I arrive on the Amalfi Coast by bus from Salerno. It’s early October, and while high season has passed, the bus is over-packed with travelers; some are forced to stand in the aisle.
Oh, but I’m lucky. I have a seat on the left side where I can view the dizzying drop straight from the bus window down hundreds of feet of sheer cliff to the sparkling sea.
The bus driver, well-experienced with the narrow hairpin bending road, plunges ahead with horn shrilling. Invariably we come to abrupt stops many times during the hour-long drive to the town of Amalfi.
Another large bus, coming the other way, rounds a crag of limestone and suddenly fills my bus’s windscreen. Horns shriek from both sides.
I strain to understand their words that are in the region’s dialect. First-time tourists near me grip their seats, and whisper My God!
It’s my fourth time on this coast, and I’ve never heard of a bus going over the edge. I press my face to the window, relishing the luscious saturated green and blue.
If the window could open I’d hang my head out and not mind the vertiginous drop one bit. In spite of my prior trips, I’m flabbergasted at the beauty.
Exiting the bus in Amalfi, I get on another to Praiano. I tell the driver I need to get off at the Farmacia. The pharmacy is where I will find a woman called Gaia who will have the keys to my apartment.
That night I head to a simple eatery called Che Bontà where the very-close-together outside tables are stacked on steps cut into the hillside. While waiting for my food, I examine a map of the trail that I’ll walk the next day, called Il Sentiero degli Dei (The Pathway of the Gods.)
A Canadian couple is seated at the table next to me.
“Hey, you’ve got a map of the trails!” The man exclaims. He tells me they’ve just heard of the hike and plan to do it the next day. He seems far more enthusiastic about it than his wife.
“You’re going to do it ALONE?” She says, turning to look at me as if I’m daft.
“Yup.” I could tell her that I walked alone on the Via Francigena for 40 days, but I refrain.
The next morning I take a bus to Amalfi and then one that climbs high into the mountains to the town of Agerola. A diminutive local Italian man sits next to me. He tells me his name is Salvatore. Of course it is. On this coast they all seem to be Salvatore, Gennaro or Luigi. (These are not names you will find north of Naples.)
I figure he’s about 75. He says he lost his wife five years ago and he wants a companion. “You won’t have to work if you live with me. We can travel. I love to travel, do you? I’ve got a nice big villa. I’m a bit older than you, but still, think about it.”
“Sure.” I say with a laugh, and he kindly tells me when to exit the bus to reach the trail head.
There are other ways to start this hike: from Praiano, the town I’m staying in, there’s a trail heading up to the pathway of the Gods. But that would be a vertical climb. Far better to start up at the top, (from Agerola) so you are on a horizontal rather than a vertical path.
The trail treats me to panoramas of the long promontory of the Monti Lattari snaking out into the dramatic blue of the Tyrrhenian Sea, with the isle of Capri like the dot of a question mark—the last point of land the eye can see.
These are the best views you can get on a peninsula that overflows with stunning views.
Thyme and heather provide a soothing scent as I trek under the warm sun, and the gnarled stems of the Ped’e palomma, an ancient grape varietal, show me the fortitude of past generations who terraced these steep cliffs.
Far below I can make out the little village of Praiano–its white homes (built from local pumice stone) stacked on the cliffs.
A picnic bench tucked next to the trail about half way along, gives me a place to eat my panino.
A Peregrine falcon floats by at chest level. Perched as I am on the mountain’s edge with the world so far below, I can easily imagine being a falcon, circling in the exhilarating crystalline air, tasting freedom.
In three and a half hours I arrive in a hamlet of stunning views, called Nocelle. Fuchsia bougainvillea gathers in celebration on terraces. On a stone wall is a scene created in the locally-made majolica tiles. There’s a temple, and a topless Goddess. It says Villa degli Dei. Villa of the Gods.
I push on, another thirty minutes to Montepertuso. My calves are done in, and I forgo the stairs down to Positano and take a bus.
In Positano, slurping a slushy lemon granita is the perfect way to settle back into the human world after my hike in the realm of the falcons and the Gods.
Many travelers on the Amalfi coast use the buses in lieu of rental cars or private drivers. Most travelers find the buses easy to negotiate, however in high season they can be extremely crowded, and of course it’s quicker to take a private car so you can always arrange for a taxi.
There are no places to get food along the trail. I recommend packing a lunch, or be sure you’ll get to the end of the trail by noon or 1:00 in order to find eateries open in Nocelle or Montepertuso.
Wear sturdy shoes and sunblock, and bring at least 24 oz of water, and an appetite for dramatic landscapes.
I recommend late Spring or Fall. July and August are extremely crowded and hot, and while you get away from the crowds in the towns by doing this hike; the narrow coastal road is so congested that it takes hours to get anywhere.
I booked my Praiano apartment on Trip Advisor. AirBnB is another good place to find rentals in the Amalfi Coast towns.