Minori is a quiet, picturesque little town with a beautiful sandy beach, gloriously nestled between blue seas and citrus groves. With its small harbor on a beautiful cove, however, the village was once the arsenal for the medieval Republic of Amalfi. A few steps from the beach is the Basilica of Santa Trofimena. Dating from the 11th century, the cathedral was completely rebuilt in the 19th century; its original crypt (restored in the 17th c.) houses the remains of Saint Trofimena, Amalfi's protector saint. A wonderful 12th-century Campanile, the sole remnant of the church of Santa Annunziata, sits high on the hill among the lemon groves overlooking the town. You can climb up to admire its original inlay decorations and the fine view; take the road to the left of the Basilica and follow the signs -- and steps -- up to "Campanile Annunziata."
Following the canal along the road from the beach, you will come to Villa Romana, aka Villa Marittima, Via Santa Lucia (tel. 089-852893; Mon-Sat 9am to 1 hr. before sunset), a patrician villa dating from the 1st century A.D. It was discovered in 1932 but was not excavated until the 1950s. The villa was built on two floors around a vast courtyard graced by a pool and surrounded by a portico. One side of the portico opens onto the beautiful ninfeo, a hall richly decorated with frescoes and stucco work. Also of architectural interest are the perfectly preserved thermal baths. The Antiquarium contains a collection of artifacts and frescoes from this and nearby excavations.
In the Middle Ages, Maiori was an important town, surrounded by walls and defended by towers and castles, with elegant palaces and buildings along the covered-over Reginna Maior river. Like Amalfi, the river ran under the main street, but a disastrous flood in 1954 took out the road, collapsing all the adjacent buildings and destroying the medieval town. It was rebuilt with nondescript modern edifices, but if you venture out of the town center, you'll discover some narrow medieval streets spared by the flood. Dominating the village from atop 108 steps is a memento of Maiori's glorious past, the Collegiata di Santa Maria a Mare, Corso Reginna (tel. 089-877090). Built in the 12th century, this church is graced by a large majolica cupola, a richly carved wooden ceiling dating from the 16th century, and, in the crypt, the original majolica floor from the same period. Adjacent to the church, the Museo d'Arte Sacra Don Clemente Confalone houses valuable art from the church's past.
The wide seaside promenade is a pleasant place to enjoy excellent views all the way to the diminutive rocky harbor to the west of town. The beach below gets rather crowded in summer and is the usual Italian affair, with establishments renting out chairs, umbrellas, and boats -- motor or rowboats -- with which you can explore the coast. You can also rent boats at the harbor. One easy boat excursion is to follow the beach east past the Norman Tower. In the cliff below is a grotto, whose dubious attraction is a sulfur-smelling mineral spring; but farther on is a secluded crescent of beach and, beyond that, the partially underwater entrance to Grotta Pannone.
An area to explore on foot is the promontory of Capo d'Orso, east of town. Covering 500 hectares (1,235 acres), with an average altitude of 70m (230 ft.), the protected natural area extends all the way to Torrente Bonea and is perhaps the most scenic stretch of the whole Amalfi Coast. The underlying limestone promontory has been eroded by the sea, and stones poke through the blanket of macchia mediterranea, creating a unique dolomitic landscape. A scenic trail leads from SS 163 to the lighthouse and the entrance to the preserve. Right on the SS 163/Via Diego Tajan, is the Abbazia di Santa Maria de Olearia; you can call the Town Hall in Maiori to arrange a visit: (tel. 089-814209). Locally known as the Catacombe di Badia, this extraordinary place was completely carved out of the solid cliff face. Begun in the 10th century as a shrine to Santa Maria de Olearia, it was soon surrounded by a few cliff dwellings, which were then transformed into a monastery in the 11th century. The main chapel has a vaulted ceiling and an apse, both decorated with 11th-century fresco work; underneath is the crypt, where well-preserved frescoes depict the Virgin Mary and two saints.
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