I thought I had experienced some of the most beautiful trails in the world, but that changed the day I hiked the Path of the Gods on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. At times, we wound our way through ancient farms surrounded by terraced vineyards and then suddenly emerged on the edge of a cliff with the deep blue Tyrrhenian Sea visible as far as the eye could see. Up and down the coast were villages of pastel-colored buildings perched on the cliffs.
According to legend, this was the path used by the gods to rescue Odysseus, who had tied himself to the mast of a ship to protect himself from the deadly song of the sirens. What we know for sure is that the Path of the Gods is just one of many trails on the Amalfi Coast used for hundreds of years for transportation between villages. More recently, it’s become the most popular hiking trail in the region.
I had the opportunity to hike the Path of the Gods — and many other area trails — on a spring trip to Italy with Explore Worldwide. We spent a week exploring the region on foot, much like the locals would have done, long before motorized vehicles existed. In a week of wonderful experiences, the Path of the Gods was my favorite. Here are my recommendations for anyone planning to hike this trail.
My trip was hosted by Explore Worldwide, but all opinions are my own.
1. Choose Your Path
The Path of the Gods is an out-and-back trail hugging the coast, passing through a number of small villages. It can be customized according to your fitness level and interests, so take some time in advance to consider your options.
We hiked one of the most popular routes that begins in Bomerano and ends in Positano. If you’re staying in Positano, this can easily be reversed. Whichever direction you choose, this route is approximately 6.8 miles.
Some people prefer to begin in Bomerano and end their hike in Nocelle in order to avoid the hundreds of stone and cement stairs down to Positano. This will shorten your hike by at least a mile and it’s a nice option for anyone concerned about their knees.
Decide your route in advance and then determine how you will get to the trailhead and return to your accommodations. We took a public bus to the trailhead in Bomerano and had a private bus take us back to our guest house after enjoying a couple of hours in Positano. Public buses are both affordable and reliable in this region; just be sure to look up the schedule, which does vary throughout the year.
2. Train Properly
The Path of the Gods — or any hike on the Amalfi Coast — will involve steep ascents and descents and loads of stairs. You’ll want to train properly before your trip.
If you’re an experienced hiker, consider adding actual steps to your training routine. Anyone new to hiking will want to spend a few months on local trails that have plenty of elevation gain, in addition to some step training. I do hike regularly at home but made a concerted effort to find steeper trails. Your legs will thank you for taking the time to prepare properly.
3. Get An Early Start
You will definitely want to get an early start to your day to thoroughly enjoy the Path of the Gods. We rose before sunrise, ate breakfast in the dark, and were on the bus to Bomerano at the crack of dawn. It was all worth it. For the first hour on the trail, we saw no other hikers, only locals working their farms.
This trail can get seriously busy later in the day. That won’t ruin the experience because the views are still stunning, but parts of the path are narrow, so crowds could slow your progress. If you are hiking in the summer, an early start will also mean cooler temperatures.
4. Hike In Spring Or Fall
Summer is peak season for the Amalfi Coast, so if at all possible, plan your visit for the spring or fall. Temperatures will rise during the summer meaning the Path of the Gods trail will be both hot and crowded.
My visit was in late March, typically considered the start of the tourist season on the Amalfi Coast. Spring brings temperatures ranging from the low 60s to the mid-70s Fahrenheit. Fall is usually a bit warmer ranging from the upper 60s to the low 80s.
Many of the businesses on the Amalfi Coast aren’t open during the winter. While you could visit during this time, your options for accommodations, dining, and tours will be limited.
5. Be Prepared For Any Weather
With our early start to the day, temperatures were chilly, so I was happy to be wearing three layers — a lightweight long-sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, and a windbreaker. By the end of the day, I had removed two of those layers. With the varying elevations and proximity to the sea, temperatures fluctuate considerably throughout the hike. A month after, I returned from Italy a friend was hiking the Path of the Gods and experienced an entire day of rain. Come prepared for a range of weather and pack lightweight layers that can easily be shed and added to your backpack. And don’t forget the sunscreen since long parts of the trail are exposed to the Sun.
6. Bring Hiking Poles
My greatest surprise about hiking on the Amalfi Coast was the endless amount of stairs. Anytime I think of hiking I assume a dirt trail — which certainly existed — but we spent a significant amount of time walking up and down staircases. So in hindsight, I wish I had brought hiking poles. As someone who doesn’t use these much at home, I now realize they would have been helpful. Many in my group used poles and were happy to have them.
I’ve read varying accounts of the number of stairs between Nocelle and Positano — and I certainly wasn’t counting — but suffice it to say it was over a thousand. Hiking poles might have lessened the pressure on my knees, which were seriously sore after the hike.
7. Don’t Rush
While the Path of the Gods is a good workout, that’s not really the point. This is a hike where you’ll want to stop often and enjoy the views of the ocean below and the surrounding villages. While it is possible to complete the hike in 2 hours, most people allow 4. Stops for photos, water, and snacks are as much a part of the experience as the actual hiking.
8. Enjoy A Lemon Granita In Nocelle
Our group stopped in Nocelle to break for lunch and give our legs a rest. We gathered in the town square and sat on benches near the village church — a remarkably picturesque place to enjoy sandwiches.
Despite the idyllic setting, what was most memorable about Nocelle was Lemon Point, a small stand selling drinks and snacks. And while there was a nice assortment of beverages, I highly recommend the lemon granita — a tart, frozen lemonade perfect for tired hikers. The proprietor, Antonio, began this stand with a small folding table and umbrella but eventually built a charming stand decorated with the favorite produce of the region: lemons.
9. Relax On The Beach In Positano
If you’re ending your hike in Positano, don’t rush to the bus. Instead, allow time to explore the town. Some people complain that it’s a very touristy place, and it is, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
We had 2 hours to enjoy Positano, so I began with a visit to the beach. My hot and tired feet appreciated the cold ocean water for a few minutes. Then, I explored the streets and shops. If you are in need of anything decorated with a lemon, you’ll find it here.
Finally, I found my way to a café to enjoy a local pastry called delizia al limone. Sponge cake is filled with lemon cream, brushed with limoncello, and covered in a lemon and whipped cream glaze. I will long remember this amazing desert.