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Walking and Hiking in Italy

Pauline Kenny

If you want a real hiking vacation, go to the National Parks and Forests in the US, the mountain villages of Switzerland, or the English countryside. In these places, the hiking is well organized and plentiful. But, if you are in Italy, and want to do some hiking, it is there, and it can be fun.

We have done some hiking in Italy, but it is hard to find information for hiking, hard to find the trails, hard to figure out the good areas for hiking. There are a few hiking books available and there are good hiking maps. These will help you figure out where the hiking is. I have listed these at the end of this page.

As in the US, the National Parks in Italy have good hiking trails. You will also find trails throughout the countryside in most regions. These trails provide public access to private land - something that we do not have in the US, but that you find all over Europe. I have heard from other travelers that the hiking is good in northern Italy, in the mountains and in the Marche region.

Hiking in Liguria

Hiking in the Cinque Terre / Levanto area in Liguria is well organized and well signed. You can hike from town to town and take the train back to where you started. See my notes on Hiking in Levanto and Hiking in the Cinque Terre.

Hiking in Tuscany and Umbria

In Tuscany and Umbria, you will find hikes described in hiking books and marked on hiking maps, but it is not what I would call perfect hiking. We have done a lot of hiking in these regions. Some hikes are well marked when you start, but then the trail deadends at a "No Trespassing" sign (and sometimes with a dog behind it). Or the trail may look great marked on the Kompass map, but when you look closely most of it is along a busy country road. No so much fun to be walking beside traffic.

Also, there are not so many circular hikes and relying on public transportation in the countryside is not easy. The buses run infrequently and the trains do not go everywhere. What I like best is to drive to a place, park, and do a long circular hike so we end up back where we started. But there are not so many of those types of hikes. Most hikes in the hiking books are from point A to point B.

I am totally in favor of independent travel, but I honestly think that if you want a walking vacation in Italy, go with a walking tours company. They will arrange for you to walk from point A to point B and will be there to meet you when you are finished.

But, there are other options for hiking.

  • You can do long walks on the white roads. These are called "strada bianca" and are the small, dirt roads that wander all over the countryside. We like to stay at a vacation rental that is on or very close to white roads, so we can do lots of local walking.
  • Even if you do not walk the white roads, you do lots of walking in Italy just visiting the hill towns. Usually you park at the bottom of the hill town and walk to the top, plus more walking as you explore the town.

Web Resources

Bill Thayer's Web Site: Bill Thayer is an American who spends a lot of time in Italy. He has walked over 1500 km in Italy and much of this experience is recorded on his web site. Most of his walks are in Umbria or along the ancient Roman roads.

> See the Slow Travel Cinque Terre Trails page for hiking the Cinque Terre region.

> See the Slow Travel Levanto Trails page for hiking around Levanto, Liguria.

Watch out for Hunters

No Hunting sign. 09/99This sign means "No Hunting". There is a lot of hunting in Italy. In September the season opens with just hunting on Sundays. You wake up to the sounds of church bells and gunfire. The country lanes are crowded with the parked cars of the hunters. We don't go hiking on hunting days. You always see bullet casings on the trails, so you know the hunters are out there.

Hiking Signs

Trail sign in Tuscany, Sep99The trails we have done in Tuscany, the ones in the countryside and not in a park, are not well signed. This red, white, red marker with the trail number painted on a tree is typical of the trail markings. Sometimes this is painted on a rock. On time when we really lost the trail, it turned out the marker was painted on a corner of a building!

Be sure you have a good map with you, because you will need it if you cannot find the markers.


Hikes We Have Done

On each trip to Italy we try to do some hiking. We have hiked the Cinque Terre Trail. We plan to do some Levanto hikes in September 2003. We have done a few Tuscany hikes from the Walking and Eating in Tuscany and Umbria books. We hiked in a park in southern Tuscany near Aquapendente.

Florence

This is an easy afternoon hike to get you out of Florence to the countryside. Different versions are documented in Walking and Eating in Tuscany and Umbria, Walking in Tuscany and in the Sunflower Guide for Tuscany.

Take the #7 bus from Florence to Fiesole (get it at the Duomo or Piazza San Marco). 20 minute bus ride up into the hills north of Florence.

Hike 1: From Fiesole you can do a 2 - 2 1/2 hour walk to Ponte a Mensola, where you can take a bus back to Florence. This trail is clearly marked on the Kompass hiking map. You can branch off on this walk and go to Settignano instead. Buses go from there to Florence.

Hike 2: From Fiesole you can do a 1 - 2 hour walk to Maiano. This trail is clearly marked on the Kompass hiking map.

Hiking Books

The first thing to do is get one or two of the hiking/walking books. Get these before you leave for your trip, so you can review the walks ahead of time.

Hiking Books

Walking and Eating in Tuscany and Umbria, James Lasdun and Pia Davis, 1997, revised 2004, Penguin Books
We have done some of the hikes in this books and enjoyed them. For each hike, they list public transportation options and restaurants. My only complaint is that they do not have more circular hikes - where you can park the car and hike for a few hours and end up back at the car.

Order from Amazon

Walking in Tuscany (A Cicerone Guide), by Gillian Price, Cicerone Press, 2010
This book describes hikes are in the Etruria region (parts of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio). Good descriptions and the hikes look good. I have only done one hike from the 2000 version of this book (Walking in Tuscany).

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Walking Easy in the Italian & French Alps, by Chet Lipton, Carolee Lipton, Globe Pequot, 2002
This same couple have written a few other Walking Easy books. This one used to be just the Italian Alps, but was republished to include the French Alps. Personally, I love hiking in the Swiss Alps, but if you want to do some hiking on a trip to northern Italy, this would be a good book to have. Good descriptions of hikes/walks at all levels. I have used their book for Switzerland hikes.

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Tuscany (Sunflower Guides), by Sunflower Guides, Hunter, 2006
This general touring guide for Tuscany describes several walks throughout Tuscany. I have used their guide for the Amalfi area hikes and have looked at the descriptions in this Tuscany book, and it looks like a good hiking book.

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Sunflower Landscapes of Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri, by Julian Tippett, Hunter; 6th edition, 2010
I used this book on our Fall 2001 trip to Sorrento, but had a hard time working with the book. Instead I just bought a map with hiking trails. The book has a very complicated approach to putting together your hikes - I didn't have the patience for it - maybe you can figure it out better. It does look like there is some good hiking in the area.

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The Independent Walker's Guide to Italy, Frank Booth, Interlink Books, 1998
35 hikes in Italy, but not many in Tuscany and Umbria.

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Lonely Planet Hiking in Italy, Lonely Planet Publications, 3rd edition, 2010
These are longer, more difficult hikes in Italy.

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Explorer's Guide 50 Hikes In & Around Tuscany, 1st edition, 2007

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Walking in the Dolomites (Cicerone Guides), 2nd edition, 2010

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Shorter Walks in the Dolomites: 40 selected walks (Cicerone GuideS), 2nd edition, 2012

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100 Hut Walks in the Alps (Cicerone Guides), 2nd edition, 2010

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Only Available in Italy

I found this book in Italy in English:

Trekking & Mountain Bike around Florence and Siena, Curzio Casoli, Apice Libri, 1992 (tel:055-218153)

At the map stores in Florence or Rome you can find hiking books in Italian. We get these and Steve translates the hikes for us, but the translating can be difficult. They tend to use flowery prose which is hard to translate. These are detailed hiking books in Italian. They refer to the IGM and Kompass maps.

A Piedi nel Chianti (Guide Iter 1991)

A Piedi in Toscana (Guide Iter 1987)

A Piedi in Umbria (Guide Iter 1994)

L'Umbria Per Strade e Sentieri (Minerva Editrice Assisi)

Hiking Maps

Trektools.com sells some hiking maps for Italy or you can wait until you get there to buy them locally.

LAC Tourist Maps - Large Scale Area Maps

Folding map, 1:100,000 - 1:40,000 scale. Good for detailed exploration and walking/hiking.

These maps vary in scale, but at a scale of 1:50,000 or larger, you can use these for finding the hiking trails. They are also good for detailed exploration in areas with lots of small towns and roads.

Click to order from TrekTools.com - Folding Maps - Tourist Maps.

Some of the ones available in large scale good for hiking are listed below.

Sorrento Peninsula: 1:35,000 scale, in the region of Campania south of Naples, includes Amalfi Coast, Capri, Sorrento, Salerno.

Cinque Terre: 1:40,000 scale, southern Liguria, includes from Levanto in the north, the Cinque Terre towns (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore), south to Portovenere. Also La Spezia and Lerici.

Golfo Tigullio: 1:25,000, Liguria south of Genoa, includes Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, Zoagli, Chiavari, Camogli, Lavagna, Sestri Lavante, Portofino.

Note: Be sure to check the scale when ordering these maps. They are not all the same scale.

Get Hiking Maps When You Are in Italy

When you are in Italy, you will find detailed hiking maps in bookstores in larger cities (Florence, Rome) and in tourist shops locally.

  • Libreria il Viaggio, Florence, Borgo Degli Albizi 41 (near Hotel Monna Lisa)
  • Libreria E.P.T., Florence, Via Condotta 42r
  • Touring Viaggi, Rome, Via del Babuino, 20. Detailed maps of every region of Italy, plus many other maps and tour guides.

Go to a map store in Florence or Rome when you arrive and buy the hiking maps you will need for your trip. Detailed maps are essential on the trails (1:25,000 is best). This is not Switzerland with clearly marked trails and signs at all intersections! The Italian Alpine Club maintains the trails, and they are all marked with these little red strips that they put on trees or rocks, but you can get very lost, so a good map is essential (and a compass).

Italy hiking map

Carta Turistica e dei Sentieri, Club Alpino Italiano

This is the best series of hiking maps. The detail is 1:25,000. The map is printed on one side with descriptions of walks in Italian on the back. They are issued for the different hiking regions.

Italy hiking map

Kompass Carta turistica

Kompass produces a series of maps for different hiking regions in Italy. These are not as detailed as the Carta Turistica e dei Sentieri, but give you a good idea where the best hiking is in a region.

The detail is 1:50,000 and trails (mostly on white roads) are marked with descriptions in Italian on back (descriptions in German in separate booklet). Some of the regions available are: #660 Firenze-Chianti, #661 Siena-Chianti, etc. You can get these at the maps stores in Florence or Rome and sometimes in the small towns.

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