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The path of the gods – Between myths, legends and history

The path of the gods: from Agerola to Positano

The path of the gods is a naturalistic path that winds along the Lattari mountains starting from Bomerano , a hamlet of Agerola and arriving in Positano , more precisely in Nocelle , its hamlet, offering those who walk it in its 8 km of walk, a breathtaking view as well as a real full immersion in nature that abounds in this path among the Amalfi villages.

The path develops along the high ridge of the mountain, passing  from an altitude of 650m in Bomerano to 440m in Nocelle  (it is possible to follow it in both directions) along path 327 CAI . It is one of the most interesting and spectacular hiking trails in all of Italy, for its scenic beauty and for the panoramic views that can be admired from sunrise to sunset.

It is called the Path of the Gods because according to the myth it was traveled by the Greek gods to save Ulysses from the sirens on the island of Li Galli , which in fact can be admired along the high-altitude promenade together with other spectacular attractions such as the Grotta del Biscotto and Colle Serra . , all framed by the Mediterranean scrub and the spectacular view of the Amalfi Coast.

The places crossed by the path, starting from Agerola towards Nocelle are in succession the Pinnacolo, Colle Serra, Li Cannati and Cisternuolo .

The legend

It seems that  the Greeks  called the path  “of the gods”  because it led to that stretch of sea ( the Li Galli archipelago ) where the sirens lived, the same ones that had faced Ulysses. And also because, in following it, it seemed almost as if we were going to reach Mount Olympus.

The Li Galli archipelago is therefore also known as the Sirenuse archipelago . It seems that  Partenope, Leucosia and Ligea , called the Tender, the  three sirens of the Odyssey  who seduced and bewitched the sailors, apparently lived here. With their melodious song they made them lose control of the ships that inevitably crashed on the rocks of the islets! According to mythology only two ships managed to escape the sad fate: that of  Ulysses  and that of the  Argonauts.

The birth of the sirens

According to the Greek myth,  Leucosia, Partenope and Ligea  were the three mermaids who lived in the Sirenuse archipelago. Originally they had human form, companions of  Persephone , daughter of Demetre, and daughters of Ocean. The myth tells that the four companions were together when Hades, god of the Underworld, kidnapped Persephone to make her his wife of the Underworld against her will. While Persephone was gathering flowers in the plain of Nysa with her companions, a narcissus of extraordinary beauty emerged from her flowery meadow. Persephone, immersed in a sacred amazement, stretched out her hands to collect the wonderful flower when a chasm opened from the base of the narcissus from which the king of the dead emerged, Hades, who took her away to the underworld to marry her, still a girl, against will her.

While all this happened the other girls did nothing to prevent it. Demeter, desperate and angry about what had happened, unleashed her women by turning them into sirens as punishment for not trying to prevent the rape of her daughter.

Thus Leucosia and her sisters found shelter on the rocks of the Tyrrhenian coast, and they soon became a huge danger for sailors. In fact, with the sweetness of their song, the three sirens bewitched the sailors, who lost control of the boats and were shipwrecked, eventually being devoured.

The meeting of Ulysses with the Sirens in the Odyssey

The meeting of Ulysses and the sirens is told in Canto XII of Homer’s Odyssey .

In the Odyssey  it is said that the Greek hero returning from the Trojan war, after leaving the sorceress Circe, traveled this stretch of sea reaching this archipelago, home of the sirens. Ulysses knowing the danger did not want to give up listening to the song of the sirens. He followed the advice of the sorceress Circe and was tied to the mast of the ship to be able to listen to the seductive song of the sirens, without being fooled in their insidious plots. Meanwhile his crew, with their ears plugged in wax, carried the boat out to sea. The Gods, first of all Aphrodite, who were observing from Olympus, worried, they decided to go down to Earth to prevent the ship from sinking. However, they made a mistake in landing and arrived a few kilometers away from the Li Galli archipelago , so they started running. It was their footsteps that furrowed the rocks of the coast creating what we now call  “the Path of the Gods “.

The sirens, unable to stop Ulysses’ ship, were shocked by pain to the point of deciding to jump into the sea by falling from a high cliff, and the sea carried their bodies to different locations on the Tyrrhenian coast. Parthenope ended up at the mouth of the Sebeto river , where the  Cumans  would later have founded Neapolis (today’s Naples). Ligea , on the other hand, reached the Calabrian coasts, precisely in Terina (city of Magna Graecia). The name of Terina derives from the nickname of Ligea called the tender, in Greek terina. There are no traces of the city of Terina, but scholars locate it in the vicinity of today’s Sant’Eufemia Venere, near Lamezie Terme. Finally, the body of Leucosia emerged in the waters of the Gulf of Poseidonia ( Paestum ), giving its name to an islet near that city,  Punta Licosa.

The music contest between Orpheus and the sirens in the Argonauts

The sirens are also challenged by Orpheus , a Greek hero of Thrace, and his feat is narrated in Argonautiche , the epic poem of  Apollonius Rhodius . The crew of the Argonauts arrived near Antemoessa , the island of the sirens , the heroes sighted these beings “similar to girls in body and partly birds”. The siren song was prompting the heroes to cast their moorings on the shore, when Orpheus took the Bistonia zither and awakened his companions from the spell, singing a cheerful and quick song. The sirens shocked at having been overcome in song by Orpheus in desperation threw themselves into the sea, turning into stone and becoming rocks in the waters of the sea.

With Antemoessa in ancient Greece it referred to the mysterious island where the mermaids lived, thanks to the geographical reconstruction, mainly of Strabo it has been identified in the Li Galli archipelago.

History of these places

The path has been the only road along the coast since ancient times that connected all the coastal towns and villages. This was the case until the birth of the Coastal State Road , built by the  Bourbons  to connect the entire area. The state road was begun in 1832 and ended with the inauguration on April 26, 1850.

The great protagonists of the Grand Tours  of the world of nineteenth-century literature talked about  it, and the description of the path by DH Lawrence , the great English storyteller at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, together with that of Italo Calvino , stands out at the start of the journey.

Strabo and the identification of the island of Sirenuse

Strabo , Greek geographer of the 1st century BC (63-19) described the three Li Galli islands for the first time in two passages: the first in book I (2, 12, 13, = C 22-23) and the second in the book V (4,8 = C 247), identifying them as the seat of the sirens and giving them the name of  Sirenai  or  Sirenussai .

Li Galli’s juxtaposition with sirens is no coincidence: the latter represent obstacles and dangers to navigation in Greek mythology and it is precisely in that stretch of sea that the currents often led the boats to crash against the rocks, sinking. The small archipelago is located on the path that connects the Circeo to Scilla and Cariddi , that is to say to the  Strait of Messina . Navigators meet Li Galli after crossing the  Gulf of the Cyclops  and passing the Strait of Capri , an important and difficult passage for ancient navigation, especially in windy weather. 

Points of interest

Li Galli, the archipelago of mermaids

Li Galli,  a very small archipelago between  Capri  and  Positano , a paradise between nature and legend among the most evocative of Campania. According to mythology, Partenope, Leucosia and Ligia, the three sirens of the Odyssey, lived here.

The archipelago consists of three solitary islets known as  Gallo Lungo, La Rotonda and La Castelluccia  (also known as the Island of the Briganti); three jewels of the protected marine area of ​​Punta Campanella .

Gallo Lungo , is the largest of the three islands and is the only one to have been inhabited since the classical age by Greek colonists. Originally the island was occupied by a monastery, then used as a prison during the reign of Charles II of Naples (late 13th century). In the early 14th century to monitor pirate attacks, the Aragonese tower was built, which is still present today.

Li Galli is also known as the Sirenuse archipelago, home to  Partenope, Leucosia and Ligia , the  three sirens of the Odyssey  who seduced and bewitched sailors, as described above in the legend of the Odyssey.

The  name of the archipelago  derives from the fact that in ancient Greece the sirens were half woman and half bird; hence the juxtaposition of the “feathered” sirens with the rooster / hens.

In 1924 Li Galli were bought by the  choreographer  Leonide Massine  who had a splendid villa built here. In the renovation of 1937 he saw the hand of the architect Le Corbusier . Noteworthy is the unmissable belvedere with a mosaic fountain in the center overlooking the stacks of Capri and on the opposite side the various terraces overlooking Positano and the Amalfi coast.

After his death in 1979, the baton passed into the hands of  Rudolf Nureyev,  another name dear to the world of dance.  Among the various famous names who have stayed in this paradise are: Anna Magnani, Franco Zeffirelli, Ingrid Bergman and again Sofia Loren, Jacqueline Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis, just to name a few. All fascinating from this place suspended between nature and mythology declared by the Cultural Heritage, since 1987,  an area of ​​important archaeological interest .

Shortly after Rudolf Nureyev ‘s death in 1993, the archipelago was bought by Li Galli di Giovanni Russo & C snc . Francesco Savarese, partner of the aforementioned company, in 2004 sold the shares of the company that owns the Li Galli islets to Giovanni Russo who is currently the sole owner.

As this is a private property,  Li Galli can only be visited by invitation,  but this shouldn’t discourage you. Although they are tiny, they deserve a boat tour for the splendor of the landscape and the clear water of the gulf.

Grotta del Biscotto, Colle Serra with the rocky villages and the Pistillo

Starting from Bomerano (the beginning of the Path) the first place we meet a cavity located at 528 meters above sea level called  Grotta del Biscotto , here there are  several cliffs and precipices  that in some points can reach up to 200 meters in height, here the panorama it is breathtaking precisely because of the particularity of the rocky stretch.

Immediately after the “Grotta del Biscotto” it is possible to admire the ancient settlements that are defined as real ” Rock Villages “, these villages have the peculiarity of having been built directly into the rock of the present along the Path, even some of these rock villages they are the peaks on the rock, it almost seems that they are suspended there to fall into the void, according to the guides these settle down to the period of the Saracen raids.

Finally, another well-known point of the path is the so-called ” Pistillo ” a spur of rock at the base of which rises a  bristly limestone spire  renamed  “pistil”,  a point where visitors can immortalize in photos and their videos.

The Nocelle square

Nocelle is one of the hamlets of Positano and the arrival or departure point of the Path of the Gods. The etymology of the name derives from the Latin  nova cella  and not from hazelnut as one would easily tend to associate. The village is located on the highest part of the Municipality of Positano and could only be reached by following a path from Montepertuso or via a long staircase that connects it with the Arienzo district . In recent years it has become a stopping point for hikers who cross the famous Path of the Gods. The view from Nocelle is particularly impressive and you can even see the island of Capri with the Faraglioni and the entire coastline up to Punta Campanella.

It is a mandatory stop to rest for a while and enjoy an excellent lemon or orange granita in the small kiosk in the square in front of the church of Santa Croce .

Flora and fauna

The path of the Gods allows you to meet the particularities of the Amalfi coast and the Sorrento peninsula. We discover a world with flora and fauna that tell us about the richness of the land of this splendid corner of Campania. We are surrounded by  olive trees , holm oaks, rosemary, heather, myrtle and strawberry trees , but we are struck by the mini anthropization that gives rise to terraced vineyards, of the type that in Irpinia would be called Tennecchia (in ancient dialect it means tent, pergola), which produce wines that once were mainly  pears and palummo … today incorporated in  the wine of Furore della Costa D’Amalfi Doc . The culture of wine can also be seen in the few  dilapidated houses used in ancient times (but some still today) as a shelter for winemakers and their tools, in one of them, in fact, we find new new vats. The terraces are the element in which  piennolo tomatoes , full of iodine, also proliferate, and the  lemon groves , in fact, right at the end of the path towards Nocelle we meet some.

But the path of the gods is also the place of choice for the breeding of the  Neapolitan Goat , a particularly valuable black type (called Torca Nera by the shepherds) that provides an excellent local caciotta to be tasted in Agerola and Positano, in addition to the good Provolone del Monaco. PDO and Fior di latte agerolese, the territory is very rich and varied from a dairy point of view. It is not uncommon, during the trek, to come across the flock and have to cross it. The Neapolitan goat of the path of the gods is still in danger of extinction and buying its products also means increasing herds and contributing to the reduction of risk.

How to reach the path of the gods: useful tips

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The path of the gods can be traveled by choosing essentially two directions, from top to bottom, downhill, and from bottom to top, uphill, trekking lovers will not hesitate to prefer this second option, but generally for one question of comfort and safety, it is advisable to opt for the first solution that has Agerola as its starting point , more precisely Bomerano.

Reaching this hamlet to start the walk is very simple, in fact Agerola is well connected to the cities of Naples, Amalfi and Castellamare di Stabia through the Sita buses, if instead you intend to take the path from Praiano you will have to walk a staircase of 580 meters to reach at the Colle Serra pass. Finally, at the end of the 8 km route, after about 4 hours of walking to continue towards Positano, you can choose to take a bus or to go down 1700 steps to Arienzo .

It is advisable to take this spectacular route preferably in a not too hot period of the year, wearing a hat to shelter from the sun, very comfortable shoes and a bottle of fresh water that can be filled along the way at different sources of water. drinkable, the path is strongly not recommended for those suffering from vertigo, as it winds along the heights.


“The path of myths and legends” by Luca Casaburi

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