July 24, 2009

The Walk of The Gods

Most people come to the Amalfi Coast to relax on the beaches, eat fantastic food, and stroll down the cobblestone walkways of the most picturesque little towns. There are networks of foot trails that have linked these towns for centuries, and if you get up high enough, you will see some of the most stunning views in the world. It's the hike from the town of Agerola to Positano, that really blew my mind. The famous hike has even been given a name "Sentiero Degli Dei," which translates to “The Walk of the Gods.” I had some high expectations, but it really lived up to the name. I felt as if I was walking through heaven.

My family and I caught an early morning bus ride from the coastal town of Amalfi, and took the winding roads high up to Agerola, situated on a plateau and surrounded by hills. Agerola was still waking up when we arrived, but we followed the well marked signs that pointed us to the trailhead. I should mention that we're an interesting looking family when we hike. My mother usually walks with a parasol, and struts out in front of us all. I actually think the parasol is a fantastic item, that has kind of lost fashion over the last 100 or so years. But, it really does keep you cool in the hot sun. My father looks like he's on safari, with a wide brimmed hat and long sleeve shirt, taking photos from the back like a tourist at Disney World. I don't blame him. I love photographing every beautiful thing I see, and on this hike, I was snapping a picture as I came around every bend.

The hike is supposed to take about three hours if you keep moving at a quick pace. I usually like to hike at a good walking speed, but it took us almost five hours to reach Positano, and I wasn't the least bit surprised. We stopped to take photos, eat some snacks, and just enjoy the stunning vistas high over the towns and sea below us. We passed by all these little houses that could only be reached by foot. Could you imagine hiking to and from your house whenever you needed to buy food? It's not like walking to the corner store to purchase some milk and bread. These people have to hike up and down some pretty steep trails. The houses had vineyards and gardens. The one thing that really caught my eye were all the wild flowers. They were a mix of whites, yellows, bright purples, and reds, and were a nice splash of color along the lush green landscape. Did I mention the houses had a better view than my old Fifth Avenue office in Manhattan? I'm sure the stress to view ratio is probably in their favor. I am still kind of envious of their lifestyle, and if I ever run away, this is where you can find me.

About thirty minutes into the hike, we finally came around a bend that gave us the first look up the coast towards Positano. Beyond Positano, the jagged coastline stretched as far as you could see, and the island of Capri was just barely visible in the distance. As soon as I saw this view, I really understood why it was called the “Walk of the Gods.” I was so high up, looking down into valleys, and small towns along the way. We passed by the villages of Furore, Bomerano, and Praiano down below. The trail conformed to the natural landscape, bending in and around cliffs, and valleys.

After several hours, we finally reached the town of Montepertuso, situated directly above Positano on a little plateau. The dirt trail ended at the town of Nocelle, and our choices were to either hike down to the coast and then along the road to Positano, or continue at the same elevation towards Montepertuso. I am so happy that we made the decision to visit Montepertuso, since the town is beautiful. You could really see that the villagers took pride in the upkeep of their properties, and of the town's main pathways. The houses were all painted in bright pastel colors, and there were so many pink and purple flowers.

By the time we made it to Positano, it had been about five hours. I was exhausted, sweaty, and in need of a dip in the sea, but also very happy. Positano was beautiful, and I understood why tourists have flocked here for decades. That was just the problem, it was overrun with vacationers and tourist shops, and it made me appreciate the authenticity of living in Maiori, just a quick bus ride away.

A day trip was perfect for visiting Positano, and even more rewarding after a long day of hiking. I had two things on my mind after exercising in the sun all day, and that was a cold beer, followed by a swim. I settled for a crisp draft of Nastro Azzurro, a light pale lager that was perfect for quenching my thirst. There are two public beaches in Positano, and we walked the short distance to Fornillo Beach that had less people, and I think better views than the main beach in town. I rented a sun chair, got a beer, and skipped over the extremely hot pebbles to the water, where I took a much needed dip. The view from the water looking back on to the shore and high up to the hills, was one of the nicest I had seen. Next time I have a romantic night planned, I will come back to this beach and stay at the Hotel Pupetto, which is the main property on this beach.

After the sun started setting, we thought a boat ride back to Amalfi would be better than a bus. Taking a boat trip along the coast is something you shouldn't pass up if you come to this area. I had taken a boat ride two years prior, on my trip to the island of Capri, and I forgot how beautiful it was to see the coast from the sea, especially at sunset. We passed by the towns of Praiano and Furore which we had hiked above earlier in the day, and it was nice to see the route we had taken high up in the hills.

Amalfi was booming with tourists and locals alike, walking the main drag that led from the Piazza Duomo, the town square and heart of the village. You only need a couple of hours to see most of Amalfi. The eleventh century Cathedral of Sant' Andrea is not to be missed, as its stairs lead right down to the Piazza Duomo and fountain. There was a wedding going on while we were there, and it was nice to see locals and tourists break out in applause when the bride and groom emerged. If you have the energy, the hike up to the cemetery on the hill above town is nice.

Feeling hungry, we walked along the coastal road to the town of Atrani, and ate at the best pizzeria in the area. Le Arcate is a big restaurant, right next to the main beach. I have had some good pizza in my life, but this was authentic Italian pizza that left me full, and satisfied enough to rub my belly for a good hour afterwards. We ate on their patio, overlooking the town beach and sea, with Minori and Maiori in the distance. The pizza I ate had tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, with prociutto and arucola. With a little bit of olive oil on top, it was a party in my mouth. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. Actually, I'm going for pizza now.

Here are my photos from the Walk of the Gods, including Amalfi and Positano.


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