Fragile paradise on the Amalfi Coast, Italy

  The ocean is the cradle of life on earth. In the coastal area where the ocean and the continent meet, the first civilization of mankind was bred. Thanks to the selfless gift of the ocean, 40% of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast. Today, hundreds of millions of people like to go to the beach for leisure and vacation.
  Italy is surrounded by the sea on three sides and has a coastline of 7,914 kilometers. Between the blue sea and blue sky, under the majestic cliffs and cliffs, there are colorful towns scattered among them, and with the profound cultural atmosphere, Italy has become a paradise for travelers from all over the world.
  However, these magnificent and charming coastlines are not just a gift from God, but also thanks to the continuous creation of human beings over the centuries, which has made them a resort where nature and architecture are integrated. Today, also because of human activity, these coastlines are becoming increasingly fragile and their beauty is on the verge of disappearing.
Amalfi: From Small Fishing Village to First Maritime Republic

  Among the many coastlines in Italy, the scenery of the Amalfi Coast is unique and unparalleled in the world. It is located on the southern side of the Sorrento Peninsula in southern Italy, starting from Salerno in the east and Positano in the west, with 14 small seaside towns in between. In the 11th century, in order to obtain more arable land, farmers began to cultivate terraces here to grow olives and fruits. These unparalleled beaches are not a gift from God, but the result of continuous transformation over the second half of the last century. Given that it represents “an excellent example of a Mediterranean landscape with special cultural and natural resources – its complex topography, its historical process of fusion and transformation by humans, represents an excellent example of the intelligent use of resources by human beings. ”, In 1997, the Amalfi Coast was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List of Cultural Landscapes.
  The towns of the Amalfi Coast were initially formed in the 5th century AD. Romans who escaped from the barbarian invasion gathered in this paradise, relying on fishing, hunting and sea commerce for a living. In 839 AD, the Amalfis declared their independence under the open protection of Byzantium and established the Amalfi Republic, despite a long struggle with the Lombard Principalities, the Principalities of Naples, and the Normans in Sicily.
  Centuries of struggle have allowed Amalfi to develop a formidable maritime power. In the face of the covetous expansion of the African Arabs, the principalities of southern Italy had to form a Campania alliance, and Amalfi also joined it. In 849, the Arabs tried to invade Rome through the Tiber. The Campania Union received Pope Leo IV’s help, they quickly mobilized the sea fleet, fought fiercely at the port of Rome for 1 day, and completely defeated the invaders. This is the famous Battle of Ostia, which is considered to be It was one of the most important naval battles in Christian history. In the 16th century, the Renaissance master Raphael painted a masterpiece for this battle, which is now preserved in the Vatican Museums.
  Despite the armed conflict with the Arabs, Amalfi maintained trade relations with Arab merchants from Sicily, Spain and Africa. All the inhabitants enjoyed commerce, and even the nobles, who traditionally valued land and agriculture more, became involved in commerce. Amalfi’s trade routes connected the entire Mediterranean coast and islands, north to the Black Sea and Constantinople, east to Baghdad by land, south to Egypt, and west to the Iberian peninsula. Relying on the wealth brought by trade, more and more beautiful small buildings were built along the Amalfi coast. Due to the exchanges with the Arab world, its architectural styles also tended to be diverse. These colorful buildings have been preserved to this day.

The 6th generation of the Achetto family grows lemons on steep terraces. The unique variety here is the Sfusato Amalfitano, which is much larger than ordinary lemons.

Crossing the Amalfi Coastal Road is undoubtedly an extraordinary journey of sight and taste.

Amalfi’s hillside lemon trees are nourished by the abundant sunshine of the Mediterranean Sea, and it is here that the best limoncellos in Italy are produced.

  The main products exported by the Amalfi people are the local specialty Amalfi paper and lemons. The abundant sunshine of the Mediterranean also nourishes the lemon trees planted on the hillsides, and the best limoncello in Italy is produced here. Amalfi’s papermaking is not his own invention, but from China. In their trade with the Arab world, they learned about this magical production process, and with the wisdom of local artisans and merchants, Amalfi gradually became the largest and most important paper-making center in Europe.
  In addition to papermaking, the compass, one of the four great inventions in ancient China, was also used by Amalfi figures. The compass appeared in China as early as the 4th century, and then gradually spread to Europe. Amalfi merchants quickly used the compass, perfected it and spread it, and even for a long time, the Amalfi people were mistaken for the inventors of the compass. At that time, there were four maritime republics, Amalfi, Venice, Pisa and Genoa coexisting in Italy. Through foreign trade and extensive political freedom, these maritime republics had been extremely brilliant for many centuries. Amalfi was once the most brilliant among them A prosperous one. The development of trade also allowed the Amalfis to expand and establish colonies in the central and eastern Mediterranean. There are certain information that at the end of the 10th century Cairo had a huge Amalfi colony.
  After centuries of glory, the Principality of Amalfi suffered a rapid and even dramatic decline from natural and man-made disasters. In the second half of the 11th century, the small country found itself besieged in an endless battle between the Normans, the 2 emperors of the East and the West, and the Roman Church, and the various principalities of the Campania region were in constant turmoil. In 1131, the Norman kingdom from Sicily attacked and conquered Amalfi; in 1135 and 1137, the Pisa, who had long competed with Amalfi, tore up the treaty and carried out blatant sacks of Amalfi. After that, Amalfi, which had given up its independence, was divided into the kingdom of Sicily, and it was included in the territory of the Normans. Despite its political decline, Amalfi’s overseas colonies and trade remained active in the centuries that followed, until a natural disaster struck the final blow.

  In 1343, a storm suddenly hit the coast, followed by an earthquake and tsunami that completely destroyed the already scarred coast. Not so much the destruction of the city, but the total destruction of the arsenal where sailboats and weapons were built, and the era of Amalfi as a sea power came to an end. To this day, the legend of the terrible tsunami is still circulating among the fishermen of the Amalfi Coast: when the fishermen go out to fish, the fishing nets thrown into the sea can also touch the ancient ruins that were swept into the sea; In the underwater ruins, an ancient fountain is still gushing fresh water…
‘Holy Coast’ tour: making people forget about death

  The Amalfi Coast is also known as the “Sacred Coast”. 14 seaside towns are like 14 pearls, inlaid on this semi-circular coast. From time immemorial to the present, the Amalfi Coast has been a haven for beauty and inspiration for countless artists and poets.
  Warm springs and receding autumns are the best times to visit the Amalfi Coast, lush vegetation, yellow lemons, citrus and gorse, lush olive groves, wine, dark and cool caves, yachting bays , azure sea… Crossing the Amalfi Coastal Road is undoubtedly an extraordinary journey of sight and taste. This is a unique mountain road, with the admiration of poets and the joy of bell towers, weaving between towns and orchards, between sea and rocks. A series of 180-degree turns is a test of driving skills, but it also partially covers up the endless beauty here, allowing people to open up layer by layer, so as not to be caught off guard and intoxicated.
  Salerno is the first stop on anyone’s trip to the Amalfi Coast, a city full of enthusiasm and history. According to legend, on a stormy night in 1000 AD, under the arches of the Salerno aqueduct, the Arab Adela, the Greek Ponte, the Jew Elinus and the Latin Salerno met by chance and founded together. The first medical university in Europe, including the first European botanical garden for pharmacology: the Minerva Garden. Salerno was once the capital of the glorious Lombard kingdom from the 6th to the 8th century. From the high Royal Castle of Areci, you can overlook the beauty of the entire Salerno Bay.
  3 km west of Salerno is the small town of Vietri sul Mare, situated on a huge rock. It is the hometown of tin-glazed painted pottery and has been famous for producing porcelain since the 15th century. The dome and interior and exterior of the main church are covered with brightly painted pottery, giving off a dazzling light. As early as the Middle Ages, the porcelain here has been exported to the entire Mediterranean coast. The secret to the success of the product lies first in its rich clay and volcanic ash soil, and second in its characteristic decorative motifs – azure sea, splendid towns, bright citrus and olives, which are repeated on Amalfi ceramics pattern that appears.
  Followed by Praiano with the most beautiful sunset, Tramonti rich in wine, Minori and Maiori which were resorts as early as Roman times, Yixia The famous “painted town” Furore (Furore), the oldest small town Sala (Sala), and the quiet, quaint, poetic Conca dei Marini (Conca dei Marini), Setta Cetara and Atrani.

In the garden of Villa Ruffalo, German composer Wagner was inspired to create the musical “Parsifal” based on this location.

The way of the gods. Nowadays, countless tourists come to walk for 5 hours and 12 kilometers, feeling the courage and luck that can be compared with the gods.

The town of Vietri al Mare. It is the hometown of tin-glazed painted pottery and has been famous for producing porcelain since the 15th century.

  But at the heart of this Gold Coast is Amalfi, once the First Maritime Republic and for centuries one of the biggest ports for trade with the East. The famous St. Andrew’s Basilica is of Roman and Baroque style, and has been renovated in recent centuries to add ornate Rococo style. It also has an Arabic and Norman bell tower and a beautiful “Paradise Corridor”. “Here is the garden we know in vain after we bid farewell to childhood. Memories are slowly taking shape over the endless sea, falling in the cedar garden of the convent, suspended on the leaves of the tall orange and lemon trees.” Salvatore Quasimodo, Italian poet and Nobel Prize winner for literature, praises Amalfi.
  Ravello, praised by Boccaccio in “Ten Days”, has elegant gardens, fountains and streets. It is one of the most famous “postcard towns” in Italy and a favorite place for European and American artists and poets. . In the garden of Villa Rufolo (Villa Rufolo), German composer Wagner was inspired to create the musical “Parsifal” based on this place; in 1927, British writer DH Lawrence completed “Chateley” here Lady’s Lover”; the arrival of British writer Virginia Woolf at the beginning of the last century once made Ravello famous; American writer Gore Vidal lived and wrote in Ravello for more than 30 years, and finally became the honor here citizens.
  The coast ends in Positano, a lively, trendy town full of narrow alleys and steps, ideal for a romantic weekend getaway. In the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”, the heroine in a long white dress came here on a motorcycle to pursue her love. This scene satisfies all the exotic people’s romantic fantasy of Italy. American writer John Steinbeck described Positano as “a dream place that comes alive after you’re gone”. The Nobel Prize winner for literature often lives in the small town, and when asked if there might be a reason he never returns to Positano, he flatly replies: “Yes, death.”
  On this coastline, there is another place that can be tempted by its name: the path of the gods (sentiero degli Dei). According to an ancient legend, the Greek gods once crossed this path to rescue Odyssey, who was imprisoned by the Sirens on the island of Ligali. Today, countless tourists come here, walking 5 hours and 12 kilometers from the small town of Agerola, and finally arrive at Positano. Along the way, they enjoy the scenery of the Mediterranean Sea and Capri, and feel that they can stand shoulder to shoulder with the gods. courage and luck.

Fragile coastlines, worrying future

  Climate change has caused heavy rains in Italy to intensify and even have devastating effects on communities south of Naples, and the Amalfi Coast is inevitably under threat. When severe storms approached, rain poured down canyons and mudslides roared towards communities on the Amalfi shore, killing residents. In 2017, Salvatore Achetto, a villager who is the sixth generation of his family to grow lemon terraces along the Amalfi coast, said: “We are witnessing crazy weather changes caused by global warming. In early May this year, the flowers on the trees were Blooming, 1 month early. Last year we had a rare snowfall and lost three quarters of the lemon production. This winter the temperature was not cold enough to kill the parasites. Don’t know what will happen next.” More frequent And severe rainfall has left the lemon terraces gradually abandoned, leading to an increasing risk of landslides. Growing lemon terraces is so difficult that few young people are willing to inherit it, which means that important stone walls in the terrace system will fall into disrepair and neglect, increasing the risk of flooding and landslides. Geologists say Italy’s mountainous terrain poses a higher risk of landslides than any other European country. They had assessed the risk of landslides on the nearly 50-kilometer stretch of the Amalfi Coast: 88 percent in the small town of Amalfi, 77 percent in Minori and 88 percent in Maiori.
  In addition to the many small towns on the Amalfi Coast, there are thousands of cities along Italy’s long coastline, the most famous of which is Venice, the “water city”. The buildings here are often eroded by the sea and the wind, becoming scarred and precarious. Studies have shown that the water city of Venice will be submerged in the next few decades. In the face of the impact of global warming, the “Moses Project” built at a high price is nothing but a drop in the bucket.
  Without immediate and drastic measures, Italy’s current coastline landscape will disappear at an increasing rate. Since 1880, the world’s sea levels have risen by more than 20 centimeters, and Italy faces a severe crisis. In 2100, the Mediterranean Sea will rise by 1.31 meters, while the northern Adriatic Sea, which borders Venice, will reach 1.45 meters, according to a report by the Italian Agency for New Technology, Energy and Environment.
  In addition, problems such as the increase in reinforced concrete buildings, erosion of the seashore, seawater pollution and beach litter, combined with the effects of climate change, all make the Italian coast increasingly vulnerable. In 2016, the “Environmental Union”, an association of environmentalists in Italy, released a disturbing report of more than 7,000 kilometers of coast in Italy. The survey found that in the past 10 years, 51% of Italian seaside cities have been transformed into reinforced concrete, high-rise buildings, hotels and villas, with an average of 8 kilometers of coastline remodeled every year, and 25 meters of coastline remodeled every day. , and nearly a third of the beaches are being eroded by sea water, and this phenomenon is getting worse.
  In the land of Italian seaside cities, 6,500 kilometers of coast were affected. Among them, 3,300 kilometers of coast have been irreversibly rectified by human beings, and villas have been built around the other 1,700 kilometers of coast. Facing the temptation of huge economic interests, the seaside resources that originally belonged to everyone have gradually become the private domain of the rich. In many regions of northern Italy, less than 10% of beaches are freely accessible. Driven by the market, Sicily’s “Costa Saracena” and Sardinia’s “Emerald Coast” have become the most expensive resorts in Europe in just a few years, and naturally have changed beyond recognition. What’s even more sad is that those who have lived by the sea for generations are unable to get close to the sea.
  From March to June 2020, Italy underwent an epidemic blockade for more than two months. Thanks to the lockdown, the Italian coast, which is perennially overloaded with tourists, has been given a precious respite. According to the Coast Guard report, in just over 2 months of closure, “there has been a marked improvement in the transparency of the sea”; thanks to a dramatic reduction in noise pollution, “lobsters, yellow croaker, grouper and bream all emit their own sound”. Then, a series of “strange” events surprised the whole of Italy: the sperm whales visited Sicily again after many years, the fish returned to the former “stinking ditch” Venice, and there were turtles laying eggs on the beach of the Roman seashore… However, human memory is always short-lived. Right now, discarded masks, disposable gloves and disinfectants, these “new crown waste” have re-encroached on the ocean. In the summer of 2022, when the Italian tourism industry is recovering strongly, the coast is once again facing an overload of human activities, and these fragile paradises on earth face enormous challenges.
  According to experts, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to coastal erosion, and each location should take targeted action. As early as 2015, the Italian Ministry of Environment and Marine Protection launched the “National Coastal Erosion Response Program” to establish a nationwide database and research center; each region was required to develop its own coastal defense guidelines and immediately start a pilot project. Some of the urgent actions include building offshore barriers, artificial sand filling, cleaning up marine sediment pollutants, and halting construction of coastal structures; if construction is necessary, it is better to use lightweight, demountable materials such as wood; establish marine parks instead of tourist businesses. Circle, to control human activity in the park so that some threatened coastlines can be restored. In addition to controlling anthropogenic activities, coastal plant communities are also a key factor in protecting coastal areas from extreme climate hazards caused by climate change.
  Protecting the coastline is a long-term mission that requires the concerted efforts of generations, requires visionary and widely implemented policies, and requires the attention and action of every resident. In 2019, famed singer and environmentalist Giovanotti toured Italian beaches in hopes of drawing attention to coastal erosion. But the cautionary tale of an event in Liguria that was cancelled due to the dramatic disappearance of a local beach has sparked widespread discussion and thought-provoking: There is no time to delay protecting the coast.