Hiking Sentiero degli Dei: Italy {Part VII}

As we approached the tunnel we were met with multiple cars doing U-turns: damn, it was closed. This confirmed what we kind of already knew – our Italian sucked. Even though we’d made an effort to learn some basic words and phrases and we had our trusty pal – Google Translate – it still wasn’t enough. We’d sped by multiple road signs, and after each one made the assumption there must be roadworks somewhere up ahead. We didn’t pass any roadworks, but when we reached the tunnel it was well and truly closed, completely blocked off due to a fire the night before. The only bright side was, we weren’t the only foreigners who couldn’t read Italian.

It was finally the day of our trip I’d been looking forward to the most. I’d had the page marked in my Lonely Planet guidebook before we’d even booked our flights, and the idea that we might not make it to Sentiero degli Dei or Path of the Gods, was too much for me to bear. The next day we were heading over to Anacapri, so this was our last chance to make it happen.

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Sentiero degli Dei: Where to Start

Stretching all the way from Positano to Agerola, Sentiero degli Dei, is a hiking trail that runs over mountain tops and meanders through thick, earthy woodland. Probably the most popular walk on the Amalfi Coast, this 12km trail is a hiker’s dream. With spectacular views of the Amalfi coastline as well as lush green valley’s off in the distance, it was definitely my favourite part of the trip.

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Rather than being a single path as the name suggests, Path of the Gods is made up of multiple pathways that criss-cross over one another. At which point you decide to join the walk might be dependent upon a few different things: your walking ability/fitness level, how much time you have and whereabouts you’re staying. To take in the whole walk you can start either at Nocelle, (Positano) and finish in Bomerano, (Agerola), or vice versa. The day the tunnel was closed we were heading to Bomerano. Not because of the easier downhill route that a lot of websites suggest, but for the practical reason that car parking might be easier than at Nocelle. On a Saturday, probably one of the busiest days of the week, this was our main concern. But due to the fire, we ended up having to drive to Nocelle anyway.

Already behind schedule due to our unexpected detour, we snaked our way around hairpin bends and climbed steadily up the winding mountain roads, doubting if we would actually find somewhere to park once we arrived.

Having already Googled everything a few days before, we headed straight for the car park at the end of Frazione Nocella, and as luck would have it there was one space left – talk about fate! With approx. 15 spaces, it’s pretty small so you’ll need to get there early to snag one. Also, it’s only the top level that’s available to the public – the lower levels are for permit holders only. Although we felt kinda smug knowing we’d taken the last space, the feeling was short lived when we realised we didn’t have enough change for the parking fee. With no facilities to pay by card and my dream of hiking the trail quickly beginning to fade away, luck showed up one more time when we saw a group of girls waiting for a taxi. I quickly ran over holding a scrunched up note asking for change and I’m pretty sure they could smell my desperation. Although a few of them didn’t seem particularly happy about it, between them they managed to scrape together some coins – hoorah! With a rough guesstimate as to how long the walk would take us, we threw all the change we had into the machine, knowing it would only just about cover us by the skin of our teeth.

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Hiking the trail

Finally, we were on our way. With the warm morning sun shining brightly in the sky, we climbed the steps at the back of the car park. Walking towards the centre of Nocelle, we found the trail was clearly signposted with a variety of hand painted signs and hand-written pots. Following each one, we easily found our way to the start of the track.

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Knowing how popular the walk is, I half expected a mass of hikers all neatly filtering into a single file. But as we left behind the whitewashed buildings there wasn’t another soul in sight. I flashed Ian a grin, tightened the straps on my rucksack and quickened my stride towards the earthy trail that lay ahead. Making our way up the rocky steps, we quickly found ourselves surrounded by thick foliage: to the left, to the right, and off in the distance, a blanket of green stretched out as far as the eye could see. As much as I’d been looking forward to this part of our trip, secretly I was worried in case it didn’t live up to the hype. A bit like when a film gets rave reviews and then when you eventually see it, you hate it, underwhelmed by something so overrated. But eventually, when the Amalfi coastline came into sight – a deep blue ocean with a hazy sunshine mist – I knew I didn’t have anything to worry about. As I looked out to sea, letting my gaze fall upon the horizon, I studied the view I’d become so accustomed to. No matter how many times I saw it, I looked at it as if seeing it for the very first time.

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The further along the track we travelled, the busier it became, but at no point did it become too crowded or overbearing. Italian, French, German, British – nationality after nationality, we had no idea who we would meet next. Some had started in Bomerano, others had started somewhere else: a variety of people from all walks of life, united by beauty and adventure.

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As we hiked along the mountainside, views of lemon groves, farms and lush green valleys spread out ahead of us, pressed into the side of the landscape like a painting. But with each step that we took, another cloud appeared in the sky. By the time we reached Bomerano, the sky was starting to turn grey and thick ominous clouds hung heavily above us. We’d also arrived at the start of siesta. As we sat on a bench and pulled out our sandwiches, we quietly ate and watched a few older gentlemen finishing up their business. When they each headed off in separate directions, the square fell into silence. Apart from a few cars passing through and a man leading some horses past the church, the town was deserted.

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We had no idea if anyone would bother to check the ticket on our car – but time was definitely limited. So after taking a few photographs, we decided to make our way back. And although many people catch a bus back to their starting point, that had never been part of our plan. Retracing our footsteps out of Bomerano, we met a couple taking a break before heading back to Nocelle. Arriving by bus earlier that day, they’d also had to turn around near the tunnel, and the fact that even some Italians couldn’t understand road signs made me feel better about the morning’s detour.

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The Return Journey

Making our way back across the earthy track, the view was different on our return. Yes, there were lush green valleys laid out for all to see, but this time we were walking towards the mountainous coastline. I didn’t need to keep stopping like in the morning, the view was spread out in front of me in glorious technicolour.

With each step towards Nocelle, the heavy clouds began to shift, like a bed of cotton wool being ripped apart. The hazy sunshine slowly returned and the clouds of grey faded to a less ominous shade of white. The walk back to Nocelle was busier than the one to Bomerano, and we were met with familiar faces of other walkers we’d passed earlier in the day. If we hadn’t have had to detour earlier that morning, chances are we would have missed some of the people traffic. This might be something to bear in mind when visiting, as I can imagine during the summer months it can get pretty busy.

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Before I knew it, we were at the top of the rocky steps right near the start of the walk. The earthy path quickly turned into the white stonewashed walkway and we found ourselves walking back past the house of Zia Lucy. After making a quick pit stop at the local toilets – which by the way, were the cleanest public toilets I have ever used – we found ourselves a little disoriented and couldn’t figure out where the car park was. After a quick driving mime to an older Italian gentleman and some vigorous pointing on his behalf, we somehow made our way back to the car. We were a few minutes over our parking time, but overall, I was pretty impressed with how quick we made it back. It would have been nice to explore the streets of Bomerano a little more, but I’m sure at some point in the future we’ll be returning to Sentiero degli Dei, as it definitely lives up to the hype.

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Tips and Advice:

When to visit, walking time, footwear, parking, private tours

  • Sentiero degli Dei is accessible all throughout the year, but weather can be unpredictable. We visited in late September – just out of season – and the weather was still warm. We had plenty of sun, but also some cloud cover, and although it looked set to rain at some points, it never did. To beat the crowds and some of the hotter weather, spring or autumn would probably be the best time to visit.
  • Don’t be the idiot in flip flops. I’d like to think this is pretty obvious, but wear sturdy footwear! The trail can get pretty rocky in parts, and there are a few bits of half climbing half scrambling. We both had on walking trainers, but to be honest, I could have done with walking boots in parts. I have hyper-mobility in my joints, so that extra support on my ankles would have made quite a difference.
  • If you plan on using buses to get to the start or for the return journey, make sure you check the times beforehand. Italian buses can be a little unreliable, so it’s worth checking them out on the day you go.
  • If driving, parking is limited so get there early – especially on a weekend and during high season. In Nocelle, you can find parking at Frazione Nocella, and in Bomerano there is a car park on Via Principe di Piemonte. It’s also worth doing your own research beforehand just to be sure. Also, check your route in the morning for any unexpected road closures. Our detour added about an hour onto our journey time.
  • I’ve read a few horror stories on the internet with people saying how dangerous the trail is in parts, how narrow it is and how you could slip and fall off a cliff. I can only assume these are novice walkers who decided to hike the trail on a whim whilst wearing flip flops (see above). Yes, parts of the track are narrow and there are no railings, but these paths are used day to day by locals and farm owners etc. There was definitely no sense of danger on this walk. Along the way we saw a variety of people of all ages – including children – just be sensible like on any hike.
  • If you want to learn more about the walk and the surrounding area, you can hire a private guide or join a walking group. Zia Lucy appears to be the most popular, you even pass her house at the start of the walk – look out for the blue plant pot.
  • Allow approx. 4 hours for the entire walk – obviously depending on how many times you stop, you may need longer.
  • Arrive early, this will give you a head start on any crowds.

If you’d like to catch up with previous posts, you can visit them below:

Gelato, Evening Walks & Pink Sky {Part I}

Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone {Part II}

Walking Valle Delle Ferriere and Drinking Organic Lemonade {Part III}

Visiting Pompeii, Thunderstorms & Big Hair {Part IV}

24 Hours in Anacapri {Part V}

Find Out The Cost Of My Trip To Italy {Part VI}

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