Women, lemons, history and traditions of the hamlet

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Tour : Corso Reghinna – Paper factory – Church of San Pietro in Posula – Via Castello – P.zza Castello – Via Ercole – Church of San Domenico. Time 80 minutes’’.

To get a real sense of the heart of this community, visit the oldest parts of the town. Take the main street of Maiori, the busy commercial centre of the town. Walk up the street, this is where your journey starts!

Cross the main street and proceed for a further 500m: you will see one of the oldest paper making factories on the Amalfi Coast. Here, citizens of Maiori would make paper. The process was very simple: cellulose and water were mixed together. The pulp was then formed into sheet of paper using filigree trays. The sheets were pressed and finally dried on huge wooden poles, as if they were drying clothes. The towns of the Republic of Amalfi were the first in Europe to begin paper production in the XII and XIII century. The strong commercial ties between the Republic and the east meant that technology passed from the Arab world to the Amalfi Republic. Many factories sprung up, there were 12 in Maiori alone.

Leaving the factory behind you, cross the bridge over the river Reghinna. You will come to one of the five villages of old Maiori. Here you will find the Church of San Pietro Apostolo and the community of the same name. It was founded by Sergio, son of Orso Comite, an amalfitan aristocrat in the X century. It may be the oldest religious building in Maiori.
Just for a moment, close your eyes and imagine the scene in 1416 : Queen Giovanna of Angiò is entering the church for her second marriage to Giacomo of Borbone.

Apart from the historic scene, today, real life continues here, working eyes, arms are still present as are the flowers and fruit of the great agricultural tradition of this area.
If you are lucky, you will come across the “ flying farmers”, so called by the journalist Flavia Amabile, carrying baskets of lemons up and down the steps that lead to the castle. This was once women’s work, carrying the heavy baskets on little padded cushions on their heads, singing traditional folk songs.

You will be overcome by the perfume of the lemon trees on the terraces surrounding the town. Lemons are part of the gastronomic excellence of this place. Indeed lemon cultivation has changed the very landscape, by the creation of terraces, which the local people refer to as gardens. The techniques of lemon cultivation were obtained from the Arabs in the 11th century, a time when trade across the sea was dwindling. Lemons began to be more important than the more traditional produce: olives, grapes and carobs.
The terraces were built with the brute physical force of man, here man meets nature. This is the striking thing about the hamlet, more than the glittering sea, more than the majolica domes, love of man for his earth has remodeled the difficult terrain, just like a sculptor does with stone.
The castle of San Nicola de Thoro Plano peeps out over the terraces. According to some historians, building commenced after the death of Sicardo, a Longobard, Duke of Benevento in 840 a.d. as a defence against pirate raids.

The effort of climbing all those steps will have its reward in the incredible views over Maiori. The houses, monasteries and churches.
Upon reaching the little square of the same name as the castle, you will see the large stone washing vats, used by women to wash their clothes. Imagine these ladies, like an army of ants, furiously working away, carrying basins on their shoulders to the washing area, as there was no running water in their houses.
Take a look at the steps on the right of the square, Via Ercole, the steps, will lead you through lemon groves and tiny groups of houses. At the end of this alleyway you will find the large ancient Church of San Domenico. This imposing building was commissioned by a wealthy citizen, Leonardo Russo, who miraculously survived the plague in 1650. He retreated to the Domenican monestary of S.Maria della Porta in Salerno, and became a monk. He donated all his worldly goods to the Domenican order to found a monastery in Maiori, in the name of SS. Rosario.
This dip into life in the hamlet, will give you the chance to appreciate the traditions, the perfumes, the passions and the work of the people of Maiori.