While the Amalfi Coast is world renowned as a glistening getaway for the summer’s international jet set, there is something almost quaint about visiting the region in the autumn months. The crowds begin to subside by mid-October without ever really clearing completely. Temperatures drop to a balmy 15 degrees and the air begins to smell of campfires. Occasionally the sun shines so brightly that an unexpected swim in the sea is possible.
Chestnuts and porcinis arrive at local markets and ancient nonnas dry walnuts on terraces and carve pumpkins to grill and preserve. The quiet pageantry of the Amalfi Coast in late fall on the eve of Christmas markets and New Years revelry is perhaps the only time a visitor can peer into the old world ways of this storied coastline. And the best way to view the diorama like beauty of the Coast is from above while hiking one of the many old shepherds’ trails crossing the region.
[Photo credit: Bike/List.]
Below are five trails offering both breathtaking vistas and genteel glimpses into the Amalfi Coast of the past.
1) Valle delle Ferriere
Known as the valley of ironworkers, this trail derives its name from the iron wheeled carriages medieval merchants used to transport products including Ravello silk and Amalfi paper to the bustling port of Amalfi. Today this trail is known for its splendid waterfalls. Never would you imagine that while beachgoers frolic on the Coast, this mountain paradise quietly awaits. The microclimate and unique indigenous flora and fauna lend a sort of rain forest like quality to this trail. Begin the trail at Piazza Generale Avitabile in the San Lazzaro neighborhood of the town of Agerola. The initial part of the trail is steep and rigorous but later flattens to become a more moderate trek. The path finishes in the town of Amalfi and at 6KM requires about 4 hours to complete.
2) Sentiero delle Dei
Likely the most famous trail on the Amalfi Coast, the Pathway to the Gods connects the mountain hamlet of Agerola to the more famous coastal town of Positano. The panoramic views of Capri, Praiano and Positano provide visitors one of the most beautiful vistas in all of Italy. And in fact, this has recently become one of the most hiked trails in the country. Avoid hiking in the summer months. Also, unlike the Valle delle Ferriere there is little shade on this path.. The best time to hike is on a crisp autumn morning, avoiding both crowds and high temperatures. Begin at Piazza Paolo Capasso in the town of Agerola and descend to Nocelle, a mountain neighborhood of Positano. From Nocelle you can reach the center of Positano by mini-bus every 30 minutes or take 1,800 stairs to the main coastal road, arriving at Arienzo Beach. The trail is 7 KM from Agerola’s Bomerano neighborhood to Nocelle and takes about 4 hours to complete. The additional descent down the stairs to Arienzo requires 1 hour. This path is steep and while it offers unfettered views of the Amalfi Coast it is not suitable for children under 12 or individuals suffering from vertigo or fears of heights.
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3) Punta Campanella
As the Gulf of Sorrento converges with the Amalfi Coast the two regions jut into the Mediterranean to form Punta Campanella. From here you can nearly touch Capri. It is also possible to see both the Gulf of Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast towns of Praiano and Positano from this trail. Start in the Piazza of Termini, a neighborhood of Massa Lubrense, high in the hills above Sorrento. This pathway is well maintained and not particularly rigorous. The round trip to Punta Campanella takes about two hours and is relatively vacant in the autumn month. The lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula provides one of the most stunning views of Capri in the area.
4) Monte Tre Calli
If you are seeking a more rigorous alpine trek, then Monte Tre Calli is the hike for you. Plan on starting early in the morning , before sunrise. The trek begins in Agerola’s Piazza Paolo Capasso, just as the Pathway to the Gods does. However instead of veering towards the coast, you take Via Mannini up 300 meters to begin the ascent to Tre Calli Mountain. This is not for the faint of heart. While no special alpine training is required, plan to sweat—A LOT. Once you reach the summit at 1,100 meters above sea level, you will be rewarded with full 360 views of Vesuvius, the Amalfi Coast and the Gulf of Sorrento. Every year on August 15th, a traditional sunrise concert in honor of the Virgin Mary is held here. It is without fail one of the most memorable events on the Amalfi Coast. At roughly 3KMs round trip, this trail takes about 2.5 hours to complete. Just remember the first half is all up hill.
5) Villa Jovis
While not technically the Amalfi Coast, Capri is home to many fine hiking trails. The most famous of which is the ascent to Emperor Tiberius’ Villa Jovis. At the height of his reign Tiberius had a villa for each month on the island of Capri. Villa Jovis, the grandest of these villas, is what remains. From the Piazzetta of Capri, follow directions towards Via Longano and finally Via Tiberio. Fortunately the pathway is prominently marked. It takes at least 45 minutes to arrive at Villa Jovis from Capri’s main piazza and an additional hour to visit. As a result, it is best to dedicate an entire morning to visiting Villa Jovis, taking in the ancient ruins and panoramic views at a leisurely pace. November is ideal as crowds have already begun to subside.
The Alpine Club of Italy (CAI) is a valuable resource for all hikes in the region. Never hike alone and plan your route before departure using the CAI website. If you like, hire a guide through CAI before your departure. Avoid hiring guides that are not registered with CAI as they may not have proper certifications and may not even intimately know the route you have chosen. CAI has excellent guides and are also happy to answer any pre-travel questions. Happy hiking!