Day 3 – Amalfi Coast and Sentiero Degli Dei (Path of Gods)
- Barb: Knees!
- Mike: Incredible
- Jen: Terraces
- Barb: Cliff clingers
- Mike: Organized chaos
- Jen: Wild ride
Three or Four Words
- Barb: Lemon pergolas everywhere
- Mike: Buses: 1 / Mike: 0
- Jen: People upon people
- Barb: The sea, the sky, the sun, the cliffs—bellisima!
- Mike: When nature gives you cliffs, build houses, farms, and roads on them.
- Jen: I am in awe of the human labor evident here, and it somehow makes me feel better about the progress I have (not) made on my own property.
Today we explored the Amalfi coast, the Italian Riviera. We had an ambitious plan for the day: We hoped to walk the Sentiero Degli Dei (Path of the Gods) trail high along the coastal cliffs, wander through Positano at the end of the trail, and return to Amalfi in time to catch another bus to Ravello for a brief visit, and then return to Amalfi and catch another bus back to Vietri sul Mare. That’s seven buses to catch, I think, and that proved to be our downfall. Or perhaps it was our inability to decipher the extremely confusing and not readily available bus schedule, which certainly didn’t help. (Although, I think we can read one now—if we can find one!)
Today’s themes: The Amalfi Coast, terraces, buses and bus schedules
The Amalfi Coast
It was a gorgeous day, sunny and clear. The Amalfi Coast road is twisty, turny, and narrow with occasional dropoffs of several hundred feet. Comparing it to roads I know, I’d say it’s Denali Park Road’s Polychrome Pass + Eielson Pass + San Francisco’s zigzag Lombard Street x 100. Add to that Italian drivers, and you won’t wonder why we opted for the bus.
The rugged coast is steep and vegetated, dotted with coves and beaches. Communities have built up here and there despite the unaccommodating terrain, and again we have houses upon houses clinging to each other and the hillsides.
Above, around, and between the towns are farms growing lemons, grapes, and more. This is made possible by extensive terracing. I am in awe of the terracing: the quantity of human labor that produces it, the quality and endurance of the rock walls, the effectiveness of the terracing, and the joy of wandering on the winding paths up the hillside—playing hide-and-seek here would be a blast!
The Sentiero Degli Dei trail allowed us to stroll some five or so miles through this terraced farmland. We had wonderful views of the coastline and Mediterranean and saw several very old stone structures, some built into the hillside, reminding me of Anasazi ruins.
Buses and Bus Schedules
Travel literature about Italy warns us about the difficulty of getting clear information about bus schedules, but as with the cautions about driving, reading about something is not the same as experiencing it.
Our 7:30 a.m. bus from Vietri sul Mare was 15 minutes late. We had to wait the better part of an hour at Amalfi to catch the bus to Bomerano to the trailhead. At Nocelle, we might have caught a bus to Positano right away, but we were unaware that our 24-hour ticket worked on every Coast bus except the Nocelle-to-Positano bus. Instead, we waited the better part of an hour for the same bus to return and sell us one-way tickets to Positano.
In Positano, where we hoped to walk around, the bus to Amalfi came almost immediately—and ten minutes early—and speedily took off despite our efforts and the efforts of friendly strangers to keep it there the extra 30 seconds (at most) we needed to get to the stop. The next bus was an hour later, if one was interpreting the schedule correctly and the buses were close to being on time. It wasn’t enough time to walk down to the bottom of the town.
At Amalfi, we finally got to see a full bus schedule, and I think we figured it out, but the timing to Ravello was not good for us, making part of the trip in the dark, which defeats the purpose. I asked the woman at the news stand where the schedule posted if there was a take-away version of the schedule I could have or buy to take with me, and she chuckled and shook her head. We’d already tried accessing the schedule on the website to no avail. This is one of those easily fixable absurdities for which Italy gets its reputation for being difficult to navigate.
While we’re on the subject of Italian absurdities, the Sentiero Degli Dei trail is rumored to be difficult to follow due to other trails, including some farm paths, crossing it. One source talked of the 2-3 hour walk turning into a 10-hour fiasco, and some sources recommend hiring a guide. We didn’t find the trail all that difficult to follow; however, there was one spot where the trail split, heading in two opposite directions. I think the inclination is to go right, but we were diddling around, checking out the different views and taking pictures, and I wandered down the left trail a few yards and discovered a sign pointing out where the diverging paths led. We needed to go left, not right.
Gee, Italy, you might think about moving that sign 10 yards back to where the path actually splits.
If we had had access to a clear bus schedule and been able to plan our excursions, and if the buses were on time (certainly not early) we would have been able to do more. Nonetheless, the trail walk, seeing the coast from the buses, and walking around Amalfi were all delightful, and it was a great day.