Cinque Terre’s Via dell’Amore. Photo credit: Amanda Ruggeri/Walks of Italy.
In this Green Traveler, Stephen Oddo writes about walking in Italy. He is co-founder of Walks of Italy, a responsible travel company that offers walking tours, day trips and authentic experiences all across Italy. Previously, Walks of Italy has written A Florence Green Guide; A Rome Green Guide and A Venice Green Guide.
Walking has for centuries been a major method of trans-Italian transportation.
The ancient Roman troops marched to battle across their vast network of roads; pilgrimages in the Middle Ages crisscrossed borders to reach holy sites. Nowadays, it’s far less necessary to make long walking treks, but adding a bit of walking into your Italy holiday can bring you closer to the country’s hidden gems and rural hamlets.
The popularity of Cinque Terre and its association with great walks such as the Via dell’Amore certainly makes it noteworthy. These quaint fishing villages enveloped by steep vineyard-covered cliffs boast breathtaking views and tourist-friendly locals. However, following the tragic flooding in October 2011 there are still frequent closures to many of their walking paths. Additionally, mass tourism to the area soared over the last 10 years, often turning the secluded, rugged feel to the paths into a crowded march of map-wielding tourists.
When traveling in the busier months, there are alternative hiking paths that boast equal beauty and, in my opinion, an even more authentic “off-the-beaten path” feel. One such path is the Sentiero degli Dei or Path of the Gods, high in the hills overlooking the Amalfi Coast.
People frequently confuse the Amalfi Coast’s location with its popular tourist lodging town Sorrento. In fact, Sorrento is found on the Sorrento Peninsula, whereas the Amalfi Coast forms part of the Gulf of Salerno. One of the best known towns on the Amalfi Coast is Positano, and it’s from here the ancient Sentiero degli Dei departs. It offers a similar experience to the Cinque Terre, and perhaps a little more: spectacular views across vineyards, vestiges of ancient ruins, and of course the sea as you’re drawn skyward from the coast. The path concludes at Agerola — an 8 km path with a 600-meter ascent in all — and takes about 5-7 hours depending on your pace. It is not for the faint of heart as much of it is uphill along steep cliffs with sheer drops, so if you suffer from vertigo, this walk is not for you. You can also take the walk in reverse and do most of your walking downhill.
The Sentiero degli Dei is not the only trail in the region. A bit of research into walking trails of the Gulf of Salerno yields many more options of differing lengths and difficulty levels. As for lodging in the area, there are a few agriturisimi — Italian farmhouses known for their hospitality, authentic feel, and amazing cuisine cooked up from ingredients grown right on the farm. And since you’re already in an area with so much to see, you can take walks of the more famous sights like ancient Pompeii, or along the crater of Mt. Vesuvius — both services offered by my company Walks of Italy. One thing is certain: adding walks in your Italy travels will only serve to enrich your experience!