M E E T F R A N K
Francesco (Frank) arrived here from New York City where I was born of an Italian mother and father. My first trip to Italy was at nine years of age.
My love for the history, culture, food and beauty of Italy increased steadily. A decision to experiment and live abroad led me to Positano and the Amalfi Coast. Through the friendly and open ways of the local people, I soon came into contact with more and more locals and found a kindred spirit in the appreciation of the beauty and heritage of the myths and legends that abound here.
I established my excursion company “Walking with the Gods” and “Positano Adventure Walks” in the year 2000 and have succesfully shared my passion for all things Positanese and Amalfitane to bring to as many people as possible the joys of living and experiencing this paradise.
A stay in Switzerland created my deeper love of Alpine trekking and skiing becoming a teacher and guide of both.
Today I am best known by my own name Francesco (Frank) Carpegna, as is my excursion company name.
"-This is the land of the Ancient Greeks, Magna Grecia
-This the land the Romans called" Campania Felix" The joyful place
-This is the land of Ulysses and the Sirens song
-This is the land of Goethe the land where the lemons grow"
-lldirect, new york (www.tripadvisor.com)- 2013
"It was a wonderful walk with fabulous vistas, but even more significant for us, while we were asking directions to the starting point, we met an Italian-American named Francesco Carpegna who has lived in Positano for 18 years and conducts walking tours throughout the region. So this year, we decided to avail ourselves of his services. We were rewarded with an absolutely spectacular experience that we could never have had on our own.
He took us on a full-day walk of three valleys starting near Ravello and ending in Amalfi. The walk began with the Blacksmith's Valley, with cascading waterfalls and 13th C. ruins of old forges. We ended with the Valley of the Mills where we saw abandoned medieval paper mills. But in between, he took us to a place he called the Secret Valley. It was clearly posted as off limits to the general public, but Francesco's license allowed us access. It is impossible to describe the breathtaking scope of what we saw, and photos don't begin to do the place justice. We seemed to be standing in a place from which primordial earth sprouted, a narrow split between mammoth cliffs of jutting rock, covered with a dense outgrowth of primitive flora. It was awesome in the truest sense of the word.
I have to add here that our party was made up of myself, my husband and my sister, all of a certain age, fit but not particularly athletic and our 21 year old daughter. The walk was arduous at times, but definitely doable, and Francesco kept us going with encouragement and an occasional burst of song. In fact, the most difficult part of the hike came when we had left the valley and were approaching Amalfi and it began to rain heavily. We came into town, miserable and soaked to the skin -- but once again, he had a solution. He took us directly to a hotel where he was known and they instantly offered us towels and a hair dryer which we used on our sopping t-shirts.
Even if you think you'd rather be lying on the beach or breezing through the shops, I highly recommend you take a day to do this walk.
Incidentally, Francesco seems to know everyone and every place of note in the area, so we used him as a virtual concierge. He found us the perfect apartment to rent for the week in exactly the location I requested, he got us reservations and special attention at outstanding restaurants and he was liberal with his advice and information. Even though we tend to favor ambling on our own to using the services of a guide, in this case, it paid off in spades."
DR. HOUSE AND WIFE
-PEIslanders6 (www.tripadvisor.com)- 2013
While planning our stay in Amalfi Coast area we felt unsure about the best way to plan our hiking. In Positano we were so fortunate to meet Francesco Carpegna. A perfectly bilingual history buff with 15 yrs guiding and interpreting experience he brought this amazing area to life for us.
The hikes are moderately challenging (we are reasonably fit middle age) 1/2 day to day 3/4 day hikes that offer panoramic sea views from the mountain paths. They can be a bit crisscrossed in some areas so we do reccomend use of a guide. Delicious village cuisine was a bonus surprise on those days.Enjoy.
THE WALK OF THE GODS
When most people look at a picture of Positano, they see the famous beach, the gorgeous waters of the Mar Tirreno or the beautiful buildings stacked one upon the other in the town’s signature fashion.
But Peregrine local Guide Francesco Carpegna saw something quite literally beyond the obvious; the mountains behind Positano, and the untold possibilities they held.
A LIFE LONG PASSION
Francesco has been leading Peregrine trips in the area for five years and the Lattari Mountains are his passion.
"Showing them to people, sharing with them the extraordinary beauty and the energy of them, this is my mission!" Francesco enthuses. While walking in the mountains with Francesco you’re likely to bump into locals collecting mushrooms and berries, you’ll eat at little local restaurants where you’re the only foreigners, and you’ll get a real sense of the depth of history.
"What also moves many people that travel with me is the continuity of the history here. And you can physically walk through that antiquity and see it unfold before your eyes," he says.
Behind Positano, the Lattari Mountains are home to many jaw-droppingly beautiful walking trails including the legendary Pathway of the Gods. This path really lives up to its name, as it winds through forests and fields of wildflowers, past ancient stone huts and sheer walls of granite. And all the while the sea glistens up ahead and along side.
For those heading to the Amalfi Coast, Positano is high on the list of must-sees but go beyond this stylish town and you’ll find views to live for and an area often missed by the tourist buses. Sometimes it takes the eyes of a local to see more than the map in your hands and the footpath ahead.
Not surprisingly, Francesco is a keen advocate of the Positano way of life. "The people here are very warm with travellers. They are very keen to learn and talk, and most visitors here slip into the local way of life after just a day!"
So, anyone up for a change of pace in Positano?
-Leah & Ralph (www.chow.com)- 2011
Just returned from another fabulous week in Positano and have some updates to share.
We went across the steps to La Cambusa and were absolutely thrilled. We had dinner with an Italian-American named Francesco Carpegna who lives in Positano and seems to know everyone including the entire staff at La Cambusa. At his suggestion we ordered off the menu a whole fish for five people prepared "aqua pazza" style which is cooked with tomatoes and herbs in a small amount of water/white wine. We were presented with the whole cooked fish which was then perfectly fileted into five servings and was absolutely delicious. (We did, however, continue our daily visits to the gelato stand under the Buca de Baca).
On our third day, we went on the most magnificent hike I've ever taken with the above mentioned Francesco. He does walking tours throughout the region and is a fabulous, knowledgeable guide who gets you places that are off limits to most tourists. We hiked three valleys with amazing primoridial vistas, some of which can only be accessed with a licensed guide. The hike was challenging, but doable even if you're not in great shape and is well worth it. After coming to Positano for years, I had no idea these places even existed. At the end of the day, we were too tired to travel far afield for dinner and Francesco suggested we try the Poseidon Hotel which was a flight of steps up from the apt. we rented. In all the times I've been to Positano, it never occurred to me to eat there and it was a lovely surprise. The restaurant is on the second floor terrace and has a wonderful, romantic view. Better yet, the food was glorious. We had a divine vegetable soup that was just pure fresh produce cooked al dente with herbs and broth. Fish in a lemon sauce was what the Amalfi coast is all about. Service was lovely too.
I wanted to try Don Alfonso since I've heard so much about it. Sure enough, Francesco was a friend of the owner's daughter-in-law, called ahead and got us special treatment. Even with the loss of a star, the food was great, but even better was the atmosphere. Don Alfonso's wife Livia, (elegant in leopard pants, leather jacket and sneakers!) trolls the dining room making sure everyone is happy, as she so clearly is. After dinner, she insisted we visit the wine cellar which was fashioned from an ancient Roman cistern which Don Alfonso discovered when he fell into a hole while walking on his property. Then, she plied us with gifts from their organic farm including olive oil, pasta, and jarred tomatoes. I'm sure we got some special treatment because of the connection, but anyone who showed an interest was equally rewarded with a tour and products. I was informed that there's a new 2 star restaurant in the area (I think it's called Il Capitano but I'm not sure) but the totality of our visit was so special, I'm glad we went to Don Alfonso and highly recommend it. They also run an inn and cooking classes connected to the restaurant, which had the cooks in my family salivating.
Although they've had plenty of mentions on CH, I'd never been to Bruno or Il Ritrovo so we tried those as well. The food was good at both places and the atmosphere fun, but not star quality. Although I did have a pear-ricotta cheese cake at Il Ritrovo that was to die for.
One last mention -- on our way back we stopped in Rome and walked by a pizza joint that had Italians standing in line around the block waiting for tables, so of course, we tried it the next night. It's called Da Baffetto and probably everyone who has been to Rome knows about it except me. Anyway, it was, indeed, the best pizza I've ever had in my life.
Can't wait to do it all again!
-tanmaree Sydney, Australia (www.tripadvisor.com)- 2012
We have just done this walk today with a guide Francesco Carpegna. It was amazing. We were in two minds as to whether we would get a guide or not, and we definitely made the right decision. Frank has lived locally for 20 years, he knows everyone, and he is very knowledgeable about the whole amalfi coast and its history. We liked it so much we have booked him agin to take us to Pompeii! If you don' t want to waste time with trying to navigate the transport systems, and knowing where to go then you should just take Frank. He is extremely personable, and you will get inside knowledge that you would not otherwise find out. His prices are very reasonable. Highly recommend.
WALKING THE AMALFI COAST
-Susan Gough Henly (www.genuinejourneys.net)- 2014
A sunny day on the Amalfi coast…steep, craggy limestone hills rise like an ancient dragon from the indigo depths of the Tyrhenian Sea.
Alas, most visitors miss the magic, trapped as they are in a cacophony of honking horns and diesel fumes, kitschy limoncello souvenir shops, and serpentine queues on the cliff-hugging roads.
Enter Francesco's walking tour walking tour…the perfect way to slow down and smell the rosemary, while marvelling at a culture and a cuisine hewn from a landscape as harsh as it is breathtaking. By walking on paths that have been used for centuries by monks and farmers you not only feel the majesty of place in your pounding heart but also carve a monstrous hole in your stomach. All the better to be filled with mountains of made-this-morning fusilli tossed with everything fresh from the garden which goes down very easily with the Tears of Christ(Lacryma Christi) wine grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. And the view from the terrace of a trattoria perched vertiginously over the sea is enough to bring any modern day pilgrim to tears.
At this stage most adults would be devising places to park the kids but I decide to bring along one of mine…12 year old Julia…for the ride, or rather the walk.
Julia and I arrive at the Hotel Neapolis in the old quarter of Naples (most accommodation is in comfortable three star hotels) in time to meet up with our guide and the rest of the group, which consists of two Melbourne families, a doctor and his wife and two daughters aged 11 and 13 and a couple with their own construction company plus their 12 year old daughter and 10 year old son. Our guide, Francesco Carpegna, is an eloquent Italian American who has been living in Positano. He has perfect Italian, a deep baritone voice used alternatively for his engrossing stories and eclectic songs, an encyclopaedic knowledge of archaeology and history, and a love of life that ranges from joining in the kids’ games to discussing philosophy with the adults, while still managing to tell us the juicy bits about who stays where along this remarkable coastline. In short: a genius.
Next morning, as we head in our private bus to Mount Vesuvius, Francesco regales us with tales of how Pliny the Younger gave the only surviving eyewitness account of its massive 79 AD eruption describing the shape of the cloud he could see from afar as the branches of an umbrella pine spread on a very long trunk. We trek into the Valley of Hell, where the kids do some moon walking down a desolate volcanic ash flow, before climbing up the ridge of Mount Somma and circumnavigating the rim of Mt Vesuvius with its spectacular views to the Bay of Naples and across to the lush green Monte Lattari range, site of some of the richest dairy pasture in Italy.
We spend the next two nights at the delightful family-run Hotel Risorgimento in San Lazzaro di Agerola, located high above the Amalfi coast. Our first dinner is perfection: freshly made pasta with artichokes, veal saltimbocca and local swordfish, and, for dessert, the plumpest, ripest peaches and figs.
The next day we explore the prosperous merchant town of Pompeii, which we learn was only rediscovered in the 16th century after being buried under metres of volcanic stone and ash. We marvel at the grand theatre, the forum and law courts, temples to the Roman gods, public baths and laundries, shops, and elaborate houses with four dining rooms for each of the seasons…would Melbourne look this remarkable 2000 years later, we all wonder.
This evening is a kid fest: a pizza-making lesson at the hotel restaurant. They douse everything in flour as they learn to knead the dough to just the right consistency, spread fresh tomato paste, mozzarella, and basil leaves…the true Neapolitan pizza, courtesy of Queen Marguerita as Francesco explains…. and shovel it into the wood-fired oven for a mere six minutes. The results: bellisimo.
Now we start our walk in earnest…from San Lazzaro to the town of Amalfi, while our bags are transported by car to the Hotel Residence across from the main beach in Amalfi, our home for the next four nights.
As we marvel at the panorama of sea, land and sky, Francesco explains that the Greeks knew these waters well and the islands off the coast were inspiration for Homer’s Islands of the Sirens in The Odyssey. In Roman times, Capri became the summer palace of Tiberius and Caesar Augustus, while the Amalfi Coast was sprinkled with small settlements. From as early as the 5th century AD, Amalfi was a powerful maritime republic, like Venice, Pisa and Genoa, trading heavily with Byzantium while also building fortresses against Saracen pirates. In more recent times, the likes of John Steinbeck, Sophia Loren and Gore Vidal have called the area home.
Our walk down stairs and stone paths along hand-built rock terraces is tiered like the olive groves and vineyards we pass. Around one bluff we discover enormous limestone caves, which Francesco explains were often hermit shelters, in front of which are medieval stone huts…visual testament to centuries of evolving habitation. We pass tiny chapels that still offer solace to farmers whose days are spent toiling the soil by hand and carrying their produce to market along these very paths.
The kids sing and call out across the valleys to hear their echoes return. They create faces from acorns when we pass through a cool oak forest. But the temperature is rising on this late September morning and bodies begin to wilt. Miraculously, when we reach the road near the entrance to Amalfi, a transcendent site appears: The Posaflora gelati shop perched precariously above the aquamarine sea. I make a note: best ice cream with view in the world.
We walk along the road under Francesco’s watchful eye, past the bougainvillea-bedecked Hotel Santa Caterina, its elevator dropping direct to a private beach, and into the bus-choked town of Amalfi. The afternoon free, we fling on our bathers and head straight for the beach…grey pebbled though it may be, the water is divine. We rent kayaks and paddle down the coast to explore hidden coves and rock-clinging villas on the way to the pretty village of Altrani.
Day four, we hop on a local bus to zigzag up the hillside to Ravello, dubbed ‘the aristocrat of the Amalfi Coast’. We explore the remarkable 12th century Arabesque Villa Rufolo, with its Moorish cloister and Norman watch tower, now the site of the Ravello music festival, where orchestras play in the same stunning gardens overlooking the coast that first inspired Richard Wagner. The kids are more interested in fishing coins out of the fountain.
We lure them away with promises of miracles at the nearby church of San Pantoleone, with its imposing brass doors and gold mosaic sea monster, the icon of the Amalfi coast. And the miracle: the coagulated blood of its patron saint, stored in a glass vase behind a side altar, liquefies on his name day. And it was still liquid, that name day having just passed.
At the top of the hill lie a swath of swank palazzos, now converted into luxury hotels, like Richard Branson’s Palazzo Sasso and the Orient Express’ Hotel Caruso. Taking the stairs out of town we head towards the ancient village of Scala, built to defend the Amalfi coast.
We pass chestnut trees, lemon groves and gardens overflowing with ripe red tomatoes and peppers, basil, purple eggplant and figs, and bright orange pumpkins. Everyone is hungry. A few more twists and turns and a stop to splash cold water from a village fountain and we arrive… somewhere close to heaven: the Trattoria Antico Borgo on a vine-covered terrace with the stage set of the Amalfi Coast below. We feast on stuffed zucchini flowers, pizza and smoked provolone and eggplant ravioli. Dessert: half lemons filled with lemon gelati. Local musicians serenade us with hauntingly beautiful Neapolitan love songs.
Fortified, we embark on what Francesco describes as the Indiana Jones part of the trip…a journey into a world of scraggly bushes clinging to sheer cliffs, of waterfalls and clear mountain pools, of soaring Peregrine falcons, and steep trails. Dozens of medieval ruins overgrown with vegetation weave a story of ingenious industry in the Middle Ages…of paper mills and blacksmith factories powered by the pure rushing water of the Canneto River.
Francesco urges us deeper into the limestone ravine. We cross bridges, forge streams as the valley narrows and darkens. Now we are surrounded by towering rain forest trees, dripping vines and massive boulders. Suddenly before us a 20-metre-high waterfall cascades down sheer moss-covered rock. The kids are enthralled with the magic kingdom we have entered. Surely, we are no longer in parched southern Italy. They hop from boulder to boulder, discovering frogs, ducking under fern fronds and reaching out to touch entire curtains of water dripping from mossy overhangs as Francesco’s sonorous voice weaves stories about the birth of the world. Later he explains that this hidden valley forms a micro-climate renowned for its rare long-leafed fern from a preglacial age.
The kids find a pool deep enough for swimming and plunge…just for a few moments…into its icy depths. Refreshed and exhilarated they take off down the valley, past more ghostly ruins, past a dam an aqueduct built during the time of Mussolini, past terrace upon terrace of lemon groves and into the laneways of Amalfi. We stop at a 14th century mill, now the paper mill museum, and learn how papermaking came to Amalfi through trade with the Arabs and how paper was made from rags disinfected with animal urine, the mills powered by huge waterwheels. The kids even make their own paper using the traditional techniques.
On our final day we walk the Path of the Gods, under a cloudless blue sky. After riding the local bus to the village of Praiano, we climb a steep carob-tree-laden path, along which are marked all the Stations of the Cross, up to the now-deserted Monastery of San Domenico, built on Roman foundations, which commands a spectacular view along the peninsula’s dragon tail. Farmers are putting the last of the grape harvest in crates to go via pulley down to sea level. Inside the church is a fresco painted by a member of the school of Giotto. At a certain time of the afternoon, light streams in from two holes in the opposite wall to illuminate the Madonna and Christ.
Suspended between sky and sea we walk along grassy terraces, dotted with rosemary and blackberries, with the entire coast beneath us. Tiny boats buzz across the deep blue water leaving trails of white spray. Far out to sea, the Islands of the Sirens continue to tantalise. Francesco tells us that Russian dancer Rudolph Nureyev bought the largest island and, before him, the architect Le Corbusier created a majestic villa for the Russian choreographer Leonoide Massine. Below us is the elegant San Pietro Hotel, popular with the Murdoch and Packer families, clinging to the cliff above its private beach.
Soon we enter cool, deep forests of Holm oak and chestnut, mysterious groves reminiscent of fairy tales. Out in the sunshine again, we round a bend beneath steep cliffs and look down on the Bay of Positano. Francesco impresses the kids by explaining this was the set for the movie “Hook.”
Everyone is hot and tired and hungry but soon we are walking under grape arbours at the entrance to the village of Nocelle, home to the delightful Sante Croce restaurant, with yet another panoramic view of the coast below. Everything is homemade, from the antipasto platter of grilled vegetables, mozzarella, hand-cured prosciutto and salami to the mixed grill of sausages, rabbit, lamb and chicken, all from animals raised on the family farm.
Plans are hatched amongst the younger set to catch the bus to Positano, meanwhile a lovely languid mood spreads across the table. We miss the bus. The only option is to walk down thousands of steps to the sea. The splendid meal has, however, worked miracles and the kids bounce on ahead…leaving delicate messages in flowers, leaves and twigs on the steps…500, 1000, 1500 and finally 1673 steps to the bottom.
Welcoming us at the end of the trail is Positano, its sepia-toned villas tiered above an aquamarine sea, its seafood restaurants behind an orange deck-chaired beach, its winding streets overflowing with boutiques. Each of us licks a mountainous gelati as we walk along the beach, the kids skipping pebbles across impossibly blue water. I look at the rocky crags above us remembering with a smile a sign that Francesco had translated on the trail. “In life there are no straight lines” it had said…what a joy it has been to share with my youngest child such a convoluted, meandering and spectacular path as this.
In 1992 the AIGAE was formed as an autonomous body to develop and enhance the training, skills and reputation of the increasing number of skilled Walking Guides and Leaders who wished to qualify and follow this profession in the world's paths.
The award of the Regional Guides License demands the highest standards of skill and professionalism in all aspects of guiding.
The AIGAE today
Today the AIGAE, Italian Association of Environmental and Walking Guides has over 1500 members with Guides working their way through the qualification process.
We have close links with the Italian Federation of National Parks and Protected Areas (Federparchi), the Italian Association of Greenways (Co.Mo.Do.), the Italian Association of Touristic Guides (ANGT) and the Italian Association of the Professional Societies (COLAP). Many of our members are also qualified Instructors and are expertly equipped for all levels of instruction and advisory/consultancy work in walking, hiking, and hillwalking.
The Scope of Guiding
In any year the range of Nature activities offered by AIGAE Guides is staggering. Italian Nature Guides safely and successfully lead groups to the best and most impressive wilderness on earth. Some Guides specialise in hillwalking guiding whilst others work mainly with young people, senior climbers or schools. Guides are able to provide group instruction and personal guiding at every level from easy trails, walks and treks to the most demanding hiking at home and abroad all year round. Guides also offer instruction and guiding in mountain bike, canoa, donkey-hike, and other specialities.
Guides are able to work at all levels making sure that the walking party will receive the best care and exclusive attention.
The AIGAE is the professional body which represents the increasing number of Italian Walking Leaders (GAE) who work in the nature, hills and mountains of their home country, the European regions and further afield.
AIGAE keeps a register of members who are fully qualified Nature and Walking Leaders (GAE). Like all professional bodies we expect our members to be undertaking continuous professional development, and to meet certain professional standards. Assessment is often organized by AIGAE. AIGAE members, professionals wearing the badges and carrying the carnets of the organisation, have been trained and assessed to the demanding requirements of the internationally recognised qualification that they hold
Guides are increasingly involved in equipment design, development and testing, others act as consultants or assist in writing and filming. Many offer lectures, write on mountain related matters and give technical advice.
Nature Guiding is not only a profession but is also a vocation. Our members are united by their love of the environment and their common aim. This is to assist others, their clients, to realise their nature dreams and to find the exuberant joy, the wonderful unforgettable days which are so inseparable from the game of walking at whatever level we wish to play.
Guides cannot remove all danger from an activity but with their great depth of knowledge and continually updated training they can certainly ensure that any normal risks are contained, so that their companions can freely savour the full scope of the experience offered.
T H E Y S A Y A B O U T M E
The Italian Association for Professional Nature and Walking Guides
-TV WHERE WE GO (Australia)- 2012
With this insight I created unique and personal itineraries of archeological, artistic, cultural, enogastronomic and open nature for guests, each one reflecting the uniqueness of my adopted land.
Following these paths of discovery, breathing in the spirit that permeates these landscapes, allows the magic and wonder to settle upon you like fairy dust, bewitching you,perplexing you,drawing you ever closer to its heart, as a first-love does.
When you alight upon the shores of the Amalfi Coast, as undoubtedly many visitors have done , it is having looked at many a guide book or travel site, seeking information about things to do and places to see.
I ask that instead you follow my guidance and come with me to spend adventure,excitement, fun-everyday in everyway-and to save you time ,energy and money,remembering that quality is never compromised.
Whether you book accommodation through me or elsewhere, I'll meet you and greet you and within your first hour give you a personal orientation tour so that your temporary home abroad is immediately familiar to you and for the rest of your stay.
I have chosen over the years, and included in my itineraries ,the most charming aspects, from magnificent landscapes to tucked-away treasures,providing varied experiences for days and evenings of delight.
NEVER ENDING DAYS AND NIGHTS IN POSITANO
-Peter and Katherine Sartori - 2013
It is now exactly a month since we returned from our beautiful holiday which included a week in Positano for the wedding of our friend.We just wanted to say thankyou very much for your care during our long and eventful day which began at 9.00am and concluded saying goodbye to you on the bus interno at 11.00pm!! Your knowledge and love of nature, history and all things "Positano," were a privilege to observe and be a part of for the day. You were extremely patient with your 'over sixty something' group as we struggled to keep up with you for some parts of the day- and evening!Hopefully we will cross paths again. We hope that your work increases and that more people want your services to discover the hidden delights of the beautiful area where you live.Ciao and good luck,Peter and Katherine Sartori