Praiano is a town and comune of the province of Salerno in the Campania region of southwest Italy. It is situated on the Amalfi Coast (Costiera Amalfitana), a prime tourist location for the region and Italy alike, between the towns of Amalfi and Positano. In 1997, the Amalfi Coast, including Praiano's "Vettica Maggiore" frazione was inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. As of December 1, 2009, the town's population constitutes 2,069 inhabitants.
The town's name derives from the praia, or beach, from the Latin word pelagium, meaning "open sea." Today this beach is popular for different reasons, the tourists. The Centro Sub Costiera Amalfitana dive center operates from this beach, and boat service is available to transport travelers to other beaches in the area. The beach also has umbrella rentals and boasts the well-known restaurant, Alfonso a Mare.
During the 10th-11th centuries, Praiano was once the summer residence of the doges of the Duchy of Amalfi.
During the Angevin period, a fortified tower, the Assiola, was constructed to defend the town. Praiano had an important local silk industry, however, it disappeared during the 19th century. With the discovery of corals in the vicinity around the 1800s, Praiano's economy was revitalized, mainly focusing on the fishing and tourism industries ever since.
One popular attraction is the Church of San Luca Evangelista, dating back to 1123. On the inside, there are paintings by Renaissance painter Giovanni Bernardo Lama dating to the 16th century. Another attraction is the Church of San Giovanni Battista, featuring a well-preserved maiolica tiled floor, dating back to the 12th-13th centuries.
One of the most unique aspects to Praiano is what is known as its roadside presepe. Handcrafted by Michele Castellano, this work of art was literally built into the natural rock wall, and sits along the roadside, easily seen as you drive along the Amalfi Coast. The charming exhibit features tiny houses and some miniature models of buildings in Praiano, such as the Trattoria San Gennaro, and culminates in a Nativity scene. It is one of those scenes that beckon you to stop your vehicle, and get out to take a closer look. Each year at Christmastime, part of the Praiano festivities involve the lighting of this Nativity Grotto.
The entire Amalfi Coast is nothing short of sheer beauty, and if you have the time to stop along the way and experience some of its smaller villages, you will have gained more than you know. It is in these places, like Praiano, where you truly get a feel for the people and the culture that make Italy such a special place.