Here I am again for my weekly Amalfi Coast column. A column designed for you, who want to experience an unforgettable vacation but can’t seem to organize it because you’re plagued by the amount of information you find on the web!
Last week I gave you tips on “what to see in Positano?”, but today I outline the must visits in Praiano with an unexpected ending.
Praiano: from fishing village to relaxing tourism
Praiano is a small, little-known town located in the center of the Amalfi Coast, exactly between Positano and Amalfi.
It was a fishing village until recently, now it has opened to a more reserved and select tourism for visitors seeking relaxation and tranquility.
It has a long reputation as a hospitable and fashionable place, having been the favorite summer residence of the powerful Doges of the Maritime Republic of Amalfi (the Doges were the dukes of the time).
Today it attracts visitors (always avoiding mass tourism) from all over the world, drawn by its crystal-clear seas that have been awarded the Blue Flag for cleanliness, enveloping views and unique sunsets. The atmosphere here is friendly and relaxed.
A small village that has put hospitality first.
Praiano is an ideal base for a vacation on the Coast; nearby towns are easily reached by regular buses and sea routes. It is also well connected to Sorrento and Amalfi by the regional SITA bus until late in the evening.
Artistic and cultural heritage
Like any self-respecting town on the Amalfi Coast, there are numerous churches in Praiano, I will mention the three most important ones with features highlighted:
Church of San Gennaro
The first detail that jumps out at you when you pass by sea from Praiano is the blue and yellow dome of the Church of San Gennaro, bishop of Benevento who was martyred in Pozzuoli.
The foundations of the church date back to 1200 and it was renovated in 1589. Until 1572 it was owned by a powerful noble family. The sacred building, of Renaissance basilican style, with three naves and a Latin cross, has its oval, polychrome tiled regulatory dome on the cross vault.
In the right nave are several altars dedicated to the Rosary, the Holy Family, St. Bartholomew and the Immaculate Conception (with a painting by Gian Battista Lama from 1747). On the same side is also the Chapel of the Sacred Heart built in 1898 by Domenico Rispoli-Zingone. In the left aisle are other altars dedicated to the Carmine, St. Gennaro, St. Lucy, the Crucifix, and St. Michael the Archangel (spiritual place of the fisherman and sailor in the 1600s and 1700s).
St. Gennaro is celebrated on September 19; December 16 and the first Sunday in May.
Church of Santa Maria a Castro
On the slopes of Mount S. Angelo a tre Pizzi at an altitude of 364 meters is located the Church of Santa Maria a Castro, with the adjoining convent of San Domenico, which dominates the Fontanella valley and sweeps the view over the village of Vettica Maggiore, Positano to Li Galli Islands and the island of Capri.
The place dedicated to worship from the earliest anthropization, because of the unparalleled beauty of nature and the solemnity of the solitude, could justify the form of a sacrificial altar, incorporated in the first nave, which certainly formed the first nucleus of the Church, developed in later eras to include the five bays today. The earliest written record so far found dates from October 1599.
Perhaps it is precisely the lack of features of distinctive architectural components that makes this structure fit almost camouflaged in an environment that wraps around it, creating the majesty that makes the site imbued with sacredness and mystery.
It is a mystical refuge that in its essentiality of elements fits into the splendor of the surrounding nature, uniting the human and the divine. In the Church of S. Maria a Castro in Praiano, the veneration of an image commonly referred to as the Madonna delle Grazie remains unchanged for centuries. It is actually a large fresco painting that occupies the entire apsidal basin of the building’s left aisle, built by papal concession in 1430.
Church of San Luca Evangelista patron saint of Praiano
Of elegant Baroque design is the parish church dedicated to Praiano’s patron saint, Luke the Evangelist, dating back to the year 1588, restored in 1772, it is implanted on an earlier structure dating back to 1123.
The church is characterized by having, which is beyond rare on the coast, a majolica dome grafted directly onto the apse.
Of considerable interest is the majolica floor, to 1789, decorated with flowers and birds and, in the center the image of St. Luke depicted in the act of painting. Of the church’s rich heritage, the silver reliquary bust of the saint and two panel paintings should be mentioned: the first datable to the second half of the 16th century, attributed to Giovan Bernardo Lama, depicting the Circumcision, the second by Padovano De Montorio, depicting the Virgin of the Rosary, dated 1582.
The beaches in Praiano
Marina di Praia Beach
One of the most enchanting places on the Amalfi Coast is definitely the beach of Marina di Praia. Overlooked and dominated by an ancient Saracen tower it is set among the rocks, offering a unique and striking landscape.
Considering the location it is obviously sunlit for only part of the day. The cliff runs all around the Saracen tower, offering one of the most beautiful walks not only on the Amalfi Coast but in the world.
From the beach it is easy to reach various restaurants and bars that wind among the rocks.
It is easy to reach as it is located right on the state road 163 Amalfitana, so either your own vehicle or by Sita buses (Positano-Amalfi route). There are private parking lots nearby.
La Gavitella Beach
Praiano offers another great opportunity for tourists, represented by la Gavitella beach. From here one can enjoy a splendid view of Positano, the Li Galli Islands and the Isle of Capri. Because of its geographical location, the sun kisses the beach throughout the day.
Here one can enjoy a sunset that is nothing short of breathtaking.
Also characteristic is the steep descent that leads you to the beach. For those who prefer to reach it more conveniently, you can get there by sea directly from Marina di Praia.
The beach is only thirty meters long, but more space has been created by two concrete platforms. It is a completely private beach, and inside the lido (which provides water cab) there is also an excellent restaurant.
As mentioned earlier, the descent to the beach is characterized by a unique stairway, composed of no less than 413 steps. The landscape descending to Gavitella is unique.
Caves of Praiano
A spectacular natural cavern of stalactites and water features, Suppraiano Cave has been equipped for private guided tours. It is possible to organize a short boat trip that leaves from Praiano’s main beach.
The blue sea you see outside gives way to an indefinite but fascinating color inside.
For the more athletic, it is also possible to reach it by swimming or kayaking; entry is, of course, free. In any case, when organizing a boat tour, the sailor often stops at this cave and provides the equipment to be able to swim in.
If you thought Praiano’s rocky coves were finished, I’ll surprise you by mentioning the coolest one.
This is one of the iconic locations of the Amalfi Coast and certainly among the most beautiful and evocative thanks to its particular position overlooking the sea and a structure formed by 800sqm of natural rock: one part naturally covered by rock and the second formed by a large terrace just ten meters above the sea.
This cave is managed by Africana Famous Club. Africana’s musical stage has always accompanied its audience with a limpid sound but above all music suitable for any event.
Commercial music, 90s music, lounge, live, Piano bar.
Numerous famous people have frequented this venue, among them, one remembers Jacqueline Kennedy’s wild night out.
It has a double entrance, one directly from the Amalfi state road and the other, much more attractive, starts from Marina di Praia. It’s a nice ten-minute walk overlooking the sea.
Traditional folk festivals
Luminarie di San Domenico
From August 1 to 4 in Piazza San Gennaro in Praiano, the traditional Luminaria di San Domenico takes place.
An ancient folk festival that has been celebrating St. Dominic since 1606 and also the year the Dominican friars of the Sanità from Naples arrived in Praiano.
To enable the start of this great popular festival many young volunteers arrange and then light on the evenings of the festival many lights in the square. Many residents turn on the various lights on their terraces, balconies, windows and gardens, making the narrow streets of the coastal village of Praiano extraordinarily evocative and unique.
Praiano, sunsets to experience
It would take weeks to fully visit every town on the Amalfi Coast. There is so much history, culture and traditions that truly leave you speechless.
In any case, each town has different characteristics from the others.
My advice is absolutely not to miss a sunset in Praiano. It is the most beautiful on the Amalfi Coast.
Whether it’s an aperitif on a terrace, an ice cream on a bench or a romantic dinner, its location high up but at the same time overlooking the sea will give you a one-of-a-kind thrill.
The sun dips into the sea as the sky is tinged with gorgeous colors and just ahead are Positano, Li Galli Island and the Faraglioni of Capri in their entirety.
Some days when pink prevails and it is not easy to be able to distinguish the thousands of shades that are created. But it is when red to prevail that it is pure spectacle, a fiery sky that has no equal.
Choose the right way
Adding Praiano as a stop on your itinerary is not difficult given its convenient location.
During the day it is easier to include it if your itinerary is tailor-made, otherwise you risk visiting the more famous towns and missing these hidden gems.
The difficulties you may encounter by doing it yourself I explained in the article “Have you ever been to the real Amalfi Coast?” (if you haven’t read it yet, click on the link!).
I, as always, am at your disposal. Write to me in the comments if you liked the article and if it was helpful.
Send me an email if you have any doubts and want to clarify something, I will personally answer you!
See you next week,