Atrani is the coastal town which has best conserved its ancient topography. With its typically medieval urban structure, composed of alleyways, arches, courtyards and squares and with its typical ‘little stairways’, it looks like a miniature nativity scene. At the time of the Maritime Republic, Atrani was inhabited by the noble families of Amalfi who also chose it as the seat of the Doges’ coronations. Although tiny, Atrani is full of artistic and religious monuments.
The church of San Salvatore de’ Birecto, where the coronation ceremonies were held, is to be found in Piazzetta Umberto I, a meeting point for the young and not so young in the summer months, with its bars and restaurants which open from dusk till dawn. Reworked in a Neoclassical style, it is in fact extremely ancient and was founded in 940.
The attractive bronze door, similar to the one of the cathedral of Amalfi, was created in Constantinople in 1087 by Pantaleone Viaretta, the same man who designed the door of the cathedral in Amalfi twenty years earlier. It was in this church that election and inauguration ceremonies for the Doges took place, the Republic being entirely under their jurisdiction. Devastated by the Pisans in 1135, Atrani began to flourish again under the Swabian King Manfred, in the second half of the 13th century.
The Collegiate church of Santa Maria Maddalena (1274) was built during this period but was later remodelled. It now has a Baroque façade, a majolica cupola and a square bell tower which is the town’s distinguishing feature. Inside is a fine plate by Andrea Sabatini depicting ‘L’Incredulità di San Tommaso’ (The Incredulity of St Thomas). Also worth visiting are: The Franciscan monastery of Santa Rosalia and attached church of the same name.
The church of Santa Maria del Bando, built around the 12th century and so called because sentences and proclamations were passed here during the time of the Amalfi Republic. The church of Santa Maria Immacolata. The chapel of Santa Gertrude, dating back to 1687, which has a painting of the saint. The church of the Carmine, which has a typical nativity scene from the 17th century which is still displayed during the Christmas period. The church of San Michele Fuori le Mura, built in the 12th century and famous for the depiction of the plague on its wall (1656) and for its odd design.
The Neapolitan Tommaso Aniello de Fusco, who led the insurrection against the Spaniards, was originally from Atrani. The revolutionary Masaniello was the son of Ciccio, native of Minori, and of Antonia Gargano of Atrani. A short distance from the church of Santa Maria del Bando, on the eastern slope of Mount Aureo, amidst lush vegetation, is ‘Masaniello’s cave’, so called because the famous revolutionary is supposed to have hidden here. Another underground complex that is worth visiting is the so called Grotta dei Santi (Saint’s cave).
It is reached via a flight of steps at the entrance to the tunnel which leads to Amalfi. First there is a small street (the only link before the road below was built), then a narrow path which winds through terraces and gardens before opening into a natural ravine where the ruins of the ancient Benedictine monastery of SS. Quirico e Giuletta, founded in 986, can be seen.
The entrance to the small cave, decorated with frescoes in the Byzantine style dating back to the 12th century, is framed by one of the supporting arches of an ancient water channel. Among the Saints depicted in frescoes are the four evangelists and Saint George.