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Praiano: the path of the Gods

Rough hewn Crosses along the path invited me to think this must be a “stations of the cross” sort of camino. IMG_3958I reverently approached the marble carving near the stairs. Instead of seeing the Christ enduring Roman torture, I saw…two pigs copulating…with…a man trapped underneath? This is either an extreme take on the prodigal son or this is also the path of other deities.IMG_3955

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view of Positano while on the path of the Gods

The hike from Bomerano to Positano up and across the mountainous cliffs of the Amalfi coast is called The Path of the Gods: Sentiero deli dei.

It takes the average person about three and a half hours to hike Praiano to Positano (my little town in-between). IMG_3956It took me four with a bum knee and a stop for lunch. I usually hike flat foresty terrain so the vertical ascent was a great work out for my thighs. I’m also a little afraid of heights so there were times where I just couldn’t look left. The path is a mix of nicely wrought stairs, a trail with a rail, and treacherous hard scrabble beside a five hundred meter drop to certain death.IMG_3970

Being the beginning of April, I had much of the trail to myself. I came across quite a few hearty French. Some Australian young men leapt past me like mountain goats. I feared more for a blueberry round British girl with absolutely no treads and some rickety German seniors with walking sticks and balance issues.

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a farm on the top of a cliff on the Path of the Gods Amalfi coast

The day was perfect. It never ceased to amaze me, the higher I got, I still came across terraces with gardens and goats and sheep and orchards and homes. I won’t complain about my Bowen island garden being rocky, steep and hard to access again. There is no hauling Costco bulk up to these farms. They’d have to be pretty self sufficient.

There are three sounds ubiquitous to Praiano:  the church bells, the SITA bus honking around the curves in the road and the little yellow dog who barks, day and night, right beside my villa. I can see him from my window.

I thought, “Oh, I’ll go for a hike to escape it all and have some peace and quiet.” No. I could still hear those three things clear as a bell from the top of the mountain! I couldn’t believe it. I just had to laugh.

I had lunch when I arrived at the foot of Mt St Angelo, where there’s the St Maria of Castro church, built before 1440 and San Domenico convent, built in the mid 1500s. IMG_3961It had been a place of ancient cult worship before then. There is an ancient sacrificial altar they incorporated into the church nave, apparently. The church was very spare and completely empty. I was comforted by its lack of glitz. It had a piano in the corner that hadn’t been played for a mighty long time.IMG_3967IMG_3966

The convent greeted me with a growing garden, beautiful freshly bloomed iris, some tables and chairs and a public washroom with running water.IMG_3962

Whenever I go on a big vertical hike like this, I always think it is going to result in some life altering contemplation that will lead to a revelation from God.

About two hours into the hike I became impatient. “Hey, I’m doing my part here, God, toss a girl a bone.”IMG_3965

Silence. Bark bark. Honk honk. Ring ring.

Okay. Maybe It’s okay for a girl to take a day off from spiritualizing and just simply enjoy the beauty and the gift of the day. I took a deep breath and stopped trying so bloody hard to contemplate.

IMG_3973The clouds rolled up and over me fast as a forest fire. Wild rosemary bristled like fisherman’s beard, and a little collar bell dingled from an errant goat somewhere, impossibly, above me. It felt good to simply climb and gaze out and breathe. As I started to tuck into the next mountain, I noticed I was free of the sound of the dog and honking. At last. Peace.IMG_3982

I made it to the beautiful little cliffy town of Nocelle, still about 430 meters above sea level. The first thing that greeted me was a tarped over uncharacteristically cheesy bar called the Terrace of the Gods. Yeah. I don’t think so. I don’t think any self respecting god is going to stop in here for a Heineken. There’s no way I hiked three hours to end up in Italy’s version of a Husky pit stop.IMG_3984

Beautiful little purplish plants sprung out from the rock wall beside the pub pointing: “Go this way, go this way” with their spiky fingers. So I kept on wandering down the walk way past beautiful villas and BnBs. They had gorgeous custom made wrought iron fences with delicate flowers and leaves, and pristine patio gardens and lemon groves overlooking the sea.  IMG_3988Shortly, Nocelle opened up into a square with a pinkish church and a view of Capri. But the most important thing to me at that moment was the discovery of a little granita stand. There I had the best freshly squeezed locally grown lemon-orange slushy ever. I could not get over it. It was simply one of the best things I’ve ever quenched my thirst with. (The granita stand is really the only thing in the square so you can’t miss it.)IMG_3985

I could hear the SITA bus again, but the dog of Praiano was still out of range. Just as I was thinking this, a little yellow dog wandered over to me for no reason and looked out at the view beside me. He was not there to be fed or petted, just there to be looked at. Sort of like a cat.IMG_3986

The dogs are funny in Italy. Many gates have an “attenti al cane!” warning with a vicious German shepherd in the picture.

IMG_3633But the reality is, it’s a chihuahua who could care less. He’s too busy sunning himself and he’s overstimulated with tourists and traffic and noise. The dogs are simply ambivalent here. My husband loves dogs. He hunches his big self down into play formation, wags his bum like a tail and puts on his Scooby Doo voice, “Hey boy, come here, boy, hey!” and whistles. Usually this drives a Canadian dog BANANAS and they gallop over to him and have a nice little play time. But he hunches down into play formation, wags his bum, whistles and gives the Scooby Doo voice to the Italian dogs and every single one of them has completely and utterly ignored him. Not a single one has even turned its head. Scott would stand, dejected, “I got nothin'”, like he’d lost his magic dog connection forever.IMG_3995

I continued to wander down the steps towards Positano. The many many many steps. I was so utterly happy to see the road and its flatness, I hardly minded the traffic whizzing by me. I wandered into town, the most touristy of all the Amalfi jewels. Some of the high end hotels and villas hung off the cliffs in a way that seemed impossible, perhaps accessible by boat only. IMG_3996The cars started to become very high end. A starchy slender couple solemnly zoomed by in a vintage red coverable Alfa Romeo. Then a man in sunglasses slinked by in a Jag. I passed a very well dressed couple in matching nautical colours who were the first to not say, “Buongiorno” back to the sweaty underling that I was. IMG_3994I stopped into a couple of ceramic shops and bought some things that I really didn’t need simply because I was a bit low on blood sugar and felt the need to mark the achievement of arriving. I wandered down to the Mulini square to find Da Vincenzo restaurant on via Pasitea (172) that my host had recommended, but it was closed. I decided to get out of the tourist trap, as it was already annoying me, and I hopped the SITA bus home.

Once in Praiano, I went to a local restaurant for a simple mediocre linguine with white fish and started reading Steven Weinberg’s “To Explain the World” to balance out this day of complete mental relaxation. I had some limoncello with my Socrates and a most excellent lemon sponge cake and creme at La Strada.  I guess today I was hoping for a break through on my play. The thing I’m writing is a little close to home so I have no idea whether it’s good or not. But it is healing to write it, because I have to imagine both sides of the story. So, even if I can’t sell it, it’s been worth it. And as I took my last sip of deliciousness in the last moments of dusk I realized I had just been given my revelation.

 

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