You can search the far corners of the globe, but you’ll never find a more perfectly named hiking adventure than “The Path of the Gods.” Situated along Italy’s scenic Amalfi coast, the half-day climb delivers the inspiring views and breathtaking beauty its dramatic name suggests.
Half-way up the mountain trail you can admire one of the most spectacular panoramas in the world––an incredible overview from Cilento to the Island of Capri––and you will indeed feel closer to the sky than to the sea … which, according to locals, is exactly why Giutstino Fortunato named the path as he did.
Fortunato named the path in the mid 1800s, which was only yesterday compared to the rich mythological history that “The Path of the Gods” overlooks. Most any point along the path offers a tremendous view of Capri, once home to the fabled singing sirens who called to sailors in Homer’s The Odyssey.
But you needn’t like history to love “The Path of the Gods.” All you need is eyesight. For sheer scenery, the trail is incomparable, as my wife and I discovered quite by accident during our recent trip.
We had completed the main drag of our much-anticipated Italy trip, having conquered Rome, Florence and Assisi, when we found ourselves in the tiny town of Praiano with a couple days to spare. We immediately fell in love with Praiano, in large part due to the gem of a hotel we stumbled across: The Hotel le Fioriere.
Built by Michael Irace in 1980, the quaint hotel is run today by Michael’s son and daughter, Luigi and Rosalia. Michael’s wife, Rosa, oversees the wonderful morning ritual that is breakfast at le Fioriere. Even just one day at the hotel makes it exceedingly clear that the family takes tremendous pride in their “little flower” (le fiorere is Italian for flower) and that nothing makes them happier than hosting guests.
In fact, we hadn’t even fully unpacked yet when Luigi knocked at our door with a surprise delivery of champagne and strawberries. Let me tell you: When you’re sitting in the sun on your private deck overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, champagne and strawberries taste pretty darn good.
In truth, we didn’t know the hospitality would be so tremendous at le Fioriere––we picked the hotel more for its location than anything. Praiano is just over 2 hours south of Naples and makes for a good place to stay along the Amalfi Coast after touring the ruins of Pompeii, as we had done. Praiano also positions you well for day trips along the coast.
On one day we ferried to Capri; on another, we bused to Amalfi for sightseeing and an outside dinner at dusk. Upon returning to le Fioriere that night, we discovered a cozy scene: Luigi and Rosalia hosting a group of locals in the hotel’s comfortable bar to watch that night’s “football” game. They seemed delighted when we pulled up a chair, ordered a drink and cheered for an Italian soccer team whose name we couldn’t pronounce.
But it was the next day, after a tasty breakfast served by Rosa, that the family gave us their greatest gift of hospitality by making the best recommendation anyone gave during our entire trip. Luigi and Rosalia suggested that, if we had an open day, we might enjoy hiking “The Path of the Gods.”
In what was a tremendous oversight on our part, my wife and I hadn’t planned on doing the hike and––worse yet––we hadn’t even heard of before. Luigi described the path, which required “quads of steel,” and mentioned that an entrance to the path lay just a hundred yards from the hotel. In fact, it’s the perfect place to begin the hike because you ascent up through several old vineyards and pass through the crumbled walls of San Domenico, a 16th century church that clings to the mountainside with what little strength it still possesses.
We decided to embark on the six hour hike, and were immediately grateful we did. The surroundings were surreal, a continuous stream of chestnut and corbezzolo trees, of holm olks and alders. The higher we climbed, the more Mount Sant’Angelo thrilled us. We forgot that in departing from Praiano, we were starting the hike at 2,000 feet above the turquoise sea.
We climbed and climbed, rising closer to the sun as it beat down on us.
Peregrine falcons, which soared far above the cliffs when we began, suddenly seemed at eye level. Beautiful San Gennaro church, which greeted us with its golden dome when we walked out the front door at le Fioriere Hotel that morning, was now nothing more than an insignificant dot.
Next thing we knew, we were on top of the world, alone.
The feeling is indescribable.
And shocking. We wondered, ‘Could this truly be the highlight of our trip?’
Having toured the Sistine Chapel, the Coliseum, the Duomo––all the sacred things you travel to Italy to see––to suddenly climb to the peak and feel this unexpected moment was the greatest of them all seemed like sacrilege.
Such thoughts, we then realized, were not sacrilege … for after all, it is “The Path of the Gods.”
The website for the Hotel le Fioriere is http://www.lefioriere.it/en/. The hotel can be reached by phone at 39 089 874203 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.