Heading along the SS 145 you will reach Meta, a town that still possesses its natural heritage from glimpses of the sea to rocky cliffs, silvery olive trees , fragrant citrus trees, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens from which their products are the basis of a genuine Mediterranean diet that is in perfect harmony with the warmth and hospitality of the people and of the old urban structures in the historical part of town that reveal a past rich in creativity, still tenaciously guarded in old buildings or in the precious surroundings of chapels and churches such as “La Cappella dei Marinai” (the Chapel of the Sailors) , a genuine jewel of the eighteenth century.
The ancient origins of Meta are testified by the marks and ruins that date back to the passage of the Etruscans , Greeks and Romans and later the Byzantines , Normans and Spaniards. The municipal area covers 2.19 km² and reveals a coast characterized by limestone walls at times steep or gently sloping towards the sea and coves that offer a wonderful spectacle enhanced by the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore, staying in Meta is also a chance to enjoy its wide beaches with accessible parking , its excellent tourism which is sustained by the high quality of professionalism in the hotel and restaurant industries.
The inhabitants of Meta have always looked to the sea as a source of life and work and provided valuable contributions to the glories of both the merchant ships and the military ships. In the past many sailors lived in difficulty or had fallen into slavery during the Muslim raids and to assist them in the 17th century two bodies were created the "Monte Cafiero” and the “Monte Ruggiero” then in 1860 the "Mutua Sorrentina " Society was established and thirty years later the “Associazione Sorrentina di Mutuo Soccorso tra Capitani e Macchinisti Mercantili” was formed with the purpose of promoting the moral and material improvement of its members. To help them in the event of being unable to work, to help them financially in the event of shipwreck or other marine accidents and in the event of death to assist their families. In 1907 the Association currently known as the "Casina dei Capitani" built its headquarters in via Municipio allowing the continuity of its activities and diffusion of maritime culture.
The worship of the “Madonna del Lauro” (the Virgin Mary of the Laurel) is testimony to the faith from the past of the people from Meta to their Madonna and to the church that houses it, the origins of which are interwoven with a story from the eighth century AD, of an old deaf and dumb woman who while grazing her cow saw at the foot of a laurel tree a tongue of fire. She approached it without fear and found a statue of the Virgin Mary with a golden hen and chicks. Instantly the woman was healed and the bishop was informed of the miracle. He took the statue to the Cathedral of Sorrento and in the morning the statue had inexplicably disappeared and was found in the place where the old deaf and dumb woman had found it. This miracle led the church to take it to the “Cappella del Salvatore” where it was worshipped under the name of the “Madonna del Lauro” and in 1731 a temple was built which was raised to a Basilica on March 25th, 1914. The church with its neoclassical façade and Baroque bell tower 41 metres high houses numerous works of art by famous artists such as Luca Giordano, Raffaele Bonito and Constantino Desiderio. There is a wooden door from the second half of the 500’s with 24 panels depicting the Mysteries of the Rosary, marble inlays from the 700’s, a wooden statue of the Resurrected Christ from the Neapolitan school and suggestive vows of sailors, testimony to the ancient and present faith of the sailors from Meta towards the “Santa Maria del Lauro” that has granted and given protection from the dangers of the land and the sea to her faithful.
During the Easter period the Sorrentine Peninsula celebrates the most significant moments of the Holy Week with the processions of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday that take place following the ancient rituals linked to local confraternities as an act of devotion to the Passion of Christ whose purpose is pity, charity and worship in the history of the Medieval Church. As a result of taking the title of Archconfraternity they enjoyed the privilege of indulgence and other spiritual favours. In 1663 the “Arciconfraternita del SS. Crocefisso e Pio Monte dei Morti” was founded and between 1590 and 1641 also that of the “SS Immacolata” that prepared the processions wearing a white hooded habit and carrying distinctive and special objects such as crucifixes, the “Misteri” and the symbols of the Passion, creating a suggestive atmosphere marked by the choir’s touching “Miserere”. The Maundy Thursday procession carries the statue of the Madonna who is searching for her son who has been sentenced to death and the procession of Good Friday carries the sculpture of Cristo Morto (the dead Christ) followed by the Madonna Addolorata (the Madonna of Sorrows) dressed in black. The population participate with profound devoutness and both the processions are named the “White” and “Black” procession.
From the times of the Greeks and Romans the inhabitants of the Sorrentine peninsula had crossed the sea with a bold heart and these ancient seafaring people had created on the beach a naval shipyard for long navigations that produced a merchant navy, a source of richness. The owners often also became the captains with a responsible crew who were ready to make sacrifices and proud of their role. The naval shipyards of Meta became famous throughout the world and in 1860 the naval shipyard from Alimuri had eight slipways with the production of hundreds of vessels which also fuelled the work of women as they sewed and spread their sails in the old buildings and large courtyards. Also connected to the shipyard was the production of biscuits the “biscotto di mare” (the sea biscuit) taken on board the ships to supply the merchant sailing ships on their long journeys. But in the 19th century the steamships substituted those of the sails and no longer required the most skilled workforce that had been appreciated by Europe and beyond. Despite the pressure of progress in Meta and the peninsula the shipyards of the Sorrentine Gozzo (a small rowing and sailing boat) continue in the hands of the inimitable experienced shipwrights.
Already in the seventeenth century in Sorrento there were shipyards that built the “gozzo”, a small rowing and sailing boat with lateen sails and a pointed bow and stern made for the local fishing industry . The origins of naval construction techniques date back to the Greeks , and even today the craftsmen rely on practical methods and their experience and still as in the past use oak, elm and pine at least 50 years old, and the ageing process takes place from 4 months to a year in caves carved from tufo rock , called “monazzeni” , ideal for constant temperatures and well ventilated . The custom is to put a crucifix in the end of the stern which remains throughout the life of the boat and is given the name of a saint. The construction of the “gozzo” requires a lot of care and the skilled hands of the shipwrights of Sorrento. It is a profession that requires dedication and sacrifice and in Meta the shipbuilding tradition of this craft continues , although many hulls are built with fibreglass with a wooden finish .
Another precious craft is inlaid wood which relies on creativity and the creation of objects and valuable furniture using different types of wood (walnut, thuja (a type of cedar), orange, holly, cherry, etc.) which form a palette of natural colours that when cut into small pieces are inserted layer upon layer into a piece of solid wood decorated using a small saw and there is also the wooden mosaic, inspired by the Roman tradition of “Opus Tesselatum”, which makes these unique inlays. Creativeness is the master of the artistic craftsman, but also his deep knowledge of the raw materials that make exclusive works and on the choice of different qualities of wood and the origins of the range of colours that allows the production of exquisite depictions.
There are many events organized in the area, all of excellent quality and follow one another during the whole year. Notably the Easter processions and the sailing regatta with takes place at the end of the summer season off the coast of Meta where a dozen boats belonging to the category of “Gozzo Sorrentino”, constructed by the few remaining talented shipwrights, challenge each other in a friendly line up between members of the club "Friends of the Sea” and friends of the “Alimuri Yacht Club”. Not to be missed is the summer “zeppolata” (doughnuts) that the pro loco "Land of the Sirens" organize at the public park “Giardino degli Agrumi” in Meta. Taste the exquisiteness of these typical Christmas desserts, prepared by the expert hands of grandmothers custodians of small but delicious culinary secrets passed down from generation to generation.
Via Flavio Gioia, 1 - Meta - (Na)