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Over the past two centuries, the culture of the Amalfi Coast has been imbued and influenced by the influx of artists, writers, and composers from across Europe and the United States who have lived and worked, however briefly, in the area.
The region has also become noteworthy for attracting a certain kind of wealthy, well-to-do tourist. The island of Capri, for example, became synonymous with wealth and glamour in the 1950s and 1960s. The list of celebrities, artists, and even Russian revolutionaries (Maxim Gorky and Lenin himself) who invaded Capri seems endless: Jackie & Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas (at one time Onassis' mistress), Sophia Loren (who filmed It Started in Naples here with Clark Gable in the early 1960s), Brigitte Bardot (who starred in Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt, which was filmed partly on Capri), Liz Taylor, British writers Norman Douglas and Graham Greene--notwithstanding the first and most original tourist of the island, the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who spent his last years in exile (and, according to the ancient historian Suetonius, debauched years at that) on Capri.
In nearby Ravello, American writer Gore Vidal is in residence. Ravello has also seen some time on the silver screen--it was here that the cult classic Beat the Devil (1953) with Humphrey Bogart was shot. Positano has also gotten its share of screen time as well; recently The Talented Mr. Ripley was partly filmed there.
Going further back in time, the Amalfi Coast has drawn writers like Swede Axel Munthe, Henrik Ibsen, Goethe, and composer Richard Wagner to its shores.
One of the biggest draws of the area is the abundance of ancient ruins. Pompeii and Herculaneum are a short train ride away from Sorrento, on the Circumvesuviana railway line (which also runs north to Naples), and the Amalfi Coast town of Paestum boasts Greek temples, an ancient city wall, and a Roman road, all well worth a day trip. Like many towns throughout Italy, the Amalfi Coast towns are rife with museums that proudly display an ancient heritage and culture that, while predominantly Roman, reveal a distinctive Greek influence as well.