Hiking the Amalfi Coast Reveals its Hidden Charms

Paul De Tourreil | 04/01/2019
best hiking trails along the Amalfi coast. Ruins of Villa Jovis, Capri.
Villa Jovis, Capri

The Amalfi coast is justifiably famous for its magnificent villas, gardens and global reputation as a destination for the international jet set. But as summer turns to fall, a quieter (and more affordable) side of the region reveals itself. 

Once the scorching summer heat is past, autumn visitors can enjoy some of the best hikes in Italy. By mid-October, the crowds have thinned out, the weather is a pleasant 15 degrees, and your list of things to do on the Amalfi Coast looks like a glimpse back in into the old world traditions of this unique destination. 

Chestnuts, porcinis and pumpkins show up at the markets, and the pageantry of the holiday season begins to brighten each town and village. A wonderful way to take it all in is to hike the old shepherd's trails that crisscross the region, from mountaintop to village and back again.

Lace up your hiking shoes and discover these five Amalfi coast hiking trails:

1. Agerola to Amalfi on the Valle delle Ferriere (the Ironworkers’ Valley)

Named after the iron-wheeled carts that once hauled medieval goods such as Ravello silk to the port in Amalfi, this trail is full of surprises. Its lush microclimate, spectacular waterfalls, and unique collection of local plants and animals will have you wondering if you are actually still hiking in Italy, and not in some long-hidden rainforest. The trail starts in Agerola’s Piazza Generale Avitabile; although the first leg is steep, it flattens out later on. Approximately three miles long, you can expect the hike to last four hours.

2. Agerola to Nocelle (Positano) on the Sentiero delle Dei (Pathway to the Gods)

With panoramic views of Capri, Praiano and Positano, it’s no surprise that the Sentiero degli Dei has become one of the most popular trails on the Amalfi coast itinerary. With little shade and many visitors, it’s best to avoid hiking this trail in summer. An early morning start from Agerola in autumn is your best bet to avoid both the crowds and the heat. Even without the heat, this is a challenging trail, with steep portions not suitable for children or for those with a fear of heights. From the Piazza Paolo Capasso, the complete route covers 3.5 miles to the neighbourhood of Nocelle in Positano, plus another 1,800 stairs down to the coastal road at Arienzo beach. The whole trip will take you a good five hours. If you’ve had your fill, you can skip the last hour on the stairs by taking the shuttle bus from Nocelle directly into the center of Positano. 

3. Termini to Punta Campanella: Bell Point, in the footsteps of the Sirens

Legend has it that Punta Campanella, at the tip of the Sorrentine peninsula, is the very spot where the dulcet-toned Sirens tempted the hero Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey. Today, it’s one of the best spots to view the nearby island of Capri. The bus from Sorrento will drop you in the Piazza of the aptly-named Termini, the last inhabited village on the peninsula. From there, it’s a two-hour stroll to Punta Campanella and back, with magnificent views of Capri and the Amalfi coast towns of Positano and Praiano. Built as a lookout in the 1300s, the old lighthouse or ‘Saracen Tower’ gives the point its name. Apparently, a Saracen ship lost the stolen church bell of Sorrento’s Basilica di Sant’Antonino overboard in these waters. Legend has it that each year on February 14 (Saint Anthony’s feast day), one can hear the bell ringing from the sea floor.

4. Agerola to Monte Tre Calli: your workout starts here

If you’re an early riser who’s looking for a physical challenge, look no further than this steep mountain trail. While not technically demanding, or particularly long at two miles, it will get you huffing, puffing and sweating it out as you climb to the summit, 3,600 feet above sea level. From there you’ll feast your eyes on a panoramic, 360-degree view that includes Mount Vesuvius, the Amalfi coast and the Gulf of Sorrento. For diehard hikers, it’s possibly the most satisfying way of exploring the Amalfi coast. 

5. Capri’s Imperial Palace - Villa Jovis

So much of an Amalfi coast holiday is spent looking out at Capri that a visit to the island itself is in order. You can combine a leisurely hike with an amazing glimpse into the history of imperial Rome. The Emperor Tiberius was so fond of Capri that he had twelve different villas built here, one for each month of the year, Villa Jovis being the most imposing. The ascent to the cliffside Villa takes about 45 minutes from the Piazzetta of Capri. If you explore the ruins and take in the views for about an hour, an early morning start will have you back in town in time for lunch.

Preparing for your Amalfi Coast hikes

Looking for ways to prepare for your hiking adventures? In addition to bringing a robust pair of hiking shoes, visit the Alpine Club of Italy for maps, information and certified hiking guides.