Back from holiday and back to reality
A man jumped up, almost startled by our presence, as we entered the rear gate of the San Domenico monastery. After ushering us into the church to look around, he entreated us to stay for freshly squeezed lemon juice and figs grown in the church orchard. He explained that he was the caretaker of the monastery, and that he welcomed as many as 60 walkers a day during the high season. We were almost at the end of a 5 ½ hour hike along the ‘Path of the Gods’, a trail named for the Roman temples which once stood along its path that crosses the Amalfi peninsula from Positano to Bomerano, and the lemon juice came as a welcome respite from the heat of the rocky trail.
The figs were sweet and we nibbled on them as the man explained in broken English the various festivals and religious services the church was central to, however I got the feeling that he lamented the lack of a permanent priest or monks on the site and the fact that the church was now only used sparsely throughout the year. This experience was near the end of a vacation covering San Sebastián in Spain along with Rome and Positano in Italy over 9 far-too-short days, and while we sipped on our lemon juice we reflected on our travels so far.
All three cities were fantastic but I would have to say that Positano was by far the stand-out of the three. It is one of those unique places that can only exist where it is. There can be no facsimile cities, no cheap imitations. Tucked into a natural bay, wedged against a mountain range, mercifully not choked up by the sprawl that now accompanies close-by cities like Naples and Sorrento and mercifully devoid of chain shops and franchise restaurants. While Positano may be crammed full of fantastic restaurants, boutiques and churches, the surrounding hills are probably the real draw card, filled as they are with sleepy villages and fantastic restaurants, all with even more amazing views of mountains and sea. And that amazing trail.
Finding ourselves at the end of the lemon juice and having eaten our share of figs, we bid the gentleman farewell and headed down into Priano and back into semi-bustle of Italian sea-side life, and yet again put our life in the hands of an Italian bus driver who clearly found the twisting, winding roads to his liking, using both sides of the road to negotiate the hairpins and switch backs, often with little more than a cursory honk on the horn to signal to oncoming traffic his imminent appearance from around a blind bend…
Ok, ok, this post is well and truly in danger of turning into a ‘Go see Italy, NOW‘ post, so I’ll leave you with these thoughts:
1) Italy has amazing culture, history and countryside.
2) Italy has amazing food and wines.
3) Always take your running kit with you on vacation; you never know what you might get to see in that wonderful countryside. And you might want to run off all that food and wine…
Here are some pictures for those who would like a visual clue. I also accept that this is self-aggrandising ‘Look at me, I went to Italy!‘ type stuff so for those who take offence, please accept my apologies. I promise a return to normal service soon!
Pintxos bars (pronounced ‘Pin-chos’, small snacks like tapas) abound in the delightful old city that is comfortably wedged between Urgull Hill, the Urumea river and a sweeping bay of golden sand. Funnily enough at the other end of that sweeping bay of golden sand is a taller hill, a mountain in fact, Mount Igeldo. The hill-to-mountain loop makes for a very hilly, and very rewarding, 20km run with stunning views across the bay.
I managed to escape a re-run of ‘Roman Holiday’ with my girlfriend before going, but we tried a recreation anyway. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, we just walked around the city overwhelmed by the history and the culture. And the complete lack of adherence to basic motoring rules. No matter how many days you have in Rome they are never enough. There is simply too much to see and experience. And that’s before you try to max out the experience of food. And if you’re a runner, you will never, ever, be short of carbohydrate loaded options. For glycogen replacement purposes of course…
Running in Rome is hectic. Unless you’re out pre-dawn, the road traffic and chaotic street layout make for hard, and dangerous, running. Stick to walking like we did, or head to the Villa Borghese where most Romans exercise both themselves and their dogs.
Enough about the town said above. The ‘Path of the Gods’ is one of the most amazing trails I’ve ever been on. Around every corner and over every rise is some amazing view of sea, countryside or seaside towns.
To hike from Positano to Bomerano is about 16km and 7.5 hours, we took the shortened 5 hour version and turned off to Priano instead, saving our energy so that the next morning my girlfriend could sleep in while I got up at dark o’clock to run part of the route, a 10km loop from Positano to the top of the hill just past Nocelle (altitude 1500ft above sea level), with over 2200ft of elevation in the total run. Which I did two mornings in a row. Because I’m not very smart like that sometimes. After that effort my quads and calf muscles were destroyed, which made last Sunday’s 18 mile run an arduous affair, but that’s another post altogether.
Back to London
Back to work, life and reality.
4 weeks until Marathon Palma de Mallorca. Gulp…
Happy running everyone!