Hiking the Path of the Gods (Il Sentiero Degli Dei): Amalfi Coast Holidays Soothed the Soul

A couple of years ago, I was struggling to deal with my recent separation after 15 years of marriage.  What better way to help gain some perspective than enjoying an Amalfi Coast Holiday, hiking with my Mum! She suggested that we walk the famous Path of the Gods (Il Sentiero degli Dei in Italian). I was glad she did.

The holiday was just what I needed; some quality time with a loved one, fresh air and exercise, and a break away from the stresses back home. Hiking is my favourite pastime, and why I love being based now in Courmayeur in the Italian Alps.

There are plenty of blogs where you will find an abundance of information on popular places like Positano and Praino.  While they are undoubtedly stunning, as always, our focus was on the walking and exploring less-visited, more peaceful areas.  If this appeals, then I hope you will find this article helpful.

Hiking the Path of the Gods along the Amalfi Coast

So, if you are coming to the Amalfi Coast for Hiking, then you will want to walk Il Sentiero degli Dei, the Path of the Gods. Even if you are not staying in Bomerano, where the walk starts, buses regularly run from Amalfi Town and Positano.  If you are feeling energetic, and you are based in or near Positano, you could walk up and down. This is what we did.

The start of the Path of the Gods Trail
The start of the Path of the Gods Trail

Bomerano to the Hamlet of Nocelle

The Path of the Gods trail leads all the way down to Nocelle, a hamlet above the popular coastal town of Positano.  It took us around 2 hours to reach Nocelle and that included plenty of pauses for photographs. The walk is mostly downhill and is just under 8km.  You don’t have to be a seasoned hiker for this one. As long as you don’t mind the steps, and you are careful of the heat, then it is one that anyone with a reasonable level of fitness will manage.

The path is well marked, look out for the red and white markers with 02 written on them.

You will be following an old mule trail along the mountain ridge, and the walk affords some amazing views over the coast.  The peaceful trail takes you past farmed terraces with olive groves and grape vines. Although it can be steep and rocky at points, it is easy enough to walk in trainers or even good walking sandals.

Make sure that you take plenty of water with you.  The path is very exposed, and it can get extremely hot.

The Path of the Gods Amalfi Coast Trail
The Path of the Gods trail from Positano back up to Bomerano

Negotiate the Steps to Positano

After arriving at the traditional and very picturesque hamlet of Nocelle, you can walk further down to Positano.  Get ready to give the knees a good workout as you have to negotiate 1,500 steps to get there!

It is worth the effort though as the walled walkway offers glimpses into some beautiful private villas. There are also lots of friendly locals to say ‘Buon Giorno’ to along the way.   We were always embarrassed when the older gentleman catching up for a chat wanted to give us a friendly peck on the cheek as we were usually a sweaty mess!

Positano itself is a beautiful village that is set into the cliffside right by the coast.  It has a lovely pebble beach and is packed with narrow cobbled lanes to wander along. There are lots of upmarket boutiques, streetside gelaterias and souvenir shops.  It is super busy, though; a bit too busy for me to be honest.  

Views on the Path of the Gods Trail
Views on the Path of the Gods Trail, heading down towards Positano

Arienzo Beach

Before we headed back up the trails home, we made our way along to Arienzo.  The beach is popular in the summer months. The Arienzo Beach Club Bar and Restaurant attract a jet setting crowd.

Arienzo Beach Amalfi Coast
Arienzo Beach; peaceful in September

It was a slightly overcast September day when we arrived, so it was not too crowded.  We hired one of the sun loungers each and enjoyed a swim in the sheltered cove. Don’t forget to bring good beach shoes as the pebbles are a killer underfoot!

Peaceful Arienzo Beach, Amalfi Coast
Arienzo Beach was so peaceful on an overcast September day

Hiking to Ravello from Amalfi

On another day we took the bus down to Amalfi Town from Bomerano. We then walked the hiking trails up to the beautiful town of Ravello. This trail is not part of the Path of the Gods, but it was just as beautiful.

It took about an hour and a half to get there.  There are quite a lot of steps, but it is another beautiful trail through terraced farmland. Once again, you get great elevated coastal views.  The path is well signposted, but can also pick up a free trail map from the tourist office.

The winding walled paths on the road from Amalfi Town to Ravello
The winding walled paths on the road from Amalfi Town to Ravello. It was well sign posted

Ravello itself was a highlight for us.  It was a bit of a damp day so that probably helped to keep the crowds at bay.  It was more peaceful and less touristy than the likes of Positano and Amalfi. The architecture is stunning and the gardens are wonderful.  Make sure that you allow time to explore the jaw-dropping grounds of the two famous Villas in Ravello; Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone.

Villa Rufolo in Ravello
Villa Rufolo in Ravello
Villa Cimbrone Rufolo
Villa Cimbrone

The Island of Capri

We took the ferry from Positano to Capri; it is around a 45-minute journey.  It was warm enough for us to sit outside so that we could enjoy the views as we approached the Island.  On the return journey, you are treated to some great views of Positano emerging from the cliffside.

Views Approaching Positano Amalfi Coast
The views of Positano from the Ferry from Capri

You may have gathered that designer labels and Michelin starred restaurants are not really my thing.  However, we decided to go to Capri as we knew that it also had some beautiful rugged coastline.

On arriving at the main port, the Marina Grande, you do get some great views. The port itself is extremely busy and slightly grubby, and the queue for the funicular up to Capri Town was eye wateringly huge.  I was a bit underwhelmed when we first arrived.

The Marina Grande in Capri
Approaching the Marina Grande, Capri

I think my initial judgement was an unfair one.  We could have spent much more than a day enjoying all that the Island has to offer.

Ape Truck on the Island of Capri
I love the little Ape Trucks that you see all over Italy, Capri was no exception

We decided we would hike up and, although it was a scorching day, we were glad we did.  The walk up the winding cobbled pathways was lovely and, as you climb, there are some great views back down to the harbour and beyond.  We also enjoyed peaking through the elaborate and unusual gates, marvelling at the splendour of some of the old classic Villas and their gardens.

The walk up to Capri Town from the Marina
The walk up to Capri Town from the Marina

Don’t miss the Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach Exhibition

We visited the Certosa di San Giacomo on the outskirts of Capri Town.  It is a beautiful old monastery that is now a hub for cultural events. It has beautifully preserved grounds, and is home to the museum of the German Painter; Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach.

Certosa di San Giacomo Monastery in Capri
The tranquil grounds of Certosa di San Giacomo Monastery in Capri

I had never heard of Diefenbach before and, while I am not a big art buff, I loved the pieces that were on display in the museum.  His extremely dark, symbolist and sometimes fantastical pieces appealed to me, and it stands out as one of my favourite exhibitions.

Grotto Della Minerva Painting by Diefenbach
Grotto Della Minerva Painting by Diefenbach

I also found the life of Diefenbach very intriguing.  Born in 1851 in Germany he led a very unconventional life.  He spurned religion and was an early reformer, pacifist and vegetarian.  He did also enjoy nudism and scorned monogamy, much to his wives chagrin.  His paintings were never a great success in Germany and, facing financial hardship, he escaped to Capri in 1899, and he remained there until his death in 1913. Diefenbach’s later works were mostly dramatic and symbolist landscape pieces inspired by his Island surroundings. His worked sadly did not receive any real recognition until they were unearthed again well after his death and then displayed in the monastery museum from 1974.

Allow time to go up to Anacapri

If you want to enjoy some hiking trails or get away from the crowds around Capri Town then you should head up further.  Spend some town around Anacapri, the second town of the Island.

We had planned to walk up, but when we arrived on the Island we realised we had not done enough planning.  We couldn’t find another route up other than the main road. There are no paths to walk on along this route, and it is a narrow road and VERY busy with traffic.

The buses are so, so busy with people squashed in and hanging out over the sides.  My suggestion would be to get up there early or be prepared to fork out for a taxi.  It is only a short journey, so hopefully wouldn’t be too prohibitive.

We ended up running out of time and wished we had planned our trip to the Island a bit better.

From Anacapri, you may want to make time to visit one of the most famous sites of the Island.  The Blue Grotto is a seriously impressive sea cave. You can get a boat into the cave. Again this is a very busy attraction, so arriving early is sensible.  We missed out on visiting although we are not sure if we would have enjoyed how crowded it can be.

The Villa San Michele can also be visited from Anacapri.  It has renowned grounds and architecture to gasp over, and you can also get the chairlift from the town up to Monte Salaro too.

Amalfi Town

I have to be honest and say that Amalfi Town itself was probably my least favourite of all the places that we visited.  I think though that this was largely down to how extremely busy and very touristy it is. The entrance to the town is so busy with traffic, street vendors and tacky souvenir shops.  This can make it hard to appreciate the grand old architecture surrounding you.

On going through the arch into the old town proper, you are greeted by a maze of winding streets, many filled with tourist tat shops.  The grand Cathedral is impressive though and, once you get away from the swarms of people, there are some charming and peaceful parts of the town to discover.

Amalfi Town Cathedral
The Cathedral in Amalfi Town

We headed up towards and passed the Paper Museum, and enjoyed wandering along some tranquil streets. We spotted locals hanging out their washing and parking up their scooters in long orderly lines, and took in some lovely walks by the river.  It felt much more tranquil, relaxed and genuine.

River in Amalfi Town
We wondered how someone managed to get this table and chair set down into the River in Amalfi Town!
Scooters in Amalfi Town
An orderly line of scooters in Amalfi Town

Atrani

From Amalfi Town, we also walked along to the nearby village of Atrani in about half an hour.  Still busy, but with a much more relaxed and traditional feel. The beach was packed, but we did find a spot to park ourselves to relax and put our feet up for a while.  Unlike many of the other beaches along the coast, this one has lovely dark sand, a welcome relief from the pebbles!

The village itself, just minutes walk through some dramatic archways at the edge of the beach is a delight and you could easily while away an afternoon enjoying some sunbathing and then wandering the narrow shaded streets of the village beyond.

What Time of Year to Visit for an Amalfi Coast Hiking Holiday

We visited in September. I am so glad we didn’t choose the peak summer months.  Not only would it have been so uncomfortable to walk in the heat, but I can only imagine how frantic the main towns would be with the tourist crowds.  If I was to return, I would consider coming completely out of season. Although the weather could be changeable in the winter months, and a lot of ‘attractions’ would be closed, it would likely be excellent conditions for walking.  I also love the idea of being able to enjoy the towns when they are quieter. Even if it does mean there will be a lot fewer hotels and restaurants open at this time. You will have a better chance of picking up a great off-season deal for accommodation too.

Bomerano: The Perfect Base for Hiking the Amalfi Coast and Enjoying Some Peace

My Mum suggested we stay at the Hotel Due Torri in the village of Bomerano, part of the small municipality of Agerola; and what a great idea it turned out to be.

It may not be for everyone; the family-run hotel is comfortable and friendly but not luxurious.  Bomerano is off the main tourist drag and further up the hill from the popular coastal towns. You really need a car or must rely on public transport to be able to see as much as possible. The bus down to Amalfi Town took about 45 minutes.

The swimming pool at the Hotel Due Torri, Bomerano
The small but well kept swimming pool at the Hotel Due Torri, Bomerano

This suited us down to the ground.  The coastal towns would have been too busy for us.  We enjoyed coming back to the tranquillity of the more traditional village, the mountainous landscape, and the quiet hotel at the end of a busy day.  Being away from the popular coastal towns also means it is a lot less expensive, the Amalfi Coast is not cheap.

The hotel served simple Italian food at a reasonable price, and the family that run it are very friendly.  There is a small, well-maintained pool and outside bar too if you fancy a little cocktail in the evening before dinner.

Our room had a balcony overlooking the peaceful village, and you awoke to the sound of the local farm animals in the morning.

Views from Hotel Due Torri Bomerano
The views from our hotel terrace

The hotel does host some of the groups booked with walking tour companies, so you can expect some larger parties around dinner time and at breakfast.  It was never a bother to us. We actually enjoyed hearing what they were getting up to, and, because it was busy, breakfast was always well stocked and fresh.

Bomerano itself has a few shops and several restaurants, and it is not stuffed with tourist tat like you will find down on the coast.  As well as enjoying some evening meals at the hotel, we also had good food at L’Angolo dei Sapori.  

It is also the main starting point for the Path of the Gods hiking trail, so this was ideal for us.

The Gussta Settembre Event

By sheer coincidence, we were staying in Bomerano the weekend that the annual Gussta Settembre Festival was taking place.  It felt like all the locals turned up for the event. There was a great mix of live music in the village square, lots of entertainers were walking the streets, and for ten euros you received a ticket that allows you to sample ten different traditional food and drink items.  You just found the different stands, handed over your ticket and got your taster from one of the many cheery and friendly volunteers involved.  

Gusta Settembre Festival Bomerano
We were lucky enough to be in Bomerano for the Gusta Settembre Festival

If you are in the area when the event is on, even if you are not staying in Bomerano, I would recommend making the trip.  Not only are you getting to be involved in a local community event, but you are getting a chance to soak up the great atmosphere and try out some yummy local food too.

It usually takes place on the second weekend of September.

Transport:  the Roads Around the Amalfi Coast Are Not for the Faint-Hearted

I enjoy driving in Europe, even though I still have a UK right-hand-drive car.  I don’t know how much I would enjoy driving on the roads around the Amalfi Coast though.  They are incredibly windy, very vertiginous, often super narrow and very busy. While on my travels through Italy, I have not generally subscribed to the ‘crazy Italian drivers’ stereotype.  On the roads of Amalfi Coast I started to see why this reputation may have come about. Even the bus rides we took could be interesting. We were often stopped by herds of goats being guided up the roads and negotiating some of the bends was a challenge for the drivers.

Goat traffic jam Amalfi Coast
A herd of goats causing a traffic jam on the roads of the Amalfi Coast!

So, if you are hiring a car, be prepared for some challenging driving conditions.

The bus service was cheap and pretty regular.  From Amalfi Town it was about a forty-minute journey up to Bomerano.  The buses, even in September, were often jam-packed though so be prepared for a hot, possibly standing, journey.  In Bomerano, we were able to purchase our bus ticket from the local Tabacchi (newsagents). Down in Amalfi Town, there is a bus station.  The bus terminal area is pretty chaotic. It is often a bit difficult to work out where your bus departs from and then there can be a mad rush to get on.  We found the staff to be approachable and helpful though (despite our poor Italian language skills).  

My Mum and I tried not to get too stressed out.  Often, if we just let the crowd squeeze onto the first bus, a second one would arrive not far behind, and we would have a much less squashed journey back home.

There are also plenty of ferries that take you from one coastal town to another, and these can be a great way to appreciate the coastline from afar.

There are regular buses that service most of the Amalfi Coast.  

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