Semester Abroad: Amalfi coast adventure

During mid-April, I decided to take a trip by myself to Naples and the Amalfi Coast, in Italy. I had been inspired simply by pictures of the region I had seen before, and wanted to see for myself the ruins of Pompeii and the waters of the Amalfi Coast. Not to mention, I had figured that Neapolitan pizza would be incredible, since pizza was invented in Naples.

My first day was spent in the Pompeii and Vesuvius regions. I began by taking the Circumvesuviana train (which, as the name suggests, is a train line that travels around Mount Vesuvius and the local region) to Pompeii, where I joined a group tour of the ruins. Our tour guide led us through the city’s winding cobblestone roads to see miraculously preserved ruins of villas, bathhouses, and even ancient fast food restaurants. The highlighted exhibits of the preserved casts of people who perished from the fallout of the fabled Vesuvius eruption were just as haunting as I imagined they would be.

Zhou Ruins of Pompeii

Ruins of Pompeii

The city was dwarfed by the massive Mount Vesuvius and that’s where I went after the Pompeii tour. Luckily, I was able to ride a bus up to the top of the crater, where I could see into the volcano. Unluckily, the ride was the bumpiest I have ever been on in my life, and multiple bruises were acquired. Despite that, the view at the top was breathtaking. I could see the ruins of Pompeii, just a small patch of brown in the valley below the mountain, surrounded by the modern city of Sorrento. On the other side, the vast expanse of Naples stretched all the way to the end of the coastline. Interestingly enough, the crater itself was actually steaming, as Vesuvius is still active.

Zhu View from Vesuvius Crater

View from Vesuvius crater

My second day was the highlight of my trip, and the main reason why I went on my trip. I began by taking a train from Naples to Salerno, which was just under two hours away. From there, I took a ferry to Amalfi, the namesake of the Amalfi Coast, getting a great view of the coastal towns along the way. From there, I transferred to a bus that took me on a long, winding climb to a village that clung to the top of a coastal mountain, to begin my hike on the famous Sentiero Degli Dei – The Path of the Gods.

This six-mile mountain trail along the Amalfi Coast provides the best views one can get, 3,000 feet above the beautiful blue sea below with a sharp descent to the coastal town of Positano at the end. Along the way, I passed by both ancient dwellings, from houses carved into the rock faces of cliffs to old stone huts, and modern ones, generally small vineyards.

It’s a mystery how some of the current inhabitants survive, as there are no roads and most of the time the only way down is a drop off a cliff. All food and supplies need to be brought up by horse (and don’t picture some big wagon either, as the trail is only barely wide enough for one horse with saddlebags).

The hike took a total of about four hours, as the trail was very rocky and had many steep descents and ascents. The most tiring part though, was the sharp drop at the end, a near-vertical descent of about 2,000 feet worth of stairs. The sight of a gelato shop near the entrance into Positano was, to say the least, quite a relief. And I was able to relax for an hour on the Positano beach before taking the ferry back to Salerno.

Overall, vicious sunburns aside, my hike on the Path of the Gods was the most beautiful hike I have ever been on. The Amalfi coastline is, I would say, an incomparable sight. I’m already itching to go again.

Zhu Positano

Tony Zhu is an Olin Junior studying Economics and Strategy and Finance. He is spending the semester in London with the London Internship Program.

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