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Sunday, 22 February 2015

A SORRENTO AMALFI COAST WALKING FESTIVAL? WHY NOT?

Some 700 people from all over the world will be taking part in the 5 day Tenerife Walking Festival  in March  this year. Participants will be based in Puerto de la Cruz to the north of the island and will be able to choose from 15 trails of differing length and difficulty split into three categories – volcanic, coastal and jurassic . There will also be additional activities such as visits to wineries, agricultural fincas, museums, star gazing, a welcome meeting with cocktails and an official closing ceremony.
Amongst other incentives, the Spanish airline Iberia is offering a 15% discount on its flights, and international associations such as ERA (European Ramblers Association), FEDME (Spanish Federation of hiking and FECAMON (the Canary Federation of Mountaineering) have all been actively involved.
In one of his latest blogs, Giovanni Visetti asks why such an event has so far proved impossible to organize here in our area. The Amalfi Coast, the Sorrento Peninsula, Capri and the Monti Lattari offer a rich variety of spectacularly panoramic hikes, with more than enough hotels and B&Bs to accommodate everyone, no lack of transport and many excellent and expert local guides.   
Many years ago, realizing that the development of hiking as an incentive to tourism in this area was also dependent on a reliable support network of suitable and convenient accommodation, he developed and presented a project to this effect and sent it to all the relevant local authorities (of which there are many) from Capri to Maiori: mayors, tourist boards,  councillors for tourism etc. He received just one reply, from the Director for Tourism of the Province of Naples. Not one of the Sorrento or Amalfi Coast councils even bothered to acknowledge his proposal. More recently, he tried again, proposing something similar to the Tenerife Walking Festival, be it on a smaller scale. Again nothing.
Having failed to enlist the support of the relevant authorities Giovanni then proceeded to organize all by himself, an annual “Inn to Inn” Amalfi – Capri trek (the first was in 2009) which varied in duration from 5 to 7 days with overnight bases in Agerola, Faito and Sant’Agata.  Anyone was free (literally) to come along: for just a day, for a couple of days or for as many days as you wanted. There was no registration fee, no guiding fee and all you had to pay for and organize was your accommodation and meals (and here too there were suggestions and special rates).  
I was lucky enough to participate in several of these hikes and people came from all over: Australia, USA, Hong Kong, Great Britain, Portugal, Germany and of course Italians from near and far. They were not easy hikes and you needed a good degree of fitness, but they were spectacular, they were  fun, you met interesting like-minded people and had the opportunity to walk along trails that you would probably never have found by yourself, all under the expert guidance of Giovanni.
This area has so much to offer a keen hiker. Over the past few years we have seen a certain increase in the number of people (mainly foreigners) walking our trails, some in organised groups, others by themselves, many of them clutching a copy of Giovanni’s maps. However if you compare the signage and maintenance of the majority of our paths to those of places like the Balearic Islands and the Canaries, we are sadly lacking. Unfortunately, as Giovanni correctly surmises, there is not sufficient interest, not only from the local governments and their officials, who are often totally unaware of the resources surrounding them, but also from the majority of our hoteliers who are much keener on filling their rooms with the traditional package tourist, sending them off on over-crowded  and over-priced day trips to Pompeii, Capri, Vesuvius, Positano and Ravello than trying to develop and expand an alternative form of tourism to which this area would be perfectly suited.
Personally I feel that there is room for both.
Link to Giovanni's blog
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