Walking the Path of the GodsA weekend on the Amalfi Coast, Italy
Usually, April through June we are traveling throughout Europe leading our small-group tours. Instead, Suzy and I spent the weekend on Italy’s Amalfi Coast walking the Path of the Gods. Because of the spread of the new coronavirus, since the end of February we have been in lockdown at our home in Italy’s Campania region. Recently, Italy has slowly begun to open up restrictions on personal movement. We took advantage of this new freedom, and complete lack of crowds, to get outside and do some walking and hiking on the nearby Amalfi Coast. This is the first part of our weekend adventures. If you’d like to read about what happens next check out Walking on the Sorrento Peninsula.
Destination: Amalfi Coast
According to the Italian government, from May 18 travel restrictions will begin to ease. Residents may now move freely within regions and are not required to carry authorization papers. Non-essential travel is now allowed. Fortunately for us, the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento Peninsula are located in the Campania region. All the open trails of this area are now accessible to us without the normal crush of tourists this time of year brings. Also, we were curious to see the almost deserted Amalfi Coast as lockdown restrictions are beginning to lift. While respecting the requirement for social distance, we were excited to get out and stretch our legs.
The rugged Sorrento Peninsula extends west from Italy’s mainland, dividing the Bay of Naples from the Tyrrhenian Sea. On its southern extent is the famous Amalfi Coast with towering, wooded cliffs, and famous coastal towns Positano and Amalfi. We set off for the weekend without much of a plan other than to enjoy being outside.
Walking the Path of the Gods
On Friday morning I packed a couple of panini, hummus and chips for the hike. Then we tossed a few things in an overnight bag for the weekend and set off. We had an easy 2 hour drive ahead of us. Our selected adventure for the day was Path of the Gods, Sentirero degli Dei. We have hiked this trail a few times before. The trail is a great out and back. We can turn around whenever it suits us or time requires. It’s a favorite for the breathtaking views and it’s authentic, very Italian environment.
Walking Path of the Gods From Bomerano, Italy
Our walking tour for two began at the small village of Bomerano nestled in the mountains high above Amalfi’s rocky coast. Post-lockdown, businesses are slowly beginning to open. In the piazza we found a couple of bars, a market, and a bakery open. All other storefronts remained closed. Many shops are targeting June 3 as the start of the season this year. That is when people can travel freely between regions. A few people were in the street, running errands and chatting with neighbors. Everyone we saw was wearing masks and keeping at least 1 meter from each other to maintain a safe social distance. We stopped at a bar for a quick caffe (decaffeinato for Suzy, macchiato for me). The waiter sprayed down our curbside table and chairs with disinfectant before we sat down. After the refuelling, we topped off our water bottles and set off.
On the Path of the Gods
From Bomerano, the Path of the Gods meanders west along steep vertical cliffs, terraced vineyards and lemon groves, and grazing goats. It’s a solid level 3 walk by our walk rating system. The trail offers spectacular views of the Medeteranean below. On clear days you can see all the way along the coast to the island of Capri and its famous Faraglioni Arches. Far below, the villages of Praiano and Laurito can be seen. Past the halfway point the beautiful coastal city of Positano looms closer at every bend. The terrain is mostly rolling with many stairs and a few steep pitches and technical parts.
More of a hike than a stroll, we covered almost 5km to the mountain hamlet of Nocelle in about 3 hours. Our pace was leisurely, with lots of stops to take in the view. We enjoyed our packed lunch at one of several picnic tables installed on the path. There are a couple of rustic bars along the way offering walkers snacks and drinks. We could hear a good amount of animated conversation and laughter spilling down the hill from these places. On another visit we will definitely stop in.
We passed a few hikers during our trek. Maybe a dozen in total. Although in the open air we all hiked without masks, when passing other hikers masks were lifted and friendly “Ciao”s were exchanged. This was all done with an air of common courtesy more than any sense of fear.
Walking the Path of the Gods into Nocelle
Nocelle is a charming mountain village with many small B&Bs and restaurants with beautiful terrace views. Friendly cats greeted us along the narrow walkways and colorful buildings. An innkeeper was tending his donkeys as we passed. Doors and windows opened to welcome the sun and fresh air as rooms for rent were aired out and prepped for the hoped-for summer season. A worker’s voice could be heard singing a joyful song in Italian. One of our favorite things about walking the Path of the Gods are these small, behind the scene experiences. It’s a small view into everyday life, but a life that is so different than our own.
From Nocelle you can catch a bus or walk the many, many stairs down to Positano. Since our car was parked back in Bomerano, we avoided the descent. Instead, we returned there along a higher trail, walking the Path of the Gods in reverse, and about 300 meters higher. Offering new views at each turn, the trip back was equally as spectacular.
Walking Rural Roads: A PSA and Adventure
We know well when walking on rural trails to steer clear of any wandering goats or sheep. While these animals are friendly, they are usually accompanied by one or more guard dogs. The dog’s responsibility is to protect and manage the goats. Herding dogs are all business when on the job, and it’s best to give them space to do their thing. Of course the case in no different when walking the Path of the Gods. No devine protection is assured. Unfortunately, while all ended well, we were able to prove this warning by experience.
On the last part of the walk we were on a rural paved road and making good time toward Bomerano about an hour away. As we turned a bend a herd of goats made its way toward us. We stopped and moved to the side of the road, ready to let them pass. Suddenly, behind us a herding dog descended from the bushes where he had picked up a few strays. We later learned his name was Toto. We were caught between him and his goats, and Toto was concerned.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Toto began barking a warning, but with a cliff on one side of the road and a fence on the other, we had nowhere to go. The goat herder was a hundred feet away and trying to make her way toward us. Toto, in an attempt to move us away from his goats, nipped me in the leg before the goat herder could call him off.
The goat herder quickly got between the dog and us. Calmly, but without hesitation, we moved through the goat herd putting distance between ourselves and Toto. The entire incident took only seconds. I was shaken. The nip was not bad, but the skin was broken. I would need to get it taken care of as soon as possible. It was getting late. The medical offices and pharmacies would be closing soon. At a fast pace we continued on to Bomerano.
The Kindness of Strangers
After about 5 minutes of walking we came upon a farmhouse on the side of the road. Two men and a woman were in the front yard talking – surrounded by a ragtag crew of about 5 farm dogs. The dogs began to bark a friendly greeting as we approached. Still a little skittish, I hung back despite the reassurances of canine friendliess given by one of the men. Suzy explained to them what had just happened.
Their response was immediate surprise and concern. They knew Toto. We assured them he was just doing his job. The goat herder couldn’t get to us in time. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were used to seeing hikers walking the Path of the Gods, but many fewer on the high trail where we were. Especially during this very slow season. Perhaps we had surprised the girl and her dog. Chissà? Who knows?
The woman sprang into action. She directed her husband to get iodine and bandages. On the front steps of her house she cleaned and dressed the bite chatting with me the entire time in some form of dialect. I was able to catch most of what she was saying. Topics covered were the coronavirus, easing of lockdown restrictions, and President Trump. As Americans in lockdown Italy, these are the usual things we get asked about these days.
Meanwhile, the other man, a neighbor who was from Scotland and spoke English and perfect Italian (hooray!), went to get his truck to drive us into town. He returned just as the woman finished taping my leg. We said our sincere thank yous, and loaded into the cab. We were careening down the narrow winding roads toward Bomerano in no time.
Timing is Everything
Our driver, Alex, had purchased a ruin on a piece of land with an amazing panoramic view at the end of the road we were walking. We learned it was his wife we had passed as she operated a bobcat tractor, digging a trench for new utilities. They live in Belgium and were not planning to be in Italy at that time. They got caught here by the lockdown. I gave thanks for this lucky chance.
Alex smiled and gave a “Ciao!” to most everyone we passed once we reached town. He stayed with us as we navigated the pharmacy to pick up a tetanus shot, the medical office to receive the shot and a prescription, and then back to the pharmacy for antibiotics and bandages.
If we had not gotten a ride from him the doctor’s office definitely would have been closed by the time we arrived. The pharmacy probably would have been also. I was so grateful for his care and assistance. When it was all over we said our goodbyes and thank yous, smiling broadly behind our masks.
Dinner in Positano
The sun sank low on the horizon. We were happy, hungry and more than a little tired when we finally reached the car. We had hoped to catch the sunset at Punta Campanella about an hour away and made reservations for the night nearby. Our unplanned adventure had taken time and, because of the geography of the coastline, we would miss sunset.
Fortunately, there was very little traffic. Unfortunately, the few restaurants and markets that had opened were already closed up for the night. We were getting more and more hungry. We did a loop through Positano, thinking surely something would be open there. At 8:30pm on a Friday night at the end of May – the town was completely deserted. Two years ago we were in Positano with a group on the same weekend. It was elbow to elbow with people. Now, all the storefronts were closed. No one was in the streets. It was so strange to see in what normally would have been a bustling, lively town.
We had resigned ourselves to a dinner of chips leftover from our packed lunch. Just then, we happened upon a lighted restaurant on the edge of Positano. Praise be! He was open for take out pizza only, and that sounded like heaven to us. Things just kept getting better as he offered us two aperol spritz while we waited. A few minutes later, with a pizza each, we sat in our car with a view of the sea and devoured Southern Italy’s gift to the culinary world.
What happens next?
The next day we did a couple of great hikes and took in a beautiful sunset. You can read about our adventures Walking the Sorrento Peninsula. Like what you see? Be the first to know about new travels, tips, and tours. Sign up for our newsletter below!
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