Our Jon On The Amalfi Coast
01 February 2012
John Millen our office based leader and route note editor. This is what he had to say.
Two things really strike you as you stride out on a walk along the Amalfi Coast, firstly the exquisite beauty of the landscape: an amazing confused juxtaposition of cliffs, citrus and vine terraces and pastel ivory coloured settlements tumbling into the endless sea. The American writer, Gore Vidal claimed that from Ravello`s `Terrace dell`Infinito` above Atrani, one could enjoy the most beautiful views in the World. The second thing is the sheer number of finely chiselled and carefully fitted limestone stairways, which thread the towns together with their hinterland mountain hamlets, monastic complexes and pastures. Exasperating for some maybe, but these steps don`t hang around, they soon take you up to those beautiful viewpoints overlooking the Sorrento Peninsula as far as the island of Capri to the west and to the big peaks of the Cilento National Park to the east.
There is an amazing undulating cliff side trail that skirts the coast appropriately named the `Sentiero degli Dei` or `The Path of the Gods,` you get there, of course, by climbing lots of steps, but once there the trail contours around the mountain sides beautifully dipping into little forested valleys, past vine terraces; around cliff heads the colour and texture of gingerbread biscuit; and through villages such as Nocelle with its attractive `Trattoria` restaurant.
I am here to meet up with our local representatives and am treated to an evening meal at one of our young lady`s houses. She had just been up to her parents and had freshly cut stinging nettles to prepare for the salad. It takes a bit of boiling but the result is like very tasty Spinach. We also try the local wine, a Ravello, which hits the mark being youthful and fruity. There are many good restaurants along the route: the best ones seem to be the small family establishments such as `Risto` in `Piazza Di Dogi,` Amalfi which specializes in a home made flattened pasta called `Scialatielli`. It looks like Tape worm, but don`t let that put you off! One thing about eating out on the route, unless you are going to eat pizza, most of the cuisine and especially the wines, come at a price: the sheer popularity and the `glitterati` from Rome or Napoli, guarantee that the Euros keep jangling in the pockets.
I am impressed by the walks however. Away from the towns you are unlikely to see many people: Maybe it is early in the year, but the warm, oblique sunlight is beautiful, illuminating the coast and the high limestone summits beyond. Away from the coast there are high routes tracing behind the towns into the `Valle delle Ferriere` an attractive nature reserve, passing by little waterfalls. Then there is a walk along a valley of paper mill ruins; `Vallee de Mulini` and Amalfi still has a working example of this industry.
You will see a lot of Arabesque influence in the architecture of the area, just visit St. Andrews Cathedral to discover the "Paradise Cloisters," an Arab like construction with interlaced arches and delicate columns containing a palm garden. To take a break from the walking; both Amalfi and Positano have reasonably clean dark sand beaches for a swim, and Praiano also has access to the sea. You could of course spend your time strolling along the alleys, under passages, through the intestines of these little cities. Atrani is connected to Amalfi by an alley walk, which takes you via the ancient cemetery to perhaps the most outstanding viewpoint over the town and its polychromatic ceramic tiled church roof.
On the way back I made use of an extra day to visit Napoli a huge sprawling metropolis, the third largest in Italy. It can appear graffiti ridden, run down, traffic congested, litter strewn and crime affected. But don`t let this deter you! Naples is rather like an onion, peel off the grimy surface and there are some amazing layers underneath, not least is its famous archaeological museum, which contains many of the more precious finds from Pompei and Ercolanium. On that note an extra day presents an opportunity to take the little `Circumvesuviana` railway and visit these tremendous sites.
The self-guided Amalfi coast trip can be booked to start on any day until the end of November.
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