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 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!

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