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Turns out man’s best friend is also an excellent tour guide

The writer and his wife stopped getting lost once they started following Gianba, their canine guide on the Path of the Gods, overlooking the Bay of Salerno.

John Moir

Sometimes things don't go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures from the road.

It helps to know a local when you want to explore the serpentine mountain paths of the rugged Amalfi Coast. Luckily, my wife and I had a friend who lived in the village of Nocelle, above Positano. Richard knew well, and was well known around, the entire area. But on the day we'd set out to go exploring he didn't have time to show us around.

"Here's a map. It's fairly accurate," he said. "Oh, and can you take Gianba with you? He could really use a walk." Gianba was his Italian dog.

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I protested: "What if he runs away, how will we get him back in these mountains? Besides, we'll want to have lunch in a nice restaurant. What do we do with Gianba then? You don't even have a leash!"

Richard just laughed and told us to hide him under the table. "They probably won't even notice him. Really, he needs a walk."

Reluctantly, we agreed.

Our only guide – our map – was badly faded. The path kept splitting and shifting direction. To make matters worse, the dog kept wandering off on the wrong trails.

After three hours of tramping, we staggered into a village with a stunning view over the Amalfi Coast. It had one small but lovely restaurant, the sort you would never, ever attempt to take a dog into back home.

Gianba isn't a big dog, but he has long white fur and he sprawls, so tucking him under the table wasn't easy.

We were the only patrons. A family – apparently the owners and children – were eating and chatting on the other side of the room, and taking little notice of us. One of them came over and without enthusiasm handed us a menu. He didn't notice the dog.

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After a few minutes, we waved our waiter back and attempted to order. Just then, a little girl from the family table started edging toward us, staring under our table. Oh, oh, I thought.

"Gianba!" she cried and ran over to the dog, who sat up as she gave him a big hug. Then the rest of the table chimed in, "Gianba! Ciao, Gianba!" Now they started smiling at us, chattering away in Italian. Our reluctant waiter turned into a gracious host, shaking his head at our lunch choices and indicating that there was something better we might like. They brought us wine, they brought Gianba water in a glorious ceramic bowl, and we were served delicious pasta with seafood.

By now Gianba was working the room. At one point he even disappeared into the kitchen. No one seemed to mind.

Finally leaving the restaurant – our hosts waving goodbye – we started down the same bewildering maze of paths. I turned to our new guide: "Go home, Gianba, home!" He crooked his neck in that quizzical way dogs do when they don't quite get your meaning.

Oh, right. "Gianba, andiamo a casa!" It looked like he was heading in the wrong direction, but we followed him anyway and arrived home in less than half the time it took to get to the restaurant. After that, we never went anywhere without our trusted guide.

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