What’s the History of Positano?

Positano forms a colourful splash on the Amalfi Coast, bringing together ramshackle, pastel houses perched on cliffs and clear shallows that ebb away into beautiful sea views.

As well as stunning sights, the town has a rich history that still imbues its winding streets today. It all began when the Ancient Romans constructed a selection of opulent villas on the coastline of where Positano sits today. Visitors can still see these ruins in the area surrounding the Church dell’Assunta.

It is thought the town itself grew from the central focal point of a Benedictine abbey that was founded in the 9th century. From there, the town flourished after an influx of residents arrived from Paestum.

A few years later, in 1268, the town was pillaged by Pisa. This caused Positano to go all out on its defences, bringing it in line with its powerfully protected neighbour, Amalfi.

To do this, locals constructed tight, steep roads, imposing walls, and a collection of watch towers that look out over the surrounding region. Today, the stylish dome of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta can be seen from every corner of Positano, inside which the iconic Black Madonna reflects the Byzantine history of the town.

Over the years since, the fortunes of Positano have fluctuated. 100 years after the pillaging by Pisa, the town was tragically flattened by a tsunami. And, later in the 15th century, it was the continual victim of attacks by plunderers and Ottoman pirates.

Thankfully, it’s lucked changed in the 18th century, when it enjoyed a number of years of prosperity after becoming a highly-coveted trading point. But, when Italy was unified and opened a series of other commercial trading routes, it lost its sheen and quickly reverted back to the charming fishing village it had been centuries before.

Today, Positano is an eclectic mishmash of old and new. On the one hand, you have the rustic old buildings from years gone by that reflect the charm and pizzazz of the original villas, and on the other hand you have modern restaurants, luxurious eateries, and hip cafes lining the narrow lanes it has become known for.

If you want to delve into the rich and turbulent history of Positano, a trip to the Church of Santa Maria Assunta is a must-do. Elsewhere, you can dip your toes in the shimmering shallows of the waters that still retain the glitz and glam of Positano from many years ago.

Check out our Amalfi Coast Tour from Naples today!