The Tramontana: the Amalfi wind that comes from Tramonti

by Gerardo Russo

The wind of north wind it could derive its name from Sunsets, a scattered municipality in the province of Salerno consisting of thirteen hamlets. The country is located on the Lattari Mountains and constitutes the green lung of Amalfi Coast, without having an outlet to the sea. Its history is strongly linked to that of Amalfi. The territory in fact belonged to the ancient Maritime Republic Amalfi, active in the 10th and 11th centuries.

The north wind

The name of Tramonti derives from its particular territorial conformation, that is, being a land between the mountains, from which 'Intra Montes'. This romantic place would later give rise, according to various sources, to the name of the wind that for everyone comes from the north: the tramontana. That would have been how the Amalfi people referred to wind coming from the northwherever they were at sea. The sailors of Amalfi would in fact have identified the North with Tramonti, as the wind was blowing coming from the area of today's municipality.

La tramontana: il vento degli amalfitani che viene da Tramonti
View of Maiori, on the Amalfi coast, from the paths of the Lattari Mountains.

But how could the habit of the Amalfi people become the denomination universally given to the north wind? This is explained through the compass spread, the use of which, in all probability, was initiated and perfected in Europe by the Amalfi navigators. In Amalfi there is also a statue dedicated to Flavio Gioia, the phantom inventor of the compass. The nautical instrument thus established itself with the names of the winds corresponding to those conventionally indicated by the Amalfi people.

The term tramontana would therefore derive from the northern part of the Amalfi coast and would consequently have been used in the modern compass rose, whose introduction is attributed to the Amalfi people. He would then have indicated by extension also the cardinal point, the north pole and the polar star, as it was believed that this coincided with the pole.

Many hypotheses behind the origin of the term

The origin of the term tramontana is however the subject of discussion among historians. It could derive from the same Latin phrase “trans montes”, that is beyond the mountains, as it expired from the Alps, the North for the Romans. For the Ligurians, the term would indicate "the wind from beyond the mountains" that crosses the mountain ranges north of the Ligurian region. Finally, it could also indicate the mountains of Albania, north ofZakynthos island in the Ionian Sea, a traditional reference point for the wind rose.

The reason why some historians believe in the link with Tramonti is the role that the republic of Amalfi had in spreading the compass. Let's think for example of the name of any contemporary commercial product which, having become famous in a short time, ends up being identified by the whole world in the same way, perhaps through a term belonging to a specific culture. The north wind of the Amalfi, skilled navigators, could have quickly become the north wind of the world.

A place that contains a name

The town of Tramonti would thus find itself preserving the legacy of a very important name. Those thick mountains overshadowed by the sheen of the Amalfi coast could represent the universal idea of the north in the world, the origin of the North Star, the horizon sailors tended to when they longed to go home.

We thus understand how Tramonti is able to tell the sea, or rather perhaps the oceans, despite being so distant from it in its rural and mountain everyday life. Indeed, Tramonti is complementary to the waters of the Amalfi coast. If the waves of the coast well symbolize the desire for the sea, beauty and freedom, the Lattari Mountains describe the desire for land that burns in the heart of those who have completely crossed that sea.

La tramontana: il vento degli amalfitani che viene da Tramonti
Panoramic view of Tramonti.

The uniqueness of Tramonti

Someone used to say that you are always someone's southerner. We do not know for sure if the term tramontana derives from the mountain municipality of the Amalfi coast, but we are sure that many populations have had their own wind beyond the northern mountains.

Tramonti, however, is far from the idea of an isolated and unreachable mountain. It is a few bends from the most crowded and renowned seaside resorts of Campania and is well connected to the densely populated area of Agro Nocerino Sarnese through the Chiunzi pass. It can be reached quickly from highly urbanized cities or from beaches equipped with all services.

Unlike many places scattered in the mountains, Tramonti is there, within walking distance of everything, but its uniqueness lies precisely in this. In the heart of the Sorrento peninsula, this resists small mountain casket, so close but so deep in its extension. Between the curves of the various hamlets they reveal themselves countless hidden beauties, among paths that are lost in the green, sparkling lemon groves and fascinating churches. Tramonti reveals its secrets to those who try to chase them, because the true horizon you can only see it when you don't stop looking for it.

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