Hiking the Amalfi Coast in Cute Shoes

Today I unlocked the blue gate and headed west on Via Roma, past Angela’s shop and Sandulli’s tower. Past Via Miglina – the farthest point I’ve been on foot in this direction – and kept going.

When Nicola took me to the winery I’d cranked my neck back and forth ooooing and ahhhhing as one magnificent scene after another sped by too fast.

So I set out today with no other purpose than to photograph this stretch of the coast for as far as I could walk and still walk back.

The road hugs the cliffs. I never lost sight of the sea…except in the tunnels…

There isn’t much of a margin for error. I hugged the side and flattened myself against the wall if two cars tried to pass next to me.

I’d just cleared one tunnel and could see the next across a ‘sunken’ village. It isn’t really sunken – just another fisherman’s inlet.

I marvel at the engineering of these soaring bridges.

Can you see them – Roman soldiers crossing on horseback, armor flashing in the sun, banners waving, lances piercing the sky?

That’s a strange-looking rock formation…from a distance (above) and up close (below).

So much of the architecture seems free-form, whimsical almost. It has to be to cling to the irregular edges of rock cliffs.

A plunge to turquoise waters far, far below.

I love the stucco and I love the stone! I love the cliffs and I love the sea!

Still not crazy about tunnels…but I’m getting better!

During the 10th-11th centuries, Praiano was the summer residence of the doges of the Duchy of Amalfi. I have to believe that some of these grand structures were once royal homes.

Italy has fjords. Who knew? This one is called Fiordo di Furore (Fjord of Fury) and it doesn’t look anything like the fjords I sailed on in Norway. But according to the Oxford Dictionary definition: a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs, it fits.

A stoplight! I just happened to arrive as all the testosterone you could wish for came roaring to a stop to wait for the green light!

There are two types of towers built on outcroppings of rock along the coast. The round ones came first. They were strictly watchtowers. If danger was approaching by sea a huge fire was lit so the people of the town could assemble, or run, or whatever they needed to do back then.

The square towers, like this one, came later. They housed artillery actually used to shoot at enemy invaders.

Notice the church sitting high on the ridge.

I’d reached the Grotta Dello Smeraldo, the Emerald Grotto.

Across the street from the steps leading down – which I’ll save for another day – was a ceramics showroom. This is a far different quality product than I’ve seen in the little souvenir shops. I drooled for a while. It’s probably a good thing the shop was closed.

Did I mention everything was closed? Sunday morning, of course. Although knowing what I know now I expect maybe they’re all closed Monday through Saturday, too! Many of these places won’t see the light of day until April or May when tourists again begin to flock to the beaches.

I checked the clock and the map. It had taken me 1.5 hours to walk 2.25 miles stopping every other step to take a picture. Hopefully I’d get home in half the time. I was getting hungry.

Plus, my ballet flats do great in town on the steps, but this highway hiking – I should have worn the New Balance shoes I brought along for just this purpose. What was I thinking?

Actually, I know exactly what I was thinking. These are cuter. Oh, Sherry!

As I started back I realized the road sloped very gently downward. I’d been walking uphill the entire way and hadn’t realized it.

The water was on my left for the return and I saw things I’d missed going the opposite direction.

All along the coastal road outcroppings of rock like this one, hang over the highway. An elaborate net system is used to hold them in place. Nicola told me rock slides still happen and when they do, the road may be impassable for days.

Arches. They’re everywhere in Italy, and here’s why. From study.com: The Roman arch was the foundation of Rome’s architectural mastery and massive expanse of building projects across the ancient world. It allowed the Romans to make bigger buildings, longer roads, and better aqueducts. The Roman arch is the ancestor of modern architecture.

Now this…this must have been a royal residence at some time. I want to believe it!

Only one more tunnel after this one. That’s Praiano in the distance.

And on the other side of the tunnel, Paulo Sandulli’s tower. I’m almost home!

I read the news every day so I know in some ways this exquisite experience is a make-believe bubble. Yet I’m grateful, so grateful to be here. To see the beauty and share it. To feel the utter joy of being alive. I don’t want to send more doom and gloom into the ether. There’s an overabundance of that already. I believe we need to do our part to alleviate suffering wherever we can. But still we must celebrate what can be celebrated and not feel guilty about doing so.

As though to put an exclamation point on a perfect day, the leftovers of sunset on the other side of the mountain hung for a few breathless moments in the eastern sky. A benediction.

Path of the Gods – Let’s Talk About Legs

I pity night owls. Really, I do. To miss a masterpiece that lasts moments then is gone seems like a terrible waste. I think that’s why I’m obsessed with photographing the sunrise. I wake up at 5:00, make coffee, then sit, and sip, and wait. The fiery splendor this morning dazzled me.

Today is day twenty of this fabulous Italian adventure and I have a plan. A dot on the map indicates Sentiero degli Dei Praiano – Path of the Gods. I want to go to the dot. I’ve been told from that point it’s another 2000 steps up to the actual trail. Today, the dot. Tomorrow…?

I chart my course. Fortunately, even though I don’t have data here, if I add the route to my phone’s home screen and turn on location it tracks me. It’s essential in this maze of unmarked paths and stairs.

But before we get on our way, lets talk for a minute about legs. I’ve always had muscular calves, embarrassingly muscular. A gym teacher in high school told me I had legs like a Roman gladiator. Not what a pubescent teen wants to hear.

I do a lot of walking so I’ve maintained leg-strength as I’ve aged. But let me be perfectly clear about Praiano. If you have weak knees, weak hips, weak thighs, weak lungs, weak heart, or a weak mind, don’t bother. Strong calves are not enough. Good intentions are not enough. Determination will get you far, but not far enough.

My limits were tested today.

It began innocently. I took the trail I discovered the other night coming home from the bus stop. The slope upward connected to a road that took me to Tutto per Tutti market but cut off half the steps I normally climb to get there.

I passed Tutto per Tutti and took the next switchback up to La Moressa, the restaurant where I had pizza a few nights ago. There was a narrow stairway to the left. I stopped to check my location. That was it.

Up, up, up. Panting and winded, I rounded a corner. San Luca church rose high above me, white against the cloudless sky.

The next time I saw the church it was below me, its backdrop now the brilliant blue sea.

At one point I wondered, imagined, that this MUST BE the 2000 steps to the trail, and when I got to the end I would BE ON the Path of the Gods. The thought motivated me to press on.

At the top I once again checked the map. Still another vertical line to ascend.

In a few more strides I was standing at the base of a flight so long and steep I couldn’t see the top. I almost turned around. But, Sherry, I told myself, this is the last leg. At the end of this you may be on The Path. I charged onward. (Charged may be an overstatement.)

My heart pounded. My thighs burned. My calves were fine.

At the top I collapsed against the rock wall to catch my breath and saw the sign.

I moved up close and read the small print. Another 1 hour 30 minutes of steps and trails to the actual Path of the Gods.

At that point I may have taken one of the names of those gods in vain. There was nothing else there, not a vendor selling bottled water. Not a ‘last stop for coffee’ shop. Not a ‘take your instagram photo here’ posting. Nothing but rock walls and more and more and more stairs.

I photographed the sign, sucked air into my lungs, blew it out long and slow, and started down.

And down…

And down…

Finally, just ahead was the welcome entrance to Tutto per Tutti. Buongiorno said the two men who own the place. They smiled as I walked in. They know me now.

Buiongiorno. I smiled too, picked up a basket, and selected my groceries as though I’d been shopping there all my life.

Emmental Bavarese cheese, carrots, tomatoes, a red onion, bananas, apples, strawberries, canned lentils and chocolate covered orange slices.

That’s $18.20 in US dollars

Of course there were still the 228 steps down to Via Roma. And 112 steps up to my house carrying a heavier pack. After what I’d just accomplished, it felt like nothing.

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