Travel

Hiking Sentiero degli Dei: Italy {Part VII}

May 4, 2016
Path of the Gods plant pot

Sentiero degli Dei, every hiker’s dream!

As we approached the tunnel, we were met with multiple cars doing U-turns. Damn, it was closed. This confirmed what we already knew – our Italian sucked. We’d tried to learn some basic words and phrases and we had our trusty pal, Google Translate – but it still wasn’t enough. We’d sped by multiple road signs, assuming there must be roadworks somewhere up ahead. We didn’t pass any roadworks, but when we reached the tunnel, it was well and truly closed. It was completely blocked off due to a fire the night before. The only bright side was, we weren’t the only foreigners who couldn’t read Italian.

It was finally the day of our trip I’d been looking forward to the most. I’d had the page marked in my Lonely Planet guidebook before we’d even booked our flights, and the idea we might not make it to Sentiero degli Dei, was too much for me to bear. The next day we were heading over to Anacapri, so this was our last chance to make it happen.

Sentiero degli Dei: Where to Start

Sentiero degli Dei, stretches all the way from Positano to Agerola. It’s a glorious hiking trail that runs over mountain tops and meanders through thick, earthy woodland. Probably the most popular walk on the Amalfi Coast, this 12km trail is a hiker’s dream. With spectacular views of the Amalfi coastline as well as lush green valley’s off in the distance, it was definitely my favourite part of our trip.

View of lemon groves and the sea. Amalfi Coast, Italy.

Rather than being a single path as the name suggests, Path of the Gods is made up of multiple pathways that criss-cross over one another. At which point you decide to join the walk might be dependent upon a few different things: your walking ability/fitness level, how much time you have and whereabouts you’re staying. To take in the whole walk you can start either at Nocelle, (Positano) and finish in Bomerano, (Agerola), or vice versa. The day the tunnel was closed we were heading to Bomerano. Not because of the easier downhill route that several websites suggest, but for the practical reason that car parking might be easier than at Nocelle. On a Saturday, probably one of the busiest days of the week, this was our main concern. But due to the fire, we ended up having to drive to Nocelle anyway.

Already behind schedule due to our unexpected detour, we snaked our way around hairpin bends and climbed steadily up the winding mountain roads, doubting if we would actually find somewhere to park once we arrived.

Sentiero degli Dei – Where to Park

Having already Googled everything a few days before, we headed straight for the car park at the end of Frazione Nocella. As luck would have it there was one space left – talk about fate! With approx. 15 spaces, it’s pretty small so you’ll need to get there early to snag one. Also, it’s only the top level that’s available to the public – the lower levels are for permit holders only. We felt kinda smug knowing we’d taken the last space. But the feeling was short lived when we realised, we didn’t have enough change for the parking fee.

With no facilities to pay by card and my dream of hiking the trail quickly beginning to fade, luck showed up one more time when we saw a group of girls waiting for a taxi. I quickly ran over holding a scrunched-up note asking for change and I’m sure they could smell my desperation. A few of them didn’t seem happy about it, but between them they managed to scrape together some coins – hoorah! With a rough guesstimate as to how long the walk would take, we threw all our change into the machine. But we knew it would only just about cover us by the skin of our teeth.

Whitewashed buildings pressed into the hillside. Sentiero degli Dei, Italy

View of the Amalfi Coastline while hiking Sentiero degli Dei

Hiking Sentiero degli Dei

With the warm morning sun shining brightly in the sky, we were finally on our way. We climbed the steps at the back of the car park and walked towards the centre of Nocelle. With a variety of hand painted signs and hand-written pots, the trail was clearly signposted. Following each one, we easily found our way to the start of the track.

Sentiero degli Dei, painted wall sign

Knowing how popular the walk is, I half expected a mass of hikers all neatly filtering into a single file. But as we left behind the whitewashed buildings there wasn’t another soul in sight. I flashed Ian a grin, tightened the straps on my rucksack and quickened my stride towards the earthy trail that lay ahead. Making our way up the rocky steps, we quickly found ourselves surrounded by thick foliage. To the left, to the right, and off in the distance, a blanket of green stretched out as far as the eye could see.

Expectations of Sentiero degli Dei

As much as I’d been looking forward to this part of our trip, secretly I was worried in case it didn’t live up to the hype. A bit like when a film gets rave reviews and then when you eventually see it, you hate it, underwhelmed by something so overrated. But eventually, when the Amalfi coastline came into sight – a deep blue ocean with a hazy sunshine mist – I knew I didn’t have anything to worry about. As I looked out to sea, letting my gaze fall upon the horizon, I studied the view I’d become so accustomed to. No matter how many times I saw it, I looked at it as if seeing it for the very first time.

Rocky uneven steps, with trees on either side

Signpost in the woods. Sentiero degli Dei

Signpost in the woods, showing spring water and toilets. Sentiero degli Dei

View of the Amalfi Coastline, while hiking Sentiero degli Dei

Small church on a hillside, among lemon groves

View of a village looking over the sea. Amalfi coastline, Italy

The further along the track we travelled, the busier it became, but at no point did it become too crowded or overbearing. Italian, French, German, British – nationality after nationality, we had no idea who we would meet next. Some had started in Bomerano, others had started somewhere else. We passed a variety of people from all walks of life, united by beauty and adventure.

Male hiker wearing sunglasses and a rucksack

Female hiker wearing sunglasses and a rucksack, Sentiero degli Dei

Lush Green Valleys

As we hiked along the mountainside, views of lemon groves, farms, and lush green valleys spread out ahead of us, pressed into the side of the landscape like a painting. But with each step that we took, another cloud appeared in the sky. By the time we reached Bomerano, the sky was turning grey and thick ominous clouds hung heavily above us. We’d also arrived at the start of siesta. As we sat on a bench and pulled out our sandwiches, we quietly ate and watched a few older gentlemen finishing up their business. When they each headed off in separate directions, the square fell into silence. Apart from a few cars passing through and a man leading some horses past the church, the town was deserted.

Street view of Bomerano, Italy

Man leading horses through the streets of Bomerano, Italy

We had no idea if anyone would bother to check the ticket on our car – but time was definitely limited. So, after taking a few photographs, we decided to make our way back. Although many people catch a bus back to their starting point, that had never been part of our plan. Retracing our footsteps out of Bomerano, we met a couple taking a break before heading back to Nocelle. Arriving by bus earlier that day, they’d also had to turn around near the tunnel, and the fact that even some Italians couldn’t understand road signs made me feel better about the morning’s detour.

Whitewashed church in Bomerano, Italy

Deserted street in Bomerano, Italy, during afternoon siesta

Deserted street in Bomerano, Italy, during afternoon siesta

The Return Journey

Making our way back across the earthy track, the view was different on our return. This time, we walked towards the mountainous coastline; the view spread out in front of us, in glorious technicolour.

With each step towards Nocelle, the heavy clouds began to shift, like a bed of cotton wool being ripped apart. The hazy sunshine slowly returned and the clouds of grey faded to a less ominous shade of white. Our walk back to Nocelle was busy, and we were met with familiar faces of other walkers we’d passed earlier in the day. If we hadn’t detoured earlier that morning, chances are we would have missed some of the people traffic. This might be something to bear in mind when planning your visit. I can imagine during the summer months it can get pretty busy.

Welcome to Sentiero degli Dei sign, Bomerano, Italy

Sentiero degli Dei, painted wall signs

Sentiero degli Dei, painted wall signs. Words by DH Lawrence

Before I knew it, we were at the top of the rocky steps right near the start of the walk. The earthy path quickly turned into the white stonewashed walkway and we found ourselves walking back past the house of Zia Lucy. We made a quick pit stop at the local toilets – which by the way, were the cleanest public toilets I have ever used – and then found ourselves a little disoriented, unable to figure out where the car park was.

After a quick driving mime to an older Italian gentleman and some vigorous pointing on his behalf, we managed to find our car. Just a few minutes over our parking time, I was impressed with how quick we’d made it back. It would have been nice to explore Bomerano a little more, but I’m sure we’ll be visiting again. Sentiero degli Dei, definitely lives up to the hype!

Narrow dirt track leading through groves, Sentiero degli Dei

Man leading donkeys down a narrow dirt track, Sentiero degli Dei

View of Amalfi Coastline, Sentiero degli Dei

View of Amalfi Coastline, Sentiero degli Dei

radiating_chaos_sentiero_degli_dei_057

Smiling couple hiking Sentiero degli Dei

Tips and Advice:

When to visit, walking time, parking, & private tours

  • Sentiero degli Dei is accessible all throughout the year, but weather can be unpredictable. We visited in late September – just out of season – and the weather was still warm. There was plenty of sun, but also some cloud cover. Although, it looked set to rain at some points, it never did. To beat the crowds and some of the hotter weather, spring or autumn might be a better time to visit.
  • Don’t be the idiot in flip flops. I’d like to think this is pretty obvious, but wear sturdy footwear! The trail can get pretty rocky in parts, and there are a few bits of half climbing half scrambling. We both had on walking trainers, but to be honest, I could have done with walking boots in parts. I have hyper-mobility in my joints, so that extra support on my ankles would have made quite a difference.
  • If you’re planning on using buses for part of your journey, make sure you check the times beforehand. Italian buses can be a little unreliable, so it’s worth checking them out on the day you go.
  • Parking is limited. Make sure you get there early – especially at weekends and during high season. In Nocelle, you can find parking at Frazione Nocella, and in Bomerano there is a car park on Via Principe di Piemonte. It’s also worth doing your own research beforehand just to be sure. Also, check your route in the morning for any unexpected road closures. Our detour added about an hour onto our journey time.
  • I’ve read some horror stories on the internet, that say the trail is dangerous in parts. There are cautionary tales of how narrow it is and how you could slip and fall off a cliff. I assume these are novice walkers who hiked the trail on a whim whilst wearing flip flops (see above). Parts of the track are narrow with no railings, but the paths are used daily by locals and farm owners etc. There was definitely no sense of danger on this walk. We saw a variety of people of all ages – including children – just be sensible like on any hike.
  • If you want to learn more about the walk and the surrounding area, you can hire a private guide or join a walking group. Zia Lucy appears to be the most popular, you even pass her house at the start of the walk – look out for the blue plant pot.
  • Allow approx. 4 hours for the entire walk – obviously depending on how many times you stop, you may need longer.
  • Arrive early, this will give you a head start on any crowds.

If you’d like to catch up with previous posts, you can visit them below:

Gelato, Evening Walks & Pink Sky {Part I}

Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone {Part II}

Walking Valle Delle Ferriere and Drinking Organic Lemonade {Part III}

Visiting Pompeii, Thunderstorms & Big Hair {Part IV}

24 Hours in Anacapri {Part V}

Find Out The Cost Of My Trip To Italy {Part VI}

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