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20-05-2023 | Marcel van Herten

Unknown climb: Monte Faito, Amalfi’s hidden gem

The 2023 Giro d'Italia is now well underway. The course we already widely reviewed from the perspective of gran fondo riders. And in collaboration with Fietssport, we also made a list of the 15 bucket list climbs in Italy. But there is so much other beauty in Bella Italia on or off the course of the Giro or the famous gran fondos. Sometimes these are hidden gems, as Lonely Planet so tends to put it. Even if they did not make it to the Giro this year, for the cycling enthusiast they are more than worth it. Monte Faito is certainly one of them. There is a reason why this climb is on our list of unknown climbs.

Photo: From Castallamarre not so impressive but over 1,200m high.

Just one presence in the Giro

Stage 6 in the 2023 Giro was one where the Italians unpacked all the beauty they have in terms of landscapes. Napoli-Napoli was labeled in advance as one of the most beautiful routes of this Giro. A small list: the Old Town of Naples, Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii and then the Sorrentine Peninsula with Amalfi as the top attraction. With Amalfi, many will think of beautiful pictures of steep cliffs with villages pasted on them, azure sea, floral splendor, lemon groves and winding roads in a green and lush landscape. But surely not a 1,249-meter-high mountain peak with a more than 18-kilometer climb over 51 hairpin bends, Monte Faito. The last time the Giro touched Monte Faito was in the third stage of the 1974 edition. Fuente, Gimondi, Kuiper and Merckx then fought a fine battle on its flanks. Wonderful to see those images back in cycling documentary The Greatest Show on Earth.

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Horrible road surface

In 1974, Monte Faito was still looking tight in a new coat of asphalt. But Wout Poels and Dylan van Baarle called it out recently in their podcast In Koers: 'The holes in the road in Italy. That scares you.' Fortunately, all the riders have to do is ride up, although from Castellammare di Stabia, the most beautiful and steepest side of Monte Faito, that's still quite a challenge. Climbfinder classifies the climb as follows: 16.5 kilometers long, 1,115 meters of elevation and an average gradient of 6.8%. However, my recon gave somewhat different figures. As soon as you turn off the coastal road in Castellammare, the asphalt begins to rise. Moderate at first, around 5 to 6%, but after a good 3 kilometers the gradients shoot up to 10 to 15% and you know you've really started it. At that point the climb snakes up the steep rock walls like a real serpentine in an accumulation of hairpin turns. Several times the road cleaves the limestone rock formations through turns paved with small cobblestones.

Photo: Cobblestoned switchbacks through the rock face.

With views that make your mouth water. In fine weather the Bay of Naples is literally at your feet and the horizon is dominated by the famous Vesuvius. You reach the pass after about 13 km at the parking lot where the cable car from Castellammare arrives at the top. Here it's left and you climb for almost another 4 km through the forest to the Chiesa San Michele. At the end you get another dirty steep section at over 20%. Once at the top, for good luck, you have to kiss the feet of the bronze statue of Saints San Michele, San Catello and Sant'Antonino, enjoy the beautiful view, take a picture and go down.

Photo: statues at the summit.

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Unprecedentedly quiet road

Also in the hectic high season of Sorrento and Amalfi, Monte Faito is not a tourist attraction. The chances of encountering oncoming traffic on the climb are nil. You do have to watch out for the stray cows that kindly approach you with their own symphony of bells and bellowing. The descent towards Castellammare is impossible on a road bike, so the only option is towards Moiano. Fantastic asphalt, hardly any traffic, great curves and (again) brilliant views: every cyclist's wet dream and ultimate reward after a climb of almost an hour and a half. From Moiano, then, it is relaxed riding up to the top, much less challenging than from Castellammare.

Photo: beautiful views.

The temptation when you are in the Naples/Amalfi area is to climb Mount Vesuvius. Of course a bucket list climb, famous, volcano, so understandable. But not very special. From Torre del Greco is the famous side. Tip: go early then you'll be ahead of the tourists and coaches. But definitely don't leave Monte Faito unclimbed. The chances of the Giro passing there in the coming years: very small. Chance of grabbing the KOM on this off-category climb: high (or at least present). I created my own segment, quite convenient. Step into the footsteps of Fuente and Merckx and make the climb more famous again! Afterwards, you definitely earned a local limoncello and Spaghettoni con Colatura di Alici di Cetera. Ciao!

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