My favorite day in Sorrento was a complete surprise. I read plenty of guide books, watched all of the travel channel shows and thumbed through magazines before heading to the Almafi coast, but nothing really prepared me for Pontone. Or, more accurately, the hike to Pontone.
My husband and I started out taking the ferry from Sorrento. We passed by the stunning Island of Capri and glided by Positano with all of the exclusive waterfront shops and restaurants that we expected. Besides feeling like my sunglasses should be larger and my tan deeper, I was in heaven. We landed in the town of Amalfi and headed into the tourist office. There we found a map of the town and hiking trails and headed off to the center of town. Amalfi is like many other towns in Southern Italy — it is crowded with tourist who are milling through streets lined with shops selling trinkets, pottery and gourmet food. The area is famous for cingale salami, made from wild boar who feed on chestnuts, giving it a strong and distinctive flavor.
Almafi coast, but nothing really prepared me for Pontone. Or, more accurately, the hike to Pontone.
We marched past the tourist shops with the goal of working up some sweat and finding a restaurant high up in the hills that we had heard was fantastic. It didn’t take long for the crowds to dwindle and for the local culture to emerge. The street gave way to stone steps which wound up the hill past orchards and farms.
We had to stop to give way to donkeys hauling big bundles of sticks and started to get a glimpse of life as a local. The trail dwindled into a dirt path that mercifully lead us to a tree covered area that gave us some refreshment from the sun and heat. And really, walking up stone steps in the sun and heat is a challenge regardless of the scenery. Along the way we heard water in the distance and happened upon a cooling waterfall — perfect!!
The trail continued up and we were rewarded with amazing views of Almafi while in the midst of a canopy of grapes. Not so bad. Although at this point, about 1½ hours into the hike, we were hot and thirsty and ready for lunch. The town began to emerge, and we were again greeted by the sight of donkeys carrying dirt as part of a construction effort. We had some difficulty finding the restaurant we had read about (of course it was still a good way up the hill). We arrived very tired, very thirsty, and very dirty. The owners pointed us to a patio with a gorgeous view of Almafi below.
We immediately ordered a cold beer — which is really at its best when drunk on a hot day after a long hike. But even better with an amazing view.
Neither Sean nor I speak Italian, so we basically did the point and hope for the best method of ordering. As we waited we started to cool down in the breeze, and relaxed to the sound of neighbors shouting to each other through windows (who needs a phone) and rooster crowing.
Our meal came and we were happily presented with melon wrapped in prosciutto and a pasta primavera that were both amazing. Doesn’t food taste better when you are starving? But was it the chef . . . the scenery . . . or the hike? I suggest going and deciding for yourself.