A walk into Ital­ian coun­try life

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY -

DE­SPITE what the name sug­gests, slack­pack­ing on the Amalfi coast is not for the idle.

Your lug­gage is trans­ported be­tween ho­tels daily but you need to be fit enough to walk about 10km daily, much of it over steep moun­tain­ous ter­rain.

In re­turn for your hard work, you are re­warded with in­cred­i­ble scenery, a unique way to im­merse your­self in lo­cal cul­ture and rea­son to in­dulge in de­li­cious re­gional food and wine at the end of a day’s walk.

We chose to travel in Septem­ber, once most of the Euro­pean hol­i­day­mak­ers had dis­persed and the bak­ing tem­per­a­tures of sum­mer had dropped enough to make walk­ing en­joy­able. From the day we started our walk from the breath­tak­ing hill­top town of Ravello – the first night spent in con­verted 13th-cen­tury con­vent with stun­ning views out over the Mediter­ranean Sea – we knew we were in for some­thing spe­cial.

Our walk was self-guided, but on the first night we met for drinks with our ATG route plan­ner, Maria. She rec­om­mended lo­cal sites of in­ter­est, pro­vided a list of lo­cally owned shops and restau­rants and was avail­able in case of emer­gen­cies. At Maria’s rec­om­men­da­tion we headed out to eat at the fam­ily run Cumpà Cosimo. The pizza and pasta on of­fer were per­fect to carbo-load for the walk ahead. The meal, with a very drink­able carafe of re­gional wine, came to €35 a per­son (about R410).

The first day’s route took us down the Dragone river val­ley, through fra­grant lemon groves and a labyrinth of white­washed al­leys to the pi­azza of the fish­ing vil­lage of Atrani. From here we headed along steep coastal paths to ex­plore the vil­lages of Pon­tone and Scala, be­fore walk­ing back up the hill to the ho­tel in Ravello. Our lunch of lo­cal pro­duce, eaten high up in on the cliffs among the ru­ins of the me­dieval look­out tower Torre dello Zirro, was a high­light of the trip.

Day two (14km) was our long­est walk, al­though on flat­ter ter­rain than many of the oth­ers. The kilo­me­tres slid by with ease as the scenery pass­ing through the Na­tional Park of the Valle de Fer­riere was spec­tac­u­lar. The park is an area of wood­land sur­rounded by rugged moun­tains with a wa­ter­fall at the head of the val­ley that is per­fect for a cool­ing mid­day dip be­fore head­ing onto the bustling town of Amalfi.

Leg­end has it that the town of Amalfi was founded by Ro­man cast­aways in the 4th cen­tury. True or not, the town is pic­turesque, if some­what over­run by cruise ship tourists dur­ing the day. In the cool of evening, the cruis­ers were safely back on their ships, and we headed to the cen­tral square. Sur­rounded by bars and restau­rants, this i s t he per f ect place t o r el ax and ab­sorb t he I t al i an am­biance on a sul­try Mediter­ranean evening.

Ser­a­fina Agri­t­ur­isma was a great place for a leisurely lunch to break the 8km of walk­ing on day four. An agri­t­ur­isma is a work­ing farm that ac­com­mo­dates small num­bers of tourists – a great way to get into ru­ral Ital­ian life. This one has a small restau­rant in a vine-cov­ered court­yard, serv­ing dishes made with pro­duce from the farm. We had a huge and tasty home­made lunch for €15 (about R175). They also make de­li­cious (if po­tent!) limon­cello, a liquor of re­gional spe­cialty pro­duced from lemon rinds, wa­ter and su­gar.

Our last day of walk­ing came much too soon. The start of the route fol­lowed an an­cient pil­grims’ path, traversi ng the sta­tions of the cross to the ti ny, si mple and beau­ti­fully re­stored monastery of San Domenico. We con­tin­ued in warm sun­shine along a high ridge path – the Path of the Gods – to the end of the walk at Posi­tano. De­scend­ing into the town on stone steps through the olive groves, the seas glit­tered invit­ingly be­neath us, and be­fore long we were stretch­ing our tired limbs in the warm wa­ter.

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