Great Hiking Destinations in Italy

October 18, 2012 by

Day Trips, Things To Do, Tours & Activities

The Dolomites

The Dolomites

As crowded as Italy’s big cities are, there are plenty of green spaces and remote hills that seem ready-made for outdoor enthusiasts. A topographical map of the country reveals that there are a lot of elevation changes packed into this tiny peninsula, which explains why so many Italians are avid hikers.

On your next trip, you can easily work some great hiking destinations in Italy into your itinerary; whether you plan to hit some easier trails on your own, join a local hiking group for a day, or book an Italy hiking tour. Every region of the country offers opportunities to hike, as long as you’re prepared to head uphill.

Some of Italy’s most famous hikes, at least with visitors, are on the coast. The trail connecting the five towns of the Cinque Terre has long been a popular route for even the least experienced hikers (you can even hike the Cinque Terre on a day trip from Florence), and the “Path of the Gods” hike on the Amalfi Coast rewards climbers with soaring views. Other less-visited areas have great spots for hiking, too, it’s just a matter of getting out of the city center. Here are some great hiking destinations in Italy you may want to consider. Keep in mind that in many cases it’s wisest to book a hiking day trip or tour with an experienced guide, particularly if you don’t know the area or speak the language.

Up in the Dolomites

Serious hikers head straight for the mountains when they get to Italy, and with good reason. This area is absolutely riddled with hiking paths – some of which are really more suited to experienced mountain climbers. Not only that, the Dolomites are so popular with hikers that there are “rifugio” or “baita” restaurants posted along many hiking routes where you can get your hiking strength back. And if you’re on a multi-day trek, some of them even have beds so you can stay overnight. The Dolomites are a major ski destination during the winter, so visitors are able to take advantage of that infrastructure, too. A particularly well-known and rewarding hike is the Vièl del Pan path, offering great views of the Marmolada mountain.

Around the Lakes

The lakes in northern Italy are magnets for honeymooners and vacationers who just want to relax, but if strolling around Lake Como doesn’t get your heart moving fast enough, then all you need to do is look up. Those lakes are surrounded by forest-covered hills, and there are trails all over the place. Any one of the lakes will have hiking opportunities nearby (just ask at the tourist information office), but Lake Como is particularly well-equipped to serve the needs of hikers. There’s a hike called the Greenway that has viewpoints at several areas along the way, and can be reached from multiple points on the lake. Walk as much or as little of it as you like.

In the Green Heart

The regions of central Italy make for great hikes that aren’t quite as mountainous as some of the other regions. Tuscany, Umbria, and Le Marche offer plentiful hiking (and biking) tour options, and you can enjoy leisurely hikes in the countryside outside most smaller towns on your own, too. Head a bit further south to Abruzzo, and you’ll get away from most of the tourists (especially if you’re coming from Tuscany) and mingle in the national parks with hikers escaping the city of Rome.

Out on the Islands

Italy has plenty of islands off its coast, but two in particular are well-known as hiking destinations. Sicily is home to Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano, and although it’s in a near-constant state of eruption it’s usually possible to hike up the volcano (please note: you can’t do this one without a guide). Sardinia is quite sparsely populated and is a very popular destination for all sorts of outdoor sports including kayaking, mountain biking, sailing, and (yes) hiking. Note that on both of these islands it’s a good idea to rent a car, as public transportation isn’t as robust as it is elsewhere in Italy.

The Other Hikes in Liguria

The Cinque Terre trail is, understandably, quite popular. The views are lovely and it’s delightful to stop in each town along the way. The trail is, however, quite crowded – especially in the summer – so if you’re visiting the area and wish to hike but don’t want to get caught in traffic jams on the trail, you’re in luck. Liguria’s coastline is quite mountainous and there are hikes all over the place. Even in the Cinque Terre there are hikes further up the hillside that are far less used, and if you continue up the coast to the town of Portofino you’ll find even more hiking options.

- Jessica Spiegel

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