The ‘Il Sentiero Degli Dei’, commonly known as The Path of the Gods is a footpath which spreads between Bomerano and Nocelle (with offshoots to Praiano). Situated high up on the hills overlooking the Amalfi Coast it is often noted as one of the most beautiful footpaths in the world.
Traditionally the path is taken from east (Bomerano) to west (Nocelle) as the route is generally more downhill than up. Once the path ends in Nocelle walkers have the option to descend the 1500 stairs down to the beautiful town of Positano although most decide to save their calves and get the local bus (1.70 euro) which is an experience in itself as it winds down countless hairpins and squeezes through impossible gaps down the mountain.
Due to the location of our accommodation, in Montepertuso between Nocelle and Positano we decided to walk the Path of the Gods the less popular way. This did mean more uphills than down but it saved us 3 buses and about 3 hours to get to the other end of the path in Bomerano. The main disadvantage of this route (bar the incline) is the views of Positano, La Sirenuse (and Capri shimmering on the horizon like a mirage) tend to be behind you. This is, however a perfect excuse to take a breather as you admire the views. As Will Smith in Hitch once said, ‘life is not about how many breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away’. If nature and travel is your passion like it is mine, then this is sure to be one of those moments.
Walking The Path of the Gods
Nocelle is a sleepy little hamlet and has only been accessible by road over the past 40 years, before then villagers had to descent/ascend the steep paths or man-made stairs to gain supplies. From the bus stop on the edge of town there are a number of signs pointing visitors in the correct direction to access the path. As you make your way through the town a sign overhead dictates the start of the path.
Once you are up in Nocelle the path does undulate but there are no large climbs in either gradient and the path remains relatively flat. The initial sector (closest to Nocelle) has little shade and I can imagine it can be quite energy sapping should this be the latter end of your climb. Thankfully as you progress down the path the route winds through forest areas and the natural shade is a welcome relief from the intense Italian sunshine. I saw reports from hikers that the path is not suitable for those who suffer Vertigo OR without proper footwear but I saw no extremely dodgy parts to the path and fences are well maintained in more treacherous areas The 4 of us only wore trainers and had no issues on the well trodden surface. Every now and again the path moves around a headland and the views are simply breathtaking.
There were lots of people walking the more traditional route and walking in the ‘wrong direction’ actually meant we saw/spoke to more people that you would normally do. I was glad to see that the unwritten rule of saying ‘Bonjourno’ or ‘Ciao’ to fellow walkers is as present in Italy as it is in the UK.
The Monastery of Santa Maria a Castro
Originally we had planned to walk for an hour, take some photographs and walk back but chatting to an Australian couple we met during a picture/water break they mentioned an old Italian convent/church that has a snack bar and sells beer (the girls ears pricked up when they heard that word). This is halfway on the route down from the path towards Praiano and it made sense to head down that way and catch a bus back to Positano from the centre of town.
The route down to Praiano is relatively inconspicuous travelling from west to east but we did notice a sign nailed to a tree indicating when to turn off the main path and head downhill. This path is less well trodden and if it wasn’t for the sound of voices below us I would have sworn we had completely off piste and heading into the wilderness. Thankfully a group of American students pointed us in the right direction and our guide Emily safely navigated us down to the church.
Which way Emily?
When the girls find out there is alcohol nearby haha
The church is a wonderful old Dominican monastery called Santa Maria a Castro and is still in use. The church dates back to 1430 but part of it was extended in the 16th Century when it was donated to the Dominican monks (based out of Naples). As we were walking on a Sunday a service was being undertaken and the eerie singing from the service (in Latin) was spine tingling.
Stepping into the Church you could have easily been transported back 400 years and the only sign of modern technology was a small fridge located at the side of the main church. Here a local entrepreneur was selling bottles of Peroni for €2.50. Considering the remoteness of the location half way up a large hill (with access only by steps and I imagine delivery by donkey) then this was the best bargain of my trip to Italy and we stayed for 2 rounds. If it wasn’t for the girls desire to get some ‘beach time in’ I could have stayed there all day!.
Nice View for a Beer
The path down from the church is well trodden and stepped the entire way with several shrines for religious figures along the way. After 15-20 minutes we arrived in the town of Praiano which is about 10km from Positano and quickly caught a bus back to Positano to enjoy the afternoon sunshine and cool down in the waters of the Mediterranean
Including refreshment and photograph breaks the route we took across the Path of the Gods took about 5 hours. The scenery is spectacular and jumping into the water in Postiano was very rewarding after the sweaty hike. I would recommend the hike as a must do for active people visiting the Amalfi Coast.