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Saturday, 31 January 2015

MAPS, WARNINGS & QR CODES



It has been a busy week for Giovanni Visetti, well-known cartographer and expert of the  Sorrento peninsula and Amalfi Coast trails, with three new blogs regarding his maps.

Perhaps the most welcome is the news that updated and slightly revised trail maps of Sorrento and Massa Lubrense will soon replace the old fading and often damaged ones that you can find in most villages and townships. These will also include “Warnings”: warnings of interruptions due to landslides (the main one being at Via Pantano, affecting one of the routes between Massa Lubrense and Sorrento, with another much smaller one at the start of Via Fontana on the way to Nerano) or of the very poor state of the last stretch of the path leading to Recommone from Monte Monticchio, subject of one of my  previous blogs. Alternative routes for all are indicated. In addition, there are a couple of changes to the original routes linking Torca and Sant’Agata to Crapolla and Guardia. 
This map is already available on Giovanni's website and can, as always, be downloaded and printed completely free of charge. It will also be accessible on the websites of the local Town Council and relative Tourist offices (Pro Loco).



To conclude his week, Giovanni has created QR codes for the map. Hopefully these will be readily displayed in hotels, B&Bs, tourist offices, even at bus stops, so that users of Smartphones, Iphones and tablets will able to download and save the map onto their devices and thus have instant access to the routes whenever and wherever. 

Here are the links to the blogs:



Friday, 30 January 2015

THE PATH OF THE GODS



Where to start when writing about the most famous path of the Amalfi Coast? 
My favourite time of year for walking this route is springtime with the flowers in full bloom and days that are neither too hot nor too cold.
However even in winter, on a clear, sunny day, or even on a cloudy grey day, it is something special, more than special. In fact, I would go so far as to say that a dry winter’s day is preferable to many other brighter ones in spring, summer or autumn, when hikers flock to the path and overcrowd it, creating people jams along the trickier, more narrow stretches where it is impossible to walk in other than single file. 
It is not the simple, flat, shady path that some Cruise ship companies, keen to sell the excursion, make it out to be. It has some fairly ferocious uneven and steep stretches, both up and down, whichever way you decide to walk it. It is definitely not for anyone suffering from vertigo or having gammy knees or hips.
It is also not for people in flip-flops or flimsy sandals (yes, they can sometimes be seen limping sadly along), since the surface is often rough, stony and slippery. It can be blisteringly hot in summer and there are long stretches without any shade at all, but suitably clad and shod, and with a good supply of water, if you are unable to come at any other time, do not be put off. 
My friends and I generally start from Nocelle and turn the walk into a semi loop by taking the upper trail from the  intersection at waymark 7 (Cisternuolo), gaining height and enjoying the grassy terraces with their splendid views of the lower path and the sea below us.

From Colle Serra where the upper and lower paths meet, we continue to Bomerano for a coffee and, why not, a cake at Peppe’s bar, before re-tracing our steps to Colle Serra. Here we will now follow the lower trail, going steeply downhill (or rather down rough steps) before winding round the foot of the cliffs and up a short rocky section, before returning to the intersection and back to Nocelle.

That way you get the best of both worlds and don’t necessarily need to keep turning round to see what the views are like behind you!
It is a unique experience and one not to be missed.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

VANISHING EYESORES

A couple of weeks ago, Giovanni Visetti published an article in his Blog Discettazioni Erranti  complaining about a number of ancient rusty metal pylons, and not only, scarring the landscape of some of the most picturesque walks in this area.
He specifically identified one along the path to Punta Campanella and others polluting the views on the way to Jeranto, not forgetting the  display of obsolete antennas and ramshackle abandoned sheds further afield on Faito. 
He asked why they couldn’t be removed: anti-aesthetic, long since unused and potentially even a source of danger as they were.
Well, I am delighted to report that the first one has disappeared. Not thanks to any divine intervention from above or to some institution or Company, mortified by his post, springing into action, but purely thanks to Giovanni’s determination (ever heard the saying “ a dog with a bone”?). Yesterday Giovanni and  a band of willing helpers  convened at the site of the first offending pylon (Punta Campanella) and manually carted the pieces up the path to a couple of trucks which were waiting to take them away. (see Giovanni's update)
Due to their location, the dismantling and removal of the pylons towards Jeranto will be considerably more complex. However I would happily take a bet that before too long, Giovanni will manage to accomplish this too, and it will be no mean feat.
Watch this space, or keep an eye directly on Giovanni’s Blog or the Facebook page Camminate Camminate

NB photos courtesy of Giovanni

Friday, 9 January 2015

The "Path” Monte di Monticchio - Recommone


I read with interest Giovanni Visetti's latest Blog post, where he writes about the state of the trail from Torca to Recommone and Marina del Cantone, (part of the Via del Monti Lattari, CAI 300), and specifically the last stretch  after the pinewood of Monte Monticchio (segments 2 & 3 of map) leading you down to the beach of Recommone.
I walked this trail a couple of months ago, and it is not the easiest trail at the best of times once you leave the path above Crapolla at Guardia.
Rough underfoot and narrow, it is also very easy to miss a couple of crucial turns up to the right, especially when there is a lot of vegetation hiding the signs.

The track becomes even narrower as you cross the gully after Cuparo and there are several tricky points where the drop is considerable, be it hidden by the bushes. And all this before you even get to the very last stretch, which is the main subject of Giovanni’s blog. It is definitely not a hike for the faint-hearted. It is also the hike that compared to other more popular routes creates the highest incidence of calls to the emergency services, with hikers getting lost or hurting themselves along the way.

For several years Giovanni has been suggesting that unless you really need to get to Recommone and Marina del Cantone, you might as well avoid having to negotiate the last steep and fairly treacherous stretch by leaving the official trail and going towards Spina and Caprile. There is a much easier  and more distinctive path (1 on the map), that was cleared and made accessible just a couple of years ago. This takes you up to a very minor road and from there you have a choice of whether to proceed to Nerano and Recommone, or go straight to Termini and on to Punta Campanella or Monte San Costanzo, or simply go directly to Sant'Agata. This is what I would normally do. 
On this occasion, however, we were on a recky, destination Recommone. I had already ruled out any attempt at descending the final stretch of the Cai track. This we had done in the opposite direction (ie uphill) some months previously and it was not a happy experience. Even the “goats” amongst us were in difficulty thanks to collapsed dry-stone walls and thick vegetation, with brambles and bindweed all too ready to scratch you and trip you up. In descent it would be far, far worse, even perilous, since the loose stones along the track add to the difficulty, making it slippery.
I confess that we took the easy option of the steps down to the restaurant in Recommone rather than risking our necks and our legs in the final descent of the CAI trail. This is a much better way down provided the restaurant is actually open and will let you through..

To quote Giovanni, “The question is: in the “path’s” present condition, is it worth going down to Recommone if you have to continually watch where you are putting your feet and can’t even enjoy the view? "
Worth it or not, I would suspect that a combination of ignorant bliss and the thought of a refreshing swim at the end of the hike lures most people on, also because, and I will now continue to quote Giovanni as best as I can: 
 "it has to be said that this stretch has been part of the Alta Via dei Monti Lattari for at least thirty years or more, that it figures in the official CAI map and in many others (mine included), as well as being described in dozens of guides, both on line and not.” In other words, this is the official route and this is what people will go by.
So basically rather than abandoning it, Giovanni states: “something needs to be done about it. Although far fewer walkers hike this trail compared to many of the other paths of the Monti Lattari, the number of emergency calls from lost or injured hikers is much higher here than for any other trail. Accidents can happen even to the most experienced hikers, but seeing that many people don’t bother with a map, don’t know the path or even the area, are dressed unsuitably and have little hiking experience, they should at least be warned about what they are walking into. Why not put warning signs at the main starting points such as Torca and Guardia to the east and  Cantone and Recommone to the west? At the very least it would be opportune to refresh the signs along the trail and check them annually. It would also be beneficial to improve the surface a little…Alternatively (and more drastically), CAI could decide to change the route, removing the stretch from the pinewood to Recommone.
If none of this is done, no one should be surprised if the calls to the emergency services continue.”

 Link to Giovanni's Blog

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

HIGHLIGHTS OF 2014



The other day I was going through my photographs trying to select those best illustrating our hikes in 2014. It wasn’t easy.
There are some walks that are ever present – Punta Campanella and San Costanzo, Jeranto, Monte Vico Alvano and Monte Comune, the Sirenuse Trail, the Path of the Gods, to name just a few. Sometimes I am asked “don’t you get bored of repeating the same trails over and over again?” I can reply with an emphatic "no". Each single walk is unique. There are so many varying factors: the season, the time of day, the weather, the company, not to mention chance encounters along the way: flowers, birds, butterflies, lizards, the occasional snake, an immense variety of bugs and of course fellow-walkers from all over the world.
Concert at sundown - Pizzetiello
However there are three hikes from 2014 that particularly stand out.
The first was at the end of July and was a late afternoon hike up part of the Sirenuse Trail to Pizzetiello. There we were treated to the strains of Verdi’s 4 Seasons, played by a group of string musicians at sundown, their backdrop the sea and the Amalfi Coast. The combination of the scenery and the music was sublime.
View from Conocchia - Faito
The second was a June hike to Faito. My brother and his wife were here on holiday and we wanted to show them something different. So we drove all the way up to the crest of Faito before making our way on foot  through the woods to Casa del Monaco where we enjoyed the first amazing views of the peninsula. It was a hot sunny day, but we all made it up the Conocchia and on to the Molare. From there we wound our way down the other side of the hill and back to our starting point. The day was a beauty and the views incomparable. I never tire of seeing the look of wonder on people’s faces when they see the views from here and my brother and  his wife did not disappoint.
View from Monte Sant'Angelo
The third hike was the realization of a personal ambition. I had always wanted to get to the top of Monte Sant'Angelo, the hill above Alberi overlooking the plain of Sorrento. How many times had I looked at it from down in Sorrento wondering what it would be like up there. In mid August we decided to give it a try, setting off from Arola and making our way to Alberi. We continued along the lanes towards Montechiaro, cutting up through the olive terraces, following our instincts rather than any particular path, in the hope that we would end up where we wanted to be. All of a sudden we came out onto a grassy plateau. We walked over to a deserted and ramshackle country house perched on the edge of the cliff and there before us was the whole of Sorrento, stretching out far below, the island of Capri peeping out in the distance. It was breathtaking, exceeding all expectations.
We look forward to an equally rewarding  2015.





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