Why is the Amalfi Coast famous? I’m sure it’s a very fine looking coast, but it is by no means as remarkable as Liguria and its charming Cinque Terre, and in terms of pure seaside delights it cannot bear comparison with Puglia.
It seems to have been the “original” Italian coast since the start of the traditional Grand Tour of Italy, which was initiated by the (re)discovery of Paestum (more about that later), and hundreds of thousands of people still flock to it.
It’s a fairly reasonable drive from Naples, with some twisting and winding in the later half but nothing too dramatic. Agerola is perched some 600 me above sea level at about equal distance between the coastal towns of Positano and Amalfi. Its main benefit is that it is the starting point for a number of famous trails for hiking the coast, most notable among them the Sentiero degli Dei or Path of the Gods. And so on a sunny but only moderately warm Friday, we too set out along this trail of about 10 km leading down to Positano.
Except that it was hardly down. Up until the last kilometre or two, the trail winds up and down the sides of the hills, in and out around gorges and ravines, with countless steps and rocks… all this compensated by stunning vistas of the sea below and the peninsula stretching into the distance.
No question about it, this is a demanding hike that requires proper shoes and some level of fitness. The last part is on the road, which is somewhat dull but easier on the legs than climbing up and down rocks. One of the nicest places on the hike was a stop at the Kiosk of the Path of the Gods, perched on a cliff overlooking the water, where a lovely old gentleman made us lemonade and the best bruschetta of the trip.
By the time we finally reached the beach in Positano, my knees were starting to complain and I was quite spent.
We recuperated with a light lunch, a bottle of prosecco and two drinks while waiting for the boat that would take us to Amalfi. The threat of rainclouds that had been present since noon finally materialised in the form of light rain as we were boarding the ship, but quickly dispersed and the sun came out again. The boat ride was fairly brief and the sea was calm, so I managed to avoid any signs of seasickness.
Amalfi was packed with people, all wandering and sitting along the one main road through the town like a herd of sheep. Yet it took merely two steps to enter a side street, passages and hidden lanes that transported us to the real soul of the town, away from the fridge magnets and buckets of limoncello.
We were supposed to take a hotel shuttle at 7 pm, but there was nothing to do in the town (excluding pointless consumption), so we decided to take a local bus instead.
This was a bad, bad, bad idea. On top of all the physical exertion, sunshine, food, drinks and boat, this insane rollercoaster ride in a packed bus (I was standing) up the side of the cliff, through dozens of hairpin turns, where I was looking directly into the precipice the entire time, often coming to a screeching halt to avoid oncoming traffic… my body just said no. After a terrible 40 minutes in which I probably lost 80% of any colour I acquired in the previous 3 weeks, I finally descended from the bus of horrors and sank straight into bed.
The classic symptoms of mild sunstroke did not take long to appear, and I enjoyed a night and day of thorough “detoxication.” So much for the Amalfi Coast. Ingested, rejected, and I don’t expect to visit again.