the importance of the stream running down the valley that was an integral part of local life. The church was eventually transformed into the paper mill, which once sat alongside the river. While the river is today covered by a road, you can stop outside nearby and hear it rushing below on its way to the sea.
In the shop you will find a small replica of the important icon of Santa Maria de Flumine from 1290 that is now one of the oldest pieces in the medieval collection of the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples. Until I visited recently, I had no idea about the history of this building and how it was once a church. Discovering the layers and layers of history in Amalfi is something that never ceases to amaze me.
Given my love and paper and photography, it will come as no surprise that I adore old postcards. Tucked away in the shop I happened across some boxes of old postcards. I could have been there for hours and know I will be going back to flip through all the cards again and again. In the meantime, I found this gem (above) that shows Amalfi from the mountains on the west side of town, which is a bit more unusual. I later realized that we can spot the palazzo where my husband grew up and our little apartment in Amalfi where I am writing these words. It’s the perfect addition to my little collection of old postcards, because it will always remind me of the day looking through the postcards together with a good friend.
When I stopped by recently, there was a collection of ceramics on display by the artist Antonio Franchini (1923-2006). But everywhere you look there’s something interesting. Of course there are a lot of paper temptations, which you can also find at the La Scuderia del Duca store near the waterfront (Largo Cesareo Console 8) and in Piazza Duomo in Amalfi.
You’ll find the perfect gifts at Dalla Carta alla Cartolina just like at La Scuderia del Duca. I love how their products capture an important piece of Amalfi’s history in such an elegant manner. If you have any paper lovers in your life (or are a paper nut like me), this is a place you won’t want to miss in Amalfi.
Dalla Carta alla Cartolina is easy to find by walking up Amalfi’s main street from Piazza Duomo. Just keep on going up into the valley and you’ll come across it on the left after walking about 5 minutes. (Keep on going up the valley after to visit the Museo della Carta, the town’s paper museum, too!)
You can find out more information about Dalla Carta alla Cartolina and follow along on their social media posts (they write interesting comments in Italian and English) on Facebook and Instagram. Or check out the La Scuderia del Duca shops online here.
Dalla Carta alla Cartolina
Via Cardinale Marino del Giudice, Amalfi