Exploring Italy: A guide for walkers

Italy has some of the world’s most stunning natural scenery and historical sites which, our friends at Headwater holidays – providers of walking and hiking holidays throughout Italy and other countries in Europe – tell us, helps to make the country a walker’s paradise.

Italy has an abundance of things for walking aficionados to see, do and experience. From its wealth of history and rich heritage, to its stunning landscapes that vary from region to region, there is plenty for you to delve into while holidaying in the country.

Top Walking Locations

1. The Italian Alps 

Made up of smaller mountain regions, the Italian Alps – which runs across the North of Italy – is home to high, mountainous peaks and beautifully contrasting green expanses. Its regions include:

  • The Ligurian Alps: Running across the French border, the caves, waterfalls, lakes and woodland here are unspoilt by tourism, allowing you to become at one with nature. Taking the Alpine Trail is also highly recommended, where you can view breath-taking panoramas and the amazing flowers that adorn the surrounding hills.
  • The Dolomites: Considered to be one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Europe, it is popular for both walking and hiking. With rolling green hills, vast limestone cliffs and fascinating evidence of marine life, coral reefs and volcanism, its rich history has remained ever present in the landscape. Many marked trails and lifts to higher regions exist, due to it being so popular with tourists.
  • The Graian Alps – Mont Blanc: Many mountain walkers conquer Mont Blanc through La Route des Aiguilles Grises in Italy.  A long but relatively easy ascent, those who undertake the adventure should be able to adapt to altitude changes. Going with a trained guide is also recommended. Many walkers holidaying in the region also choose to take on the Gran Paradiso peak which stands at 4016 m, where the final 60 m is known to be quite a challenge.
  • The Gran Paradiso National Park is also located in the Graian Alps. With many footpaths, it is great for long distance walking; the journey from the Valnontey to Vittorio Sella Mountain Hut is particularly popular. With alpine grasslands to walk through, and Alpine Ibex, marmots and bearded vultures to spot, its beauty is not to be missed.
  • The Pennine Alps – Monte Rosa & Matterhorn: Many of the highest mountains in the Alps exist in this impressive range. One of its most striking is the Monte Rosa peak, where you take ancient paths through valleys in order to view vast glaciers. There is also the iconic Matterhorn, whose difficult north-east route is popular with experienced mountain walkers.
  • The Val Grande National Park is located to the east of the Pennine Alps, where there are traces of ancient alpine communities. Perfect for those wanting to escape well-trodden walking paths, there are both gentle and challenging routes in the mountains.
  • Ortler Alps: The Stelvio National Park is located in the Ortler region, making it a great location for hiking. Themed trails wind through alpine meadows, into forestry and along bubbling streams, where the lush mountain greenery provides the perfect backdrop.

Walking in Italy

Walking in Italy

 

2. The Apennines

Running down the spine of Italy, the North, Central and Southern Apennines differ in both temperatures and terrains.

Within the Northern Apennines, walking through the trails in Liguria is recommended as they follow the coastline, offering attractive views of both the mountains and the sea. You can also hop between the villages here, which are surrounded by olive groves and vineyards.

In the Central Apennines, it is worth visiting Monte Vettore (2478 m) situated in the Sibillini National Park, with its dense forest terrain. Meanwhile in Abruzzo, the most rugged mountains in the Apennines can be found. For those looking for time away from the tourist crowds, this location stays astonishingly quiet throughout the year.

 

3. The Italian Lakes

At the foot of the Italian Alps in the north, there are numerous walking opportunities to enjoy around the Italian Lakes.

The lakes, including Lake Maggiore, Lake Lugano, Lake Como and Lake Garda, have the classic green hue and rugged coastline of glacial waters. The area’s calming views, lush greenery and mild Mediterranean climate, along with the adventurous climbs in the nearby mountain ranges, make it perfect for those wanting variety from their walking holiday.

 

4. Tuscany

One of the most popular regions for walking holidays, Tuscany is famous for its gorgeous landscapes and cultural heritage. Known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, the architectural and natural beauty displayed throughout the region is second to none. Mostly hilly in terrain, temperatures tend to be mild along the coast and warm inland. With many regional dishes and wines to sample, Tuscany has plenty to offer, from its mouth-watering cuisine and rich culture to the breath-taking scenery and its multitude of walking trails.

Tuscany
Tuscany

5. Sicily

Italy’s largest island, Sicily, has an array of different landscapes which walkers are always keen to explore. In particular, the Nebrodi Mountains are rich in both greenery and vegetation, with walking and nature trails winding through the woodland, wetlands and rocky landscapes. For those wanting a challenge, you can also head to the northern coastline, where mountains peak at around 2000m, while Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest and most active volcano, is located in the east.

 

When to Walk

The right time to walk in Italy depends entirely on where you choose to visit. Mostly, the country has Mediterranean climates with hot summers. Therefore, spring and autumn typically provide the ideal temperatures for walking holidays. Within spring, the country is alive with beautiful lush greenery and delicate wild flowers. The rich autumnal colours and cool temperatures later on in the year are also perfect for walking. However, if you are looking to spend time in the Alps or on higher mountains, the summer months may be better as temperatures tend to cool as you ascend the peaks.

Whatever time of year you choose to holiday in Italy, its stunning landscapes and rich culture means that you are sure to be thoroughly inspired as you explore the regions on foot.

A typical piedmont village and countryside
A typical piedmont village and countryside

Author Bio

Rachel Campbell is a content writer for Headwater holidays, providers of walking and hiking holidays throughout Italy and other countries in Europe.