Stories, whether they are based on true events or not, have the ability to create legends. And legends can last forever. The coastal town of Amalfi has such an everlasting legend of its own. Many stories have empowered the myth that accompanies this magical place in Italy and its products such as the finest writing paper of Amalfi. Many stories from ancient times and into the Middle Ages have made the reputation of the Amalfi coastal area famous all over the world. Many of these stories describe the natural beauty of Amalfi or give a little more fascinating explanation about the Amalfi bookmaking tradition. Besides, not all stories have to be true; it’s already enough to seem like that their plot could be real.
How Amalfi Got Its Name by Hercules
According to some ancient legend, Hercules fell in love with a beautiful nymph named Amalfi. When she died, Hercules wanted to bury her in what he considered the most beautiful place in the world: the Amalfi Coast, surrounded by sea and rocks as a natural jewel made by Gods.
The Legend of Our Lady
A religious legend comes from earlier in the 12th century. An old ship carrying a holy picture of Mary sailed into the Tyrrhenian Sea, approaching the rocky cliffs of the Amalfi Coast. However, the ship struggled against a weak wind and found many difficulties to continue sailing with safety. Suddenly, the sailors heard a mysterious voice out of nowhere saying “Stay!” Of course, no one was able to know who said that! The captain interpreted this voice as a divine signal of the Virgin’s will to make them stay in that beautiful place. And so, they did! No sooner had the captain decided to turn toward land than the ship unexpectedly started moving again! Later, onshore, the sailors delivered the icon of the Virgin to the people of Positano, who had no other option but to choose her as their protectress. In the church of Santa Maria Assunta, a painting to on the right of the altar depicts the icon’s blessing. Since then, every year on August 15th the citizens of Positano celebrate the Assumption Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The celebration of the city’s patron saint nowadays is based on the recreation of the arrival of the icon in the city including a remarkable ceremony with fireworks on the beach under the magical summer night.
The Poseidon and the Two Brothers Rocks
Another legend coming from Mythological times says that the ancient Roman God of the sea, Poseidon, once founded and shaped Positano with his hands trying to express his love for a nymph named Pasitea. This legend also says that Poseidon decided to place two magnificent rocks as a testimony to the two shepherd brothers who sacrificed their lives to save a young woman from drowning. But unfortunately, they didn’t succeed, and their faithful sheep, followed the poor brothers deep into the sea. The legend goes on to says that even the king of the sea was unable to save them! But, the generous Poseidon, impressed by their brave generosity and courage, transformed the brothers into the two large rocks and the sheep into the bluffs surrounding them, making them immortals in another way. Today these cliffs are among the most spectacular vistas of Vietri Sul Mare, the gateway to the Amalfi Coast.
The Amalfi story that no one talks about
Ravello is well-known as the heart of the Amalfi Coast. It is located inland among a yellow-green scenery of lemon and cypress trees. Several legends surround the reputation of this place. One of the best tells the story of a mysterious little monk, il Monticello, who visited Ravello but was hostile toward his neighbors. Actually, they drove him out of their region. No one heard anything about him except that he died in poverty somewhere around that region.
But this is not the fascinating part of his story. Shortly after his disappearance, the monk began appearing randomly to people in the form of a spirit. Basically, he appeared to those who had been good in their lives, or who were doing well but struggled to afford even the barest necessities of life. The monk, as the legend continues, would appear to those in need, bringing money or food to help them. But his offer carried a stern warning not to tell anyone about their meeting!
One day, he appeared to a poor little girl and gave her some coins. The little girl felt very lucky and began to talk with the spirit every day. Of course, the monk had repeatedly warned her not to talk to anyone otherwise he was going to leave her forever.
So, every day the little girl returned home with a different explanation about the way she found the money. However, this situation could not last forever. Her mother started to worry very much and the little girl was not able to keep the secret regardless of her holy promise. So, she had an idea! She started keeping a diary recording her every meeting with this strange monk. But the poor mother, who worried about her daughter, decided to follow one night and see where the child was going. Unfortunately, the monk's spirit did not appear again even though the little girl waited in the same spot every night. Now, the little girl made sure to hide her diary in a box, which she buried in the garden of her home. ‘Maybe one day the monk will appear again’ she thought, and her secret would be kept forever.
But ‘forever’ is just another word. Years passed and a professional bookmaker is now lived in this same house. His name was Mario and he was working as many Amalfitans with the traditional Amalfi paper following the same characteristics as the artisan paper once created in Amalfi. Unfortunately, his business was not running very well and he was now desperate for a miracle.
And so it happened, just a few days before Christmas when he was taking care of his garden. Mario used to do that when he was trying to think more clearly. Suddenly, while he was digging in the garden he found the little girl’s a small box quite by accident. He opened it very carefully and inside he saw the old diary. He started reading with great curiosity. The story with the monk's spirit was no longer a secret! And of course, it couldn't be kept secret! The bookmaker thought it was a very interesting story that would be loved by the public and it would help him recover from the financial troubles that plagued his business in recent years.
So he started printing the little girl's diary in many copies and making an entirely new novel “written by an unknown artist” as the book cover said. It was the New Year's Eve of 1495 when the story of the mysterious spirit was first released in the Amalfi region. The bookmaker was right! From the first day of its publishing, the story became very popular and everyone wanted to buy the book. This diary fascinated its readers, and soon the story was more than a simple novel... it had become an Amalfi legend! The bookmaker made a small fortune from his book and lived happily for the rest of his life
After all, this was just a story of a lucky man. But the fact is always the same with the opportunities in life; it is not so much about whether they will appear or not, but what you do with opportunities when they do arise. In the end, our choices and our decisions make all the difference…
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