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Above It All: Montepertuso and Nocelle
Thousands of travelers head to Positano every summer for some escapist entertainment, but how do you escape them? The answer lies way up in the Lattari Mountains, where two adorable villages perch on rocky spurs 1,700 feet above Positano's coastline. It's hard to believe two such different settlements share the same air space as their jet-set neighbor while managing, for the most part, to escape the glare of discovery.
Take Positano's local bus 3 km (2 mi) to the village of Montepertuso (Pierced Mountain). This sky-high village is where Emperor Frederick II of Sicily bred and trained hawks; some feathery descendants—mainly kestrels and peregrine falcons—still nest on seemingly precarious ledges around the area.
The dramatic hole in the arched rock (arco naturale) below Monte Sant'Angelo a Tre Pizzi is one of only three in the world that both the sun's and the moon's rays can penetrate (April to July); the other two are in India. Try to see it in the morning, when the sun shines through.
Legend says the hole was created when the devil challenged the Madonna to a contest: whoever pierced the rock would own the village. In 10 attempts, the devil could only scratch the limestone, but when the Madonna touched the rock, it crumbled, the sky appeared, and she walked right through, sinking the devil into the hole. On July 2, a holy performance, games, and fireworks commemorate the Virgin's success.
Another popular village festival is the Sagra del Fagiolo, held in the first week of September, which celebrates the humble bean. The town is lined with numerous stalls full of beans and other fare, and waiters dress in traditional folkloric garb.
The Positano bus continues from Montepertuso to just above the "lost" mountainside village of Nocelle, but many skip the ride and choose to hike instead. Along a well-paved road, then a curving, tree-shaded pathway, you skirt bottomless crevasses, hike under towering cliffs, and climb stairways that are relatively easy going. Finally, Nocelle appears and, in two minutes, the hamlet fully reveals itself: a stone alley, a scattering of houses and stairways, a pint-size piazza, a church.
Oh, yes, and a "panaromantic" view—the kind that resets your inner clock. Sheep bleat, children giggle, birds call melodiously, and the rustling wind congratulates you on being far from the madding crowd.
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