A walk into Italian country life
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.