VALLONE DEI MULINI: HISTORY & NEWS

Discover Vallone Dei Mulini, The Abandoned Place Everybody Takes A Picture Of.

Abandoned Vallone Dei Mulini Became a Real Web Star Thanks To Its Unique Characteristics.

Vallone dei Mulini is a valley in the area of Sorrento and Amalfi. This valley is an abandoned place everybody takes pictures of. However, this spot is a risky one because of its continuous rockfalls.  Placed behind Piazza Tasso, Vallone has dominated the city center for centuries. But what is the history of this evocative natural landscape? Why did it make headlines?

Vallone Dei Mulini’s Origins

If you look at it from above, the valley seems a deep grove in the mountain. This grove originated almost 35,000 years ago, in the aftermath of the first great volcanic eruption that was a jolt to Campania.

This valley is part of a system of five valleys, which crossed the Sorrento Peninsula in ancient times and marked the cities borders. Besides, the Vallone Dei Mulini was originally connected to Marina Piccola and the Port. The valley represented an important meeting point for locals, especially for farmers and fishers. 

An old windmill gives its name to the valley, where a sawmill also existed. The sawmill, which local waters fueled, supplied local artisans with wood for their handicrafts, which were usually built according to the rules of Tarsia Sorrentina.

In the valley, a public wash-house was also present, where local women did their laundry.

In 1866, the municipality built Piazza Tasso, which cut out the Vallone Dei Mulini from city life and isolated it from the rest of the world. The City Council also set up a system of channels that direct the waters close to Marina Piccola.

Why Is the Valley This Famous?

Despite this is not one of the most popular sites, the American website BuzzFeed discovered the beauty of the Valley and later included in the list of the thirty most fascinating abandoned places on the planet.

Today, the only way to access the Vallone is the small gate you can spot from the road that connects Piazza Sant’Antonio with the port. However, wheater conditions do not allow men to live in Vallone anymore. The humidity has indeed reached 80% as a constant value. Yet, this microclimate has favored the development of a rich and wild vegetation, among which a rare example of fern. 


SORRENTO MARQUETRY

Sorrento Marquetry: Wood Craftsmen’s Art

Local Wood Craftsmen in Sorrento Are Famous Worldwide Because They Produce Wonderful Handicraft, also known as Sorrento Marquetry.

Sorrento’s marquetry (Tarsia Sorrentina or Tarsia di Sorrento) is an ancient art. Local craftsmen have always engaged in this particular woodworking. This kind of work is as meticulous as complex. The result? High-quality objects and pieces of furniture.  But what are the origins of tarsia sorrentina and the techniques used to produce such kind of art?

History of Tarsia di Sorrento 

Tarsia Sorrentina’s first appearance in history dates back to a period between the sixth and seventh centuries. At the time, people could find this art in Benedictine monasteries.

Later, we find examples of tarsia in the Reinassance and during the 19th century, when Tarsia gained its momentum. Indeed, Tarsia spread beyond national boundaries.

Why did the 19th century saw the tarsia sorrentina flourish? 

Because this was the period of the Gran Tour, when artists from all over the world visited Italy.

The Gulf of Sorrento was one of artists’ favorite destinations. Their presence not only raised the demand for handicrafts but also influenced and inspired local artisans. Tarsia Lignea Sorrentina became a very appreciated and well-known artistic tradition all over Europe. 

What are the characteristics of Sorrento Marquetry?

As its name suggests, Sorrento Marquetry was born as a kind of inlay. This art aims to produce images (i.e. landscapes, portraits, still-life, etc.) from wafer-thin pieces of wood, whose color and consistency differ. Craftsmen alternate these pieces of wood and foils of other materials, as ivory or nacre, over which they put metals or semiprecious stones.

Despite European cities entered in a strong competition with Tarsia Sorrentina, just like the city of Nice, Tarsia always distinguished itself because of two of its characteristics:

  • Techniques selection;
  • Choice of materials;

Indeed, the art of Tarsia di Sorrento requires the commitment of more than one professional figure. This is because local craftsmen rely on very rigorous techniques.
First and foremost, transformers model the pieces of wood, as in a patchwork, and they start to put them together to make drawings.  Then, a “ricacciatore” (an artist specialized in “editing” the drawings, ed.)  perfect the drawing. Then, a trimmer paints the handicraft, using some spray paint.


IERANTO BAY

Ieranto Bay: Take a Tour of the Sirens’ house 

People know Ieranto As The House of Sirens and one of the most spectacular and suggestive locations in the Gulf of Sorrento.

National and international tourists consider Sorrento as the “House of Sirens.” A legend says that the house of Ulysses and the Siren is on the extreme edge of the Sorrento peninsula, namely the Ieranto Bay

The name of the bay originates from the Greek “Ieros,” which means “sacred place.” What are the characteristics of Ieranto Bay, and what is worth seeing in this evocative territory?

The Bay’s Characteristics

Ieranto Bay stretches from Nerano, a maritime village, almost to Capri. 

According to Plinio il Vecchio, Ulysses met the Sirens right in Ieranto Bay, during his return-trip from Ithaca. 

This territory is well-known also because of its ancient agricultural tradition. Indigenous farmers cultivated citruses and olives, which resulted in the characteristic terraces of olive trees. 

Saracen piracy also characterized Ieranto Bay‘s history. The five-hundred-century towers of Montalto and Campanella testify the presence of pirates in the area. In a limestone cave nearby, we also find testimony to the presence of Saracens pirates. 

What to see in Ieranto Bay?

The National Trust for Italy (Fondo Ambiente Italiano- FAI) took over Ieranto Bay. FAI did so to avoid this spectacular territory being subject to speculations. 

Since then, FAI worked on preserving and restoring the original Mediterranean scrub, from euphorbia or juniper to rosemary. 

Ieranto Bay is today a Site of EU community interests and is part of the maritime reserve of Punta Campanella

Nature lovers find their ideal place in the Bay, above all because of its biodiversity. This place is also ideal for tourists who want to try several different activities, such as birdwatching, snorkeling, kayak, or botanical walks. 

Ieranto Bay offers several different activities, but the Nerano trail is a must-doThe trail is six kilometers long. It starts right beside Villa Rosa, Norman Douglas’s house in Sorrento. Once you are on the Nerano trail, you can suddenly enjoy a spectacular view of the Gulf and Capri’s Faraglioni

You later find FAI’s retreat. From there, you can easily reach Ieranto Beach through the miners’ steps. Miners built these steps at the beginning of the nineteen-hundred to reach faster the caves. By walking down those steps, you finally reach Ieranto beach. 

On small and evocative Ieranto Beach, you can spend your day. There, you can take a swim in the cleanest waters of the whole Peninsula, as the area is a protected one. 


PUNTA CAMPANELLA: WHAT TO SEE

Punta Campanella, The Wonders of The Marine Reserve 

Famous for its historical importance and natural beauty, Punta is a marine reserve located between the Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. 

 

Punta Campanella is a stretch of land connecting the Sorrento and Amalfi Coast. The only way to reach this area is by walking across the Northern side of Promontorium Minerva. This location is part of the Athena Trail, a ring-shaped track connecting Punta Campanella to Mountain San Costanzo. 

 

The Characteristic Tower 

Punta Campanella‘s name derives from its Tower. On the orders of Roberto d’Angiò, Neapolitans built the Tower between 1334 and 1335. In 1556, Neapolitans rebuilt the tower once again after the Ottoman Empire destroyed it

People used to spot pirate enemies in the open sea from the Tower and raise the alarm. Specifically, they launched the alarm signal with a little bell, which they had placed on the top of the tower. In this way, the sound could spring to surrounding towers. Altogether, the towers formed a system that guarded and defended Sorrento’s mainland and coast. 

The grey-tuff Tower of Punta Campanella stands on a site where a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena (Minerva) sat. The Greeks founded the temple and handed it to the Romans. Several different archeological ruins confirm that once a temple was present in the area. The ruins are still visible all around the tower. For this reason, people used to dub the Tower as the Minerva Tower.

 

Punta Campanella is a legendary place 

Punta Campanella’s nature and marine reserve have almost remained the same, maintaining their legendary charm unchanged. Unfortunately, not too far from this area, significant urban settlements are present, like Naples or Castellammare di Stabia. 

According to Greek Mythology, Ulysses met the bewitching Sirens in this area, the one who caused the wreck of lots of his ships because of their magic singing. By walking across the left side of the Tower, we can reach the cave where the Sirens lived through a steep path.

Halfway through this path, visitors can find a rock with a rupestrian inscription in Osco. It dates back to the 2nd century B.C. and indicates the landing point for Minerva Temple. Such testimony demonstrates the presence of Italic people in an area always considered as exclusively populated by the Greeks. 

The Marine Park of Punta Campanella and its natural beauties are an extraordinary example of biodiversity. The protection of such treasures is one of the fundamental reasons for the birth of the reserve. Another reason is that the blue of the sea below Punta Campanella was home to several findings dating back to Greek-Roman times. 

Ideal for diving enthusiasts, if you want to do snorkeling, your experience starts from 25 meters depth down to 40 meters.

In the sea below Punta Campanella, several kinds of Gorgonians, different specimens of Anthias, spectacular tuna stocks, and amberjacks live. A floor of yellow sponges surrounds all of these creatures. 


THE ARCHIPELAGO OF LI GALLI

Month: October 2019

The Archipelago of Li Galli, a paradise amidst nature and legend

Li Galli sits between Capri and Positano. It comprises three islands of amazing natural beauty. They have become essential parts of folklore.

Gallo Lungo, La Rotonda and La Castelluccia are the three islands of Li Galli. This latter is a tiny piece of land, located between Capri and Positano. It represents one of the most suggestive and spectacular venues in Campania and in the Mediterranean area. 

The Archipelago of Li Galli is also known as Le Sireneuse. According to an ancient legend, Sirens once lived in this area. They used to bewitch the sailors, who were dropping by, with their singing. But what do mythology and today’s men say about the Archipelago of Li Galli? 

The Archipelago Li Galli, a natural beauty between history and legend 

The Archipelago of Li Galli is just a few kilometers south of the Sorrento Peninsula. Its three small islands are part of the protected marine reserve of Punta Campanella

Gallo Lungo is the biggest of the three and the only one populated since the Classical era. Originally, Gallo Lungo accommodated a monastery. This latter became a prison during the Kingdom of Charles II of Naples, towards the end of the thirteenth century. The Aragonese Tower was later built during the fourteenth century to monitor the attack of pirates, and is still present today. 

Going back to the mythology linked to Li Galli, it looks as if in this territory Parthenope, Leucosia, and Ligeia, the three sirens of the Odyssey. Sailors, seduced by the singing of the three creatures, crashed against the rocks of the islets. According to mythology, Ulysses’ ship only and that of Argonauts were able to escape their sad fate. 

Therefore, the name Le Sireneuse derives from the myth of the three Sirens, as it is the name Li Galli: in Ancient Greece, these creatures were not half women half fish but rather half women half birds. The Archipelago of Li Galli, literally meaning “the roosters,” is dubbed after the juxtaposition between “feathered” sirens, and chickens. 

The Archipelago of Li Galli, a paradise for celebrities

Sirens were not the only famous inhabitants of the islands, which welcomed feudal and governing families, intellectuals, artists, and entrepreneurs. Indeed, the charm of Li Galli and its natural beauties enchanted lots of people throughout history. Among the celebrities who crazily fell in love with the Archipelago of Li Galli, choreographer Leonide Massine is one to remember.

In 1924, he decided to build a sumptuous Villa. This latter underwent restoration works in 1937, overseen by famous architect Le Corbusier, who also designed a panoramic viewpoint. The viewpoint welcomed a mosaic fountain at its center, which overlooks Capri’s Faraglioni and, on the opposite side, the various jutting terraces whose view is on Positano and the Amalfi Coast. 

When Massine died in 1979, Soviet dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev inherited the Villa. Still, Li Galli welcomed lots of VIP part of the star system: from Anna Magnani to Franco Zeffirelli, Sofia Loren, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Aristotle Onassis.

The charm and beauty characterizing The Li Galli Archipelago received official recognition not only by the star system but also by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, which in 1987 declared this area an “important area of archeological interest”.

Being the islands a private property, you can visit the Archipelago Li Galli by invitation only. Nonetheless, it is possible to admire the grandeur of the Archipelago from a boat tour, which leads you to discover clear water and of the suggestive landscape of the three islands. 

Photo by VesuvioLive