Friday, April 29, 2011

An Amalfi Easter

Do I even make the cheesy joke...yes: A God on the Path of the Gods
Waking up on Easter morn, celebrating the special day by enjoying the beauty of Creation and hearing the church bells, we were slow in getting out the door for our hike. Eventually, daypacks were filled with water and oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies (very important), Scully was leashed and ready, and we walked out our hotel's gates and directly onto the hiking path, Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods), as it winds out of Nocelle.

"A journey is an occasion which can be renewed as a choice and a measure of an interior wish:
in this sense, it is right to restore the fantasy again, starting from the Path of the Gods, that road suspended above the magic bay of the Sirens, furrowed again today by memory and myth."
Italo Calvino

The Path of the Gods: 7 km from Bomerano to Positano - our guess is the Nocelle to Positano stretch, those 2000 steps I mentioned earlier, are about 1 km, meaning our hike was about 6km each way. Each way because of our dog, cute as he is, can be a problem! The typical hiker will begin at one end, and at the other, take a bus back to the city of the starting point, either Nocelle or Positano or Bomerano. Scully was not allowed on the bus, so we decided early on that we'd just turn around and do the hike back. The most recommended hike is east to west, from Bomerano to Nocelle. We were doing it backwards to start due to our hotel location, but that worked out well for us. As we neared the end, we began passing groups, large and small, of other hikers, going in the "right" direction - so for us, we were out of the pack and had the entire hike to ourselves. The first part of the hike winds around the cliff fingers that stretch into the sea, so for awhile, we hiked along the outer edge, enjoying the ocean view. Then we'd head back inland and pass through shady, cool forests as we curved around to the next cliff finger. Every single step, curve, or new view is incredible. It is one of the best hikes either of us has ever done. Towards the end of our first leg, we began seeing civilization. Whereas the beginning of the hike, we looked down (far, far down) onto the coastal towns, at the end, we passed terraces of wine groves and olive trees, a convent in the distance, some abandoned, stone houses, and then a very small neighborhood. And at the very end (or start, depending on your route), a cliff with medieval animal pens cut into the rock.

Hikers we'd met had told us that the end/start in Bomerano was in a cute town with a piazza and a nice coffee bar. We were excited for this, right up until we started into town and had every stray dog around come out snarling and growling. Not cool, and I wasn't up to the tenseness of having to fight off packs of strays to keep our knucklehead out of a fight, so we elected to turn around, foregoing that ice cold Coca-Cola I'd been dreaming about the last couple of kilometers. Since we had packed lunch, in addition to our oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies, we headed back to a previously passed picnic table with a view - possibly the best located picnic table in the world:

And the best view was at the end of the hike, when instead of facing 2000 down steps to Positano, we were looking at the gates to our hotel. We spent the afternoon on the balcony and then wandered back down to the trattoria for another fantastic meal. The only marring bit to the weekend was when Nathan took Scully out for his consitutional, he found out that Nocelle has it's very own pack of mean strays, and theirs includes a German Shepherd. Thankfully, Nathan was close to the hotel at the time and was able to scare the dogs away to give him enough time to get back, but that meant Scully did not get to go on our walk around town the following morning. Instead, we took a load of luggage, located the pack of strays (who were all napping in the parking lot - how convenient for them to be right near our car), went on a walk around the upper part of town (and found an alternate route to the car), conversed with one of the residents out doing some gardening, then headed home to spend the rest of La Pasquetta (Monday after Easter) napping.
The rest of this post is for people who want to actually hike the path - logistics and such:
For anyone else who wants to hike the Path of the Gods, we had trouble finding directions that actually made sense. Here's my attempt at explaining where to start, end, and the like.
The main part of the hike is between Bomerano and Nocelle (above Positano). There are plenty of other hikes in the region as well as options galore, so I'll just concentrate on this main part. Every info site I read said you should hike from east (Bomerano) to west (Nocelle/Positano). It doesn't really matter. If you want to go in the opposite direction, just stop and turn around to make sure you're taking in everything. We enjoyed both directions. Don't bother taking two cars and doing the ferrying thing - that takes as much time as just using the local bus system. On the hike, follow the red marks. They are located fairly often, either painted on rocks or red tape around trees. It took us 2.5 hours to hike it the first time and 3 hours the second. This is with several photo-op stops, water breaks, and lunch break.

Bomerano to Nocelle: There is plenty of parking at the start of the hike. Info says there is a pay parking lot in town, near the piazza. I have no idea why one would pay to park further when there is street parking all along the trailhead - maybe it's a no parking area, so I suppose you park at your own risk, like anywhere. In Bomerano, get on Via Colle Serra and drive it to the trailhead, marked with a huge sign and paved path to start. Hike the path. Once you pass the monument (large, needle rock with a plaque on it), you will come to a T intersection with an old stone house on your right. You can turn right here and follow a high path - we didn't do this, so I have no idea where it connects to the main path, if at all. We turned left and immediate right, which takes you down to another T with a sign. Go left for Priano or go right to continue Path of the Gods hike. After you leave this area, your next village is Nocelle. In Nocelle, you will take a left turn onto the paved path into town, then another left turn down some stairs. At the second landing, you are standing in front of iron gates for Residence Villa Degli Dei. Turn right here and follow the alley to a small piazza, across a walkway, and now you have two options: (1) Go past a set of stairs going up. There is a sign that says "Positano" and you will be headed down. Prepare for a long walk down a lot of stairs to Positano, where you can get a SITA bus back to Bomerano - not sure, but I think the buses pick up at the beginning of Positano's pedestrian zone. Buy a ticket in the Tabacchi and ask the guy there where the bus stop is (dov' e fermata per autobus a Bomerano); (2) There are stairs going up that go to a parking lot. At the top of the parking lot (not where the bench is) is the bus stop. We never did figure out if the bus goes all the way to Positano or if it stops in Montepertuso, and there you change buses. You can buy those tickets on the bus.

Positano or Nocelle to Bomerano: Two options again for parking: (1) Park in one of the pay lots in Positano - best ones, if there's space, are either the gas station lot about a block before the pedestrian zone begins or the lot right at the start of the pedestrian zone. These are expensive and crowded in the summer. Parking in Positano means you have to get on the bus to Montepertuso and then Nocelle. We didn't ever get on this bus, so I'm not sure where it picks up, but I believe it picks up at the start of the pedestrian zone. This bus is not a SITA bus, and you should be able to pay onboard, although I'd have correct change. If you don't want to do the bus, you'll need to hike up the steps. Unfortunately, I don't know where they leave out of Positano, but they go up towards Montepertuso, then on to Nocelle.
Alternatively, drive to Montepertuso, through it, and then park along the street. Nocelle has a pay lot - the road to Nocelle ends at it. I don't know who you pay as there was never an attendant nor is there a pay machine. We parked along the street, for free. Our car was there for three days, and we didn't have any trouble, but I have no idea if the spot was legal or not. If you park in the lot, make sure you're in spots outlined in blue. Yellow spots are for residents. Once you're parked, do not take the road that says something like "Alta Via" out of the parking lot. Instead, go to the back corner of the lot and take the stairs down. Turn left at bottom of stairs and follow the path. Go through a small piazza, and when you come to a four way intersection, take the stairs going up to the left (with a sign that says "Sentiero degli Dei." Those stairs end and path goes right. Voila - you're on the path. Enjoy it. The next time you pass an inhabited house, you'll come to a 3-way intersection. Going straight takes you to Priano. Turn left (past the "sink as a water trough") and go down a short alley to a T intersection. Turn left and then immediately right, walking with the falling down, stone house on your left side. Continue on to when the path becomes paved. As you pass the trailhead on this end, you'll see stairs going down and a new looking, paved path. Take that into Bomerano's piazza. Here, you can get a SITA bus back to Positano. I don't know where it picks up, but you will need to get a ticket at the Tabacchi. Alternatively, our hotel suggested we get a bus from Bomerano to Amalfi, then take the ferry from Amalfi to Positano. It's more scenic and fun, but more expensive. Still, a nice option.

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