Exploring Italy on Foot: The Ultimate Hiking Guide

Exploring Italy on Foot: The Ultimate Hiking Guide

Italy is famed for its historic cities - Rome, Venice, Florence, and many others - but there is more to this beautiful country than the cosmopolitan La Dolce Vita. If you want to experience natural beauty, cultural heritage and diverse terrain, head to Italy for the hiking experience of a lifetime.

Italy's diverse hiking landscapes

There’s plenty on offer. You can experience the rugged peaks of the Alps and Dolomites, the sea cliffs of the Amalfi coast and Cinque Terre, and the verdant rolling hills of Tuscany.

In northern Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, the Gardena Pass links the picturesque villages of Val Gardena and Val Badia. In the summer months, hike the winding roads between them and take in breathtaking scenery. But the ultimate Dolomites hike is Alta Via 1, a 9-10 day route that takes you 120km (75 miles) from Dobbiaco in the north to Belluno in the south. Hikers will top out at Rifugio Lagazuoi situated at 2,752m (9,029ft). With the distance covered and elevation, it’s a trail that challenges even experienced hikers.

Must-visit hiking destinations

For coastal scenery, Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods) on the Amalfi Coast is a popular mountain trail that’s 7km (4.34 miles) long and 630m (2065ft) above sea level. The medium-intensity trail takes around 3-5 hours depending on your starting point.

Like Camino de Santiago in Spain, Via Francigena is a historic pilgrimage route. On the route to Rome, the most popular section is in Tuscany from Lucca to Siena. The trail takes a week, and you’ll journey through the rolling hills of Tuscany.

Practical tips for hiking in Italy

When enjoying hiking holidays in Italy, there are various accommodation options. In the Dolomites, mountain huts (rifugios) offer overnight stays and home-cooked food. On other hiking routes, stay at ‘agriturismi’ which are farms designed to receive guests, whether for food, accommodation, or a combination of the two.

When hiking in the Dolomites, go in summertime when the snow has melted – the area is populated by ski resorts in the winter. Elsewhere, the soaring temperatures of July and August may make hiking challenging work further south on the Amalfi coast, Cinque Terre, Tuscany, Sicily and Sardinia. Late spring and early autumn are more comfortable times to hike these areas.

Wearing a good pair of walking boots and socks is necessary, as are taking a sunhat, sunscreen, wickered, layered clothing, a rain jacket, and a reusable water bottle.

Unique experiences along the trails

On the Via Francigena pilgrimage, there are many sights to enjoy: the walled hilltop town of Monteriggioni and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the ‘medieval Manhattan’ of San Gimignano and its medieval towers, and Siena, a historical, artistic, cultural, and gastronomic gem.

Walking Sentiero degli Dei, you’ll travel through olive groves and terraces savoring vistas of blue sky and deeper blue sea. You can look down at the jagged Amalfi coast dotted with the colorful tiled domes of the fishing village of Praiano and the tourist-haven of Positano. You can even glimpse the island of Capri in the distance.

The Amalfi coast has a rich mix of fresh, local cuisine. Locally sourced mozzarella and tomatoes are delicious in a Caprese salad. And if you visit the village of Cetara try anchovies: fried, marinated, or in oil. And in picture postcard Positano, order Tagliolini pasta with lemon. This fresh dish combines two of the best local products: fresh pasta and lemons.