Amalfi

Fetching as it is with its sun-filled piazzas and small beach, there's very little to suggest that Amalfi was once the capital of a powerful maritime republic boasting a population of more than 70,000. For one thing, Amalfi's not a big place - you can easily walk from one end to the other in about 20 minutes. For another thing, there are very few historical buildings of note. The explanation for this is quite chilling - most of the old city, and its populace, simply slid into the sea during an earthquake in 1343.

Today, although the resident population is no more than around 5000, the numbers swell significantly during the summer months when day-trippers pour in by the coachload. Most visitors stick to the standard tourist programme: a quick stop-off in Piazza del Duomo and the landmark cathedral, a bit of window shopping along Via Lorenzo d'Amalfi, and then a bite to eat at a streetside trattoria. Which is, in fact, pretty much all there is to do in Amalfi. But more than its sights, Amalfi is all about its beautiful seaside setting, which is the perfect spot for aimless wandering and long, lingering lunches.

Just around the headland, neighbouring Atrani is a picturesque tangle of whitewashed alleys and arches centred on a lively, lived-in piazza and popular beach.

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