Okay, we’ll go first. It’s the mountains. What would the Amalfi Coast be without them? Rising high above Positano, Praiano and Amalfi, the Monti Lattari not only protect our charmed enclave from cold north winds, but because of their impervious topography, have historically preserved it from unchecked beach-resort development. Their high dairy farms have also provided us with milk and cheese for centuries, while the chestnut forests that nestle under the high peaks are the source of the wooden poles of our citrus terraces, those supporting the netting that protect the lemon and orange trees from winter frosts.
For many of today’s visitors, the mountains are just a beautiful backdrop to seaside pleasures. They don’t know what they’re missing. Up there is another world that we like to encourage all our friends and guests to explore, one of ancient mule tracks, dramatically perched country churches, carpets of wildflowers and herbs, crystal-clear seasonal waterfalls and isolated shepherds’ huts.
It was the opportunities for both exercise, cultural enrichment and spiritual healing offered by this ‘natural gym’ that first planted the seed of the idea for Le Sirenuse’s twice-yearly health and wellness retreat Dolce Vitality, during which energetic hikes led by mountain guide Giovanni Cuccaro alternate with yoga practice and fitness routines, all fuelled by a carefully calorie-controlled vegan menu devised by chef Gennaro Russo and health coach Valentina Dolci. For obvious reasons the retreat has been on hold for a while, but it’s finally back, from March 27 to April 2, and we can’t wait. (If you’re interested, there are still a few places left for our fall/autumn edition, which runs from 30 October to 5 November).
It is good, in these cases, to have a record of where you’re going, and where you’ve been. While the physical and holistic benefits of Dolce Vitality extend far beyond one week in Positano, it’s not always easy to remember just which mountain you scaled that day you saw the rainbow, or what was the name of the village where you took that picture of a cat asleep in the sun on the saddle of a Vespa. Outside of the Dolce Vitalty weeks, regular guests of the hotel are often keen to keep a record of the trek they did with our resident walking guide Giovanni (one of Le Sirenuse’s free weekly activities), while experienced hikers who want to try a route by themselves have often, in the past, asked us for guidance.
That’s why we asked talented British artist Rebecca Campbell to create illustrated maps of five of our favourite walking trails in the hills above Positano. Only one, which follows part of the Sentiero degli Dei or ‘Path of the Gods’, is at all well known. The others, maintained and waymarked by groups of local volunteers, are relatively untrodden: but all offer magnificent workouts, and unforgettable views down the coast. (Click on the individual maps in this post to see each one in full).
The five maps will become a part of the newly revised printed materials that are offered to all Le Sirenuse guests on arrival. But we are so delighted with Rebecca’s playful takes on these five routes that we couldn’t resist sharing them with you here in the Sirenuse Journal. Of course, these maps are neither detailed enough nor technical enough to rely on for navigation: for that, we recommend serious hiking maps of the area like those produced by the Club Alpino Italiano, and of course a compass. (Never rely on your smartphone for navigation in wilderness areas – this is a lesson we ourselves have learned the hard way).
But as overviews of the routes, and mementos of tough but memorable days in the hills above our little Italian town, we believe that Rebecca’s maps are… just beautiful. There’s only one catch. To secure your own set, you need to come to Positano. Which, to be honest, isn’t the very worst of fates.
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