Finally, the day was here, after months of yearning, on the edge of obsessing, I woke up on the 4th of July just minutes from the path that would bring us to the closest land point to view the mythical archipelago of Le Sirenuse.
It was well worth the wait, the terrain and views completely exceeded my expectations. In fact, it’s been hard for me to find the words to describe this idyllic day in this rugged section of Italy. While haven’t figured out a way to share the perfect breezes, the clouds of delicate butterflies and the scents of the country side I have photos to share the views and scenery that made it all so special and will do my best to explain the exhilerating pleasure of immersing yourself in a foreign community and exploring both the elegant and rustic sides it has to offer.
After a delightful breakfast on the terrace and a proud “in bocca al lupo” send off from Madame Alfonso we left the refinement of the Hotel Don Alfonso, for a walk on the wilder side of the Sorrento Peninsula.
Following the guidance of Gilliam Price in an excellent book Mr. Splendid found, Walking on the Amalfi Coast my daughter and I put on our day packs and walked through the sleepy town of Sant’Agata to find the Hotel Montana.
After taking a right turn onto Via Pigna, her extremely detailed instructions took us along a series of narrow residential roads, giving us glimpses into how the residents live in this small Italian village.
Even the locals are entranced by the myth of their this small archipelago off Positano, also known as Isolotti Galli or Li Galli, said to be the home of the famed sirens in The Odyssey where Circe warns Odysseus “you will come to the sirens, which will beguile all men” (see the full warning below).
“My home is open to the sun, to sincere friends and honest relatives”
Have you ever seen a caper plant? One of her markers was “a wall hung with caper plants”, I had never seen one before, I always thought capers grew on trees, but it is actually more like a vine. The plants have pretty white and pink flowers and you can see the flower bud on the lower left flower, which is a caper;
also, below, the fruit of the vine, which is the larger caper berries. Both can be pickled and are a staple of Mediterranean cuisine.
Soon after the caper plant wall the trail opened up to a picturesque rural agricultural land with bales of hay that reminded me of Van Gogh paintings
orchards of infantile olives,
dense, lush vineyards,
and expansive gardens crowned with artichokes.
Aside the single farmer we saw, who probably installed this rustic sign to indicate the continuation of the path as it passed his meticulous garden, we had the entire trail to ourselves.
Farmlands gave way to thick grasses
and wildflowers loaded with butterflies.
I loved watching the in fluttering clouds of butterflies that encircled my daughter as she walked past the wildflowers.
Finally, the Il Gilli islands came into view.
From our point up on the bluff we couldn’t hear the boats whizzing by below, the announcements on the tourist boats cruising through the islands or the sirens songs, only the lovely melody of the grasses moving in the breeze, and the songs of the birds and cicadas.
“Next you will come to the Sirens, who will beguile all men that approach them. Whoever encounters them unawares and listens to their voices will never have joy at reaching home, his wife and children to greet him. Instead the Sirens’ tempt him with their limpid song, as they sit there in the meadow with a vast heap of mouldering corpses, bones on which hangs the shrivelled skin.
The vertical of the trail seriously increases as you catch your final views of the islands. It becomes a bit of a scramble, but the steps are well maintained and the hand rails are quite helpful.
Plug your comrades’ ears with softened beeswax lest they listen, and row swiftly past. And if you must hear, then let them first tie you hand and foot and stand you upright in the mast housing, and fasten the rope ends round the mast itself, so you can delight in hearing the Sirens’ voices. And should you beg your crew to free you, let them only bind you more tightly”. Homer: The Odyssey Book XII
To learn more about the illustrious inhabitants of this island, click on Le Sirenuse, and other private remote islands in the Med….