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Report 1920: Rome, Tuscany, Venice & Amalfi for Beginners

By nikkihop from USA, Summer 2011

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Page 14 of 16: June 13, 2011 Day 13: Sentiero Degli Dei (The Pathway of the Gods)

photo by nikkihop

The Sentiero Degli Dei

We're up and about at 10:00am to catch the 10:30 ferry from Sorrento to Amalfi. Yay! Third time's the charm. It's overcast and cool, and the boat ride is brisk and uneventful, with a brief stop to unload and load at Positano. Our goal in going to Amalfi today is to take a bus to Bomerano/Agerola, and from there, to hike down and back around to Positano along the Sentiero degli Dei (the Path of the Gods).

As the ferry keeps going and going past Positano to Amalfi, I start to worry about the distance. It seems like miles and miles. DB gives me the same worried look. Oh well, we'll give it a try. We buy the bus tickets to Agerola at the tobacco shop off the roundabout circling the statue of the inventor of the compass (local Amalfi boy) and head across to the big buses to catch ours. No problems there, but make sure to tell the bus driver what stop you want, because the stops are not clearly marked and the bus driver does not call out the stop names.

I thought the bus rides we had taken so far were relatively hair raising in the lack of space in general for large buses, the traffic, the seeming lack of road rules, but I clearly had no idea. This bus driver schooled us on that point. He was the epitome of aggressive Italian driving. The bus would rock from side to side at every curve we took at speed, jerking right and left to navigate the bends and wheeling around hairpins with no concern for oncoming traffic. As the biggest motor on the road -- path, at times -- I guess our driver figured everyone else would get out of the way. If they didn't, we'd be goners considering the fact that the edge to nowhere was 18 inches away and about two miles down with nothing to break the fall but some vines and scrub decorating the cliff-side. I adjusted my white knuckle grip on my backpack and prayed we would not soon be decorating the cliffs below.

Prayers answered, we got off with several other hikers at Bomerano. We trekked through town, coming upon helpful signs for the hiking path. We set off on what was supposed to be only a three hour hike to Positano. Gilligan's Island theme playing in my head, we head for the path. At the much higher elevation, there's a lot less distance than it looked to be from the water at sea level. It might have been a three hour hike too, but the three hours doesn't account for the hundreds of stops to marvel at the gob-smacking views. Ancient terraced vineyards and groves line what used to be the main traveled road between these mountain towns before they built the roads of death. People lived here, and some still do. There are still working vineyards and farms on these paths, and we stepped around the evidence of mules and/or horses still used to cart supplies in. Absolutely amazing. Crumbling shells of cliff-side villas and small huts still used for tools and such cling the the mountainside with cascades of wildflowers, bougainvillea, and jasmine.

It was cloudy and cool when we began the hike and warmed up and cleared as we neared Positano. DB and I could not decide if this was our favorite thing in Italy or the kayak trip in Venice. Tough call because they were so different. Both trips made you really feel what it must have been like in the old days of Italy. Both were breathtaking in their own ways. On our trip down the Path of the Gods, we saw thousands of lizards, butterflies and bees, as well as peregrine falcons and even a huge raucous raven with a nest very high on the cliffs.

The last ferry leaves Positano at 5:00pm, and we again started to worry about time since we had dawdled to gape and admire so much. We picked up speed. We could always take the bus back to Sorrento, but both DB and I wanted to avoid that possibility in favor of the smoother, more comfortable and faster ferry. We didn't reckon on all the steps you have to take to get down out of the mountain to sea level in Positano. Since we had taken a bus to get us up the mountain (Thank God) we had no idea how many steps it would take to get down. I didn't count them, but it must have been at least a thousand or more.

Who knew it would be so grueling to walk down steps? Ankles, calves, back ... they were all protesting by the time we wound down past homes, gardens, even construction work on the paths that connect suburban Positano with its more touristy city center. I began to admire these suburban Positanoans and wonder if they are some kind of super race. The chubby and ever-smoking construction workers make me pause mentally in that thought, but physically, we keep on. It didn't help our physical pain that we were almost running down so we could make the ferry. It was weird when we actually hit the road, the first flat ground we had seen in an hour. It felt like being seasick or drunk, trying to lift your feet up too high or stubbing your feet down on the pavement expecting another step down. We wobbled quickly to the wharf and made the ferry with minutes to spare, which we spent soaking up to our knees in the sea for medicinal purposes.

Smooth ferry ride back to Sorrento, and we only have.to.hike.up.the.steep.stairs.to.get.to.town before we collapse in the hotel room. We rally for the sole purpose of trying this amazing Chateaubriand for two that we saw prepared for another couple on our first night at the Rosso Lione down the street. We really liked this restaurant -- the only one we made a repeat visit to -- because the owner keeps plying you with free appetizers of flatbread, crusty french bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and pizza slices while you wait for the admittedly slow service. Still, with all that bread, a half liter of wine and water, we were quite happy to wait. When the Chateaubriand arrived, the wait seemed inconsequential. Our waiter brought out the meat perched on top of a crusty loaf and surrounded by grilled vegetables, all gloriously arranged on a wooden platter. He divided up the bounty, decorating two plates with grilled red peppers, onions, fried zucchini, tomatoes and endive before shaving the beef very thinly and piling it in the center of the plate on top of the sliced crusty bread. It was fantastic. We nearly cleared the plates despite our exhaustion.

We complimented the staff and were rewarded with two shots of limoncello gratis and an offer of more if we wanted it. After the wine, limoncello and a potbelly full of food, we slowly stumbled back to the room and passed out.

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