I was going to spend four days walking the 25 miles between Amalfi and Sorrento — a self-guided journey, stopping at various coastal towns and remote hamlets along the way. There was little to worry about: My luggage was being transported ahead by the company that arranges the walks, and I was armed with maps so detailed and walking notes so comprehensive that even someone as directionally challenged as I would struggle to get lost.
Details, Amalfi Coast
It was late morning by the time my friend Karen and I arrived in Amalfi (via bus, train and boat from Naples), and the central plaza was buzzing. People shuffled into the plentiful limoncello shops and gathered on the steep staircase leading to the Duomo di Sant’ Andrea, the 9th-century Romanesque cathedral that stands at the heart of the town.
Keeping a watchful eye over the plaza were an elderly couple, high on their top-floor balcony. Wrapped in snug dressing gowns, the pair surveyed the scene in silence.
Amalfi’s surge in popularity began in Edwardian times, when wealthy families from across Europe deemed it a pleasant place to spend their winters. By the 1950s, it had gained a reputation for glamour and sophistication. Today, it attracts travelers in search of fine food, eye-popping scenery and weather that’s nothing short of sublime.
Rising early the next morning to the chimes of the cathedral, we pulled on our walking boots, grabbed our daypacks — laden with picnic snacks — and set off for Praiano, a westward journey of about seven miles.
The labyrinthine backstreets of Amalfi — so narrow that I could touch the walls on either side of me simultaneously — offered intriguing snapshots of local life. Through open windows came the crackling sounds of Italian opera; curious dogs came rushing to locked gates barking and sniffing wildly. Elsewhere, small chapels appeared with wilted flowers placed besides statues of the Virgin Mary.
Before long, the houses faded away, replaced by panoramas of terraced hillsides set upon slopes that soar almost vertically from the water’s edge. The sea sparkled, flecks of light catching every ripple and wave.
The day passed in a state of blissful rambling: crossing quiet woodland and gushing streams; strolling past eerie hillside cemeteries and roadside stalls selling chilies, lemons and rotund melons.
After lunch on a small rocky clearing, we stumbled upon a small cafe filled with locals enjoying a quick caffeine fix. Most seemed impressed that we were taking our time to explore their spectacular home. “People usually drive along the whole coast in a day or two,” said one in a thick Italian accent, swigging a strong espresso. “But why rush such beauty?”