It's true, you know—you really can get to Heaven, but it takes a bit of work. You'll have to overcome some tough trials that are not for everyone. On Friday, May 29, we took a path familiar to us from last year, in the Valle delle Ferriere [trans. note: lit. Valley of the Iron Foundries], from Minuta, part of the town of Scala (in the province of Salerno). The trail first leads up the south ridge of the Lattari Mountains Park and then moves slowly down towards the cobalt blue sea at Amalfi. The difference from our previous excursion (October 2014) was that then the autumn day was grey with a persistent drizzle; this time nature came out in bloom all around us in the early summer sun. Our day was unforgettable.
We traced a route in and then back to our starting point (GPS data), a distance of about 18 km (11+ miles). There was constant change along the way—breathtaking panorama and flashes of rare beauty as we passed from thick mountain greenery to impressive cliffs where there were stretches equipped for rock climbing—rigorous exercise in complete safety. At this time of the year the area also had numerous water courses along the way, leaping and gurgling along the way to make our hike all the more delightful. The trail is well-marked by white-red trail signs of the CAI (Italian Alpine Club), but you might want to download the GPS coordinates (at this link) as there are a number of forks and places where the trail crosses others.
You won't be warmed up properly for the first part of the trail out of Minuta. It's a steep climb that will give you a taste of what you can expect over the course of the entire day. You carry on for a few kilometers along a path that between the ups and downs will eventually bring you out at 532 meters above sea level, the highest point of the outing. At that point you start down and cross for the first time the waters of the Canneto thanks to a rather uncertain-looking (!) bridge of tree-trunks laid across the stream. You now have a long descent towards the sea, which will appear as you move along the right side of the narrow Ferriere valley at the high and final part of the nature reserve.
A bit beyond the point where you have crossed the stream you can see the first in a long series of ancient walls (originally defensive structures plus some ruins of early industry) as well as an old stone bridge that spanned and connected the two slopes of the narrow ravine. Heading into the valley, just before the nature reserve, you'll pass over to the left side of the ravine by way of another shaky wooden bridge and stay on that side all the way to Amalfi. Entrance to the riserve is regulated; you'll have to book ahead. We were lucky, however, in that we just happened to run across some park wardens who were kind enough to open it up and let us in to admire the waterfall, the fantastic displays of water and the beautiful examples of the giant fern (Woodwardia radicans), true living relics of the Cenozoic era.
As you then move away from the protected reserve you start to see more and more evidence of man-made structures. You come across ruins of old iron works, and farther into the valley there are the old paper mills and “walls of windows” where the paper was hung out to dry. The last stretch (via Paradiso) runs by a dense and extensive lemon orchard that provides the raw material (lemons) for the famous “limoncello” liqueur as well as for one of the tastiest sweet cakes of the whole coast: “Delizia al limone”. And then, just past that, you pass beneath a characteristic bridge and are in Amalfi.
This small town, helped along by the fine weather, is literally crawling with tourists swarming along the main thoroughfare and popping into shops, cafès and restaurants. We, too, were unable to resist, so after passing by the stairway of the famous cathedral, we threaded our way into a famous local pastry shop for our well-earned “Delizia al limone”. We walked down to the beach for a whiff of good sea-breeze knowing full-well that so far we had really just been kidding around!—the tough part was yet to come. We went towards the stairway, where an interminable number of steps (more than 2000!) would lead us up past the ruins of the medieval cathedral of S. Eustachio at Pontone and back to Scala where we had parked our old off-road rattle-trap.
I leave you with one last pleasant vision: as we were about to start up the loooong(!) stairway to Pontone we ran into a nice American tourist couple who had just come down those same stairs from Scala. They were seriously concerned for our well-being. Did we know what we were getting into? Did we have enough water? Were we crazy? They finally let us go when they saw how determined we were. They bade the three crazies farewell and watched with mixed amazement and suspicion as we happily climbed up to meet our fate.
For us, that was indeed “Heaven on Earth”!
All of the photos from our outing are available at this link: Valle delle Ferriere - Amalfi May 2015
For more information: Amalfi - the Hard Way (from Naples: Life, Death & Miracles a personal encyclopedia)
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