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The Amalfi Coast, Salerno and Sorrento

by Bonnie
The Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast, on the western coast of Italy, is south of both Rome and Naples. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Amalfi Coast is a popular tourist destination for its picturesque mountains and beaches. This stretch of coastline is lined with small towns and fishing villages, bounded on either side by the towns of Sorrento and Salerno.

Grant at Dinner in Salerno
Dinner in Salerno was right on the water.

Amalfi and Positano are among the best-known towns along the Amalfi Coast, but after comparing costs, we ended up staying in Salerno. A port town, Salerno has some tourism, but it is not nearly as popular as the other cities of the Amalfi Coast.

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Salerno

We stayed at a great Bed and Breakfast, the Salerno in Alto Mare B&B. Our hosts Luca and Veronika were incredibly helpful, the room was great and the view was amazing. They also set us up for a wonderful seafood meal at Mare Nostrum, one of the best meals we had in Italy.

Panorama from Our Room in Salerno
The view from our room in Salerno.

We loved walking around the town. After spending four days in Rome, we really enjoyed being able to leisurely walk without being inundated by crowds.

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Touring the Amalfi Coast

We braved the Amalfi Coast! I say “braved” because riding a bus along this coast is literally putting your life in the hands of someone else. The main road is VERY curvy and narrow with a BIG steep cliff on one side. Think Hana Highway (Maui) and Going to the Sun Road (Glacier National Park)…but longer and scarier!

Sailing along the Amalfi Coast
Sailing along the Amalfi Coast

Salerno (where we stayed) is on the east end of the Amalfi Coast. We started our tour by taking the ferry to Positano, which is right in the middle.

Positano

Positano is absolutely gorgeous. You can’t help but think you have stepped into a movie when walking the streets of the town. Indeed, one of Grant’s favorite movies, A Good Woman, is set in Positano.

The Duomo in Positano
Hiking up the stairs in Positano provides great views of the town and coast.

Positano is one of those hillside towns that has stairs instead of streets in places. We also discovered that it is not the easiest place to navigate.

I’m not sure how many horizontal or vertical miles we went trying to find the bus to continue west to Sorrento, but we do know that we’ll never do that again! There is an easier way to get to where we needed to be, we just didn’t figure it out until it was too late.

Positano
Positano clings to the coast providing some dramatic views of the Mediterranean.

Pro tip: When touring the Amalfi Coast, arrive by bus, leave by boat. The road connecting the towns is high up on the hill. You’ll either walk up from the beach or down from the road.  For us, the walk up to the bus stop damn near killed us.

Sorrento

We survived the westbound trip to Sorrento without too much trouble since we were on the “inside” side of the road. Sorrento was pretty and had amazing views of Mt. Vesuvius (the volcano that took out Pompeii back in the day)!

Mt. Vesuvius from Sorrento
Mt. Vesuvius from Sorrento

While all of these coastal towns seem like they would be awesome beach towns, they really do not have great beaches. That said, beaches in Europe are generally not up to the same standards of US beaches, as they tend to be rocky. You will still find tons of folks soaking up the sun, though!

Sunbathing on the "beach" in Sorrento.
Sunbathing on the “beach” in Sorrento.

The return trip east was a bit more harrowing being on the “outside” (cliff side) side of the road! I think we both agree that it’s quite an experience, but one we’re thankful we don’t have to experience every day.

The hillside is indeed beautiful and the fact that these towns were even built is amazing. I think I read somewhere that a while back (the early 1900s, maybe) there was an earthquake that took out a good bit of one of the towns. Between that and the proximity to Vesuvius, living here really is a bit of a risk…then you add on the idea of driving this road consistently. I think I’ve decided that it’s a great place to visit but I don’t think I’m ready to live here!

Amalfi

Our second day took us to the namesake town of Amalfi. We did not spend a lot of time in town.  Instead, we did hike through the mountains! What we did see of the town, as we found our way to the trailhead, was interesting.

The beach in Amalfi
The beach in Amalfi

Getting to the Path of the Gods

Our hike was along the “Sentiero degli Dei” or “Path of the Gods.” It was quite extraordinary! The guidebooks have some conflicting information, but somehow we managed to find the trail and make our way across & down without too much trouble.

Bonnie on the Path of the Gods
Bonnie on the Path of the Gods.

Pro Tip on getting to the Path of the Gods: Do not pay attention to the Lonely Planet Hike Book, which will tell you to hike from Positano… Unless you want to hike up 1,700 steps for the start of your hike.

The sign for the Path of the Gods
The sign for the Path of the Gods

Here’s how to do the hike: Go to Amalfi. Take the bus to Agerola. Tell the bus driver you want to get off in Bomerano. No, it is not on your map… it is a neighborhood in Agerola.

When you get off the bus, you will head west for about a block where you will find Piazza Paolo Capassa with a church. There you will find a map that will guide you to the trailhead, which is quite close by. Follow the red and white trail markers (called blazes) and you will start down the trail.

One of the trail blazes, or markers, for the Path of the Gods
One of the trail blazes, or markers, for the Path of the Gods

Hiking the Path of the Gods

We had some low clouds which were both good and bad. It provided a good amount of cover so we didn’t get cooked by the sun. In fact, the majority of the hike was fairly cool, or at least not ridiculously hot. The bad part was that we couldn’t see the very tops of the mountains or Mt. Vesuvius in the distance, which was supposed to be one of the highlights of the direction that we hiked.

Shepard's home along the Path of the Gods
Spotted this shepherd’s home built into the cliff along the Path of the Gods.

The guidebooks also warned of some precarious spots in terms of heights and cliffs, but nothing too crazy turned up, a relief for both of us.

One of the highlights was walking through several herds of sheep and goats. They were obviously used to hikers and moved out of the way as we approached.

Goats on the Path of the Gods
Goats on the Path of the Gods

It was fun to see not just the goats but also the dogs “watch” over them. There was a bit of a “don’t step in the poo” element involved, but you kind of get used to that if you are used to hiking out in the middle of nowhere like we are!

Along the Path of the Gods
Along the Path of the Gods

All the Stairs

The hike itself was great! The only negative was the end. We took the “path” rather than the road/bus all the way to Positano, where we were getting on the ferry. The path involved about 30-45 minutes of walking downstairs. This is where we both quickly realized just how old we are, or more specifically, just how old our knees are!

The Steps Down to Positano
Some of the 1,700 steps down to Positano. Seriously, just stop in Nocelle and take the bus.

The hike was all we did that day. After enduring another crazy morning on the bus across the coastline, we decided to take the ferry back, which ended up being well worth the extra money.

After a decent dinner, as we were slowly making our way back to the B&B, I told Grant that we should have counted the stairs.

Vineyard on the Path of the Gods
The Italians will build a vineyard anywhere they can find a spot!

“I know how many stairs there are,” (from what he read online), he said. “I told you there were 1,700!” He never did quite fess up as to when he supposedly told me how many stairs there were, but I think I would remember something as high as 1,700!

Needless to say, we were quite sore for several days. The hike was amazing, though, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I just wouldn’t take the stairs at the end.

Pro tip: When you get to Nocelle, STOP!

Nocelle
The small town of Nocelle is perched well above the coast but has amazing views.

The rest of the trail is the aforementioned 1,700 steps to Positano that dumps you out about a half a mile outside the city. Instead, get a beer then catch the bus into Positano.

The Amalfi Coast really is an amazing part of the world. Beautiful and unique, it is worth a day or two for anyone visiting Italy. Regardless of where you stay, you won’t be disappointed by your visit.

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Touring the Amalfi Coast, including Salerno, Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi, plus detailed directions for hiking the Path of the Gods.
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