Visit an Ancient Roman Villa in Minori

With its beautiful beaches lined with colorful umbrellas, sweet laid back atmosphere, and those famous views, it’s easy to think of the Amalfi Coast as a holiday spot just for soaking up the sun. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no other place I’d rather relax on the beach. Yet what many travelers don’t realize is that there’s a wealth of historical layers to the Amalfi Coast that are fascinating to discover along with the incredible natural beauty.

Villa Romana ruins in Minori on the Amalfi Coast

For instance, did you know that the ancient Romans once enjoyed holidaying on the Amalfi Coast, too? Traces of Roman life on the coastline have been found in various places, including below the center of Amalfi, on the Li Galli Islands, Vietri sul Mare, below the Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Positano, and most notably in the town of Minori. Nestled in the valley below Ravello, Minori is just a short jaunt or pleasant 10 minute ferry ride east of Amalfi.

While the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum make excellent day trips from the Amalfi Coast, the Villa Romana in Minori offers the chance to walk through a Roman seaside villa dating back to the 1st century BC. Of the Roman ruins discovered along the Amalfi Coast, the Villa Romana is the largest. The archaeological area covers over 2,500 square feet (232 square meters) and was once a large private estate.

Located right in the center of town, the Villa Romana is only steps from the Amalfi Coast Road as it winds through Minori. Like many ancient sites in the area, the ruins of the Villa Romana are situated well below the street level now. Over the centuries the city was built over the top of the Roman villa. Today a good part of the villa lies below modern day Minori, with buildings immediately surrounding the excavation area. Before entering, stop to gaze down on the large garden with a pool surrounded on two sides by a triportico, a covered passageway lined with columns and arches.

The experience of visiting Minori’s Villa Romana simply cannot be compared to the scale of the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum – entire cities that offer much more complexity and variety. Yet what makes this site appealing is precisely its isolation. The villa sprawls across several levels as it was built into the natural slope of the valley right over the Regginolo river that runs down to the sea. Just imagine the tranquility of this spot all those centuries ago. Now that’s what you call a holiday spot!

An impressively long and grand staircase leads from where the upper levels would have once been located down to the triportico and the garden level. While the rooms are quiet and dark now, they would have once been used for entertainment and music. Especially the most lavishly decorated area called the nymphaeum. This room would have been the heart of the villa for dining and still features mosaics, traces of frescoes, and the remains of what was once a waterfall feature at the end of the room.

Just off the nymphaeum inthe garden is a small pool that was once in the center of the villa, meaning the garden area was about twice as large as is visible today. The remaining garden area lies below modern day Minori, but there are more excavated areas nearby that are primarily baths. However, these rooms are rarely open to the public.

The ruins of the Villa Romana were noted in the 1870s and later excavated in more depth starting in 1932. After exploring the villa and imagining how splendid it would have been in its grandeur, do stop in the small museum of archaeological items that were uncovered in Minori and the surrounding areas.

The Villa Romana has been in the press recently thanks to the excellent news that it has been awarded €4.9 million Euros for restoration work from the Ministero per i beni e le attività culturali (MiBAC), the government agency responsible for the preservation of Italy’s rich cultural heritage. This is excellent news for this historic site, which can be preserved better and greatly enriched to make it even more engaging for an international audience. I am eager to see how the Villa Romana develops, but the future is looking good.

However, don’t wait to visit! The Villa Romana is already a fascinating place to step back in history for a little while during your Amalfi Coast explorations. If it’s not already there, definitely put Minori on your Amalfi Coast list, but that’s a post for another day. But as a sneak peak, other highlights include stopping for tempting desserts at the Sal de Riso pastry shop, walking among lemon groves on the Sentiero dei Limoni, and many festivals and events throughout the year to experience.

The Villa Romana is open year round and is free to enter. More information on hours and visiting can be found here.

Villa Romana
www. villaromanaminori.com
Via Capo di Piazza 28
tel. 089/852-893
9am-one hour before sunset daily, closed May 1, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1;
Free entrance

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Amalfi Coast Ferry Service to Minori, Maiori & Cetara

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Get Around the Amalfi Coast with Ferry Service to Minori, Maiori & Cetara!

For ease of bus and ferry transportation connections, I often recommend travelers stay in Amalfi while visiting the Amalfi Coast. However, thanks to the ferry service Travelmar started running last year connecting Maiori, Minori and Cetara with the ferry line between Amalfi and Salerno, it’s now easier than ever to get around the Amalfi Coast! My favorite way to travel between towns on the Amalfi Coast is on the ferry, which you can read more about here. If you’re planning on staying in Minori, Maiori or Cetara—or would like to visit these towns during your stay—it’s now easy and scenic to do so by ferry.

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Take the ferry to Minori

I really love Cetara and Minori – they’re both smaller towns and are usually a bit less crowded during busy season. Cetara has an old world fishing village charm, with its picturesque beach and watchtower. There are some excellent restaurants just a few steps from the beach where you can try dishes made with the local garum – an anchovy sauce made since ancient Roman times in Cetara. While in Minori you can explore the winding streets and visit the Villa Romana. Maiori is geographically one of the largest towns on the Amalfi Coast, and it has long seafront, more shopping and is often a bit more lively in the evenings.

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Cetara from the sea

With the Travelmar ferry service to Minori, Maiori and Cetara, you can easily hop between towns along the coast that in the past have only been accessible by bus if you’re traveling by public transport on the coast – highly recommended! And thankfully there are quite a few connections daily, which makes it very convenient. Check out the Travelmar schedule to find out more.

The Magic of Sunrise

Early this morning, we made our way around the familiar curves on the way home from the Naples airport. The only hard part of having family visit is that eventually the time comes when we have to haul the suitcases back up the stairs—invariably at an unreasonable hour of the morning—and make the trip over the Chiunzi pass to the airport. Rounding a gentle curve not far from Tramonti on the way home we were greeted with a golden glow across the mountains. I stopped short in the middle of a sentence, completely forgetting what I was saying. The car was silent for a few minutes as we took in the warm light of the sunrise above Ravello.

Sunrise above Minori on the Amalfi Coast

After a few more curves, I couldn’t stand it anymore. “Stop the car, please. I have to take some photos.” In the distance the Cilento coastline stretched all the way to the Punta Licosa, and the sunshine shone brightly like a flashlight beam across the Bay of Salerno.

Sunrise on the Amalfi Coast

Down below Ravello, the first rays of light were arriving in Minori. Around town people were waking up and heading to work or school, and I wondered how many were aware of the beautiful sunrise starting the day.

Magical Sunrise on the Amalfi Coast

There must have been a bit of magic in the sunrise this morning. It soothed that heaviness in me that comes from saying goodbye, and helped bring a smile to my face. Like sunrises and sunsets, life is about hellos and goodbyes. They color our lives and fill them with warmth and happiness. I was filled with gratitude for the early morning drive that made us happen across this beautiful sunrise, just as I’m grateful for every moment I have with my family and friends.

Photo Friday: Big Clouds

Big clouds over Maiori and Minori

Even from high in Ravello, it’s easy to spot that the beaches in Maiori and Minori are busy this time of the summer. I stopped the other day for a moment to watch the big clouds looming over the mountains, and I hoped they would get stuck there so as not to ruin the sunny afternoon for all the people enjoying the beach and the sea. Wishing you a weekend filled with sunshine!

Summer Religious Festivals on the Amalfi Coast

June has arrived … and it’s summer on the Amalfi Coast! If you’re planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast this summer, here is a list of some of the best religious festivals from June to August. Even if you’re not Roman Catholic, timing your holiday on the Amalfi Coast to coincide with a religious festival offers you the chance to experience the excitement, the religious traditions and celebrations that take place each year in the small towns of the Amalfi Coast. Or, if you’re looking for a quiet escape, you’ll want to avoid these holidays as they attract large crowds, create parking nightmares and a lot of noise. (Think booming fireworks at 7am.) But, if you’re like me, you’ll love a good festa and the chance to experience something truly Italian!

Festival of Sant Antonio Amalfi

The Arrival of Sant' Antonio by boat in Amalfi

June

June 13th – Festival of Sant’Antonio, Amalfi

The beginning of the summer season of religious festivals on the Amalfi Coast starts with the Festival of Sant’Antonio (St. Anthony) in Amalfi. This festival has one of the most elaborate religious processions that I’ve seen on the Amalfi Coast. The procession of the statue of Sant’ Antonio (above) begins from the church near the Hotel Luna in Amalfi and follows the road through the tunnel to Atrani. The procession then makes its way through Atrani and down to the beach where the statue, religious procession AND the marching band are all loaded onto boats and continue for a boat procession from Atrani to Conca dei Marini to salute the church of Sant’ Antonio there before returning to Amalfi to continue the procession on land through Amalfi and back to the church. At night there is a large fireworks display over the harbor of Amalfi.

June 24th – Festival of San Giovanni Battista, Pontone in Scala

The hamlet of Pontone in Scala celebrates their patron saint San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist) on June 24th. This is a wonderful chance to visit this pretty village set in the mountains between Amalfi and Scala. While the procession is small in scale compared to some of the other religious festivals in June, the pretty piazza at the center of the village is always decked out with lights and decorations.

June 27th – Festival of Sant’ Andrea, Amalfi

For me, the top religious festival of the summer is the Festival for Sant’ Andrea (St. Andrew), the patron saint and protector of Amalfi. The celebrations that take place on June 27th are in honor of a miracle that happened on June 27th, 1544 when Sant’ Andrea saved the town from an attack from pirates by stirring up a wild sea storm. (If you’re visiting the Amalfi Coast off season, plan to come for the winter festival for Sant’ Andrea on November 30th.) The religious procession is solemn and beautiful. A large silver bust statue of Sant’ Andrea is carried down the steps of the Duomo of Amalfi, on a procession through the streets of town and down to the Marina Grande beach where a blessing is said to the harbor and boats (that blow their horns to celebrate!). The finale is worth waiting for … when the statue of Sant’ Andrea is run up the grand staircase of the Duomo! The fireworks display after dark is one of the largest of the summer.

June 29th – Festival of San Pietro, Cetara

Just a few days after Sant’ Andrea in Amalfi, the Festival of San Pietro (St. Peter) takes place in Cetara. I experienced this big religious festival for the first time in 2010, and will be going back again each year. The procession of the statue of San Pietro standing on a boat decorated with flowers is carried through town on a long procession. With the strong fishing tradition in Cetara, I felt that this procession was still very deeply connected to the people of Cetara. When the procession reaches the beach, it is particularly beautiful against the lights of town and the medieval watchtower.

Festival of San Pietro in Cetara

The procession of San Pietro in Cetara

July

July 13th – Festival of Santa Trofimena, Minori

On July 13th, the town of Minori celebrates their patron saint Santa Trofimena during this summer festival. While I’ve experienced the winter celebrations for Santa Trofimena, I’ve not yet been to the summer celebrations. The church of Santa Trofimena in Minori is beautiful, and I’ve heard the procession is very moving. I hope to attend this summer!

July 22nd – Festival of Santa Maria Maddalena, Atrani

Right at the peak of lovely summer weather, the Festival of Santa Maria Maddalena (St. Mary Magdalene) in Atrani is a beautiful religious festival on the Amalfi Coast. The procession begins in the Collegiata dedicated to Santa Maria Maddalena, and continues through town and to the beach. After dark you’re in for a treat … a fireworks display from the sea that is fabulous from the beach!

July 27th – Festival of San Pantaleone, Ravello

At the end of July, the town of Ravello takes their turn at celebrating in honor of their patron San Pantaleone (St. Pantaleon). The Piazza Duomo is filled to the brim, and the religious procession follows the narrow streets through town. After dark, a fireworks display is set off on the mountainside below the Piazza Duomo. For a wonderful view, head over to Scala and watch the fireworks with a view overlooking Ravello.

Procession for Sant' Andrea in Amalfi

Procession for Sant' Andrea in Amalfi

August

August 1st – Sant’ Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori , Scala

The town of Scala is decorated with colorful lights by the first of August to celebrate Sant’ Alfonso de’ Liguori. Born near Naples in 1696, St. Alphonsus was very closely connected to the town of Scala, where he founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. While a religious celebration takes place on August 1st, the decorations are also part of Scala’s celebration for their patron saint on August 10th.

August 10th – Festival for San Lorenzo, Scala

The biggest festival of the year in Scala takes place on August 10th in honor of San Lorenzo (St. Lawrence). The celebrations include a religious procession through town and a fireworks display after dark. This is an excellent opportunity to visit the beautiful Church of San Lorenzo in Scala when it is lit up and decorated for the festivities.

August 15th – Ferragosto, Positano and Maiori

Ferragosto is a holiday throughout Italy in honor of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. You’ll find beach parties and events taking place in most on the towns of the Amalfi Coast on August 15th. The celebrations are more elaborate and fun in Positano and Maiori, where the most important churches in both towns are dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, or the Assumption of the Virgin. Positano’s celebrations take place starting on August 14th, and are especially vivid as the history of the arrival of the town’s famous icon of the Black Madonna is recreated. The fireworks displays in Positano and Maiori on August 15th are wonderful from the sea, and there are boat tours from Amalfi that will take you to see both of them.

Festival of La Maddalena in Atrani

Festival of La Maddalena in Atrani

This is just a taste of some of the biggest summer religious festivals on the Amalfi Coast. There are many more! There are also many sagre (food festivals) and other summer festivals, but I’ll include those in another post. If you’ve experienced a summer religious festival that I’ve left out, please do leave a comment and I’ll add it to a list. Let the summer festivities begin!