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Thursday, 26 November 2015

FAVOURITE TRAILS - PART 2

As promised, here is the second of Giovanni Visetti's favourite trails:
Caserma Forestale - Monte Catiello rockfall (4 January 2002)
As in the previous walk, and as is often the case, the most spectacular parts of the trail are not right by the road. This leaves you free to choose your starting point (at either extremity as you prefer) and the route back to your car or nearest public transport. More of that later. 
So, what makes this itinerary so interesting? Out of all the routes from Santa Maria del Castello to Capo Muro, this stretch is the most varied, being the highest and passing as it does at the foot of imposing cliffs and crossing deep gorges that, although south-facing, get little light. The western part includes open stretches offering extensive panoramas, whilst to the east there are views of the impressive 2002 rockfall. And as if this was not sufficient, thanks to the varying environment, the vegetation frequently changes: the garrigue gives way to woods, cypresses to oaks, not to mention the wild orchids and other less known species that in season can be found along the way. 
The route is not particularly difficult unless you wish to cross the rockfall, when the faint of heart, the less agile or anyone with little sense of balance could encounter problems. However, they too can enjoy this walk by keeping it to the minimum indispensible, and that is by going from S.Maria del Castello to the edge of the landslide and back the same way. This is definitely not the ideal solution for anyone who has the time and the legs, but it reduces  the total distance and elevation to a minimum: a couple of kilometres to the Forestale (intersection Conocchia), another 700 metres along the path as far as the turning that goes down to the road Montepertuso-Nocelle, and a further 1200m to the rockfall. In other words a grand total of roughly 4km including an approximate 300 metre difference in elevation.
The map below, although basic, gives various ideas as to how to create loops or at least not limit it to the there and back walk described above. There are effectively three points that can be reached fairly easily by car or even by public transport: 

  • S.Maria del Castello (few buses go there, but just a little lower down they are more frequent - stop at Anaro (between Moiano and Ticciano)
  • the road between Montepertuso and Nocelle (bus route Positano - Nocelle, virtually every hour)
  • Bomerano (bus), by car you can get to beyond Paipo

From wherever you wish to set off, the most logical thing is to include the Path of the Gods in the hike, being almost parallel to the trail but 300 to 400 metres lower down. If you use the planner  you can choose how to link the two paths, but of course whichever you choose will be steep. Both the Forestale and the Path of the Gods are not considered steep by experienced walkers since what slopes there are, are not long.
If you wish to limit the overall distance of your walk, you may omit the Path of the Gods and go straight down to Nocelle via Vagnulo from the rockfall. The lower part necessary to complete the loop is just over 1 kilometre long  and is along the road or via the paved path that brings you to the main road near the bridge.
In theory there are many other loops, but without going too far, the fitter could consider the hike around Sant'Angelo a Tre Pizzi.
Setting off from any point on Faito, you can descend via Palmentiello and then once near Crocella turn towards Capo Muro, continuing to the Forestale and crossing the rockfall (frana) before going back up to Faito via the Conocchia. This can also be done in the opposite direction, but if you consider how steep it is going up, the descent is no less, and for many it can be knee destroying! This option is optimal for the views and you could also include what will be the subject of my next favourite trail: Conocchia ridge - Molare, although all the other routes are valid.
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At this point, I would like to add a few observations of my own. I agree with Giovanni that this is a very pleasant and varied stretch with fantastic views on a clear day and that you can make it as easy or as difficult, as short or as long as you please. The rockfall crossing is a challenge, but perfectly feasible if you take it slowly and watch where you are putting your feet. The first time I crossed it, I was pretty intimidated, but more because everyone  was watching my discomfort than anything else. Again, if it is something I can manage, then anyone reasonably fit should be fine. Once over the rocks, there is an extremely steep part (up or down, depending which trail you take), and although as Giovanni says, both the Forestale and the Path of the Gods are fairly level (and therefore cannot be considered steep), both do have their seriously steep moments and the ground can be rocky and rough making it all a little trickier.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Favourite trails - part 1

In one of his recent blogs, Giovanni Visetti, experienced hiker and cartographer who many of you will already be acquainted with, announced that he would be writing a series of blogs about his favourite trails in our area. There will be seven, to be published not in order of preference but geographically, commencing from the eastern end of the Amalfi Coast and moving west concluding on the isle of Capri. 
As always, I will do my best to convey the sense of Giovanni's blogs, at times adding my own personalised view, since they are all trails that I have frequented, some of them many a time. Giovanni has a penchant for paths that are highly panoramic not only looking down towards the sea but also up towards the hills and mountains. Five out of the seven chosen routes are along ridges, so not particularly suitable for anyone suffering from vertigo or of unsure footing. That said, if I can walk them, they are feasible for most reasonably fit hikers!
The first one, posted today, is Tre Calli - Capo Muro (+Monte Catiello).
This path is high above Agerola at around 1100 metres above sea level (unless you continue up Monte Catiello with its 1393 metres). It can be reached from various directions, but whichever way you choose, there will be a certain elevation gain and exertion required. As they say: no gain without pain.. 
Agerola below
The shortest way is doubtless from above Bomerano taking the CAI path (by the  iron cross at the  bend on the road to Paipo) which leads up to the Tre Calli. From there you continue to Capo Muro, marked by its distinctive mushroom shaped rock formation. Then it is up to you whether you want  to tackle Monte Catiello, 300 metres higher up.  
I have to confess that whilst I have frequented and enjoyed the Tre Calli and Capo Muro on many an occasion, I have yet to climb Monte Catiello. The reason for this is simple.I am a wimp when it comes to steep descents and loose stones, and this one has them both. One day I will perhaps pluck up my courage, since from the photos I have seen, it is well worth the effort.
That said, the specific stretch favoured by Giovanni is  between Capo Muro and the ridge on the southern side of the Tre Calli (towards Paipo). At times the official track circumvents various small hillocks along the crest, so it is worth leaving the trail every now and then to get to the top of them and take full advantage of the magnificent 360 degree views: to one side the plain of Agerola, to the other the Amalfi Coast with Positano, Li Galli islands and Capri extending into the distance, as well as the impressive massif of Sant'Angelo a Tre Pizzi high above.
There are various ways of getting here from the west rather than from Bomerano. I have often come from S.Maria del Castello, following the Forestale route which involves clambering over the rocks of the 2002 landslide of Monte Catiello.  Whichever way you choose, it is well worth the effort.


Thursday, 12 November 2015

OLIVE PICKING TIME

It is olive picking time here. This year the crop is excellent, the trees heavy with olives, compensating an appalling 2014 when freak hail storms destroyed the lot
The terraces are a hive of activity. Work starts at dawn and continues until dusk, when, if you have the misfortune of driving along our winding roads, you will inevitably be held up by a three-wheeler truck or two put-putting slowly along, loaded up with sacks of olives and empty drums on their way to the presses. 
There is a constant noise of chainsaws in the background as the wood is turned into logs for the winter stoves and plumes of smoke rise up from the terraces as bonfires burn whatever is left over.
When I first came to live here, the olive harvest was another family occasion, a joint effort, similar to the bottling of fresh tomatoes in the summer. To some extent it still is. The men would be up the ladders or in the branches of the trees, cutting them down or shaking them vigorously to make the olives fall. The women and children would all be down below, either bent in two picking the olives up from the ground, or sitting removing them from the branches before putting them into the sacks.
It was a pretty thankless task, hard on the back and tough on the hands, but the end product more than compensated. What can be better than a chunk of fresh bread dipped in your own olive oil?
Nowadays it is still hard work but not quite as bad as before thanks to  the nets strung beneath the trees automatically collecting the olives as they ripen and fall. There are also nifty electronic strimmers that strip the olives from the branches making the work more rapid and somewhat easier on the arms. Once harvesting is over, the nets are rolled back up and left hanging between the trees ready for the following year.
Talk is all about olives at the moment. Football has been pushed into second place!

Friday, 6 November 2015

MONTE SAN COSTANZO REBORN

Taking advantage of yet another beautifully sunny day, I decided to take a break at lunchtime and walk up through the woods from my home in Nerano  to Monte San Costanzo.
The banks of pink cyclamen to the sides of the path brightened my way as I headed steeply uphill through the trees, watching my footing since the humidity had made the trail extremely slippery. As I came out of the shade, I turned to look down, enjoying the views of the bay of Marina del Cantone far below.  
However the best was yet to come. 
At the very beginning of September an immense  fire had completely destroyed the vegetation on the slopes of Monte San Costanzo, transforming  the hillside into what can only be described as a lunar landscape. 
The flames had extended into the pinewood, scorching the trees and consuming the undergrowth. Everything was black or brown. It was just depressing.
Now, a mere two months later,  the scars of the fire have faded and  the predominant colour is green, a fresh, bright and vital green. In the midst of this green a myriad of daisies have emerged in cheerful contrast, their flowers  attracting the occasional pollen- seeking butterfly or bee.
I continued happily up towards the crest, disturbing the lizards enjoying the warmth of the sun's rays on the rocks and marvelling at the speed of recovery.
It felt more like springtime than November  and I can't wait to see what it will be like then!


Sunday, 1 November 2015

THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHILD - JERANTO

This morning I went for a walk to Jeranto. Nothing new, you may well think, but this time it was substantially different to previous occasions since I was accompanied by my six year old granddaughter who had never been there beforeAdmittedly I was a little in trepidation, not only because some of the path is quite exposed, but also because the way back is for the first part uphill and rather steep and I wasn't sure that my walking companion would cope. I need not have worried, she took it all in her stride (literally), probably because there were a thousand and one distractions to keep her entertained along the way.
It was so rewarding and so refreshing to see this well-worn path through her eyes, eyes that delighted not only in the views, but in all those little and often unnoticed things along the way: an empty snail's shell, a couple of falcons wheeling high above us, a tiny flower growing out of a rock, a cricket virtually camouflaged on the path (she wasn't too sure about that one).
She saw her first dragonflies, delighted in the many butterflies fluttering around the rosemary bushes  in full bloom, fancied tasting a myrtle berry straight off the bush (not such a good idea) , picked numerous daisies and wild cyclamen to take to her mother and asked a thousand questions, not all of which I could answer.
From above the bay, I showed her the huge scar on the hillside caused by quarrying many years ago and told her that her great-grandfather had been one of the miners who had worked there at the time. We went down to the plateau, walked to its end and admired Capri in the distance. I didn't take her down to the beach, since I knew that I would never get her home! We will be back though, next spring, when it is warmer. That's a promise.



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