A modern-day trek on an ancient trail…
The Amalfi Coast is rugged and stunningly beautiful. High above the wave-washed shores, a narrow path traverses the mountainside affording the intrepid traveler majestic views of an endless sea and a time-worn coastline. On a trip to this land in October 2018, I took the opportunity to walk this trail and wanted to share my impressions and thoughts.
The bus schedule from Positano to the start of the trail at Bomerano would not accommodate my desire for a start before sunrise so I procured the services of a local to take me on the 45-minute drive. The cost was about $60 but worth it in my case as it allowed me to travel on my schedule.
The trail begins off a small square and at first, I wasn’t certain I was in the right place. The trail essentially is a cobblestone walk between houses.
As I progressed down the trail civilization thinned out and soon, I came to a sign that indicated I was indeed on the Sentiero degli Dei.
The sun was just beginning to peek above the horizon as the trail opened onto the sea far below. It’s a view that required a moment’s pause to appreciate the peace and beauty of the morning. In the far distance, over 30 miles away, San Marco point was visible. In the trees behind me, a solitary bird greeted the morning with his call.
Continuing along the trail I enjoyed the timeless feel to the small houses and farms that the trail passes by on the steep slope. The views alternated between shaded draws that must occasionally have flowing streams and cliffsides of stone with just a few feet between me and the beginning of a very rapid descent to the water a half-mile below. Honestly, though, I don’t think I ever felt concerned about my safety on the trail and if a hiker isn’t careless, even those with a bit of acrophobia should be just fine.
The trail is obvious but in a couple of places where a rock scramble is required just keep an eye out for the markings of orange and white and you will stay on course. There are other things to see along the trail besides nature’s beauty and jaw-dropping vistas. Occasionally I found tiles, religious icons, small niches with offerings and even a fence behind which stood a monument to a man who evidently lived on and walked the trail for over 70 years.
Also, on the trail were signs of how old the pathway was. Humans have worked these slopes for over a thousand years and scattered along the trail were old buildings either abandoned or converted to shelter for animals. Who knows the stories those inhabitants could have shared? I know one thing; their daily views were ones most folks dream of seeing just once.
I finally decided to take a seat and have a bit of breakfast consisting of a chocolate croissant and a bottle of tea. To this point, I hadn’t seen a single other person on the trail. The spot I chose was at a crossroads with a small waterspout flowing a weak stream into a cistern below. I sat on the steps and enjoyed my croissant and listened to the wind in the trees behind me.
A bit further down the path, I came to a home situated at a divergence in the trail (go to the left) and a bevy of kittens met me and was adamant my attention was needed. I played with them for a few moments and continued on my way accompanied by what I presume to be the mother of the litter. She was continually winding between my feet and leaping on rocks to get closer to my hands. She must have followed me for nearly a half-mile down the trail before returning to her babies.
Cats weren’t the only things along the trail. Shortly after my new found friend left me, I turned away from the sea and toward a ravine where I was met on the path by a very determined-looking goat. I wasn’t sure if this was his or her stretch of the path and what the toll might be. After only a moment of inspection, however, the goat disappeared almost effortlessly up the mountainside. Over the next mile or two of the trail, there were either goats or signs of goats. I reached one particularly beautiful spot where the trail widened out a bit and there were a couple of picnic tables set up. Up the hillside a bit a small pasture held a herd of goats with collars and bells. The view was amazing, and the quiet peace brought by the breeze, the goats grazing and the slow movement of boats across the water prompted me to set my camera on one of the tables and record a moment of video.
I began meeting a few people on the trail. Not many: a farmer headed into town, a hunter out with his dog, a young couple from Nebraska. The locals were very polite and their casual “Buongiorno” made me feel as though I was a regular. All were headed the opposite direction on the trail. Like me, the couple from Nebraska spent a lot of time simply admiring the views and we all agreed it was one of those unforgettable days. We shared Instagram tags and continued on our respective journeys. A week later in a random sandwich shop in Rome, I hear “PixelDave?” called out behind me. Amazingly enough, the young man from Nebraska was in the same shop on a late evening food run…what are the odds?!?!?
From previous research, I measured my progress along the trail based on certain environments such as the goats, particular views and where the trail turned inward toward the mountains and became shaded by the tree canopy. One spot is known for the hundreds of rock cairns built on a flat plateau in a draw with a creek and waterfalls. There was very little water flowing when I was there, but the cairns were E V E R Y W H E R E. It was difficult to explore without knocking some of them over. Most were small, but it was obvious others had taken significant time to construct.
From the cairns, it was only about half a kilometer to the end of the trail but that last bit was worth every step even though it was uphill most of the way and some of the more difficult rocky areas. It also had some of the best views of the coast, particularly if you want to catch a glimpse of brilliant Positano.
With an equal measure of sadness and joy, I reached the end of the trail in the town of Nocelle. I had built up an appetite as the croissant had long since been burned off. I still had a bit of water left but something a bit more robust was calling my name. As I strolled into Nocelle I came to a place I’d been looking forward to, Il Chiosco del Santiero degi Dei (The Café of The Path of The Gods).
At the end of a long hike (which wasn’t really over yet), I was craving a beer and some bruschetta, and they delivered…oh, and with an incredible view!!
As I said, the cafe really isn’t the end of the line. You CAN catch a bus from here but it’s only about one thousand seven hundred steps down to the road where you can walk the remaining 2 km to Positano while dodging traffic. I took the steps and, on the way down, passed an old man – I believe he said he was 75 – hiking up with 2 canes. He said he had done this climb every day since he was a child and he would do it until his last day…inspirational.
As I neared the bottom my legs/knees reminded me I hadn’t trained for something like this, so I paused at the occasional house and petted the inevitable cat in residence or to take images of the still impressive views along the coast.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the Path of The Gods and if you are ever on the Amalfi Coast this should be right at the top of your list of things to do. I’m sure everyone will have their own experiences and I’d wager in each case it will be one of the most memorable mornings/afternoons you’ve ever spent. I highly recommend an early start to have the trail to yourself for as long as possible. Although I enjoyed the entire length of the trail, those first few kilometers with the trail all to myself were the most rewarding. Thanks for reading and see below for more images taken along the trail!