Destination Italy! But Where?

Location – what to consider when planning a walking, hiking or running holiday to Italy.

by Maria E. Bellini

In our previous article we looked at the Italian climate – vital in planning your Outdoors holiday to Italy. Extreme weather conditions, can be the ruin of a many a holiday, specially if you’re planning on spending a large part outside. Spending your days walking in 40°C under a scorching Mediterranean sun can transform a dream holiday into a hellish nightmare.– With it’s geographical and geological diversity, Italy is a country where it’s fundamental to take into account seasons and climate, whilst embarking on your research.

Running, walking and hiking in Italy can be as adventurous as you want to make it

Choose the right location and you could be in for an unforgettable holiday – get it wrong and you’ll still have a memorable holiday – but perhaps not for the right reasons… so let’s see what we, at Italy on Trail, think you should take into account whilst choosing the right ‘trail’ location for your wanderings…

How fit are you? And what grade of holiday would you like?
Check your fitness level, and what you can reasonably achieve

Your Fitness, and Level of Difficulty

If you’re not comfortable with steep, seemingly endless uphill going, location wise, you may want to choose an area which is not too mountainous, one that offers gentler climbs along softer hills as opposed to more technical mountains.

However if you’re on top form and in search of something more testing, consider the higher grounds, which don’t necessarily mean just the Alps or Dolomites, as the rugged western coastline of the south of Italy, or wild Sardina could be ideal too, along with Abruzzo’s Majella area.

Consider intensity, do you want to be walking or running all day, every day? Great, if you do! The Dolomites or the Alps can make perfect sense. Or do you want some down time to do other things too? Certain locations are ideal for walking/running and visiting towns, villages, and places of interest. All of Italy’s lakes, Como, Garda, Maggiore, Iseo, Lecco and the lesser known Molveno together with central Italy’s Trasimeno and Bolsena make good choices if you want to walk/run and enjoy other aspects of Italian life.

Route Planning – Petal, Ring, or Point to Point

If you are independently planning your holiday you might want to consider the ease of having a single base, and planning walks or runs around that area. You won’t have the hassle of moving luggage, can get to fully explore an area, and can take it at your own pace, and if you wake uo one day feeling like you’d like to do nothing, well, you can.

However, point to point walking, stopping off and sleeping in rifugios could surely satisfy the desire for continuous movement and a sense of ‘journey’.

And for a ringed route the famous – TMB – Tour du Mont Blanc, will take you around Monte Bianco in a full circle, as will the Alta Via 1 & 2 in the Aosta Valley.

Planning the route - point to point, ring or petal based. Work out what's best for you.
Planning the route – point to point, ring or petal based. Work out what’s best for you.

Available Information

Maps, guide books, Gps tracks, Youtube, blogs, and websites. Some locations will have more material available that you can use in your research and planning.

In the public sector, Italy’s 21 regions all have separate and individual means of promoting their part of the country, and funds and resources will vary widely from one part of the country to another.

Private enterprise websites will often offer some very detailed information regarding an area, so we always advise dedicating time and going beyond the first few pages of Google.

Cai – Club Alpino Italiano – Italy’s Mountaineering association produces maps, and guidebooks which cover waymarked routes in many parts of Italy. CAI is also responsible for maintaining much of Italy’s networks of trails.

Maps & Guides:

  • Kompass walking maps
  • Tabacco Maps
  • Edizione Multigrafic
  • Cicerone
  • Freytag-Berndt
  • Istituto Geografico Centrale

www.omnimap.com and www.stanfords.co.uk both have a wide range of maps.

Wilderness, Urban, or Something Midway?

Some parts of Italy can be pretty remote. Others such as the Alps and Dolomites in the summer can get quite busy, and you can expect to meet plenty of other hikers. It’s also really common to see trail runners in training for some of the numerous trail races that take place throughout the summer season.
If you are in search of wilderness, you’ll most likely have to plan your own routes, and go beyond what’s on offer through the mainstream channels. Certain parts of Emilia Romagna, Garfagnana, Bsailicata, and Friuli Venezia Giulia can offer different sized pockets wilderness.
But it’s always important to take into consideration that the more remote an area, the less ‘services’ will be to hand.

Are you after specific characteristics? Don’t forget your interests!

  • Do you enjoy an urban setting for the evening, with bars and cafes’ or are you happy counting the stars?
  • Would you love to tie in a visit to museums?
  • Do you want to try local food?
  • Or do you want to get acclimatized to altitude and test yourself o some really technical trails?

What is your budget?

As a very general rule, the prices are higher in the North than in the South. But that’s just a general rule!
High season in Italy is from July through to the end of August, Christmas and Easter.

Consider if you want to be in the wilderness, or fancy a more urban feel to your walks
Consider if you want to be in the wilderness, or fancy a more urban feel to your walks

Here are some of our considerations…

Organised holidays – Locations

Walking

There are plenty of excellent tour operators offering a rich selection of walking holidays in all the classic, well known parts of Italy, plus Pilgrim routes and themed walks are all on offer at varying prices.

Choose between guided or self guided, duration, type and grade of holiday. From budget no frills packages to luxury travel.

Advantages: Absolutely fantastic if you don’t have the time or desire to plan everything yourself, a great choice for a hassle free holiday, where all you’ll have to think about should be putting one foot in front of the other.

Disadvantages: Limited number of destinations. If you are one of life’s researchers and planners you’ll be missing out on all the fun preparation.

Running

There are several companies that organise running trips and camps in the Alps – Varying in grades and duration. Led by qualified guides and experienced trail runners, in some of the most incredible alpine scenery.

Advantages: All you have to do is run, enjoy the scenery and relax. What could be better than that?
Disadvantages: Limited locations.

Some of Italy on Trails Great Locations

The Classics

Unexpected Destinations

  • Maremma – Tuscany
  • Foresta Umbra & Gargano – Puglia
  • Magredi – Fruili Venezia Giulia
  • Po Delta – Veneto & Emilia Romagna
  • Le Foreste Caseintinesi – Tuscany

Wilderness

  • Garfagnana – Tuscany
  • Basilicata
  • Majella – Abruzzo
  • Irpinia – Campania
  • Aspromonte – Calabria
  • Barbagia – Sardinia
  • High Appennines in Emilia Romagna
  • Orsomarso – Calabria

Islands

  • Egadi Islands
  • Tuscan Arcipelago
  • Eolian Islands
  • Volcanic Sicily

As you can see, at the end of the day there is no single, ‘right’ location in the grand scale of things. So enjoy your reserach and planning…


Maria E. BelliniMaria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.

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