Myths and Legends of the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is not only sea, breathtaking beaches, enchanting landscapes and good food, but it is also the protagonist of many stories, myths and ancient legends that, for centuries, have been handed down from generation to generation and that most visitors to this stretch of coastline do not know.

Are you curious to know more? Then let’s dive into the mysterious past of the Divine Coast.

The janare of Conca dei Marini

Perched on a rocky rise between Capo di Conca and the Emerald Grotto, Conca dei Marini is a charming village with an ancient seafaring tradition. According to an old legend, it was the meeting place of the so-called janare, spirits with the appearance of women who appeared at night in a field of olive trees near the Church of San Pancrazio Martire. The etymology of the name is uncertain. According to the most accepted hypothesis it comes from “Daianara,” priestess of Diana. But who were these mysterious creatures? In reality, the spirits were nothing more than the wives of sailors. It is thought that loneliness led some of these women to gather at night to wait for their husbands. Although many people, even today, testify to having seen a janara at night.

The myth of the nymph Amalfi

Amalfi is featured in many tales that sway between history and myth. According to one of these, the founding of the city is linked to a mythological love between Hercules, the demigod hero son of Zeus and Alcmena, and a beautiful young nymph named Amalfi, who took his heart. Their love, however, was short-lived due to her sudden death. Distressed by the tragedy, the inconsolable Hercules wanted to bury her in the most beautiful place in the world. And on that tomb he built a city, to which he named the nymph, and which he adorned with lemon trees, which he had stolen from the Garden of the Hesperides.

The milk miracle of Pogerola

The milk miracle dates back to the 16th century and concerns the wooden statue of Our Lady of Grace donated by Neapolitan nobleman Don Giulio Cesare Bonito to the church of the same name in Pogerola, a hamlet of Amalfi, where it is still kept today. Embedded on the statue’s right breast was a stone that, the story goes, was a drop of the Madonna’s milk that fell while she was breastfeeding the baby Jesus. On a sunny August 14 at the end of the 16th century, the church bells began to ring festively without anyone having operated them. The parish priest and the people, upon entering, noticed that milk was gushing from the statue’s breast. Immediately the Archbishop was called, who had the stone locked up in a cruet. Since that day, every August 14, the prodigious event is commemorated.

The Miracle of St. Andrew, Amalfi

Among the countless legends of the Amalfi Coast is one known as the “miracle of St. Andrew.” The tale is set in medieval times, when the remains of the saint had already been moved from Patras, Greece, to Amalfi. The story goes that one night the fearsome Saracen pirate Ariadeno Barbarossa gave the order to attack the coastal town with the inland intention of sacking and destroying it. The sentries immediately raised the alarm, and some frightened citizens attempted to flee. There were some, however, who went to the tomb of St. Andrew to implore his help. Suddenly a violent storm hit the pirates’ ships, driving them away from the coast and strengthening the city’s gratitude to the saint.

The legend of the Li Galli archipelago

In the waters off Positano lies the small archipelago of Li Galli, formed by three wonderful islets: Gallo Lugno, La Rotonda and La Castelluccia. Originally, according to Greek mythology, these islands were known as Le Sirenuse because they were inhabited by Sirens, who with their songs bewitched sailors in transit, causing them to founder against the rocks. There are many legends linked to these fascinating creatures, but the most famous is undoubtedly that of Ulysses, the Homeric hero who, thanks to the stratagem of being tied to the mast of the ship, managed to resist the song of the three Sirens, who, after trying in vain to lure him, threw themselves into the sea, allowing themselves to drown: the bodies ended up in Naples (Partenope), Punta Licosa (Leucosia) and Terina (Ligea).

The Two Brothers in Vietri sul Mare

Facing the coast of Vietri sul Mare stand two rocks, known as the “Due Fratelli,” which are very similar to small stacks and about which various legends hover. One of these tells of two young shepherd brothers who, having arrived with their flock on the beach of Vietri, were enchanted by a mysterious maiden swimming in the sea. Suddenly, however, a storm broke out and the two young men, in pity for her, jumped into the water in a desperate attempt to save her but they both drowned. The maiden, on the other hand, was saved because she was the daughter of the sea god Poseidon, who, admiring the courage of the two brothers, decided to turn their bodies into the two rocks that can still be admired today, so that they would always watch over the local bathers.