I like to think I’m an intrepid soul. I once figured that a fabulous way to see the Amalfi coast in Italy would be to do a walking tour. I was right. It’s rather incredible. In fact, the first real day of walking took us from our hotel in the village of Agerola, up in the hills above the Amalfi coast, down to the tiny hamlet of Furore.
Great, right? Walking downhill. How hard can that be?
Well, part of the problem was that there were a couple of thousand stairs and they were of varying depths, but mostly just a bit too deep for my stumpy little legs. At the time, it felt like every step was jarring my knees.
Luckily, the scenery was gobsmackingly beautiful, so the distraction was very welcome. And occasionally, we passed people who were climbing all these stairs, and that made us feel better too. Encountering a family of Americans who had climbed about seven hundred stairs and then discovered they had gone the wrong way was a highlight of the journey.
But our destination, the fjord below the village of Furore was worth every drop of sweat and every twinge of knee pain. A tiny inlet, accessible only by foot or by boat, cuts into the coastline. The Amalfi Coast Drive passes by on a bridge high above (there is apparently a high diving competition from it once a year. Lunatics!), and the beach is towered over by spectacular hills. On the beach, you can laze on a deck chair and watch the luxury yachts go by through a tiny opening in the coastline. We spied Giorgio Armani’s boat heading down to Amalfi (it was hugely beneficial to have a guide who knows all this sort of gossipy stuff).
But the real highlight was the little beachside restaurant. There, we ate a beautiful, simple pasta dish made with fish that was caught that morning. The joy was in the freshness, no doubt about it. And the fact that we washed it down with a couple of well-earned Peronis. We followed that up with a pear cake that had to be tasted to be believed. It’s apparently a regional specialty and it was at that point that I knew I was REALLY going to like this place.
Eventually, with storm clouds looming, we had to say goodbye to this little slice of heaven and head uphill towards the village of Conca dei Marini. I was dreading the uphill hike, given the creakiness of my knees on the way down, but it wasn’t too horrific. In fact, going uphill was considerably easier than going downhill for me. The trick was just to go slowly and deliberately and rest often. The heavens opened and we cowered in a bus stop before our guide Ulli arranged transport for us (the public bus was overloaded with folks who had been having a lovely day on the beach in Amalfi until the rain belted down).
The postscript to this gorgeous day in Furore was that the next morning, I couldn’t descend the stairs from my hotel room. Every single step was exquisitely painful. My quads and calves were so excruciatingly sore that the only way I could walk down stairs or even down a gentle slope, was to do it backwards. It took me four days to feel normal again.
But looking at this picture of that pear cake always erases the memory of all that agony: