Walking the Amalfi Coast, Italy
Lynda Gouveia, a South African now living in Sweden, chose to explore the Amalfi Coast on foot with her husband and three teenagers in the height of summer. She shares four of the day walks they undertook. Perhaps they'll whet your appetite to explore this gorgeous region.
Distance: Each walk was between 10 – 14km’s - over four days
Difficulty: Moderately difficult – loads of stair climbing and steep descents
Type of terrain: Mountainside villages, forests, roads, paved paths and stairs
Starting point: All of these walks start from Amalfi, either by taking the local bus to a nearby village high on the hilltop, or the route starts in Amalfi
Approaching the area of Amalfi on the Italian coast just south of Naples, the mountain pass twists and turns far up the side of the mountain before starting to make its descent. The roads are barely wide enough for two cars and a sheer drop awaits on the other side of the barrier. As we descended into the town of Amalfi, nestled next to Atrani, I really began to wonder how we were possibly going to walk here. You certainly couldn't walk on the main mountain roads - you would take your life in your hands! Needless to say, I had nothing to worry about - this area is geared for walkers!
We booked through Country Walks who provided excellent detailed maps and directions, as well as a contour map which was rather complicated. The local tourist office also has maps, and there are a number of books available online on walking in Amalfi. The routes are generally well signposted and some are colour coded red and white (CAI Club Alpino Italiano).
Having read the maps and instructions we'd received, we opted for four walks with both moderate and easy options. There are loads to choose from though. Travelling with my husband and three teenagers, I wasn't sure what they'd be able to manage. The reviews had warned about stairs and knee problems and my husband's creaky knees were about to get the workout of a lifetime. They were not joking!
Also as a result of our differing ability levels, we opted to stay in Amalfi in a lovely 4-star hotel and use that as our base. This was a really good call as we didn't have the stress of moving bags and when my teenage girls opted for a day on the beach instead of walking, it was not an issue.
We found all the walks were about 3km’s longer than the distance guides gave, but I suppose that depends on your exact starting point and any wrong turns! If you’re planning on walking in Amalfi in summer (we were there for the last week in July), be prepared for heat and carry lots of water. We were lucky the week we were there as the temperatures hovered at around 26C, with a few thunderstorms forecast. The week after we left, the temperatures were all forecast to be in the mid 30’s! My apprehension about the kids not managing was unfounded. They coped really well and enjoyed it as much as we did. All in all, a fabulous family holiday.
Day 1: Amalfi and Vallee dei Mulini with the additional part to Torre dello Ziro and returning via Atrani
The walk on day 1 started with exploring the village of Amalfi and then climbing up through the terraces of lemon groves. I’ve never seen such large lemons! This is a steep start with stairs, but mostly paved.
At the top of the hill when you’re in need to refreshments, there is the little town of Pontone, which has a shop and a toilet. From there we did a detour to the Torre dello Ziro, a tower which dates back to the 13th century, and climbed to the top to enjoy the most magnificent views over Amalfi and Atrani, before retracing our steps to the main path.
The descent was long and steep with many stairs but this brought us into the winding tunnels and passages of Atrani and down to a delightful village square. From there the return to Amalfi has two options – a pedestrian walkway through a tunnel into Amalfi, or another climb through a tunnel and narrow passages to a high paved path between the two villages that again held beautiful sweeping views across the coast. This was a fantastic walk that we all loved. It gave a good overview of the area and had a little of everything.
Day 2: Ravello & Scala
This walk starts in Ravello so you need to catch the local bus from the Piazzo Flavio Gioia in Amalfi. Tickets are available to the tobacconist across the road from the square and when we were there in mid summer, the buses left every 30 minutes.
We were cautioned to be early as the busses get very full and you don’t want to be standing as the bus winds its way up the treacherous roads. Note that the bus stops at Scala first, before going on to Ravello. After visiting the famous town of Ravello, the path leads along the contour of the hill to Scala. There are toilets near the main square in Scala but are very well hidden, so you’ll need to ask.
From there, the path follows the road until Minuta and Pontone, both little villages perched on the top of the hill. Thereafter it is a steep, but easy to follow downhill walk on terraced paths between the lemon groves with hundreds of stairs. The route ends in the village of Amalfi. The kids were less keen on this walk – it wasn’t as varied as the day before and none of it was off road.
Day 3: Valle del Ferreire
This walk starts in Scala, so again you need to take the Ravello/Scala bus and then walk on to Minuta. From there, you climb about 450 stairs onto a mountainside path that follows the contours of the mountain. We overshot the intersecting pathway and continued to follow the stairs way beyond where we should have, but were lucky to meet other walkers who redirected us.
This walk is probably the most challenging and a couple of kilometres longer than the others we did, but is not difficult to follow. The high level path follows the contour of the mountain from one side of the mountain and around the valley, past a waterfall and on to the other side of the mountain.
Probably the best aspects of walking in Amalfi, but this walk in particular, is that you can see at all times where you’ve walked from so you have a real sense of achievement – imagine walking semi-circles along the sides of a mountain from one peninsula to another. At points, this walk can be scary for those fearful of heights though. It is narrow and rocky in places, requiring some climbing, and has no railing. There is however vegetation on the narrowest, steepest part of the route which gives you a false sense of security.
Walking poles were a real help in all the walks, but this one in particular. The valley walk ends in the little hilltop town of Pongerola where there is a toilet at the bar/café. The café also serves the best lemon granite I’ve ever tasted! From there, the descent wound through houses and apartments on a steep paved path with, again, lots of stairs until emerging above the sea in Amalfi. A bus from Pongerola to Amalfi is an option too. A stunning walk!
Day 4: Positano and the Path of the Gods
The well known Path of the Gods or Sentiero degli Dei starts in the neighbouring town of Bomerano (you need to take the Agerola/Bomerano bus). The walk starts from the town square a block or two away from the bus stop.
This was definitely the busiest walk – a walk done not only by serious walkers but people in swimming costumes and sandals. This walk was relatively easy, with the exception of the gruelling descent into Positano.
The path winds its way along the side of the mountain towards Nocelle, Montefaruso and then Positano and on a clear day, you can apparently see all the way to Capri. After passing through the delightful little village of Nocelle, you reach Montefaruso high above Positano, where you can decide whether to walk down or catch a bus. There are toilets at the bus stop.
We split up and two of the children and I walked down approximately 1300 steps to reach Positano, a bustlingly busy tourist destination. Apparently standing in the bus on the way down the hill was less than comfortable, so I think the walk was the better choice. We returned to Amalfi by boat which gives you the perfect opportunity to see where you’ve walked from.
About the Author: Lynda Gouveia
I am South African, but my family and I moved to Stockholm, Sweden 6 months ago and we are really enjoying being close to Europe and all it has to offer. I have three teenagers – identical twin girls and a son who is one year younger, and I’ve been married for 18 years. I am self-employed and work as a business and executive coach and people development consultant. In between, I make time for my passions which are walking, preferably long distance, photography and painting. I grab any opportunity to walk with both hands, and if I can take a few photos along the way, all the better.
If you want to explore more of the world and find other women to walk with, join Glamoraks.