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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

Sunday, 15 February 2015

MONTE COMUNE

What ( or rather who) goes up must come down and this is only too true if you want to go to Monte Comune. From whichever direction you approach it, there is going to be a lot of very steep uphill and then a lot of very steep down. It is one of those trails where my walking pole quickly becomes my best friend, since the path is often little more than a goat track covered in the loose scree-like stones  so common to this area. 
However once you get to the top of its 876 metres and emerge onto the plateau with its 360° views of the peninsula, you quickly forget about what has been and what is still to come, and just enjoy. 
In spring it is a riot of colour: flowers of every hue, yellow, white, pink, blue and purple  on a vast green carpet. For a couple of weeks the meadow turns red, clover clad. Meantime the ferns grow higher and higher, the brambles extend their thorny tentacles  and the vegetation runs riot.
In the height of summer everything dries out, gold replacing green as the hay is cut and 
rolled into bales scattered about  the fields.
In late autumn it is still fairly arid and the trees turn russet as they prepare to shed their leaves. Winter is much more barren, the grass taking on a muddy hue and the trees standing skeletal and forlorn. Last week   snow covered the distant peaks of Conocchia and Molare making it seem even colder than it was.
Many a picnic has been consumed up here, perched on a rock, admiring the views: the Sorrento peninsula with Capri behind, sea to the right, to the left and beyond. A simple sandwich tastes so much better from a place like this.
You can get to Monte Comune from S. Maria del Castello (Positano side) or from the Colli San Pietro (Sorrento side). We tend to walk it in either direction, using either the path of Le Tese or the trail via Capodacqua to get to or from Positano.
You do not necessarily have to pass through the small hamlet of Santa Maria, however it has the advantage of having a bar/restaurant , plus a public water fountain near the church; in other words it is a useful stopping point, especially since there is no other source of food or water between there and the Colli.The signage is not particularly brilliant, so do take a map. Again it is not a hike for the less fit or for anyone suffering from vertigo, and yet again, the correct footwear and a good supply of water are essential, especially since there is nowhere to top up along the way.

Monday, 9 February 2015

THE VALLEY DELLE FERRIERE (Amalfi)

The Valley of the Mills (part of the Valley delle Ferriere) is probably the second most famous Amalfi Coast hike after the Path of the Gods. So long as you stick to the traditional route setting off from the centre of Amalfi and going straight up the gorge before either coming back the same way or proceeding up to Pontone, there is not much you can do to go wrong.  
However there is a fairly complex network of trails converging on the head of the “valley” that are again not as simple as they are sometimes made out to be, partly due to the nature of the trails involved, but also due to a number of intersections that can cause confusion.
In one of Giovanni Visetti’s latest blogs, he offers some suggestions and advice regarding the Valley delle Ferriere.

As you can see, his map indicates a selection of trails and  intersections. These are by no means all of them. There are others, including official CAI routes. However the ones Giovanni has marked are those most commonly hiked. He divides the routes into basso (lower), between Pontone and Amalfi (with a deviation up to the protected Riserva Naturale), and alto  (upper) between Pogerola and Scala (Campidoglio, Minuta or Pontone).
This is what he suggests:

  • crossing the Canneto (the brook flowing down to Amalfi) from the upper trail at Fic' 'a noce  is not always a simple matter, especially if you don't want to get  wet. The rocks can be used as stepping stones, (easier for people with walking poles/sticks), but these can be very slippery. The best method is to take off your boots and wade across barefoot. The water isn’t deep but it can come up to your ankles...
  • for anyone wanting to get to Pogerola  from Fic''a noce, the intersection to the north of  Punta Cianfone (indicated by the red arrow) can be misleading . Pay attention here! If you go straight on taking the initially wider and flatter path , you will end up in the lower part of the valley joining the Giustino Fortunato trail between the Riserva and Tavernate. To reach Pogerola, you have to follow the trail to the right, one that many people completely miss inspite of the red and white CAI signs. This short but steep track   passes through vegetation before bringing you out onto a panoramic viewpoint  (quota 468 on the map).
  • the section of the Giustino Fortunato trail between the Riserva and Tavernate is not advisable for anyone suffering from vertigo and there are a couple of points where the utmost attention is required, especially when the rocks are wet or  just damp, even more so  if you are going downhill. Your footwear, and in particular their grip, can make a huge difference here.
  • another misleading intersection, but not as bad as the previous one, can be found when walking from Pontone towards the Ferriera.  Shortly after leaving the paved stretch, do not take the path descending back towards the valley, but proceed uphill for a dozen or so metres to the right of a small construction belonging to the aqueduct.  Straight afterwards, go down to the left and round a couple of little bends, continuing along a flat path towards an old bridge that you can see ahead of you. Walk over the bridge and in a couple of hundred metres you will come to the Ferriera. 
  • remember that the Riserva is a protected area and that visits are regulated. If you wish to go there, you will need to check when it is open and arrange this. Every year the procedure changes.
    For my part, I have walked the main trails of the Ferriere many a time. I am particularly fond of the Upper Trail, walking from Pogerola and winding round the valley towards Scala.There are a couple of small streams to be crossed along the way, where I am always grateful for a helping hand (not having the best balance and being afraid of falling in..).It can also be very slippery here and there as I know to my expense! However once you emerge onto the farther side of the valley, the path opens up and becomes a lot easier and of course the views are simply magnificent!
    If you do not feel like adventuring along these trails by yourselves, there are first-class local guides who will accompany you. If you prefer to go alone, make sure that you have a map, that you are suitably clad, and that someone knows where you have gone. Do not rely on your mobile phones, there is rarely a signal.

 
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