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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

VISETTI'S FAVOURITE TRAILS (6) - CAPRI - MONTE SOLARO

Walking towards Cetrella from Monte Solaro
For his next favourite trail, Giovanni Visetti takes a jump to the island of Capri and the ridges to the east and west of Monte Solaro.
This route (a combination of paths 6,5 and 4 on the map) follows the edge of the imposing southern cliff of the island between  Guardia and the Eremo (hermitage) di Cetrella, passing Migliera, Cocuzzo and Solaro. 
Setting off from Anacapri, we walk along typical caprese lanes to the Torre di Guardia (at about 200masl) before turning onto path 6 that will take us to Migliera. Anyone wishing to spare themselves these 700 metres, plus a further hundred or so uphill, can go directly to the Migliera Belvedere, but will miss out on some interesting views. In fact, to the side of the trail, which passes through a shady pinewood with no issues for sufferers of vertigo, various view-points, have been created right on the edge of the cliff protected by metal railings, 

Now comes route 5 that will lead us up to Monte Solaro, which at 587m is the highest point of the island . This part, (almost 2km), is the longest of the three and has an extremely steep central section with a total elevation gain of about 300 metres. The climb to Monte Cocuzzo, (photo above) seen from the zone known as Pisco  is impressive and seems almost an impossibility,  but once you reach the top you will not regret it and in effect it is not as bad as it seems. On your way up, do not forget to look to your right where you will see an outcrop covered in pine trees.
Pros and cons of Monte Solaro: it will be full of tourists (mainly via the chairlift) and who are probably the first people you will have seen since leaving Migliera); to compensate there is a bar (closed in winter), where you can get something to drink, and rest facilities.
From here on it is downhill along a simple, pleasant path (700m approx.) as far as the Eremo di Cetrella.  You will have splendid views of the eastern part of Capri (including the Faraglioni and Villa Jovis) with the Sorrento peninsula to the back extending from the nearby Punta Campanella as far as the Molare. Depending on the visibility, to the left you may see the entire Bay of Naples with its other islands and Vesuvius and to the right the Gulf of Salerno with the Li Galli isles and, even further away, Punta Licosa. 
Now to decide which route to take on the way back, since the 3 more common and marked trails have very different characteristics. The simplest is the well trodden ancient mule track that will lead you back to Anacapri, although if you wish, before you get to the centre, you can go directly to the Scala Fenicia (Phoenician Steps) that descend directly to the port. The other two options ( 1 Passetiello and 2 Anginola) are much more adventurous and are only for the more experienced and well equipped. In any case they are to be avoided in rain, ice (they are exposed to the north-east so in winter this is a possibility) or if it is very damp. Anginola has a short, virtually vertical part, which luckily is made simpler and safer by the strategically placed chains and ropes that some kind soul at some stage positioned there. Giovanni has included a video which will give you an idea..
This whole route can of course be done in the opposite direction (to be advised if you wish to go via Passetiello or Anginola), but if you are going to return along the mule track from Cetrella to Anacapri, Giovanni suggests doing it in the direction he describes. All the trails numbered on the map are easily followed being popular and well worn, as well as having red waymarks
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I usually go to Capri to hike about once a year, (the ferry is absurdly expensive), and have walked this route on several occasions. Since we usually go via Anginola, we do it in the opposite direction. I personally would not be at all confident in descending either via Anginola or Passetiello and even in ascent, they are definitely NOT for anyone suffering from vertigo. The very first time I faced Anginola, I blocked half way up the vertical chain-aided part and had to be given a helping hand to complete it to the top. With time it has got easier, but I never, ever look back and down on that short stretch! The last time I went via Passetiello, a few years ago now, some of the rocks we had to clamber up were so high that we were literally hauling each other up to the top.Neither are for the faint-hearted, but if you fancy the challenge, then definitely up rather than down.

Link to altitude profile and other info
Link to entire map of Capri
Link to video of Monte Solaro to La Guardia 

Monday, 21 December 2015

FAVOURITE TRAILS 5 - from the cross at Capodacqua to the Sella di Arola (via Monte Comune)

The fifth of Giovanni Visetti's favourite trails takes us a little further towards the tip of the Sorrento peninsula. Again it is virtually along a ridge and can be walked in either direction to equal satisfaction. 
This is a trail I know very well indeed. It is not only part of one of the hikes I recommend on my website, but has also been the subject of a couple of my earlier blogs (links below).
We are talking about the trail running from the cross at Capodacqua  to the sella di Arola, obviously including Monte Comune, which at 881,7masl, is the highest point west of Faito.  
Due to the extreme steepness of the southern slopes (a drop of 870m in just one kilometre) there are no trails west of Capodacqua that can be safely walked along that side of the coast. Moreover, considering that the ancient mule path between the cancello (gate) di Arola and Tordigliano  has been intransitable for years, in order to get back  to the Amalfi coast road, you have  to go as far as Colli San Pietro, crossing Monte Vico Alvano too.To the north  you can reach via Bosco (which links the upper villages of Vico Equense) and Anaro (Moiano), Ticciano, Preazzano, Arola.
So for anyone not wishing to do this walk there and back (which is not such a far-fetched idea), the loop can be completed by  using public transport: SITA bus Sorrento - Amalfi or the circular Vico Equense bus service (EAV).  
As with his previous blogs, Giovanni describes the hike from east to west, heading towards the Colli.  On my website I walk it in the opposite direction. It is perfectly feasible either way and equally as rewarding.
Following Giovanni's lead, once you leave the cross at Capodacqua and have tackled the first stretch uphill past some cultivated terraces to your left, you will come to a steeper, but rougher track, that soon approaches the edge of the cliff with views of the coast from Positano to Capo Sottile (Praiano). Turn around every now and then to admire the wide pass of Santa Maria del Castello, dominated by the Conocchia and Sant'Angelo a Tre Pizzi.
Near to the end of the climb you pass through an oak wood, and come to a stile. Then comes a virtually flat, grassy plateau, unusual for the peninsula. Keep walking to the outside of a second fence, first south for a couple of hundred metres and then sharp right to the west for another 200m where you will find another stile.
Before starting the descent, you must stop and enjoy the view ahead of you. There is nothing higher in that direction so  you will be presented with a  series of gradually descending peaks: Vico Alvano (641m), Tore (526m) and San Costanzo (or more precisely Santa Croce, 495m). At the very end you should be able to see  the Solaro, slightly higher at 587mbut this is on the island of Capri.  From now on the views will be almost the same until you reach the cancello (gate) di Arola , but  being the highest, this point has the best.

During the first part of the descent, should you lose the trail marks, don't worry too much... just head towards the dilapidated building you can see down below. Another short, virtually level stretch follows, sometimes hidden by thick vegetation; if in doubt, keep to the edge of the fields. You will start going down  a clear path, but leave it after a few metres, going once again to the left (look for the red-white signs).The rest of the descent is easily followed in spite of the haphazard signage. Only a minimal part of this section of the Alta Via dei Monti Lattari (CAI300has public and historical paths. Do not be surprised if you find a lot of different and conflicting signs. Over the years the old ones often disappeared under the vegetation, which meant that anyone going to refresh them, just created new ones. They will all take you in the right direction.
As you approach the sella di Arola you will notice that there are two small passes separated by a small rise (584m). There are several paths between them.  The most panoramic is obviously the one along the ridge (marked in red). However you get to the second, it is well worth taking a detour first out onto the rocky outcrop (541m) and then onto the next small promontory (544m) stretching towards the sea in order to enjoy their unique panoramas.
The vegetation along the entire route is extremely varied with flowers in all seasons.In springtime there is the added bonus of  a great variety of wild orchids.  
Giovanni has provided a list of the key points for anyone unfamiliar with this trail, although it is always good practice in any case to keep an eye out for the way marks:
  • path from the cross of Capodacqua, and once the fence to the right ends, start going uphill (clear signs)
  • as you ascend, keep to the left towards the edge of the steepest slopes
  • after climbing over the first stile, keep to the outside of the next fence until the start of the descent (the path goes sharp right about half way along)
  • once past the fences, aim for the dilapidated building (the only one visible) at the edge of a little wood
  • from here continue along the virtual flat between the trees and then keep to the left
  • at the beginning of the next descent, don't be misled by the path turning towards the hollow to the right; leave it straight away and continue along the ridge until you find a sign near to the start of a steeper slope
  • once you get to the next flat stretch on a rocky crest turn to the left between two little hillocks of equal height (647m)
  • from then on it is impossible to go wrong since the trail is quite evident with a wooden fence along the final stretch to the Cancello di Arola.
Giovanni has merged his existing two maps of the itinerary Santa Maria del Castello - Colli San Pietro already published on his website www.giovis.com. You will find the link below. The size of this one obviously makes it a little difficult to manage, but to compensate he has enlarged it to the north and to the south so that anyone does not know the area can see how to get back to a road.
I would highly recommend this hike - the views and the flora make it one of the best!


Thursday, 10 December 2015

FAVOURITE TRAILS 4 - BANDERA (FAITO)

The fourth of Giovanni Visetti's favourite trails is again on Faito, so still relatively high up. This time however we follow the trails around Punta Bandera, somewhere not so well known and which probably many of you will never have heard of, let alone walked. To better illustrate the specific area, Giovanni has adapted his Faito map accordingly. 
Strictly speaking, Punta Bandera is the rocky spur almost entirely covered in pine trees that can be clearly seen from any point of the Conocchia, from S.Maria del Castello and from many other areas of the western slopes of the Lattari mountains. However when talking about the Bandera trail , we generally refer to the path running along the upper edge of the imposing cliff above  the Vallone del Milo, from 500m north of the top of Punta Bandera to the edge of the deep valley of Campo del Pero.
Giovanni's suggestion is to follow it in this direction, slightly uphill, and it goes without saying that being one of his 7 favourites, it is extremely panoramic out in the open
Having said that, it has its good points and its bad (and this is Giovanni speaking..):
Good: at the end of the panoramic stretch, you may continue along the ridge of Monte Cerasuolo which being  a ridge offers even more extensive views, although at times restricted  by trees to the north.
Bad: the most scenic part is "seemingly" very exposed.  This means that whilst it is absolutely no more dangerous than many other trails giving a false sense of security with untrustworthy handrails  or bushes just hiding a sheer drop, for anyone who has  a fear of heights or vertigo, it could prove more stressful than pleasant or even impossible to face.
Although this trail is the least known of Giovanni's selection, it is actually one of the easiest to reach. You can in fact go by car as far as the Latteria and then walk just 300m along an easy path through the chestnut trees to get to the edge of the wood and the views.. and what views! Anyone not wishing or not able to follow the entire path should at least do this stretch (approx 700m there and back).. it is really worth the effort. 
From then on there are various tracks you can follow, but they are not real paths, so it is always best to go with someone who is familiar with them, even if just to save time trying to work out which is the best one to follow.
As you can see from the map, the first 600m go south to the tip before proceeding along the other side of the cliff. To begin with you have views of the coast: Vico Equense, Sorrento and the isles of the Bay of Naples, then  come the cliffs of the Vallone del Milo and finally, for the last kilometre, the Gulf of Salerno. Over these 1.600m you only gain about 100m in height and the overall elevation gain, thanks to a few up and down parts,  is little more than this; in other words, minimal physical effort is required.
Once you come to the end of the eastern stretch you can choose whether to return directly to the nearest road (Campo del Pero is 600m away through the beech wood) or continue on to the top of Monte Cerasuolo (1.213m) keeping to the edge of the wood, either passing
through it, or approaching from the outside through low bushes (little red dots on the map). There is no official path, but having to get to the highest point and with the trees as reference, it is really difficult to get lost.
Once at the top you should follow a track (in red on the map) going along the ridge to a small but very panoramic open space (photo above). From there (to the right, on the flat) you will find a clear path which a few metres further on becomes a wide dirt-track which in 800m will take you to Campo del Pero. 
  • For anyone with good legs and good will there are manifold possibilities of incorporating this route in longer hikes. For example: you can walk here from Piazzale dei Capi, Funivia (cable car station) or even from Moiano (via Villaggio Sportivo), via Latteria/Lontra spring, and then afterwards continue  to Campo del Pero (with or without Cerasuolo). You can complete your walk with whichever of the other usual routes takes your fancy (Conocchia, Acqua Santa, Molare) before returning  to your starting point via Porta di Faito, or in the case of Moiano, via the Conocchia and Anaro.
  • even longer hikes from the east could include Palmentiello either up or down from Sant'Angelo a Tre Pizzi.
The above photos are all Giovanni's. More, all taken between 2009 and 2013, can be seen at the link below:
Link to the photos
Link to Giovanni's blog 
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For once I have very little to add to the above. I can definitely vouch for the panoramic value of this route, having walked it on several occasions (in fact it is me wearing the nifty little sunhat in the photo above!) and also for the fact that it might not be suitable for anyone suffering from bad vertigo. However it is very much worth the effort, which if you limit yourselves to the shorter version, is actually very little effort at all!




Tuesday, 1 December 2015

FAVOURITE TRAILS 3 - FAITO (Conocchia ridge towards Molare)

The third of the trails favoured by Giovanni Visetti takes us to FAITO and precisely to the ridge of the Conocchia, walking from the slopes to the west of the cross eastwards to the old fallen-down antenna. Once again we are high up (for here) at over 1,300 MSL which will become 1443m. if you then extend your walk to include the Molare, the highest point of the Monti Lattari.  
This time, rather than keeping to  the official paths (marked in red on the map), it is well worth following the alternative trails marked by Giovanni in green, since these will give you the best views, even more so if you make the occasional short detour  to get to the most panoramic points, paying of course the utmost attention as you go.
The Conocchia can be reached from just about any point from the west, but the two outer routes are without a shadow of doubt the most scenic. Both dominate the tip of the Sorrento peninsula with Capri behind, but the more northerly path (Casa del Monaco - Conocchia) also has views of the Valle del Milo and Monte Cerasuolo, whilst the southern trail reveals the dramatic coastline between Positano and Praiano, just a couple of kilometres away, but over 1,300m below. 
If you follow the CAI trail along the edge of the beech forest, go a little southwards every now and then or walk up to the top of one of the small hills blocking the view. Once past the antenna and before going down the other side towards Acqua Santa, it is well worth extending your hike to the Molare. Even if you don't want to go to the very top, you will still be able to enjoy magnificent panoramas, especially if you don't have a problem with vertigo.
To the south of the Molare is a small peak (1,398.m, photo to the left), which can be reached fairly easily if you follow the route marked in black on the map and then climb up to the top facing the Molare. Anyone not fancying this will still be able to enjoy the view of Positano and the steep crags of the southern slopes of the Lattari, completely missed by so many people  when passing just a few metres away. 
You can get here via Campo del Pero (road) - Casa del Monaco - Conocchia or via the Santuario (road) - Acqua Santa - Molare. There is an infinity of trails, often winding,  which include the Conocchia- Molare ridge  and all of them are very varied and interesting.
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From Casa del Monaco
Molare
And now, over to me.This is another  trail well trodden by myself and again it is one that has its challenges. My favourite Faito loop takes you from the cable car station (unfortunately still out of action) through the woods to  Campo del Pero,  on to Casa del Monaco, Conocchia and Molare as above before returning to base via Acqua Santa and the Naples facing ridge beyond the church of San Michele. One of my favourite stretches is just after the Casa del Monaco, especially in springtime when it is full of flowers. As always, I prefer the climb up to the cross of Conocchia rather than  an eventual descent  since, as is often the case in our area, the path is rough and full of loose stones making it easy for you to lose your footing. The CAI trail running parallel to the ridge at the edge of the beech forest is a much easier option, but of course you miss out on a lot of the views. As for the Molare.. I usually sit it out at the bottom, since the path to the top is  very steep, narrow and rough underfoot, more suitable for goats. Again, better up than down, but here you have no choice: once up, you have to come down the same way. However, if you do not suffer from vertigo, do not let me put you off, since once up there you are on the roof of the world with a 360 degree panorama. As Giovanni suggests, it is also well worth venturing round the smaller mound in the photo. I have never clambered right up it, limiting myself to admiring Positano far, far down below.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

FAVOURITE TRAILS - PART 2

As promised, here is the second of Giovanni Visetti's favourite trails:
Caserma Forestale - Monte Catiello rockfall (4 January 2002)
As in the previous walk, and as is often the case, the most spectacular parts of the trail are not right by the road. This leaves you free to choose your starting point (at either extremity as you prefer) and the route back to your car or nearest public transport. More of that later. 
So, what makes this itinerary so interesting? Out of all the routes from Santa Maria del Castello to Capo Muro, this stretch is the most varied, being the highest and passing as it does at the foot of imposing cliffs and crossing deep gorges that, although south-facing, get little light. The western part includes open stretches offering extensive panoramas, whilst to the east there are views of the impressive 2002 rockfall. And as if this was not sufficient, thanks to the varying environment, the vegetation frequently changes: the garrigue gives way to woods, cypresses to oaks, not to mention the wild orchids and other less known species that in season can be found along the way. 
The route is not particularly difficult unless you wish to cross the rockfall, when the faint of heart, the less agile or anyone with little sense of balance could encounter problems. However, they too can enjoy this walk by keeping it to the minimum indispensible, and that is by going from S.Maria del Castello to the edge of the landslide and back the same way. This is definitely not the ideal solution for anyone who has the time and the legs, but it reduces  the total distance and elevation to a minimum: a couple of kilometres to the Forestale (intersection Conocchia), another 700 metres along the path as far as the turning that goes down to the road Montepertuso-Nocelle, and a further 1200m to the rockfall. In other words a grand total of roughly 4km including an approximate 300 metre difference in elevation.
The map below, although basic, gives various ideas as to how to create loops or at least not limit it to the there and back walk described above. There are effectively three points that can be reached fairly easily by car or even by public transport: 

  • S.Maria del Castello (few buses go there, but just a little lower down they are more frequent - stop at Anaro (between Moiano and Ticciano)
  • the road between Montepertuso and Nocelle (bus route Positano - Nocelle, virtually every hour)
  • Bomerano (bus), by car you can get to beyond Paipo

From wherever you wish to set off, the most logical thing is to include the Path of the Gods in the hike, being almost parallel to the trail but 300 to 400 metres lower down. If you use the planner  you can choose how to link the two paths, but of course whichever you choose will be steep. Both the Forestale and the Path of the Gods are not considered steep by experienced walkers since what slopes there are, are not long.
If you wish to limit the overall distance of your walk, you may omit the Path of the Gods and go straight down to Nocelle via Vagnulo from the rockfall. The lower part necessary to complete the loop is just over 1 kilometre long  and is along the road or via the paved path that brings you to the main road near the bridge.
In theory there are many other loops, but without going too far, the fitter could consider the hike around Sant'Angelo a Tre Pizzi.
Setting off from any point on Faito, you can descend via Palmentiello and then once near Crocella turn towards Capo Muro, continuing to the Forestale and crossing the rockfall (frana) before going back up to Faito via the Conocchia. This can also be done in the opposite direction, but if you consider how steep it is going up, the descent is no less, and for many it can be knee destroying! This option is optimal for the views and you could also include what will be the subject of my next favourite trail: Conocchia ridge - Molare, although all the other routes are valid.
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At this point, I would like to add a few observations of my own. I agree with Giovanni that this is a very pleasant and varied stretch with fantastic views on a clear day and that you can make it as easy or as difficult, as short or as long as you please. The rockfall crossing is a challenge, but perfectly feasible if you take it slowly and watch where you are putting your feet. The first time I crossed it, I was pretty intimidated, but more because everyone  was watching my discomfort than anything else. Again, if it is something I can manage, then anyone reasonably fit should be fine. Once over the rocks, there is an extremely steep part (up or down, depending which trail you take), and although as Giovanni says, both the Forestale and the Path of the Gods are fairly level (and therefore cannot be considered steep), both do have their seriously steep moments and the ground can be rocky and rough making it all a little trickier.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Favourite trails - part 1

In one of his recent blogs, Giovanni Visetti, experienced hiker and cartographer who many of you will already be acquainted with, announced that he would be writing a series of blogs about his favourite trails in our area. There will be seven, to be published not in order of preference but geographically, commencing from the eastern end of the Amalfi Coast and moving west concluding on the isle of Capri. 
As always, I will do my best to convey the sense of Giovanni's blogs, at times adding my own personalised view, since they are all trails that I have frequented, some of them many a time. Giovanni has a penchant for paths that are highly panoramic not only looking down towards the sea but also up towards the hills and mountains. Five out of the seven chosen routes are along ridges, so not particularly suitable for anyone suffering from vertigo or of unsure footing. That said, if I can walk them, they are feasible for most reasonably fit hikers!
The first one, posted today, is Tre Calli - Capo Muro (+Monte Catiello).
This path is high above Agerola at around 1100 metres above sea level (unless you continue up Monte Catiello with its 1393 metres). It can be reached from various directions, but whichever way you choose, there will be a certain elevation gain and exertion required. As they say: no gain without pain.. 
Agerola below
The shortest way is doubtless from above Bomerano taking the CAI path (by the  iron cross at the  bend on the road to Paipo) which leads up to the Tre Calli. From there you continue to Capo Muro, marked by its distinctive mushroom shaped rock formation. Then it is up to you whether you want  to tackle Monte Catiello, 300 metres higher up.  
I have to confess that whilst I have frequented and enjoyed the Tre Calli and Capo Muro on many an occasion, I have yet to climb Monte Catiello. The reason for this is simple.I am a wimp when it comes to steep descents and loose stones, and this one has them both. One day I will perhaps pluck up my courage, since from the photos I have seen, it is well worth the effort.
That said, the specific stretch favoured by Giovanni is  between Capo Muro and the ridge on the southern side of the Tre Calli (towards Paipo). At times the official track circumvents various small hillocks along the crest, so it is worth leaving the trail every now and then to get to the top of them and take full advantage of the magnificent 360 degree views: to one side the plain of Agerola, to the other the Amalfi Coast with Positano, Li Galli islands and Capri extending into the distance, as well as the impressive massif of Sant'Angelo a Tre Pizzi high above.
There are various ways of getting here from the west rather than from Bomerano. I have often come from S.Maria del Castello, following the Forestale route which involves clambering over the rocks of the 2002 landslide of Monte Catiello.  Whichever way you choose, it is well worth the effort.


Thursday, 12 November 2015

OLIVE PICKING TIME

It is olive picking time here. This year the crop is excellent, the trees heavy with olives, compensating an appalling 2014 when freak hail storms destroyed the lot
The terraces are a hive of activity. Work starts at dawn and continues until dusk, when, if you have the misfortune of driving along our winding roads, you will inevitably be held up by a three-wheeler truck or two put-putting slowly along, loaded up with sacks of olives and empty drums on their way to the presses. 
There is a constant noise of chainsaws in the background as the wood is turned into logs for the winter stoves and plumes of smoke rise up from the terraces as bonfires burn whatever is left over.
When I first came to live here, the olive harvest was another family occasion, a joint effort, similar to the bottling of fresh tomatoes in the summer. To some extent it still is. The men would be up the ladders or in the branches of the trees, cutting them down or shaking them vigorously to make the olives fall. The women and children would all be down below, either bent in two picking the olives up from the ground, or sitting removing them from the branches before putting them into the sacks.
It was a pretty thankless task, hard on the back and tough on the hands, but the end product more than compensated. What can be better than a chunk of fresh bread dipped in your own olive oil?
Nowadays it is still hard work but not quite as bad as before thanks to  the nets strung beneath the trees automatically collecting the olives as they ripen and fall. There are also nifty electronic strimmers that strip the olives from the branches making the work more rapid and somewhat easier on the arms. Once harvesting is over, the nets are rolled back up and left hanging between the trees ready for the following year.
Talk is all about olives at the moment. Football has been pushed into second place!

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