Just a few steps from Amalfi’s main beach is the town’s Arsenal, where the many trading ships of the Republic of Amalfi were built in the Middle Ages.
A jewel of medieval architecture, it preserves the memory of the Amalfi’s centuries-old supremacy on the seas. An icon of the city’s former glory, it still bears witness to the golden age of the Italian navy.
Today, only part of the original building can be admired, formed by three aisles (one of which was used as a depot) stretching out towards the sea. The particularity of the Amalfi Arsenal lies in its architecture, which combines sinuous vaults and impressive pillars.
The cross-vaults reinforced by sub-arches are clearly an influence of the Arab architecture visible in many other monuments on the coast. The building is constructed entirely of stone and lime.
It is divided into two parallel galleries surmounted by cross vaults supported by wide stone and mortar columns. Although the view of the coast is different today, in the Middle Ages, the Arsenal looked out directly onto Amalfi beach.
The museum also houses an exhibition on the development of the compass. Although this history is still debated by theorists, the compass was created for navigation by an Amalfitan, Flavio Gioia, in 1302. Although this story is still debated by historians, the objects on display testify to the important role played by the Republic of Amalfi in maritime history. The exhibition also includes specimens of Tarì, the currency used in the Middle Ages in the Republic of Amalfi and wherever Amalfi merchants traveled in the Mediterranean basin.
The colorful costumes on display are another interesting attraction in the museum’s collection. Here you’ll find the costumes created for the first historic regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics of Italy, which was inaugurated in 1955 and is repeated every year with a regatta and parade. The venue alternates between Amalfi, Venice, Pisa and Genoa. The costumes representing the Republic of Amalfi are based on original designs by Roberto Scielzo created in 1955, and some are on display.
The gold figurehead representing a winged horse is the symbol of the historic Amalfi galleon that takes part in the annual regatta. Each town is assigned a color and a figurehead, which in Amalfi’s case is blue. The winner of the race is determined by which figurehead crosses the finish line first.
Visit the Arsenal Museum in Amalfi to learn more about the history of the charming Amalfi Coast in the Campania region. The museum is also home to the Amalfi Musical Show, a live theater that tells an interesting anecdote about Amalfi’s history.