By Anna Volpicelli, photo by Michele Inserra
Twenty thousand wax candles arranged in a circular rhythm illuminate the floor with majolica inlays that decorate the suggestive Piazza San Gennaro in Praiano. There, where the view loses itself among the immensity of the sea, from 1 to August 4, Praiano celebrates Luminaria di San Domenico. This ancient festival has, for centuries, witnessed the vast cultural and historical heritage of the village.
The launch of the project
This year, Authentic Amalfi Coast, in collaboration with Cartotrekking, a team of environmental and hiking guides, and the Amalfi Coast Tourist Guides Association, promotes an itinerary to discover Praiano ends in the iconic square. The cultural walk to find the seaside village of Praiano in the evening is the first of a series of excursion proposals included in the Destination portal, Authentic Amalfi Coast, which will be launched next autumn. An easy-level tour is open to all, organized on the evening of August 3.
From Marina di Praia to the discovery of Praiano
Led by a tour guide from the Campania Region, the appointment is at 6:30 pm in front of the famous Bar del Sole. The first stop on the route is Marina di Praia, the intimate pebble beach set in a high cliff, home to an of the most enchanting walks of the Amalfi Coast. Along with it, you will cross the African club, one of the historic meeting points of the area, to reach the Torre a Mare, an ancient Saracen watchtower, which opens onto the Gulf of Salerno. From this point, you will enter the heart of Praiano, through a walk of via Costantinopoli, to reach the Church of San Luca Evangelista, patron saint of Praiano, the parish church in Baroque style dating back to 1588, on whose main door a majolica panel depicts the saint. Located in Piazza San Luca, this is the place where spirituality and traditional art blend with the divinity of nature. In the highest part of Vettica, the square is a terrace open to the immensity of the sky, which offers one of the most beautiful views of the Amalfi Coast. You arrive here at sunset to celebrate probably the most intimate moment of the day. Before the night takes over, you leave the square to take via Croce, one of the headquarters of the NaturArte project, the open-air museum of Praiano. Developed in 8 paths that climb through the village’s narrow streets, the project collects famous Forbidden ceramists and not only, such as Lucio Liguori, Sandro Mautone, Enzo Caruso, and Paolo Sandulli, inspired by the history and tradition of the country. The works of these contemporary artists are mixed with the votive shrines, small chapels in miniature frescoed on the plaster that testifies to popular religious devotion, as a request for protection to all residents.
The fire that saves the world
The walk ends in Piazza San Gennaro when the lights are turned on. A ritual has been handed down since 1606 from the estate of the Dominican friars of the Sanità of Naples. In the past centuries, the inhabitants kept dry branches of vine shoots, trees, and shrubs during the year, creating the bundles which then burned for the occasion in the gardens. These were then stored in glass tin cans and turned into torches during the celebration of the festival. And these torches contain the essence of tradition. It is said that before giving birth, the mother of San Domenico dreamed of a dog with a torch in its mouth that set the world in place, meaning that the unborn child would have brought and transmitted the Word of God to the whole planet. The flames that burn in the grand piazza also symbolize the ardor that each individual carries within himself, capable of transforming his own life and others if cultivated and shared.