As adventure and active trips emerge as hot travel trends for 2019, you may be considering a vacation hiking in Italy.
And you may be surprised by the wide range of possibilities when it comes to hiking in Italy: from the Dolomites in the north to active volcanoes in the south, from trails along the coastline to the Apennine mountains that run along the entire length of the peninsula, Italy is a great destination for the hiking enthusiast, and the occasional walker as well.
Let’s take a look at some top destinations for hiking in Italy.
Hiking in Italy: An Overview
This world-famous, UNESCO-inscribed stretch of land between mountains and sea in Liguria is a sought-after destination by many travelers to Italy. And how could it not be? The five fishing villages perched on rocky cliffs overlooking the sea that make up the Cinque Terre are a pretty amazing sight. A hiking trip through the Cinque Terre is a great way to see the area without overly impacting the already fragile environment. A famous trail is the Sentiero Azzurro that connects all five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. If you don’t want to do the entire 12-km (7.5 mile) hike, you can also just walk part of it and return to your starting point by public transportation.
You may also decide to venture a bit inland to admire the terraced vineyards and pine forests; because this is a wine-producing area, you can opt for a hiking excursion in the company of a sommelier who will illustrate the extreme efforts that the locals had to go through to make viticulture possible, resulting in a unique terroir that imbues the wines of the Cinque Terre (you get to taste them too, of course!).
When talking about the best hiking in Italy, the Dolomites are first on the list. Even Reinhold Messner, widely considered one of the world’s top mountaineers, a man who has traveled and climbed mountains all over the planet, has said that the Dolomites are the most breathtaking mountain range in the world.
Located in northeastern Italy, they are shared between the provinces of Belluno, South Tyrol and Trentino and include one national park and many regional parks.
The possibilities for hiking excursions in the Dolomites are endless. Among the top day hikes is the Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop. You will enjoy spectacular views of the soaring ‘three peaks’ on this easy, mostly flat, 9.5- km (6-mile) circuit that departs and ends at Rifugio Auronzo.
Perhaps the best way to experience the Dolomites in all their splendor is by hiking the Alta Via 1 (High Route Number 1). The 120-km (75-mile) path runs south from Braies Lake (Pragser Wildsee) to Belluno, with the highest point at 2,752 meters (9,000 feet). It takes about 11 days to complete and accommodation will be in spartan rifugi (mountain huts). Whichever level you are these mountains are suitable for everyone. The Italian Lakes
A great way of exploring northern Italy’s lakes district – Lake Maggiore, Garda, Como and Iseo – is on foot. Ancient mule tracks, as well as marked walking trails, lead you away from the busy lakefronts into the mountains. All four lakes are surrounded by the snow-capped Alps and offer a number of trails, from easy walks around the lakefront to more demanding hikes up panoramic peaks. Just wear a good pair of shoes and choose your trail.
Via degli Dei – from Bologna to Florence on foot
The Via degli Dei (Path of the Gods) consists of roughly 135 kilometers (83.8 miles) through the Apennine mountains, which form the natural border between the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, and connects the art cities of Bologna and Florence, giving you the chance to add some cultural and food tours into your hiking holiday in Italy. The Via degli Dei is still the same route that, in the distant past, was used by merchants, soldiers, pilgrims and ordinary people. In fact, the central stretch of the Via degli Dei coincides with the Roman road Flaminia militare, built in 187 BC to connect Bononia (Bologna) with Arretium (Arezzo) in Tuscany. Along the trail, you can still see the basolato (road paving used by the Romans). Plus, you’ll traverse magnificent forests and panoramic ridges that boast beautiful views over valleys and mountains.
Abruzzo – the heart of the Apennines
Besides the Alps, the other major mountain chain in Italy is the Apennines, extending from the Cadibona Pass in the northwest, close to the Maritime Alps, to as far as Reggio Calabria, at the tip of peninsular Italy, forming the country’s physical backbone in the shape of an arc. The Apennines extend for about 1,200 km (745 miles). The still undiscovered region of Abruzzo offers plenty of hiking opportunities to experience the Apennines. At 2,192m (7,192 feet), Corno Grande (‘Big Horn’) is the highest peak in the Apennines, located in the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga. Departing from Campo Imperatore, it’s a steady climb to reach the top but you’ll be rewarded with a magnificent view of the Apennines, and even the Adriatic Sea in the distance.
Sentiero degli Dei – Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast’s Sentiero degli Dei extends for 8 km (4.9 miles) over a mule track that connects Positano with Praiano, through terraced hillsides, lemon groves and Mediterranean macchia (scrub). This is a great example of what hiking in Italy can entail: it’s a way to see a side of the Amalfi Coast that not many visitors get to experience since they tend to stick around the (often crowded and overly touristy) towns and beaches. Enjoy the quiet of the trail and the incredible views of the Lattari Mountains, and even of the distant island of Capri. This can be a perfect off the beaten path experience if you are a more active traveler.
Stromboli – Hiking up a Volcano
Walking on the slopes of an active volcano may be the most thrilling experience when it comes to hiking in Italy. Mt. Stromboli or also called “Iddu” on the Aeolian island of the same name off the coast of Sicily, has been in almost continuous eruption for the past 2,000 years. You will need an authorized guide to go any higher than the first 400 meters (1,312 feet). The steep trail cuts through Sicilian vegetation and plants such as wild capers, interspersed with patches of black due to the falling volcanic material. The lunar-like landscape is quite impressive and powerful, as are the views over the rest of the island and the Tyrrhenian sea. Sunset is probably the most spectacular time to go for both the view and the heat (and if hiking volcanoes is your thing, Sicily’s Mount Etna is another popular option).
Have you ever been on a hiking vacation in Italy?