It comes as no surprise that the Amalfi Coast is a bucket-list must for most travelers to Italy. The pastel fishing villages clinging to soaring coastal cliffs, deep cobalt waters of the Mediterranean, and tony atmosphere of the exclusive riviera hotels and restaurants make this UNESCO World Heritage Site one of the most spectacular destinations in Europe.
Unfortunately, the coastline is as far from an “undiscovered” gem as you can get and millions of visitors crowd the Amalfi Coast’s towns and beaches come late spring, clogging the roads and making town-hopping an elbow-to-elbow activity for most of the summer. There are a couple of ways to avoid the crowds, including timing your visit for the shoulder seasons (earlier in the spring or later in the fall) or setting off on a day cruise to explore the coastal highlights by sea. Another option for savoring the Amalfi Coast far from the throngs is scheduling a hike during your stay.
There are a number of scenic hiking trails that skirt the coastline—many of which trace historic mule tracks or shepherd trails that were once the only way to travel between these formerly remote towns—offering stupendous views and a respite from the high-season melee. Most are best taken on early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the Mediterranean temperatures are a bit more forgiving and require arranging transportation to the trailhead and/or arrival point…but the unparalleled vistas and rare sense of having the coast all to yourself are worth navigating a few tricky logistics.
Though all of these hikes are well-marked, we strongly suggest taking on these routes with a certified hiking guide. Not only will you gain insights into the local ecosystem, history, and culture, but you’ll also have assistance in case of injury and won’t have to worry about getting lost along the route!
1) Sentiero degli Dei
Often listed among the most panoramic trails in the world, the “Path of the Gods” (or Sentiero degli Dei) is by far Amalfi’s hiking headliner. The route kicks off from the high-altitude hamlet of Bomerano near Agerola and winds its way along the soaring clifftop to the village of Nocelle, set directly above A-list Positano. Along the way, diorama-like views over the coastline and across the water to Capri produce gasps at every bend. Unfortunately, the legendary beauty (and relative accessibility) of the trail has made it one of Italy’s most popular and you can run into crowds of hikers even here during the busiest summer months (another reason to hit the trail early in the morning).
You can hire a car service or take the bus to Bomerano, just outside of Agerola, and hike the 5.5-mile route in about three to four hours. The trail ends in Nocelle, and from there you can reach the center of Positano by bus or take 1,800 steps (about an hour’s descent) to the main coastal road that comes out at Arienzo Beach….a great place to reward yourself with a refreshing dip after your hike. Otherwise, there are a number of rustic country restaurants in Nocelle, so time your arrival for lunch and rest over a heaping plate of pasta with a view. Keep in mind that the path is steep and rocky in stretches and has no shade, so may not be suitable for children, walkers with limited mobility, or anyone who is afraid of heights.
2) Valle delle Ferriere
Winding its way downhill from the Lattari Mountains to the town of Amalfi below, the Valle delle Ferriere trail (also known as the Valle dei Mulini) is a refreshingly shaded route through towering chestnut trees and lush fern fields. This area was once thick with medieval foundries and watermills (hence both of the names it is known by) and there are still romantic ruins and rushing waterfalls lining the trail. Unlike the Sentiero degli Dei, the Valle delle Ferriere trail is relatively unknown, so a surprisingly peaceful forest retreat a stone’s throw from the bustle of the Amalfi Coast.
The route begins in Pontone, which you can reach with a car service or local bus (or on foot from Ravello), and continues for 3.7 miles downhill to Amalfi; it takes about four hours to walk the length of the trail. With its thick vegetation, this trail offers view panoramas over the coastline but its unique microclimate hosts everything from lemon groves and vineyards to the rare Woodwardia radicon, an indigenous fern dating back to before the Ice Age..
3) Monte Tre Calli
Die-hard hikers looking for a challenging adventure can take on the Monte Tre Calli trail to a soaring height of 3,681 feet above the Amalfi Coast. Like the Sentiero degli Dei, the route begins from the mountain village of Bomerano, so you’ll only need to take on the final 1,640 feet to reach the peak…but it’s a tough, steep climb that is only suitable for experienced walkers. Best begun at sunrise, the trail is about 1.8 miles round trip and takes about 2.5 hours to complete.
Those who make it to the summit are treated to jaw-dropping 360° views, offering something new in every direction. To the west, the candy-colored homes of Positano cascade almost vertically down the cliff. To the east, the terracotta-tiled rooftops of Agerola stretch across the plateau, encircled by dramatic mountain peaks. To the south, the azure waters of the Mediterranean meld into the blue sky, interrupted by the green stretch of the Sorrentine Peninsula jutting into the waters towards the island of Capri. To the north, the towering peaks of the Lattari Mountains stretch inland, an awe-inspiring display of alpine beauty. A traditional sunrise concert in honor of the Virgin Mary is held here each year on August 15th, one of the most unforgettable events on the Amalfi Coast.
4) Punta Campanella
Punta Campanella is the furthest point on the Amalfi Coast, linking the coastline with Sorrentine Peninsula. To one side stretches the Bay of Naples and, to the other, the Gulf of Salerno; directly off the point sits the chic island of Capri. Steeped in history and legend, Punta Campanella is the setting of Ulysses’ adventure with the Sirens. The ancient Greeks built a temple here to honor Athens, which the Romans later converted into a sanctuary devoted to Minerva, and a watchtower was erected here to guard against Saracen attacks in the 14th century.
The trail begins in the town of Termini, high in the hills and linked to Sorrento by bus, and is an easy two-hour walk round-trip (about 2.5 miles along a well-maintained, level path). Highlights include the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula—where you can take in views of Capri, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast—plus the ruins of the Saracen Tower and Minerva Sanctuary. On the plateau, look for a fissure in the cliff where a steep flight of steps leads to a cave along the water’s edge. This is where the ancient Greek and Roman ships would land, loaded with offerings for the Goddess Minerva.