Floating inside the Emerald Grotto

Since 1980 the Brangi family has accompanied millions of passengers to discover the temple of the sea. A place to contemplate nature’s wonders untouched by man’s presence. We met Roberto, 29 years old ferryman, who supports his father in transmitting the beauty of this place through words and actions.

May 5th, 2022.By Anna Volpicelli

They are the guardians of the Emerald Grotto, the temple of the sea located in the bay of Conca Dei Marini, those who ferry people from all over the world through the calm, crystalline, and mysterious waters inside one of the historical, cultural, and environmental paradises of the Amalfi Coast. 

Since 1980, the Brangi family, along with Ernesto, have been the guides and storytellers of one of the landscape pillars of the area. They take care of the preservation and maintenance of the place and allow even the most distracted eye to know in depth the natural works of art that are kept inside the Cave. 

I grew up inside this little world – says Roberto Brangi, 29 years old, ferryman – Since I was a child, my father Guido used to take me with him to work, and since 2019 I have started to follow him on this adventure full time. I know every inch of Emerald Cave, a place that I always carry in my heart.

The first contacts

The discovery of this magical site is due to Luigi Buonocore, a local fisherman known as “the discoverer of the cave.” In 1932 while sailing in the waters of the Gulf of Salerno, he came across this kingdom designed and built by mother nature. 

The name Grotta Dello Smeraldo (Emerald Cave) derives from the color of the water and the reflections created when the sunlight touches its rocky walls. An interplay of shades ranging from cobalt blue and light blue to emerald green spreads throughout the environment leaving everyone enchanted. 

The most beautiful moment for me, the one that excites me the most, is when, with the oars of the raft, I cause splashes in the water, subtle sparks that bring to the surface the many reflections that only this place is capable of recreating. Every time this happens, it is a great emotion that I try to transmit to my passengers,” explains Roberto. 

La Grotta dello Smeraldo in Costa d'Amalfi
Photo of Redazione Authentic Amalfi Coast

The works of art

Graduating from the Technical Institute for Tourism in Amalfi, before devoting himself entirely to the activity of hub, he changed several occupations, including barman and waiter. “I had other experiences, but then the call of the Grotto got the better of me. It was too strong a voice that I couldn’t help but listen to. Eventually, I gave up and came home. Because this represents such a place for me,” he tells us. 

Initially, inside the Cave, there wasn’t the presence of water. Still, there were only limestone stalactites and stalagmites with particular shapes that intertwining has given life to high columns (about 10 meters) that over time have taken on the appearance of actual works of art, which refer to familiar images including Garibaldi’s head, the Venetian shawl or organ pipes. 

While the interpretation of such figures is left to the imagination and individual creative inspirations, the seabed holds an artistic treasure. It is an underwater nativity scene made of Vietri ceramics installed at about 4 meters. Every year, during the Christmas period, professional divers dive to place the statue of the Baby Jesus. 

When and how to visit the marine temple 

According to Roberto, the best hours to fully enjoy the suggestions and wonders hidden in this place are from 14 to 15 in the afternoon. “In this time – he says – the sunlight reaches its full potential and allows you to observe all that the Cave preserves and offers.” Open year-round, from April to early November; tours begin at 10:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. To reach the Emerald Grotto, boats belonging to the Gruppo Battellieri Costa d’Amalfi depart every 20 minutes from the Molo Pennello in Amalfi, leaving passengers outside this marine temple. 

Once they arrive at their destination, Roberto, together with his father Guido and Ernesto, accompany them on a modern raft to visit the Cave. “For us, this is a sacred place. We respect it as a sort of divinity, and we try to transmit and teach our guests the importance of maintaining the same attitude that you have when you enter a church or a place of worship. And it’s the only one to hear and listen to his voice.”