Walking the Amalfi Coast

After our thousands of steps around Naples and Pompeii we’ve decided that the best way to experience the Amalfi Coast is a big hike along the cliff tops from our base in the hills along past Praiano to Positano.

Various signs and online forums advise it’s anything from 3 hours to 7 hours to walk it, depending where you read, plus around half an hour to the start of the trail from our accommodation. As we set off, we’re believing it to be a couple of hours hike, so plan to get lunch when we arrive. It’s pretty cold so Alex ducks in to get a coffee on her way…on the plus side, Jo and I come out with delicious and warming hot chocolates; on the down side, Alex has forgotten to specify the type of coffee and leaves with a disappointingly small espresso.

As we approach the start of the trail we are met with a sign advising a much longer hike than we’d initially believed and notice a group of people in full hiking gear with the boots, waterproofs and walking sticks (in contrast to my harem trousers and sandals). We decide to make a pit stop to pick up some sandwiches so we’re at least sustained on our trip. It’s a cute little deli and they cut the ham and cheese in front of us, from their display selection, making pretty gigantic looking rolls.

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Finally ready to set off, we head off along the trail. Forums have said it’s not signposted (this is a lie) so I have a crumpled bit of paper in my hand with some instructions jotted down that I kind of fail to follow. Fortunately, we don’t need to rely too heavily on my directions as it’s pretty obvious where to go, even if I’m calling from the back of the group ‘no, it says to go under the bridge not over it…. oh wait….erm…the next thing is to go over a bridge so maybe we’re at that one already….yeah, er, carry on…’

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The walk is pretty, up and down steps and ridges, walking round the edge of mountains (it’s pretty narrow in parts with sharp drop offs to the side, but we won’t mention those), surrounded by grapevines, shrubs and lovely smells. There’s only a few other people who pass us, but we also share the path with some animals. First, as we’re stood admiring some troglodytic buildings, we hear the clip clop of hooves and to our surprise see a local man riding his horse along the narrow path ahead of us. It’s pretty hard to believe and we wonder how he’s going to manage the steps we’ve just climbed down.

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Further along, we pass a brown mule coming along the path unaccompanied. He seems happy enough, stopping to munch on vegetation and have a drink at the spring. About 20 minutes later we pass his rider walking along quite a way behind him.

Later, passing through some trees, we hear cowbells and look around to see that we’re sharing the woods with some goats, who later join us on the path. For me, the animal encounters along the way are one of the best bits of the walk. Those and the views; gorgeous blue sea to our left at all times with pretty cliffs and rocks tumbling down into the sea beside us.

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At one point we come to a T-junction in the path, Praiano to the left, sitting prettily in the early afternoon shade and Positano some distance to our right, almost out of sight behind the nearer hills. We stop for a brief water break and then continue on to find a lunch spot. It seems it’s everyone’s lunch time and the first few places we spot already have picnickers seated there. It’s worth the wait though, as our chosen spot overlooks the gorgeous Positano to our right, with the sea lapping at its beaches and its pretty coloured houses shining in the golden light.

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It looks so appealing, and once we’ve all (Eliza included) had lunch, we carry on, reaching the town and a well deserved drink made with freshly squeezed local lemons, just before we run for cover from some rain. In fact, that reminds me of one of the exchanges we heard. As we approached the lemon juice stand, another tourist approached the stand and the conversation went as follows (neither person having English as their first language):

Tourist: ‘Hi, do you speak English?’
Lemon juice seller: ‘Yes, a little’ – whilst holding the lemons and the juicer, expecting an order
Tourist: ‘Do you think it’s going to rain?’
Lemon juice seller ‘I don’t know, I don’t think so’
Tourist ‘Well if you look at those clouds up there, see? What do you think? Is it about to rain, because I don’t want to get drinks if it’s about to rain’- pointing and forcing the lady to come out of her stand to have a good look at the sky so she can advise

What does she think the lady is? A secret weather detective?!?

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Anyway, drink had, toilet used and rain waited out under the cover of a church archway, it’s time to descend the rest of the 1500 (I kid you not) steps down to the town…this is a little hard on the calves to say the least and our morale is gratefully enriched by an encounter with a cute little puppy near the bottom. This proves helpful as once we’re down we have to walk along the side of the main Amalfi Coast road, full of the aforementioned Italian drivers, with not a pavement in sight, to reach Positano.

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Is this the most Italian view ever?

We reach it in time to have a quick walk through its narrow streets and a beer and sweet treat in one of the bars. It’s all fancy, the ideal cruise ship stop off, with white walled art galleries, high end fashion boutiques, hotels and restaurants with valet parking and lots of ceramic shops, the local trade.

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We then manage to hit another spell of rain in our quick march to the bus stop, taking shelter first in a doorway until we’re politely removed by hotel staff, then under a valet parking area to keep Zaza dry. After waiting a good 20 minutes at the front of the queue we learn we’re in the wrong place and have to leg it up the hill to the next bus stop where there is already quite the crowd. Fearful we’re not going to make it onto the bus, we make a ‘plan B’ where I look pleadingly with Zaza at the bus driver and other bus users to get a spot and meet the others in Amalfi via taxi (I don’t want to take Zaza in a taxi without a car seat, even though every baby or child in an Italian car seems to be just sat on an adult’s lap or held in their arms). We’re in luck though, Zaza gets cuddles with some older Italian ladies in the queue and sheltered under the stop from the rain and slight cold and there’s space on the bus for all of us.

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I find myself at the right side window, giving me a gorgeous view of the Amalfi Coast as we ride along it. We pass through Praiano, with its pretty church, through tunnels carved out of the rock and alongside beautiful scenery in a fairly traffic-free ride all the way to Amalfi, where we stop off for dinner before heading home. We don’t have long so have a glance at the church from the outside, pretty and distinctive with its black and white chequered brickwork. Our seafood pasta dinner is pretty nice, but Jo’s pasta is thick with butter and Marie’s, well to me it’s inedible, but she makes a valiant effort, getting most of the way through the saltiest anchovy spaghetti I think the world has ever seen.

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We then make it back onto the bus to head home, tired out after a pretty long day. We’re surrounded by the teenagers of our town who are busy plucking a boy’s eyebrows, while he lounges far too close to Jo for Alex’s comfort. She kind of threatens him in English and then wonders why he changes seat- Jo mentions that perhaps he’s learned some English at school and could understand her warning…or maybe it was just pretty clear from her tone of voice…

Unsure where to get off the bus as our accommodation is at the far end of the town on this route, we’re torn between wanting to get off in falling distance from our beds and wanting to get off sooner to be on the safe side, so as to not end up on the bus all the way to Naples! Our solution to this is sending Marie down to speak to the bus driver about our predicament, while wondering how she’s going to manage to explain where we’re staying with no obvious landmark nearby. Meanwhile, at the back of the bus, Jo monitors our route on her phone and every so often calls down the bus to update Marie on how near we’re getting. This all works out very well and we are dropped off immediately beside our home. All we need to do is wander down an alley in complete darkness and…wait…nope, failed, I’m on the floor, having done a slow motion roll with Zaza in my arms, tripping on the uneven tarmac beneath me. Marie manages to whisk Eliza off, who is unharmed of course, while I get up, proclaiming that I’m fine, to discover two grazed knees, a grazed foot and worse of all, a long rip across the knee in my favourite trousers, once we’re back at the house.

Guess I took ‘falling distance’ a little too literally…

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