Durata : 4,8 km
Travel time: 2h 00 ‘
Route – Excluding the short initial stretch that exceeds a difference in height of over 200 m, the difficulty is comparable to little more than a walk.
Logistics – By car or public transport from Salerno: bus or ferry. With two cars: leave the first car on the slope that leads to the cemetery of Maiori (500 meters from the abbey, in the direction of Maiori) and continue with the second car to Maiori.
Services and Refreshments – Bars and restaurants in Maiori: two fountains along the initial stretch of the route.
Notes – The Abbey of Santa Maria de Olearia is almost always closed. It is advisable to call the local Tourist Office (no. 089 877452) to arrange a visit.
On the Amalfi Coast many treasures of the history of art, when not left in total neglect, are literally “hidden. Among these is a rock settlement halfway between Capo d’Orso and the town of Maiori: The convent of Santa Maria de Olearia, destination of this walk. The initial part is the same as the route 4 which climbs from Maiori towards the sanctuary of the Avvocata. When you reach the fork near the house on the ridge, continue to the right, along a wide path that continues with a very slight slope. The route continues between cultivated terraces, in the stretch that enters the valley, and through the Mediterranean scrub, in the stretch where it emerges. Routes (from the crossroads) about 1400 meters, just before arriving at the next ridge line, you reach a crossroads where you continue to the left until you reach a point, overlooking the cemetery of Maiori, flanked by a concrete wall on the side left. Continue towards the interior of the valley for about ten minutes up to a curve to the right. After this, take the path that leads down to the right. The branch, not immediately recognizable, can be identified after the carcass of a car, between a group of prickly pears and a fig tree, near a shack. After a few back turns, along a stretch partly equipped with wooden steps, the descent ends in a widening (resulting from the laying of an aqueduct) to be followed to the right for a few meters. Where the wide stretch climbs to the right, take the well-marked path that descends slightly to the left, immediately after a limestone. Take the asphalted road going to the left and, after about three hundred meters, you will reach the Abbey of Santa Maria de Olearia.
The rock complex of Santa Maria de Olearia dates back to the end of the 10th century and with subsequent extensions it has reached the size and function of a monastery. Tradition attributes the foundation to Peter who came as a hermitage in the large cave that houses the settlement. After Peter, the first abbot was Tauro and, in 1088, the Pope granted the monastery as endowment to the Abbey of the Holy Trinity in Cava de ‘Tirreni. The structure is made up of three superimposed chapels. At the lowest level, entirely in the rock, there is the oldest room, the one inhabited by Peter, which later became a crypt. A narrow gut connects to the ravine where the monks had their cells, which over the centuries were used as burial chambers: hence the local name of “Catacombs” Above the crypt is the main chapel, with two naves with a central column, and performed church functions. Although it is not in an excellent state of conservation, the environment has interesting frescoes, painted between the seventh and eleventh centuries. Finally, small stairs connect to the last chapel, with frescoes inspired by the Life of St. Nicholas of Bari. Inevitable but interesting curiosities, the graffitied signatures of the devoted pilgrims who have visited the places over the centuries.