Most tourists don’t stray away from Amalfi’s picturesque city center, but a three-hour trail behind the town ascends into the so-called Valle dei Mulini (Valley of the Mills) and Valle delle Ferriere (Valley of the Ironworks), a sight which is less known, but no less beautiful than Sorrento’s own Valley of the Mills.
The lush vegetation and waterfalls of the Canneto River provide a stark contrast with Amalfi’s hot and dry Mediterranean climate. At the end of the valley, the nature reserve protects endemic species such as Woodwardia radicans, a species considered a living fossil.
Water is always abundant at the site as the springs surrounding the Lattari Mountains feed the Canneto River year round and descends from waterfalls into deep, cold pools that contribute to the valley’s microclimate.
The history of the city of Amalfi, one of Italy’s early seafaring republics, is directly connected to the valley’s abundant resources. As visitors hike from Amalfi towards the nature reserve, skeletal ruins emerge from the woods and encourage further exploration.
Amalfi’s famous paper, Charta Bambagina, commonly used across the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages, was produced in several paper mills that dotted the stream and were mostly destroyed in the great flood of 1954. Nowadays, most of that knowledge has been lost or chronicled in the local paper museum.
Further upstream, the enormous ruins of the town’s ironworks (recognizable by the small aqueduct that was built to direct the waters towards the mill), provide a romantic and stunning setting for the series of waterfalls. Iron was imported from the island of Elba and used for local purposes. As the Amalfi coast opened to new trade routes and networks, these early industrial activities declined and nature reclaimed the buildings left behind.
Know Before You Go
The valley can be reached from Amalfi, Agerola, and Pontone on well-marked hiking trails but most hikers choose the three-hour-long hike from Amalfi.
The ruins are dangerous and you should explore them at your own risk.
Tickets to enter the core of the nature reserve can be purchased in Pontone.