Italy: The Path of the Gods

Author: McKenzie Hartman

Tags : Editorial Review Complete, Europe, Finalist, Italy, Vacations

The narrow, serpentine road hugs the hillside, rocks and vegetation to the left, a sheer drop to the Mediterranean to the right. We’re taking the Sita bus from Positano to Amalfi this morning, the third day since my family flew into Naples. The driver complains about the hulking tour busses that aren’t made for this sort of road; when we manage to squeeze past one, there’s barely a centimeter between the opposing mirrors.

It is midmorning when we reach the busting, touristy town of Amalfi. We had explored its shops and sampled its gelato our first day, but today we dash across the parking lot to catch the bus headed up the mountain towards Agerola. Our stop is Bomerano. After pastries and restrooms, we walk across the square and through narrow stone streets, following the signs to Sentiero degli Dei: The Path of the Gods. The trail is known for its spectacular views, and we want to see if it lives up to its name. We hike in the recommended direction, westward towards Nocelle, not because the trail slopes slightly downward, but because the views of the rugged coastline and the Isle of Capri are especially beautiful.

The old road that is the path’s beginning quickly gives way to a well-worn trail through terraced fields, past stone houses and occasional sheep and goats. As we leave the fields behind us, the trail becomes more uneven and the views increasingly magnificent. A large outcropping convinces us stop for lunch. We sit atop the boulders, enjoying a deliciously simple meal of bread, cheese, and apples from Alimentari Paradiso, a tiny, two-aisle grocery store near Il Gabbiano, our hotel in Positano. The arc of the coast, the blue sky above, the turquoise sea below dotted with countless sailboats: The scene is breathtaking. With each bend the landscape unfolds to reveal new perspectives. You walk the entire way looking at sunlight sparkling on the horizon, glistening waves crashing ashore hundreds of meters below, and picturesque towns tumbling down the hillside. Path of the Gods, indeed.

It is possible to take a bus down to Positano from Nocelle, the official end of Sentiero degli Dei, but we hike on. In Montepertuso, we are again in search of a restroom. My mom asks in Ristorante Scirocco, and we are welcomed inside, though it is not yet open. While we wait, my dad and I talk with the owner. He offers us refreshment, disappears for a moment, and quickly reemerges with four large glasses of fresh-squeezed lemon and orange juice, with water and plenty of ice. I highly recommend this local specialty to anyone visiting the Amalfi Coast; it is perfect after a day of sun-drenched hiking. When we prepare to leave, he won’t accept payment. “I asked if I could give you anything,” he says, “so I can’t take money for them.” Of course, he wants us to return for dinner. They would even send a car to pick us up.

Past Montepertuso, we take a trail through the woods. Daylight is fading and the trail doesn’t exactly match the description, so we question whether we’re going the right way. Eventually we reach the steps – all 1,500 of them – that take us down to Positano. We arrive at the hotel after sunset, much too tired to consider going back to the restaurant. As my parents return with take-out pizza, my sister and I are surprised by a few loud booms and rush to the window. We dine on the balcony watching fireworks over the Mediterranean, as if the day were not memorable enough already.