According to the most famous legend of founding the city of Rome, it was founded by twin brothers, Romulus and Remus around the middle of the 8th century BC. Around 500 BC, Rome adopted the republican system, abandoning the monarchy. By the 3rd century BC, Rome had become dominant city of Italian peninsula. In the 2nd century BC, Rome dominated almost all areas of Western Mediterranean, and held the control over the entire Mediterranean in the 1st century BC. From the beginning of the Republic, Rome had fought wars almost endlessly. In 60 BC, the so-called the First Triumvirate was formed by Gaius Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus, and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, and lasted until Crassus's death in 53 BC. In 31 BC, the final war of the Roman Republic was fought between Octavian (later known as Augustus) and the combined force of Anthony and Cleopatra, which resulted in the victory of Octavian. He became a sole ruler of Rome and emperor, with which the Roman Empire was established. The Roman Empire reached its zenith of prosperity under the first five rulers, from Nerva to Marcus Aurelius, who have been dubbed The Five Great Emperors. In 395 AD, the Roman Empire was permanently divided into two, the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. The Western Roman Empire collapsed in 476, whereas the Byzantine Empire lasted until the capture of its capital Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire in 1453. In 774, King of the Franks Charlemagne invaded the north of Italy upon the invitation of the pope, annexed it to the Frankish Kingdom and was crowned emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire by the pope in 800, which was the origin of the Holy Roman Empire. At the beginning of the 11th century, Italian cities such as Venice, Milan and Florence became prosperous thanks to their flourishing businesses and maritime trades. In the 12th century, these cities, being under the Holy Roman Empire, won autonomy from the Empire, making the region of north Italy substantially independent city-states. The southern Italy and Sicily, which was under the rule of Arab and the Eastern Roman Empire, was invaded by Normans asked for by the pope, leading to the establishment of Kingdom of Sicily. Later it was divided into two, and the peninsula part of the kingdom was called Kingdom of Naples. In the 14th century, the Italian Renaissance started in Florence and later spread to the rest of Europe. The dominant family the Medici in Florence, the Pope and the rulers of other the city-states patronized the arts and great works of culture and art were produced by great masters of Renaissance such as Dante, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. The end of the golden age of the Italian Renaissance was marked mainly by the foreign invasions of Italy known as the Italian Wars involving most of the major states of Western Europe such as France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire as well as Ottoman Empire. At the end of the 18th century, France led by Napoleon Bonaparte conquered whole Italy but after Napoleon lost his power in France in 1815, Italy became fragmented as it was before Napoleon. In 1861, the Kingdom of Italy was created by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia. In 1922, Mussolini, the leader of the Fascist Party, became the prime minister and participated in World War II as a member of Axis Powers. In 1945, following the defeat of Germany, Mussoliniís regime collapsed and Italian Republic was established. Following the referendum held in 1946, Italy became a republic. From the late 1960s to early 1980s, Italy experienced social and political turbulence. Italy was the world's 7th largest exporter in 2009 and kept a relatively stable economic growth. Tourism is one of the fastest growing and profitable sectors of the national economy. Italy has the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world.
Around noon two days after leaving Greece, we past through the Strait of Messina, which was located between the eastern tip of Sicily and the southern tip of the south of Italy. Unfortunately, it rained. While passing through the center of the strait, we were just under the rain cloud and the islands on the both sides were not visible.
In the evening of that day, our ship came close to Stromboli Island and sailed around it by special grace. Stromboli Island has an active volcano which is emitting fumes. It periodically emits lava. Lava flows remain untouched in some areas, and people live and plants grow in some areas. I waited for the clouds on the top of the island to clear off, but it was not clouds but volcanic fumes.
After arriving at the port of Naples, I headed to Amalfi by bus. Trains ran to Sorrento, which was on the way to Amalfi, but there was no railway line from Sorrento to Amalfi.
On the way, a tall bridge appeared. I was surprised to hear that this was the station built on the bridge. I wondered if the people having acrophobia were able to get off at this station.
After passing through Sorrento, a city landscape unique to Amalfi appeared. Not only Amalfi but also the cities lined along the coast were built on the rugged terrain. White buildings in the greenery were beautifully lined in the sunlight. Roads ran through such a rugged terrain that it was difficult to pass each other by cars. The national road was narrow and ran up and down. When a large sightseeing bus went by an oncoming car, the car had to drive back on the narrow and up-down road. It was also somewhat a spectacular scene other than the beautiful scenery. The landscape on the route to Amalfi was one of the highlights of the trip to Amalfi. I heard that the road was jammed with cars and bicycles on weekends.
Amalfi was a small town with a population of about 10,000 people. I visited Duomo and the Chiostro del Paradiso (Cloister of Paradise) at the center of Amalfi.
The Chiostro del Paradiso was used as a burial ground for noble families. The ceiling of the cloister was supported by a number of slim columns.
During its long history, Duomo was restored and renovated in different styles such as Romanesque and Baroque, and now is open to the public as a museum.
The city landscape of Amalfi had a similar atmosphere to Capri Island, both built in the rugged coastline. There were a lot of sightseers in Amalfi. There might be many more sightseers than the local people.
In the evening I went back to Naples and walked around the city. I visited Egg Castle. The castle was once the fortress to prevent the attack by the foreign countries. Its name comes from the legend saying that Roman poet and wizard Virgil buried a magical egg in the foundation of the castle and that if the magical egg was broken, the castle also collapsed. Does this mean that Naples would fall apart if the castle as the fortress was broken?
As there is a saying “See Naples and die”, the view from the castle was supreme. I felt the scenery was much more beautiful because it was evening and after the rain.
The food was great, the city was also great (except for many pickpockets there) and people were cheerful, all of which made me happy!