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Monday, 18 April 2016

PUNTA CAMPANELLA - PROGRESS REPORT

The path to Punta Campanella has been undergoing a major facelift for some months now in order to make it "accessible" to all. I have always had my concerns about this particular intervention, knowing full well that whilst the intentions, at least on paper, were no doubt admirable, there was every possibility that the finished product could well end up ruining something that not only was of important historical value, but also rather special.
Having heard that despite the path being officially closed and off limits, people were happily accessing it, I decided to go and take a look.
From all accounts, during the week the gate is left wide open, but it was a Sunday and from a distance, it looked firmly shut. Once there however, the chain used to close it was conveniently loose, so that anyone on foot could easily get around it and  so we did.
The initial impression of the newly crazy-paved "trail" and its sturdy fake dry-stone walls (clearly cemented together) was of partial dismay. It was just too new, too perfect, too  urban. The original path had been totally transformed. 

 However as we proceeded further on down, we realised that the views were still there and that we could actually enjoy them more, without the stress of having to watch where we were putting our feet all the time. Better still, the vegetation to the left of the path was intact and not confined by a wall, growing right down to the edge of the path. There was no lack of flowers, and even the orchids were still there.
The work is by no means complete. It seems a bit haphazard, the surface changing from the initial new crazy-paving back to a dirt track. Next comes a strip of cement followed by what looks as if it might still be the original Roman paving. Then we have another  strip of cement, before the final crazy paving taking us to the steps down to the tower and the lighthouse at the end of the path. The wall to the right is virtually complete, with just a couple of dodgy gaps which could do with being fenced off (but then officially the path is still closed..). And they really should raise the height of the rails at the view point along the way, since now that the level of the path is slightly higher, they offer very little protection against the drop below.
As we approached the tip, the first thing we noticed was a bright blue tent with a couple sun-bathing in what they had presumably thought was splendid isolation. Then we saw that everything seemed more spacious. I had already read somewhere that the old decrepit buildings to the side of the tower had been demolished, and in fact they have, and this is no loss at all. For the rest, everything is virtually as it was.
In all sincerity I was expecting to hate the whole walk. In the end I didn't. Maybe the use of so much cement is not ideal, but I cannot honestly say that the path is ruined or that the vegetation has been destroyed. I just hope that they complete the surfacing and leave it at that. It really doesn't need anything more.
My remaining concern is what happens once the work is finished. Towards the start of the path is a road sign. It clearly states in 3 languages  "No Entry. (Footpath) - Nur Zu Fuss - Seul a Pied". Unfortunately it is not in Italian, and even before the transformation of the path, cars, Ape trucks and mopeds would venture down as far as they could.  Once it is a clear run straight down to the tip, I shudder to think what might happen, especially since the vast majority of Italians believe more in wheels than using their legs.
The path was due re-open at the end of April, already several months behind schedule. I very much doubt that it will be ready by then, but when it is, it will make for a very pleasant stroll. And anyone craving a more energetic and more natural hike can do what we did: not turn back along the same way we came, but take the rough trail all the way up the ridge and on to Monte San Costanzo.
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