Many of the locals who work in Positano’s hotels and restaurants live up in one of these two satellite towns, which historically have also provided fresh garden produce, firewood, chestnut poles for citrus groves, milk, cheese, and other Amalfi Coast staples.
Today, most locals use some form of motorized transport to get around – cars, scooters, or the cute little public buses. Not too long ago, however, the only way to get down to Positano and back up again was to walk, or ride a mule. It wasn’t until 2001 that a paved road reached Nocelle, the most remote of the two settlements. Before then, the nocellesi either walked to the Montepertuso road terminus on a rough track that snaked around the deep gorge of Vallone Porto, or they headed straight down to the coast road on an ancient flight of stairs – and back up the 1,700 steps with their shopping.
The network of stepped footpaths that connect the two villages with Positano may be less of a pedestrian thoroughfare today, but for experienced walkers, it remains the best approach. It’s only on foot, climbing through olive groves with gathered nets hanging beneath them like festoons, looking down over neat rows of tomatoes and salad greens in kitchen gardens, skirting wayside shrines and chapels, that you fully appreciate the challenges, and the joys, of life in this rugged mountain setting. It was the desire to share this hidden side of Positano with our guests that led Le Sirenuse to create the twice-yearly Dolce Vitality, a health and fitness retreat that centers on a series of strenuous morning treks – at least three of which pass through Montepertuso and Nocelle.
Most reasonably fit walkers should need no more than an hour for the Montepertuso climb, via Positano’s scenic cemetery. The Nocelle ascent is a little more testing, as the stairs are relentless, but the reward – in high season – is a jaw-dropping view of the coast from the piazza outside the village’s parish church. There’s a water fountain here and, in high season, a booth called Lemon Point that makes fresh granita and lemonade from genuine Amalfi lemons. You can avoid the climb back down – or skip the climb up and only walk down – by using the regular bus service that runs to and from Nocelle, Montepertuso and Positano’s central Piazza dei Mulini.
Both Montepertuso and Nocelle have some seriously good restaurants and trattorias, some of which offer shuttle services for guests who reserve in advance. Below are four of our favourites.
If you’re looking for something cheerful and local, look no further than this classic family-run trattoria up in the mountain village of Montepertuso, where filling traditional dishes are served on a big wooden terrace, accompanied by good Tramonti wine. They offer a complimentary shared shuttle service.
Piazza Cappella 3, +39 089 875453, www.ilritrovo.com
A true country restaurant on the road that leads from Montepertuso to Nocelle, up in the hills behind Positano, this family-run place spreads over three rustic terraces. Though grilled meats are their specialty, they also do a wide range of dishes made with vegetables from their own organic garden. Cooking classes are also offered.
Via Tagliata 32b, +39 089 875872, https://it.latagliata.com
The elegant antique décor of this restaurant overlooking Montepertuso’s central square is all of a piece with its refined local cuisine. Mamma Raffaela and her daughter Erika work wonders in the open-to-view kitchen. They offer a complimentary shared shuttle service.
Via Gradoni 97-99, +39 089 811806, www.donnarosapositano.it
Il Rifugio dei Mele
A favorite of ours, located in the tiny village of Nocelle near the start of the Path of the Gods, this chic panoramic spot with really excellent creative food feels a little like a beach club in the mountains. They offer a complimentary shared shuttle service.
Via Cercola 1-3, +39 089 811429, www.facebook.com/rifugiodeimele/
Photos © Lee Marshall, except olive picker and Path of Gods sign © Roberto Salomone and restaurants, courtesy of owners
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