Valle dei Mulini Walk
Amalfi may be famous for its stunning views, sparkling sea, and lemon liqueur, but it also has a craft tradition that dates back several centuries: paper.
Once upon a time, Amalfi was a small but mighty maritime republic that ranked in power with Venice, Genoa and Pisa. Because of their trade network, they acquired the skills and primary materials from Arab merchants, who were well-skilled in the craft, and started producing their own paper in the 1200s. Mills sprang up along the Canneto River, so many in fact that the area became known as Valle dei Mulini (Valley of the Mills). The industry flourished and a guild was formed, the Congrega dei Cartari, which became an influential body in the Republic of Amalfi, which had become one of Europe's primary centers for paper production. Unfortunately, competition, industrialization, and the decline of the Republic's power hit the mills, as did the drought and flood cycles of the river that powered them. Many closed, unable to compete with the industrial revolution's more automated methods. But a few lingered on, and continue the tradition today. They are descendants of old Amalfi families that gained prestige in paper industry many generations ago -like the Amatruda and Milano workshops - and carry on the craft using the same formula that dates back centuries.
TAKE A WALK IN THE VALLE DEI MULINI
The once-thriving mills make a lovely backdrop to a hike inland from the sea. Pick up a map in the tourist office before heading out.
From the piazza, head inland along the main street, Via Lorenzo d'Amalfi. Pass the restaurants and shops and continue along. The street will change names to Via delle Cartiere ("street of the paper mills"). You'll pass the newer construction area of Amalfi, then reach the Museo della Carta (Paper Museum). Stop in and see the old equipment and method of making paper, from grinding the materials to pulp to the pressing and finishing of the delicate sheets.
Continue along the street to the end where you'll find the Museo degli Antichi Mestieri e dell'Arte Contadina, a long name for a museum that pays homage to the old crafts and peasant art. You'll also pass the operational paper manufacturer, Cartiera Amatruda.
From the Paper Museum, go uphill along the Salita Grade Lunghe (on the left as you descend), up to Via Paradiso. You'll find plenty of lush greenery along the stream with the ruins of the old mills along the path. Waterfalls, wildflowers, and views are all to be had along this lovely walk.
For another detour, go up the path and staircases of the Salita per Pontone. Up at the top you'll have fine panoramas of the narrow valley, the terraced hills bursting with lemons, and the sea below. (If you want to keep going, you can arrive in Ravello!)
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Address in Amalfi:
Via delle Cartiere.