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Monday, 26 August 2019

TREKKIDEA ... Amalfi - Sorrento (and maybe Capri) April 2020

In one of his latest Blogs, Giovanni Visetti outlines his plans for a 7 day trek to be held in April 2020.
The probable start date would be either Friday 17th or Saturday 18th and each day's hike would cover approximately 20km. 
As highlighted in the map below (a rough sketch, just to give everyone an idea), the trek commences with three circuits (or almost) from Agerola, the fourth day is the crossing from the Amalfi Coast to the Sorrento Peninsula, and over the last 3 days there will definitely be hikes to Punta Campanella, San Costanzo and Jeranto, as well as a circuit from Sant 'Agata including the  Sirenuse Trail. If the weather permits, the last day would be  on the island of Capri. The order of the excursions in the above two  areas will be decided virtually  last minute, based on the weather conditions; the only "obligatory" excursion is the Agerola (Bomerano) - Colli San Pietro, on the fourth day.

Here is a summary of the itineraries, although these may change slightly:
Day 1-3: 3 loops from Agerola, dates to choose based on weather conditions
A: Agerola - Amalfi or Pogerola: ... Acquolella, Fica Noce, Pontone, RNO, Ferriera - Pogerola via Amalfi or Tavernate (18-20km, possible dinner + private transfer upon return)
B: tunnel - Mustaculo viewpoint - S. Maria Monti - Monte Carro - Cervigliano north - Acqua Fredda - Palommelle - Crocella - Capo Muro - Tre Calli - Bomerano (possible Catiello ascent) (18-20km)
B1: (shorter, but more challenging than B) - ascent to Crocella - CAI 329e Catiello north - Catiello peak - Capo Muro - Tre Calli - Bomerano
C: tour Faito: Macello (2km from Bomerano), Crocella, Palmentiello, Castellone, Cerasuolo, Molare, Conocchia, forest, Casino di Paipo, Bomerano (20-22km)
Day 4:
D: Bomerano - Path of the Gods - Nocelle - Forestale - S. M. Castello -  Monte Comune - M. Vico Alvano - Colli San Pietro (19km, choice between Nocelle and Capodacqua via Montepertuso and Dragone)
Day 5-6:
E: Sant'Agata - Termini - Campanella - San Costanzo - Nerano - Jeranto - Penna - Nerano (return by SITA bus) (18-20km)
F: Sirenuse from Sant’Agata + countryside hike (18-20km)
Day 7 (possible extra):
G: tour of the island of Capri including Guardia, Migliera, Cocuzzo, Solaro, Anginola, Scala Fenicia, Arco Naturale, ... (20-22km)



Conditions and recommendations are as per previous editions:
- participation is completely free; costs and reservations for transport, board and lodging and any other expenses are yours to cover and arrange;
- it is of fundamental importance to be absolutely independent and self-sufficient ... no type of guide or assistance is provided;
- those who want to take part must be able to walk at least 20km a day with over 1,000m of elevation gain;
- the paths have varied and often rugged surfaces, some steep climbs and descents, many steps and short exposed sections and some are classified as difficult or EE.
To the above recommendations, courtesy of Giovanni, I would add another: punctuality. It is no good turning up even 1 minute late at the departure point. Nobody will be there.
This is the plan at the moment, although there may be changes if natural events or fires, (hopefully not), affect the proposed routes. In case of unfavourable weather conditions, excursions may be shortened, varied or even canceled altogether.
I personally have participated in several of Giovanni's treks in years gone by, not necessarily doing all 7 days, but choosing the itineraries most suited to my level of fitness or preferences (I am not keen on steep loose-stoned descents...). I can highly recommend them, however do not underestimate the level of fitness required. The pace can be pretty brisk at times for the average walker and it really is essential to be completely self-sufficient.

nb all but last photo, courtesy of Giovanni Visetti

Monday, 17 June 2019

Massa Lubrense - the state of trails

I hate having to be negative, however unfortunately, and  not for the first time,  I have to have a  rant about the state of the trails in  Massa Lubrense.  I do so this time on the back of a blog recently published by Giovanni Visetti, ironically (or rather sarcastically) entitled "The perfect maintenance of the hiking trails of Massa Lubrense".
Whilst I can just about accept a certain lack of maintenance over the winter months when there are not so many hikers out and about, and rain and high winds can cause situations to change  from one moment to the next, I really do not feel that there is any excuse at all for the present state of affairs, evident to all, and this at the very height of the hiking season.
The photos that probably best illustrate this sorry situation (just 2 of many possible examples) are these:
- the first is the gazebo at the foot of the steps leading up to Monte San Costanzo which is a path trodden by many, locals and tourists alike. This blew over in gales 7 months ago. Yes, 7 months ago! To leave the gazebo lying there for so long is frankly just shoddy, independently from being an eyesore
- the second is again on the path towards San Costanzo, but there are many other places where  fallen trunks litter the paths , hampering or entirely blocking transit.

We were told that tens of thousands of euros  had been assigned to the maintenance of the trails and the improvement of the signage, in recognition of the growing importance of trekking here.
What they forgot to say was that this included the roadsides which apparently  is where most of the money has been spent, and ridiculous amounts of it too and with pretty scarse results.
We have even been told (in spite of the evidence) that the paths are clear and perfectly viable. I would invite some of these people to put on their trainers and come along to see for themselves.
Since Giovanni published his Blog, the "scandal" of the paths has hit the local press also reaching  the ears of the local "Opposition"  who, in true opposition style, have jumped on the bandwagon to express their disdain and ask a few pertinent questions.
It will be interesting to see if this jogs the local Authorities into action, or whether it will end up once again being left until some exasperated group of volunteers does the job for them.
That is all well and good (and maybe that is what they are hoping for), but you have to wonder whether it might be time that they start practicing a little more of what they preach. 
Oh, and whilst we are at it, how come the much publicised new Tourist Office in the centre of Sant'Agata, opened less than 2 weeks ago with great municipal trumpet sounding, has already closed its doors? Rumour has it that they hadn't realised that it would be a little too hot in there under the summer sun, so are now having to find a way to ventilate it! I give up..

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

The Path of the Gods and sensible hiking.

All of a sudden it feels like springtime. The sun has come out, temperatures are rising and  Sorrento is slowly emerging from hibernation ready for the new season and its accompanying invasion of tourists.
Over the past couple of years, anyone who lives here will have noticed the sharp increase in visitors. The reasons are manifold, not the least the impact of low cost airlines, Airbnb and relatively cheap alcohol. The fact that we  have Pompeii, Herculaneum, Vesuvius, Capri and the Amalfi Coast on our doorstep no doubt helps!
There are also far more "hikers" walking our paths. 
I say "hikers" because unfortunately  the vast majority are not true hikers at all, but one-off walkers and all here for the same reason: The Path of the Gods.  Second of Trip Advisor's Top Attractions of the Amalfi Coast, it has become  The  Thing To Do.
If you have a look at Trip Advisor and Viator there are numerous guided  tours on sale covering a range of prices and services. what is disconcerting is that many of them do not think to warn potential customers of the nature of this trail and the need for appropriate footwear and a strong head for heights, often rating the walk as easy to moderate.To do Viator justice, in its covering description of the walk, they do mention both the sheer drops and the need for appropriate walking shoes, but the people actually offering these tours generally miss this out. In fact on Viator, of all the tours on sale, just one contained this information. Trip Advisor fared a little better. Strangely enough they all had "Entry/Admission" to the Path as included.. nice one considering that it is free!
A couple of weeks ago we decided to go there for our Sunday hike, thinking that, being February and pretty cold,  we might be lucky and have it to ourselves.  We didn't, although  in all honesty I can't say that it was crowded. There were however far more people than I had expected, the majority  evidently not regular walkers . A lot of photographs were being taken, including selfies, and that is fine and perfectly acceptable, however apart from blocking the path  until they were satisfied with the shot, they would then amble along at snail's pace, a bit like Sunday drivers! I dread to think what it will be like in a few weeks' time and over the coming months. If the Amalfi Coast has problems with traffic congestion, The Path is no better.
More worrying was the fact that many were  wearing shoes  more suited to city pavements than a rough hiking trail. 
And this brings me on to the second point of this blog. Two days ago the local press reported  two separate emergencies on our trails. The first regarded a couple who had got lost up in the hills behind Agerola. The second referred to a minor injury along the Path of the Gods. Not wanting to be pessimistic,  I am sure that there will be many more this summer, the majority of which will be due to the incompetency of the individual "hiker" who ventures forth unprepared and poorly equipped. After all, if the very people selling hikes omit basic and essential information, what hope have we? 
Accidents can happen, especially on the kind of terrain that we have here. However wearing ballerina shoes or flip-flops is  tempting fate, as is staring into the screen of a phone as you are  walking along the trail or stepping to the  edge of a precipice to get a better shot. If you are venturing into unknown territory, take a map, let people know where you are going,
or even better hire one of our excellent local guides, rather than tempting fate and ending up on the front page of Positano News!


Monday, 13 August 2018

THE REOPENING OF THE PATH OF THE GODS


Today the Path of the Gods was officially re-opened following its "closure" by the local authorities last November when part of it collapsed after heavy rain. 
I say "closure" for two reasons:

- firstly, it was never ever really closed. There was never a proper barrier to prevent people passing and even the official notices were affixed as discreetly as possible, almost as an apology.There was no control. The distinct impression was that "yes, it is risky, however we have done our bit by putting up a little notice and a bit of red tape, so if you do have an accident, you only have yourself to blame, and you won't get a cent from us".
- secondly, although tour companies and truly professional guides  respected the ban, adapting other itineraries which enabled their customers to enjoy the beauties of the path without taking unnecessary risks, there were still thousands (yes, thousands) of walkers who ventured along the forbidden stretch, some probably out of ignorance, others accompanied by unscrupulous, money-driven "guides", or alone, probably convinced that everyone was making a big fuss about nothing and proud of making it to the other side unscathed.
So all is back to normal now, although I do find it rather odd that there is no mention at all of the second landslip, near to Cisternuolo, which I  considered equally as dangerous if not more so than the first, but which, if I am not mistaken, never had an official ban slapped on it. At the time, a little by-pass had been created round it. Maybe that has developed into a secure stretch of path and I am worrying about nothing, but..
What I would like to reiterate, and here I go back to one of my early blogs  "The Path of the Gods - suitable for everyone?", is that this path is definitely NOT for everyone. It is not flat, it is not well surfaced and there is very little shade.

It is rocky, there is a lot of loose stone that makes it easy to lose your footing, the bigger flatter rocks have become so worn and shiny that they are equally as slippery dry as wet, there are rough, broken, unstable and crumbling steps, steep ones too; some parts of the path are very narrow (so single file only which can be frustrating when it is crowded and you have snail-pacers in front of you), other parts have sheer drops to one side, so beware  sufferers of vertigo. It is hot in summer, very hot. 
Please do not think that it is a piece of cake. It isn't. Make sure you have proper footwear - trekking boots or trainers with an excellent grip. Leave your sandals and flip-flops for the beach. Take a walking pole if your balance is not spot on. It will be a great help along the rougher parts. Wear a hat. Put on your sunscreen. And take water, lots of water, since there are pretty long stretches where you will find none at all. Best of all, hire a guide. There are some excellent ones out there and not only will you have the security of a professional looking after you, but you will also learn so much more. 

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

UPDATED HIKING MAP OF THE SORRENTO PENINSULA TRAILS - PART 2 - THE MAIN CHANGES

Giovanni Visetti's updated hiking map of the tip of the Sorrento Peninsula, (the territories of Massa Lubrense and Sorrento), is now also available online, as always for free. You can download it in HD (5300x5000 pixels) in both .jpg and .gif format (the latter is lighter and better quality, but not all smartphones handle it well).
As already mentioned in my previous post this map has various innovations,  not only compared to the 2013 edition (until a few weeks ago still in distribution  and probably still available here and there) but also compared to the 2016 version you can see on the boards in the villages and along the roads.
The main updates are as follows:
Variants
Giro di Santa Croce (map on the right) - the nearby Selve and Vuallariello (already present on the 2016 boards, but not on the 2013 map) have been included  and together with the previous Termini to San Costanzo route form the aforementioned circuit. This is one of the suggested itineraries although signage is still lacking. The original route was Via del Monte - Belvedere Mitigliano - Vetavole - CAI300, with the ascent and descent via San Costanzo. Now the route goes to Cercito - Selve - Vuallariello and, once you get to Vetavole,  back via Belvedere Mitigliano, thus forming a loop and avoiding having to go there and back. Obviously, you can  still go to San Costanzo via the CAI
300 trail (directly towards the pinewood) or via the CAI 00, going up the ridge and then down past the VOR fence (mistakenly called "radar").
Casa Perella - Olivella - Acquacarbone - Lamia replaces Li Schisani. In effect the itinerary between Sant'Agata and Sorrento varies only between Pagliaio di Santolo (the upper entrance of the Hotel Iaccarino where the new and hopefully provisional sign  has been placed), and via Crocevia, (crossing Li Schisani, a few tens of meters from the church of Santa Maria del Toro); the remaining parts remain the same.
Spina - this dangerous and very rough stretch of the CAI 300 - Alta Via dei Monti Lattari trail between the pinewood of Monte di Monticchio and Recommone has been marked  on the map with a series of red "xxx"s, meaning "path in poor condition" - " trail in very poor condition ". The alternative proposed (and created by the CAI) is the vic. Monti, which connects the  pine grove to  Via Spina. The path represents the initial part of the new CAI 355 route - Variante Spina, and is therefore highlighted as a CAI path.
Landslides
The main ones are evidenced with a red diagonal grid.
Among these we have:
Li Schisani (itinerary S. Agata - Sorrento) - consider that there is little hope that this will ever be repaired and that  the Acquarbone path has now been cleared.
Fontanella (itinerary Massa Lubrense - Sorrento) - the biggest and one that  despite multiple promises of a quick resolution, is unlikely to be sorted in the near future.  However, take note that in practice you can actually pass over the landslide quite safely, at least when the terrain is dry.
Sant'Anna - a couple of years ago the project was planned and approved, but then, finding  the situation more complicated than expected, further geological investigations were considered necessary and so here too it is going to take a long time.This is an extremely interesting route, running parallel to the only perennial water course of Massa Lubrense, and thanks also to  the presence of an ancient mill (theoretically open to visitors).
The map does not include  the landslide at via Fontana di Nerano (which you can get round with a slight deviation) nor the one at via Pantano. It seems that work on  the latter will be imminent because, being  small  and close to the main road, it is easily accessible.
There are many more historical paths  that have been abandoned and that have fallen into oblivion although still technically classified as municipal thoroughfares. These deserve more attention and better care, representing as they do a potential added value to  rural tourism and hiking in this area.
   
The above is a loose translation of Giovanni Visetti's recent blog

Thursday, 19 July 2018

UPDATED MAP OF THE HIKING TRAILS IN THE SORRENTO PENINSULA


Good news! A new edition of Giovanni Visetti's map of hiking trails in the Sorrento Peninsula has just been published and distributed, not only updated by him to include the two more recent "new entries", Acquacarbone (S.Agata to Sorrento via Olivella and Acquacarbone instead of Li Schisani)  and Giro di Santa Croce (instead of Termini - San Costanzo via Belvedere Mitigiliano), but also highlighting pre-existing paths that are no longer viable (most of
them which have been closed for years and are unlikely to be re-opened any time in the near future). They are available in the local tourist offices and they are free.
This map is definitely a must for anyone intending to hike in this area. It is by far the most accurate and, whilst unfortunately the state of the trails does not necessarily match the quality of the map, you will at least stand a good chance of not getting lost and be able to enjoy our spectacular countryside.
Which brings me onto another point, and a sore one at that: the woeful condition of many of our paths. Just the other week  the Deputy Mayor of Massa Lubrense was talking enthusiastically about how they were spending the money from the Tourist Tax: on a better bus service for the summer months, on the paths, on new playgrounds (including one with a swing for the disabled), on road maintenance and special summer events, and all this without asking for a cent from the local residents!
Whilst not wanting to discuss the state of our roads or enter into the merits (and cost) of the numerous concerts, book presentations, culinary events and festivals which are hopefully  delighting visitors and locals alike, maybe it would have been better had she kept the paths out of it.  If it wasn't for groups of volunteers and a few local associations, most of the more popular itineraries would be completely off limits, overgrown by vegetation and thick with brambles or blocked by fallen trees, and this notwithstanding the fact that there is a position within the local government specifically dedicated to the local trails and their maintenance. 
Take the Santa Croce loop... the sign at the start of Via Cercito has slipped right down the pole and is virtually out of sight, the ceramic tile marking the start of the track has completely disappeared, and until a couple of weeks ago when volunteers stepped in, it was getting increasingly difficult to pass at all. 
Let us also talk about signage. New routes require new signs. Where are they? Take Acquacarbone.. the local Proloco tourist office took matters into its own hands the other day and put up a rudimentary sign indicating the way. Not professional looking admittedly, but highly effective and better than nothing.
What the powers that be don't seem to realise is that although this area is richly endowed with splendid scenery and a myriad of trails, it all needs maintaining. You cannot just rest on your laurels, confident that people will keep on coming just because it is beautiful, has good food and is on the TV weekend after weekend. Word will get around that the traffic to get here is appalling, parking tricky and expensive, public bathrooms generally nowhere to be found, trail maintenance  non-existent or minimal, signage poor or out of date, and so I could go on. There are numerous areas elsewhere, both in Italy (go to the Dolomites and you will see what I mean) and abroad, that are much better organised and equipped and which make the effort to keep it that way, probably realising that this kind of investment is more valid  and durable than a thousand one night stands. Probably cheaper too.
That said, please do not be put off from coming here to hike. It is a truly wonderful place, and  we will do our best to keep it that way. It is just that so much more could  and should be done by the local authorities. As Giovanni says in his latest blog, " there is a lot of talk and very little action" and that is what needs to change.


Saturday, 12 May 2018

PUNTA CAMPANELLA - THINGS I DIDN'T KNOW!

Over the past few weeks, Giovanni Visetti has published a series of blogs regarding Punta Campanella and although I have been living in this area for decades and have walked  there on many an occasion, I can sincerely say that I had never heard  of either of the events described.
Let's start in 1998 when during one of his walks  Giovanni found workmen erecting a 2 metre high metal fence, topped with barbed wire, as well as a heavy metal gate ready to bar all access to the final part of the promontory. The person seemingly in charge said that it was private property and that from now on nobody would be allowed to pass. Giovanni ignored him and marched on.
Thanks to his research into the local pathways for the project Tolomeo (where he marked and mapped over 100km of footpaths in the Sorrento peninsula), Giovanni knew for a fact that apart from  two areas to the side of the path which belonged to the Maritime authorities, the actual path was  municipal, and therefore public. 
On return from his walk, Giovanni immediately snapped into action, spreading the word about what he had seen, but even more importantly delivering  a letter to the local authorities the very next day denouncing the situation. Luckily it was taken seriously and the work was stopped.
This marked the beginning of a lengthy and very public legal battle  between the local authorities of Massa Lubrense and the Ministry of Defence and the Naval authorities who had intended auctioning off an area of 11,000 square metres with related buildings including the tower of Minerva. The scandal hit the press, not only local but also national and as the days passed, new associations joined the plethora of opponents as did personalities from the political and artistic world. Even when the Regional Administrative Court (TAR) ruled in favour of the local authorities at the end of 1998, it took another 5 years  for them to be able to assert their right of first refusal on the sale and buy the entire disputed area. Three more years passed  until  finally, in 2006, the contested area at long last became  part of the municipal heritage of Massa Lubrense and the spectre of a private cement ridden resort receded.

The second interesting fact dates further back and regards the lighthouse. Anyone who has walked as far as the tip of Punta Campanella will have seen that nowadays there is a metal pylon by the side of the tower with a light on top.
It was not always like this. As you can see from the photos, there was once a two storey building in front of the tower with the light on its roof. According to information supplied by the splendidly named "Command Zone of Lighthouses and Maritime Signalling of Naples", this light was first installed on the roof of an existing building during the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1848. Even more interesting is the fact that the whole structure was destroyed by an explosion probably on the morning of Wednesday 6th August 1969. I say "probably" because this is the date given by the Maritime authorities. However when Giovanni spoke to some of the older villagers there was some confusion as to the exact date and even year.    Likewise, nobody seems to know exactly how it happened. The official and probably more reliable version says that there was a fire which then caused the explosion,  others say  that it was hit by lightning or even that it was caused deliberately by the lighthouse keeper. 
For the years immediately following the destruction of the original structure, a temporary light was attached to  the tower. This was then replaced in 1972 by the pylon that we see today.
All interesting facts, some well documented and certain, others less so..

Links to Giovanni's Blogs "Mercoled√¨ 6 agosto" and "Spesso accade che la memoria inganna"
Black and white photos of the lighthouse from http://www.massalubrense.it/fotodepoca.htm or Ludovico Mosca's Ludo Blog 

Thursday, 19 April 2018

The Path of the Gods - Open or Closed?

The Path of the Gods has been appearing in the local press rather frequently over the past few weeks, which is hardly surprising when you consider that the hiking season has now started in earnest and that  the most famous and popular route of this area is still  officially off limits. 
Yes, for anyone who has still no realised this,  the trail has been "closed" to the public since 17th November 2017, when the local authorities of Positano issued an  ordinance banning access to a part of the Path which had collapsed following  heavy rain. Since then, another small stretch disappeared over the edge elsewhere, but as far as I am aware, this one was never the object of any prohibition, although in my opinion just as risky, if not more so, than the first.
In spite of the "closure",  to start with there was very little clamor  and certainly not much publicity. People continued and continue to walk the trail, sometimes in considerable numbers and often accompanied by guides -  there is no control and little to warn people of the situation. 
It was only recently, as the start to the hiking season approached, that the first murmurings of discontent were heard. Various  foreign Tour Operators, warned by their conscientious local guides,  became aware of the situation and  began  cancelling or re-organising their walking tours. In fact, as any true professional guide knows, if there is an official ban on a path, then you  do not take groups along it. No discussion. Since should an accident happen, not only will the Insurance people laugh in your face, but you yourself and your Company will be  liable and likely to end up in a lot of very expensive legal trouble.
Unfortunately not everyone seems to realise this, or prefers to ignore it,  and the walk is still being promoted and guided by unscrupulous people with very little respect for the law or the safety of their customers. Moreover, the Path of the Gods is often still being  mis-sold which is something I have complained about before. I read a tragi-comic post today on Facebook where a lady who had been inquiring about this hike was astounded to hear that it wasn't the simple stroll she had been  led to believe: 
"But what do you mean...? They told me that the Path is for everyone, that it is open to everyone and anyone can do it, that I can even bring  children, that you do not need specific equipment and that I can do it with gym shoes or running shoes and that - if I want to - I can also bring the dog, and now you are telling me that precautions are needed ...?". 
It has to be said that the authorities have a lot of to answer for with regard to the present situation. In 6 months not only have they failed to make the necessary repairs, but they have also done absolutely nothing to make sure that the ordinance is respected. About a week ago, there was at long last an inspection carried out by  various members of the local authorities, civil engineers and Regional Parks people to start evaluating and planning the work needed. It is said that the Regional Government has promised the funding, so technically the money is there. The problem is that this is 6 months too late. As anyone who lives in Italy knows, bureaucracy is incredibly slow and there are multiple hoops to jump through before anything tangible gets done. Hopefully I will be proved wrong but I doubt it.
However all is not lost. Although the "cowboy" guides continue to take their blissfully unaware customers along the traditional and more usual Bomerano to Nocelle linear route,(probably because they know no other), there are other options which will still allow you to get more than a taste of the spectacular nature of this walk. You can set off from Bomerano and walk a circuit following the upper path from Colle Serra and returning via the lower one, or you can walk from Bomerano to Praiano (or vice versa) either via San Domenico or via the 327B, preferably using the services of one of our excellent and reliable local guides!
And here is the link to the recent Blog published by Giovanni Visetti on the same subject






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