The first traces of human life in the Positano area can be found in a cave located in the “La Porta” area. It would appear that the cave was used between 13,000 and 8,000 ago, although such an early appearance does not correspond to evidence of other settlements found in the area. Late Bronze age mythology was later to draw attention to the site through the famous episode of the Sirens recounted by Homer. These tree sirens, Ligea, Leucosia and Partenope, committed suicide because Odysseus (Ulysses) somehow managed to escape the enchantment of their songs.
Only from the 1st century A.D. onwards were certain parts of the coast – including Positano- chosen by the Roman patriciate as sites for luxurious villas overlooking the sea. According to some scholars, one such villa at Positano belonged to Posides, a former slave who had been granted freedom by the Emperor Claudius, and the name Posidianium passed from his home to the entire town.
As it lay hidden from sight at the westernmost tip of the Amalfi Coast and was linked to the other coastal towns only by sea or by means of an impervious mountain pass through the Lattari, Positano remained isolated right up to the end of the 19th century when the ‘ancestor’ of modernday trunk road 163 was at long last hewn out of the rock face. This event was to pave the way for the town’s vocation as a highly sought-after tourist resort, which today is the mainstay of the local economy.
The town is spread out over one of the slopes of Mount Comune , softening its craggy outline. A single road, via Pasitea, winds its way from the Town Hall to the Piazzetta dei Mulini at the junction of the road to Amalfi, continuing uphill, it turns into via Cristoforo Colombo. Looking down at the town from above, the eye becomes enchanted by an intricate network of narrow, picturesque steps, which create the impression of a Navity crib.
The Piazzetta dei Mulini leads down to the small Piazza Flavio Gioia where the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption (Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta) and its characteristic majolicatiled dome stand. Inside, there is a nave and two aisles separated by pillars, and in the right-hand side of the transept hangs a painting by Fabrizio Santafedele entitled Circumcision (1599). The main altar is decorated with a 17th century Byzantine style panel painting depicting the Madonna and Child.
There is a bell tower next to the church and a heavy marble slab mounted on its doorway depicts a sea monster. In medieval times, this slab together with other marble and mosaic remains cemented on the other side of the building along the Rampa Teglia had been part of the church flooring. From there a small door leads to the Crypt, the oldest part of the entire building, on top of which the basilica was built. Nearby the church, concealed by flood detritus and modern day boutiques, lie the ruins of a Roman villa dating from the 1st century A.D. which probably belonged to the famous freedman, Posides, who gave his name to Posidanium, which was later to become Positano.
To the west of the Marina Grande stretches Fornillo beach. To the east lie the smaller beaches of La Porta, Fiumicello and Arienzo.
Lastly, the villages of Montepertuso (350m above sea level) and Nocella (420m above sea level) offer a delightful range of nature trails with breathtaking views over the entire coastline.

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