Cava de Tirreni is a medieval village located behind the Amalfi Coast, hidden in the Lattari Mountains and very close to Salerno. For this reason, and not only that, it deserves to be visited if you stay in Salerno or on the Amalfi Coast, but it can also be an excellent base to stay in if you want to visit the Amalfi Coast. Read on to find out what to see with a walking itinerary in the historic center, otherwise, if you are looking for ideas on what to do in Cava de Tirreni, read here.
- A bit of history and useful information about Cava De Tirreni
- Walking itinerary in the center of Cava de Tirreni
- Piazza San Francesco and the Franciscan Sanctuary
- The Church of Santa Maria dell’Olmo
- “Borgo Scacciaventi” in the heart of the historic center of Cava de Tirreni
- Piazzetta Passaro and Palazzo San Giovanni
- The Cathedral of Cava and the Fountain of the dolphins
- Piazza Abbro and the chessboard
- The Public Gardens of Cava de Tirreni
- The Center for Digital Crafts
- The Benedictine Abbey on the Badia di Cava de Tirreni
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A bit of history and useful information about Cava De Tirreni
Always famous as a holiday center, Cava de ‘Tirreni has attracted both for the beauty of the landscape and for its climate, many artists including a writer, Paul Valery, who called it “a Swiss valley with olive trees, with the sea and the sun of Naples”. Perhaps he was not completely wrong, in fact, the nickname “Little Switzerland” is still used today to describe this village that continues to attract the most curious visitors.
The first inhabitants of Cava de’ Tirreni were the Tirreni, in fact. These were none other than the Etruscans, under whose control there was also Vietri sul mare (I talk about it here) and Cetara (I talk about it here). Subsequently, there was no lack of the Romans and, then, the Lombards, who had a series of ancient towers built, but not intended for sighting of the Saracens, such as those present on the Amalfi Coast, but to play the game of pigeons. In addition to the towers, the Lombards built large farmhouses scattered over the hills, which, economically and productively self-sufficient, began to transform Cava de’ Tirreni into a “Borgo“.
Born as a simple settlement of farmhouses and of botteghe (artisan shops), during the Middle Ages, Cava de ‘Tirreni has increasingly developed its historic center, giving life to the “Borgo Scacciaventi“, a concentration of shops and residential settlements, characterized by a long street lined with arcades and historical buildings, making it as we know it today.
Let’s retrace together below a walking itinerary perfect for a walk in Cava de ‘Tirreni, where you can admire the most important points not to be missed during your visit. You can follow the itinerary in the direction I proposed, taking the Franciscan Sanctuary as a starting point, or starting from Palazzo Coppola, near the train station.
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Walking itinerary in the center of Cava de’ Tirreni
1 – Piazza San Francesco and the Franciscan Sanctuary
Our walking itinerary starts from Piazza San Francesco. Before entering the historic center with Borgo Scacciaventi, let’s focus on the two churches in this square, because both represent a symbol of the city of Cava de’ Tirreni and its history. The Church of San Francesco, dating back to 1500, was damaged several times by earthquakes and then during the Second World War, until it was razed to the ground by the 1980 earthquake. Each time rebuilt, it can be considered the symbol of the tenacity of the inhabitants of Cava de Tirreni who do not give up in the face of difficulties. Near the church you can see the Convent of the Friars Minor, who have kept alive the tradition of Presepe (the nativity scene) creating a permanent crib path extended today for about 1000 m2. In addition to the crib there is a library, the reception center “Pilgrim’s house”, the hostel and the Mensa for the poors.
2 – The Church of Santa Maria dell’Olmo
The Church of Santa Maria dell’Olmo really deserves to be visited because inside it hides a real one tree! It is a large elm, on whose branches, according to legend, a painting with the image of Mary was found. After several attempts to move the sacred image to more sheltered places, the latter miraculously reappeared on the site of the previous apparitions. It was for this reason that the Church was built on that very site. In reality, in the place where the Church stands today, a small chapel dedicated to Maria already existed, which stood right at the meeting point of the roads that connected Naples and Salerno. Precisely this position of Cava de Tirreni, favorable to commercial exchanges, contributed to the development of Borgo Scacciaventi with its countless shops.
3 – “Borgo Scacciaventi” in the heart of the historic center of Cava de Tirreni
Borgo Scacciaventi is the oldest and most characteristic part of the historic center of Cava de Tirreni. Nerve center of commercial activity and seat of shops, little by little, the village Scacciaventi began to host also the houses of the artisans. It was one of the first families to live there that gave the name to the Borgo, the Scacciaventi family. A bizarre coincidence, however, has it that the same name refers to the peculiarity of this construction type of protecting from rain and wind (Scacciaventi means “something that drives the winds”).
Even today, above the shop signs, it is possible to observe small windows and balconies of the ancient “shop houses“. Walking under the arcades of Cava de Tirreni, which follow one another for about half a kilometer, you can relive the sparkling atmosphere of this small town that was once animated by artisan shops. Cava de Tirreni was famous throughout the territory of Naples, especially for the art of weaving. Where once the Via Regia passed, which connected Salerno and Naples, today you will notice the liveliness of this center, where part of the historic shops have been replaced by modern shops, making Cava de’ Tirreni an ideal destination for shopping.
4 – Piazzetta Passaro and Palazzo San Giovanni
At the point where Borgo Scacciaventi ends it is possible to admire the building of the former Mediateca. Originally this building was a church which, after being deconsecrated in 1865, was used for meetings, as a cinema, as a post office and finally was used as a Magistrate’s Court and, soon, it will host a new Palace of the Arts. From the alley that runs alongside the building it is possible to access a brand new square recently inaugurated, Piazzetta Passaro, entirely made of lava stone and named after the Passaro family, the most famous wedding dress designers in the city of Cava de’ Tirreni. At the end of the square you can admire a real work of art: a wall ceramic fountain, a symbol of the mastery of ceramic art that characterizes the city of Cava de Tirreni and the Amalfi Coast.
Through a gate, if it is open, or by returning to the main street, it is possible to reach Palazzo San Giovanni. The complex of San Giovanni, which initially housed the convent of the nuns of Santa Chiara, with its pergola courtyard and its large terrace, now houses a bar, restaurant and one of the most beautiful rooftop bars in Cava de’ Tirreni where you can enjoy an excellent aperitif and from which to admire the square, Monte Finestra and Monte Castello, and maybe even the sunset!
5 – The Cathedral of Cava and the Fountain of the dolphins
Continuing along the course of Cava de Tirreni, you reach the Piazza del Duomo di Cava, more precisely the Cathedral of Santa Maria della Visitazione, which stands at the top of a large staircase in front of the open space where the Fountain of the Dolphins is located. My advice is to go up the staircase to enter the church, or even just to admire the beautiful glimpse with the wind rose decoration that surrounds the fountain, framed by the beauty of the arcades and by the Monte Castello that completes the picture.
The Cathedral was built between 1517 and 1587, after Pope Leo X sanctioned the autonomy of Cava de’ Tirreni from the abbey of the Holy Trinity, of which I speak later on.
6 – Piazza Abbro and the chessboard
Going up the street full of bars that run along the Duomo Cathedral, you reach Piazza Eugenio Abbro where you will notice the monument to the fallen of all wars and in front of the Palazzo di Città (the Council), which in the past was a theater from 1878 to 1946, with the representation of operettas and band music concerts. What you won’t notice right away, however, is that there is a chessboard under your feet! In fact, in a recent renovation of the square, a huge chessboard was recreated on the floor. If you are a chess enthusiast, you can’t miss it!
7 – The Public Gardens of Cava de’ Tirreni
Near Piazza Abbro with its chessboard, there are the Public Gardens of Cava de’ Tirreni. It was the Municipality of Cava de’ Tirreni that wanted to transform a large uncultivated land managed by the Congregation of Charity together with a farmhouse family into a beautiful garden. At the end of the construction work on the gardens, in 1867, the villa looked almost like today, with large flower beds, magnolias, wild pines and other ornamental plants: in the center of the gardens, it is also possible to admire a very large pool and sit on one of the many benches, or have a good coffee in the kiosk. The Public Gardens have several entrances: the main one in front of Piazza Abbro, another is in front of the church of San Vincenzo, another on Via Crispi. And it is precisely by heading to Via Crispi that you will be able to access the innovative Center for Digital Crafts.
8 – The Center for Digital Crafts
It is in Cava de Tirreni that you can visit the first Center for Digital Crafts in Italy. If you are wondering what digital craftsmanship is, I’ll try to explain to you! Digital craftsmanship is nothing more than the evolution of craftsmanship that uses digital technologies. Digital artisans do not abandon the manual skills of their craft, but combine digital knowledge in order to enhance their creativity and find innovative solutions in the design of their artistic creations. The technologies used are robots, electronic devices, 3D printers, which help artisans who work with wood, glass, ceramics and fabrics, in particular. Born in the United States in 2000, digital craftsmanship, combining tradition, innovation and progress, has arrived in Italy, in particular in Cava de’ Tirreni, a village where craftsmanship has always represented one of the main activities.
In the Center for digital craftsmanship in Cava de’ Tirreni, digital artisans, also known as makers, have rethought traditional activities in a modern perspective in their coworking spaces, experimenting with new production models, supported by technology. Today it is possible to admire not only their creations and their artisan artifacts present in their shops, but also to observe them directly as they work and give life to their creations. Visiting the Center for digital craftsmanship allows you to see the evolution of the old crafts carried out over the centuries by the artisans of Cava de’ Tirreni and the Amalfi Coast. A tradition that stands out all over the world in the field of fabric and leather processing, in the art of ceramics and glass. The Center is open from Monday to Saturday, from 08.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. and is located in Viale Crispi, 14.
9 – The Benedictine Abbey on the Badia di Cava de Tirreni
Just three kilometers from the center of the city of Cava de Tirreni you can visit the Benedictine Abbey of SS. Trinità, in the locality of Badia. It is located among the woods at the foot of Monte Finestra, in a magical place where the view overlooks the sea, the Sele plain and the Cilento mountains, framed by the mountains that surround the city.
The Abbey was founded by a noble from Salerno, Sant’Alferio, who in 1011 had retired to a hermit’s life in a cave on the slopes of Monte Finestra. Despite his life as a hermit, he managed to attract many disciples and build a small monastery, which, thanks to his nephew, gradually became a center of monastic aggregation, until Pope Urban II visited the Abbey and consecrated it the basilica in 1092. Over the centuries the Abbey was architecturally renovated and transformed into a work of art. The polychrome marble coverings, the majolica floors, the Romanesque capitals and the raised arches make the basilica a place that is really worth a visit, even for the less religious and more passionate about art. In addition to being a magical and suggestive place, the Benedictine Abbey is the perfect destination for trekking and mountain walks’ lovers. From the valley that can be reached with the stairs placed in front of the Abbey, it is possible to take one of the many paths that run along the Alta Via dei Monti Lattari and also allow you to reach the Amalfi Coast.
I hope this guide was useful to get to know this village a little more and above all to organize yourself in the best possible way on what to see in Cava de Tirreni! Don’t forget to write me for any information and to receive the interactive map!
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