Dalla Carta alla Cartolina – A Unique Paper Experience in Amalfi

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!

A new paper store and museum located in a historic paper mill

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.

 

 

 
 

 
View this post on Instagram
 

 

 

 
 

 
 

 

 

 

 

A post shared by Dalla Carta alla Cartolina (@dallacartaallacartolina_amalfi) on

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.

The multimedia experience projected on sheets of Amalfi paper

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.

Left: A stereotype set up to view photos | Right: Part of the historic paper mill

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.

Entrance to Dalla Carta alla Cartolina

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.

Look up on the right for a replica of an important historic icon

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.

This old postcard came home with 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.

Ceramic collection on display at Dalla Carta alla Cartolina

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.

Stationary and journals created with Amalfi’s handmade paper

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.

Amalfi paper, glass pen, and ink set – a beautiful gift from my friends

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
www.carta-amalfi.com
Via Cardinale Marino del Giudice, Amalfi
Tel. 089/872-976
10am-7pm Monday-Saturday

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

Moon Amalfi Coast: With Capri, Naples & Pompeii

I’m pleased to announce that my guidebook to the Amalfi Coast with Moon Travel Guides will be published on August 13, 2019! This guidebook has truly been a labor of love. Moon Amalfi Coast: With Capri, Naples & Pompeii is not only an in depth guide to the Amalfi Coast, but also includes Salerno, Sorrento, Capri, Ischia, Procida, and Naples. The book is packed full of information on what to see and do as well as excellent restaurants and accommodations. Think of it as me cherry picking the very best of the best to recommend for you, because that is exactly what I’ve done with this guidebook.
 
Unlike most guidebooks to the Amalfi Coast, this one includes information on all of the towns along the coastline. Of course you’ll find plenty of travel information on Amalfi, Positano, and Ravello, but you’ll also find a wealth of tips on towns like Minori, Cetara, Scala, and Praiano. All are included!
 
If your travels will bring you to the Amalfi Coast or surrounding area later this season or in the future, I do hope you’ll check out my new book. You can find out more information and pre-order the book on Amazon by following the link below:
 

Moon Amalfi Coast: With Capri, Naples & Pompeii (Travel Guide)

laura-thayer-moon-amalfi-coast

Special Announcement: I’m Writing an Amalfi Coast Guidebook!

It’s been a little quiet around Ciao Amalfi since earlier this year. For those of you who are regular readers, you may have already spotted the reason why on Instagram or my other social media accounts. I have been wanting to write an update for months, but have been (and still am!) so busy that time feels like it is speeding by. What has kept me so busy is a very exciting new project. I’m writing a guidebook!
 
The book will be for Moon Travel Guides, a company that I love, and it will cover the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Capri, Ischia, and Naples area. It is an honor to have the chance to share so much about this place I love. It is also a massive project! Due to the seasonal nature of travel to the Amalfi Coast, the project has a pretty tight turn around. That’s good news for you since the book is scheduled to be out in the spring of 2019!

ciao-amalfi-cetara

Beautiful Cetara on the Amalfi Coast

So while I work on the book this summer and autumn, I can’t promise I’ll be blogging as regularly as possible or able to respond to your lovely questions. I will try to share some moments from the research and writing process along the way here on Ciao Amalfi. You can also catch more of glimpse behind the scenes via my Instagram Stories, see daily photos on Twitter, or join in the community on Facebook.
 
Thank you to each and every one of you for following along on my journey here on the Amalfi Coast. This next chapter is going to be a thrilling one!

Carnival Mask and Confetti

February on the Amalfi Coast: Local Tips for What to See & Do

February is a quiet month on the Amalfi Coast, with the exception of the very loud celebrations for carnevale. Yes, it’s carnival time again. Around the Amalfi Coast it’s a festive celebration that includes parades with large floats, kids with entirely too much confetti, and, my favorite part, lasagna. (I’ll share more about that below.) The carnival events add a burst of color to what is traditionally a peaceful time of year. This is the month that many restaurants and stores close for annual holiday time or for maintenance work. Soon things will slowly start coming back to life as preparations begin for another busy season ahead. In the meantime, I love these quiet days, especially when the sun shines.
 
Here’s a look at a few things going on this month, along with some tips for enjoying the Amalfi Coast in February!

 

Carnevale

When most people thing carnival and Italy they imagine all those gorgeous masks and costumes in Venice. That’s not at all what the celebrations look like in much of Italy. If you’re at all familiar with what carnevale looks like in the Italian city of Viareggio, with its massive floats and parade, that’s much more along the lines of how it’s celebrated in this part of Italy – naturally just on a much smaller scale. While there are parades and celebrations, often geared toward kids, in many of the towns along the Amalfi Coast, Maiori is the center of carnevale events. (In large part because they actually have space to make floats and have a parade!) With their Gran Carnevale di Maiori, they have a series of events from February 10th to the 18th. The parade with the floats will take place on Tuesday, February 13th at 3pm. You can see the full events for the Carnevale di Maiori here (Italian only).

Carnival Desserts

Of course you can’t have a holiday without good food! As it was traditionally considered the last big hurrah before the period of Lent leading up to Easter, the customary meal for carnevale is quite lavish. Along the Amalfi Coast that means cheese, salami, cured meats, rich pasta dishes, more meat, (usually more cheese) and lots of sweets. Many families prepare an incredibly rich and delicious lasagna enriched with sausage, little meatballs, spicy salami, hard boiled eggs and mozzarella. It is divine. I look forward to it all year. (Think Garfield and his love of lasagna.) Since my husband has two sisters and they are both marvelous cooks, it means we usually get to enjoy a double dose of lasagna each year.
 
When it’s time for dessert, usually a large tray of chiacchiere will arrive on the table. These are thin strips of fried dough topped with powdered sugar. This is a traditional carnival dessert all over Italy and it has many different names depending on where you’re at. While there are countless recipes, the dough sometimes includes a bit of lemon rind or even a splash of limoncello. They make the most delightful tasting mess you’ve ever eaten!

 

The Amalfi Coast in February

As it’s the quietest month of the year, if you’ve been dreaming of driving the Amalfi Coast Road it’s a good time of year to set off by car and explore the coastline. With less traffic it’s a little easier to stop in scenic spots and enjoy the views. The best part are the colors. If you get a sunny and clear day, the colors of February are vivid and crisp. Just keep in mind that most places are closed this time of year. So don’t expect to rock up to Positano and find all the boutiques open and restaurants to choose from along the beach. But if you’re coming to the Amalfi Coast to enjoy the views and meander around the quiet streets, it’s a wonderful time of year!
 
While you’re exploring the Amalfi Coast, don’t forget that sites like the Villa Romana ruins in Minori are open year round and are free to visit. Take note that the Museo della Carta (Paper Museum) in Amalfi is closed in February for maintenance.
 
Ah … the month of love begins in the place I love the most – the Amalfi Coast! Of course February means San Valentino, or Valentine’s Day. If the weather is nice, our favorite way to celebrate is to head out on a drive along the coastline or simply stroll along the port in Amalfi. No better way to celebrate than just enjoying the place I love most of all.