Monday, 30 March 2015

MAKING TRAILS SAFE - how it can be done..

In one of his recent blogs, “Dangerous paths” and “making them safe”, Giovanni Visetti re-opens the debate on how money is spent to improve our trails and whether some of the work is actually necessary at all.
He commences by describing the work carried out in Spain on a path once considered by some the most dangerous in the world: the Caminito del Rey. This walkway, clinging to a cliff-side over 100 metres above the river, was originally built for the transport of materials to the two hydroelectric power plants and to enable workers to cross between them.Over the years numerous sections had collapsed and following the deaths of a few foolhardy daredevils in the attempt to cross it, the
Spanish government banned all access.
Even this did not deter everyone and Giovanni includes links to some of the videos made by those who ignored the ban.
In 2011 the regional and  local governments of the area agreed to share the costs of restoration, including car parking and a museum. Work started in March 2014 and the trail reopened a couple of days ago. The entire route is 7.7 kilometres long. Entry is completely free of charge for the first six months and then will cost €6 per person. It is already fully booked up until June and an estimated 600 people per day are expected.
The whole point of Giovanni’s blog is to highlight how the Spanish government has managed in a relatively short time (total of 4 years between the start of the project and its completion) and even more importantly for a relatively small amount of money  to render secure one of the most renowned paths in its country,  making it accessible to anyone who has a good head for heights. 
It is quite a different story in our neck of the woods. Here whenever any project is carried out to improve or make our trails safer, the costs involved are generally completely out of proportion to the end result. 
Moreover, as Giovanni states, such work is often unnecessary and above all poorly executed: unnecessary because most of the paths “secured” were of no particular danger in the first place (for example Le Tese from Positano to Santa Maria del Castello or the less exposed stretch of the Path of the Gods approaching Nocelle); badly executed since apart from how the fencing is fixed to the ground, the wood used is often of an inferior quality which deteriorates quickly.
You only have to look at some of the fencing along the Path of the Gods , where extremely wobbly and sometimes broken wooden railings make things more dangerous, if anything, rather than safer. And don't get me started on the accuracy of the information on the signboards (distances, timings etc) or the quality of the English translations....In Giovanni’s opinion making paths “safe” in this way serves mainly to line the pockets of the designers, project managers and wood merchants and I have to agree.
There is talk of funds arriving for the re-qualification of Punta Campanella and the Bay of Jeranto. We can only hope that this money gets spent wisely and not squandered or  worse.
Maybe we should invite our European friends to apply for the tender. They could no doubt improve the entire of network of our paths , the Valley delle Ferriere, Faito and Punta Campanella included, at a much lower cost whilst doing a significantly better job.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

THE CAPRI MARATRAIL – Sunday 22nd March 2015

For keen walkers and lovers of amazing panoramas, what could be more inviting than the Capri Maratrail that will be held on 22nd March, organized by the Capri Outdoors Association.
Approximately 20 to 22 kms which if you look at the map will take you from one end of the island to the other.
The probable route (which can be changed at any moment by the organisers) goes up to Capri town from the Marina Grande and then out towards Villa Lysis and Villa Jovis before looping back to the edge of the town. Next comes another loop via the Piazzetta delle Noci, Dentecala, Pizzolungo and Tragara, before returning again to Capri town. Leaving the centre behind, the fun now begins, since Monte Solaro is next. This will probably be via the very steep Passetiello trail bringing you to Cetrella. The climb then continues, be it less steeply, up  to the top of Monte Solaro and the chairlift station. From there the route proceeds high along the ridge before dropping down to the Belvedere Migliera and Guardia.
Next come the Fortini (Bourbon Blockhouses), the path crossing the rocks a little above sea level. Leaving them behind, the trail cuts up inland,heading back to Anacapri where the Scala Fenicia (Phoenician Steps) await to take you  back to the Marina where the trail ends.
Do not be put off by the length or by the 1000 metres difference in elevation. You don’t have to do it all, you can join or leave when or where you wish. There is no registration fee, it is completely free, under your own responsibility. The meeting point is at Largo Fontana in Marina Grande at 09.00, departure time 09.15. This will enable anyone coming from the mainland to get there in time.

Unfortunately I will not be there this time. Hopefuly it will be repeated in the future and I will be sure not to miss it.

For further information contact the Association by phone at 3470249559 or by email:

Monday, 2 March 2015


For some time I had wanted to try out the trail of La Sperlonga, historically one of the main routes linking Castellammare to Vico Equense before the coastal road was built and said to be part of the ancient Via Minerva which went all the way to the tip of the Sorrento Peninsula to Punta Campanella.

The path starts off to the side of the cemetery near the church of San Francesco, which is well out of the centre of Vico Equense and a lot higher up. There is a little bus that goes there (infrequently), or if you are driving, the road is one of those narrow, winding affairs where you will probably end up having to reverse several times to let the locals pass.
However once you get there, the walk is really relaxing. You cannot miss the path since there is a fairly new sign declaring “La Sperlonga Ecopasseggiata". There is nothing steep, either up or down, which makes a change for these parts. There are no sheer drops.The surface varies from paved to stony to beaten earth. It really is a piece of cake and you can enjoy the views and the vegetation without worrying too much about where to put your feet.
After a while you come to the spring of the Sperlonga. This used to be an important and strategic point of refreshment both for travelers and for animals, the water always clear and cool, coming down from the heights of Faito. Today it was in full flow, fed by the abundant rain we have had recently.
The path continues, winding around the hillside. Admittedly we did not follow it all the way to Pozzano (near Castellammare) since we had heard of a landslide that blocks the path at some point along the way.
So we limited ourselves to ambling past the incredibly well-tended olive groves, enjoying the first flowers of the impending spring, including a solitary almond tree in full blossom, until the path became a lot narrower and the surface not quite so good and we turned back. 
It was interesting to see the views from this side of the peninsula, used as I am to the Amalfi Coast or the area around Massa Lubrense. In one direction we had the Bay of Naples, Vesuvius ever present, be it  with its head in the clouds, the sea as calm as calm, the white sails of a regatta dotted here and there on its glassy surface. In the opposite direction we could see the steep cliffs bearing the towns of Vico Equense and beyond it Seiano. You could just about make out the tip of Capri peeping over the headland. Nearer to us, clinging to the hillside, the distinctive red of the church of San Francesco. A pity about the incredibly ugly monastery attached to it. 
To complete our morning, once back at the cemetery we walked up the road to the church and on to the viewpoint. There were some rather horrendous religious artifacts up there, but the flowers were lovely and the views magnificent.