The Amalfi Coast on Foot: Praiano to Positano (with a bit of Capri in between)

As mentioned in the earlier post Mum and I between us do not have any sense of direction, or apparently ability to follow instructions. This has been made painfully apparent to us in the past few days as we muddled our way along the Amalfi coast in a very long winded fashion!! 

Moving from Amalfi to Praiano was a walk that was meant to be a maximum of 13km. While the instructions suggested we take a packed lunch Mum and I thought stuff it, we will walk fast enough to have lunch in Praiano. Our walk started off well enough, we were able to follow the instructions all the way to Lone (it was basically just following the road) but we came slightly unstuck when we were meant to descend into the fjord of Furore.

The point where we were meant to descend turned out to be quite a seriously overgrown and closed path that had no clear way around, over or through. Retracing our steps back through the overgrown path we phoned Peter, the friendly Dutchman who was meant to help us if we got lost or stuck. Peter was unsurprised by us getting stuck (which infuriated me ever so slightly as it seemed like perhaps he already knew this would happen and just failed to send us revised instructions) and gave us new directions that should have linked us up with the path further ahead. 

What we were meant to descend into
Whether the instructions were faulty or Mum and I simply failed to understand them we will never know (although I do suspect it is the latter) but we possibly never did meet up with the right path and if you look at the map you can see we did quite a bit of looping over ourselves and backtracking!

Finally arriving in Praiano, 19km later, we stopped for lunch (where I consumed an entire pizza) and then walked the further 1.5km to our hotel which much to our dismay was up a very slight hill and a flight of stairs. Finally making it into our hotel room at 4pm we failed to do anything with the rest of the day other than going for dinner! Dinner however was a thoroughly enjoyable experience… The tables were on a verandah below lemon trees and the fresh fish was on display, the owner was a typical Italian who addressed every female as bella and was adoring of even the most visually terrifying guests! The whole dining experience was enhanced by the fact there was an Italian wedding going on below us! Our meal was spent spying on the wedding guests and bride. While the dresses at the wedding were not to our taste we were most impressed with the efficiency with which the wedding finished, by 9pm nearly all the guests had left and basically everything was cleaned up.

Heart balloons released at the wedding

The next day Mum and I were meant to be walking in the Green Valley of Praia… These plans came unstuck within the first 2km when we were unable to find the turn off into the valley. Stopping on the roadside for 20 minutes to try and read a map we eventually gave up and, seeing a sign for The Path of the Gods, the walk we were meant to be doing the next day, we decided that walk could just be brought forward a day! The path we chose was endless stairs all the way to the uppermost point of the Path of the Gods – doing some research after the walk I discovered we chose “the shortest and steepest of the paths to the top, this path from Praiano is not for the faint-hearted”

It must also be said that our walk to the top was not just us two, no, we found ourselves a rather gormless companion, with bright eyes, four legs, a shiny coat and a wagging tail. He met us in Praiano and followed/led us all the way to the top with no concern for his owner who was presumably worried about him somewhere down in the village. At the top however he ran ahead with another group while we stopped for water and we never saw him again.

Descending down the Path of the Gods we arrived in Nocelle a very small, hillside village where we were rewarded with fresh squeeze orange and lemon juice. Descending from Nocelle was an enjoyable 1,800 steps (enjoyable only because we didn’t have to walk up them) followed by some road walking to arrive in Positano. Stopping in Positano for lunch and gelato we then caught the bus back to Praiano and spent our afternoon lazing by the beach and swimming before I bullied Mum into walking up a few more flights of stairs for dinner at a rooftop restaurant!

By day 7 of walking, having done the Path of the Gods the day before we gave ourselves a day off walking and instead took the ferry from Positano to Capri and spent a day exploring the island. Being the idiots we are we decided rather than bussing or taxi-ing to Anacapri instead we would walk up the Phoenician Steps to reach the town. Having read online that the steps take about 1 hour and seeing a sign that suggested they would take 2 hours, Mum and I were enormously confused when after 26 minutes the steps abruptly stopped. Asking a couple of local guides where the steps continued and where we could rejoin the steps we were surprised to hear that no, we had in fact reached the top. If you could have seen us at the top and the amount we were sweating you may have suggested that perhaps the steps were not designed to be taken at our chosen pace (and we might have agreed). 

Seeing the Axel Munthe Museum (inside Villa San Michele) not far from the end of the steps we paid 7 euros each to go inside primarily to use the bathroom to make ourselves more presentable and cool off. Our attempts to make ourselves presentable once more resulted in two Italian women walking into the bathroom with me standing in a bikini top and shorts holding my top under the hand dryer and Mum standing with the buttons of her dress completely undone airing herself… A surprisingly not awkward situation despite what it sounds like!!

After our cappuccino in the museum cafe Mum and I finally made proper use of our tickets and walked through the museum which detailed the life of Axel Munthe a doctor/author/musician with a fascination with death and the Greeks and Romans. A very interesting museum with beautiful gardens I am somewhat embarrassed to say my favourite part of the whole museum was found in the gift shop, it was this quote from Axel Munthe….

Catching a single chairlift to the highest point of the island we were ever so slightly disappointed for the clouds to roll in and hide the views from the top but were treated to better views on the descent as we dipped below the clouds again.

My favourite activity that we did in Capri was go to the Grotto Azzurra. While there was a fair bit of queuing involved Mum and I were well entertained by watching the boats bob about and people enter the grotto in the tiny boats.

To explain why this was so funny you must know that the entrance to the Grotto is only about 1 metre high (maximum, could be lower if the ocean has swelled as you enter). These tiny rowboats that fit about 6 passengers max are propelled into the cave by the oarsman who lays down as they enter resulting in every person in the boat lying on top of one and other regardless of whether you were friends prior to this experience.

It is a very noisy, Italian experience with the oarsmen smoking between trips into the grotto, singing and generally fooling around to keep us all (and themselves entertained). The ticket office is a boat floating in the middle of the sea so the tiny rowboats lurch towards the ticket boat with precious euros being handed over in a precarious fashion as the two boats crash together or float apart depending on how bouncy the water it. 

When it was finally our turn we climbed into the boat, Mum lying on top of me and a girl from South Korea at the other end. Our boatman who loved the fact we were kiwis and sang Gangnam Style to the girl from Korea took us into the cave and it was AMAZING!

The oarsmen sing as they row you around the naturally lit caves. I would happily have waited double the time to go into the caves and 100% recommend that anyone going to Capri take the time to go.

Arriving back in Positano in the evening we ate a most delicious dinner at our hotel restaurant…

Ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers fried on a zucchini purée
Baked aubergine and ricotta rolls wrapped in prosciutto
Fried mixed fish
(Gerald as I know you are reading I said to Mum that you would have loved this whole experience – the walking and the eating… I think next time you should come!!)

Our final full day on the Amalfi Coast was once more spent walking and once more ended up with Mum and I being unable to follow the instructions we were given and guiding ourselves through the walk. (We realised at the end of the day we had done the whole walk backwards, how we don’t know, and added on about 5km to the original walk). 

Within the first 5 minutes we had looped back on ourselves about three times

Bussing up to Montepertuso Mum and I immediately confused ourselves with the written directions, looped back on ourselves about three times and then asked a local what way we should walk (abandoning our instructions completely within about 10 minutes). We walked up (stairs) for about 50 minutes and then came to a level area with a stone hut… Re-addressing our original instructions we thought we may have reached the highest point of the day. I however told Mum that we hadn’t done enough uphill and coerced her into a bit more ascension. As we walked up, and up, and up it began to get colder, windier and much clearer… The up and up and up continued until Mum finally decided just short of the top that we should call it there.

Again, doing research that night I realised we had climbed very nearly to the highest mountain on the Amalfi Coast, Monte Sant’Angelo!! We then spent the next hour and a half going down, down, down! Again the cloud returned and we found ourselves walking through what seemed like a horror film set, tall trees, dark clouds… It was the point in the film where everyone is thinking “don’t go in there you idiot, you won’t come out alive”!

I can happily report we did come our alive and in a horrible little village called Santa Maria del Castello… Finding a cappuccino stop with a helpful owner who pointed us in the direction of Positano we continued down and after another hour of descent we finally arrived in Positano.

Useful signs like these guided us back to Positano
As well as well maintained, obvious tracks like this

Perhaps the best thing about returning to Positano that day was the presence of Jamo and Rachael, two friends from NZ who had walked the Path of the Gods and come for a visit. I therefore spent the afternoon sitting on the beach with them and catching up on our respective travels.. With brief moments marvelling at how bizarre it was that we were on the other side of the world and still able to hang out.

The entertainment for our final meal in Positano was a soccer game between Italy and Spain… With absolutely zero interest in the game Mum and I watched everyone watching the game while we ate, particularly one man who looked like he might burst into tears at any moment! Thankfully Italy won and the restaurant erupted with cheering, hugging, high fives and kissing as all the locals celebrated the win.

En route to Switzerland we had an all too brief stop in Milan where we had just enough time to go to the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum (that had scaled models of many of his designs) and the Duomo. 

Today we train to Bad Ragaz where we meet Dad and Alice for a few days. 


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