Translated Jeff Matthews
A couple of years ago, we had occasion to marvel at the splendid beauty of one of those trails that the Sorrentine peninsula is able to offer to passers-by with even a small bit of curiosity and spirit of adventure: the hike to Punta Campanella. On that occasion we followed the tried and tested route (Strada Punta Campanella) that leads from Termini (Massa Lubrense) and proceeds downhill all the way to the cape that marks the southern end of the gulf of Naples. That route runs along the north-west ridge of the height of the Lattari mountains and then drops towards the sea to reveal Capri and her Faraglioni rocks in all their beauty, seemingly close enough to let you reach out and touch them. In our previous images dedicated to “Punta Campanella” we have already had occasion to reflect upon the beauty of this trail and upon the moving poetry graven in marble in memory of the victims of the landslide of '73; today we would like to describe the outing that saw us take another route, one that was much more tiring, but one that rewarded us with scenes that were of even greater beauty.
Hiking to Punta Campanella by way of San Costanzo
This outing traces a ring that leaves, as before, from Termini and then climbs to the church of San Costanzo (atop the mountain of that name), then runs along the S-SW ridge of the last part of the Lattaris and then along the crest that drops down towards Punta Campanella, a perspective that lets you view both the gulf of Naples and the gulf of Salerno at the same time. Here is our description of that magnificent day in September.
Friday, Sept. 11, 8 a.m. - a still uncertain sun finally starts to peek through the clouds, and the first rays seem to duel with the morning mists as if to study them before attacking. The outcome is by no means certain and nothing tells us how the weather is going to behave...anything is yet possible. We park our faithful off-road vehicle at 323 meters above sea level, a bit before the small square at Termini; we get out the gear, hoist up our back-packs, head for our usual haunt, stoke an energetic breakfast, and then we're off for our newest adventure.
After a short downhill stretch we reach the crossing with Strada Punta Campanella (which we shall follow on the return leg); we now leave that route on our right and climb upwards, first along the road and then up stairs that short-cut the switch-backs of the road in an almost straight line to the south. After some 500 meters we are at the crossing of the trail (CAI 300) (UTM WGS84 – 33 T 444228 4492777), the one that will then take us to Punta Campanella; on our left there is another straight trail that climbs up to the church of San Costanzo (486 m) (33 T 444426 4492825) where you can look out over Nerano Bay, the Isca rock, the Galli islands and the long string of nooks and promontories that characterize the Amalfi Coast as it fades away into the morning mists.
Returning to the crossing we set out on trail CAI 300 as it runs along the San Costanzo pine grove, turns around the summit of Monte Santa Croce (497 meters), staying about 50 m below that peak, tracing first the south slope (on the side of Jeranto Bay), then continuing along the crest to move down towards the sea, providing a view of both gulfs (Napoli and Salerno) and finishing at the Torre [tower] Minerva, the very tip of Punta Campanella. The trail, though narrow and stenuous, is well-defined and easy to follow.
As noted at the beginning of this tale, this was not our first time at this destination. This time, however, our true goal was a bit different. We were trying to locate and, if possible, explore the Grotto of the Siren. We had enough information to find it; that part was easy, as was squeezing through the narrow passage in the rock that leads steeply down to the sea. There was first a small collapsed section and then the real entrance into a large chamber at the end of which was a narrow and crumbly shaft leading upwards. The shaft and almost certainly the entire grotto is oriented along the same fracture that we had crossed on the surface in order to get down to sea level. That is why at many points there are “friction breaches” of the kind that characterize the surface areas around faults. That is the reason—probably helped along by marine erosion—that the entire structure doesn't seem to be very stable; there are a number of boulders and rocks, indeed, balanced delicately. The grotto has a second entrance to the north of the main one, and the main shaft continues in for about 10 meters along the fracture line. When we finished exploring we took a refreshing dip in waters still warm in September. Then we had a hasty but hearty snack to put us back in shape for the return leg.
As foreseen, we did not retrace out footsteps but went along the less difficult Strada Campanella, along the west slope of the mountain, and climbed directly up to Termini avoiding the height of Monte San Costanzo and saving about 160 meters of “change of level”. Yet there were still some surprises. About ten meters up the climb we ran into a squad of workers who pouring concrete channels in order to lay cables in preparation for a new road surface. At first they asked us to turn back—half-heartedly, I admit—but we moaned and groaned and they let us pass; after all, they had not posted “road closed” signs and we looked tired. So we wiggled acrobatically around the obstacles and left no tracks in their fresh handiwork. Further along, not far from the memorial to the landslide victims of '73, at the gate that closes the construction site and the road from this end, we did see a notice to the effect that the passage would be closed even to pedestrians until February 2016.
Moral: If you undertake this excursion, know that you will have to follow the same path out that you did on the way in: trail CAI 300 by way of Monte San Costanzo.
We stopped again at our small snack-bar that was right there at the point where we had wound up (33 T 444142 4493347) and indulged ourselves with the panacea of fresh orange juice and some lemon ice-cream, all made from local produce.
All in all, we had covered about 8 km in the course of the day, had about 500 meters of “change of level” (up and down), and spent about five hours on the trail, including the time it took for photos and a video.
The GPS trace and waypoints to do this outing on your own: Termini - San Costanzo - Punta Campanella - Termini
Photos along the way: Punta Campanella by way of San Costanzo
Our video from 2013 – The Punta Campanella trail.