Walking in Italy: The Best Hiking Trails to Explore

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From the hilltop towns of Tuscany to the imposing peaks of the Dolomites, Italy is a boot made for walking.
Italy’s world-famous cuisine, amiable people, remarkable architecture, and gorgeous landscapes have earned it the nickname “Bel Paese” (the beautiful country). If you have an adventurous spirit, hiking may be the best way to experience the beauty Italy has to offer.

Stromboli

Stromboli
Home to one of the few active volcanoes in the Old Continent, this conical island in the Tyrrhenian Sea is also known as the “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean.”
The hike to the Stream of Fire (Sciara del Fuoco) is challenging, but the view it offers is quite rewarding. The natural fireworks display at the end of the hike won’t leave you unimpressed.
Stromboli has a stark beauty and it offers breathtaking views of the surrounding Aeolian Islands. The trail starts from the harbor and leads to a black ridge where one can witness the volcanic craters bubble and explode.
Even though you will ascend through well-marked paths, do remember that Stromboli is an active volcano. Before you head up the slopes, be sure to check with local authorities whether it’s a safe time to hike up the trail.

Via Francigena, Tuscany

San Gimignano

If you are interested in the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, but find it to be too crowded, the Via Francigena may be the perfect alternative for you. Via Francigena is one of the oldest and most beautiful pilgrimages in the world.
The entire trail is 1,900 km long and starts in Canterbury, England. Since this is too much for the average hiker, you can choose to walk only the most beautiful section of the pilgrimage, the one running from San Miniato to San Quirico.
Via Francigena will lead you right to the heart of Tuscany. It passes through historic cities, quaint hilltop villages, medieval small towns, and iconic landscapes. The section offers a wealth of Italian history, culture, art, and architecture.
Chianti vineyards and San Gimignano are particularly interesting points along the trail. The famous 12th-century towers are the reason people call it “The Manhattan of Tuscany”. The historic center of the town is a Unesco World Heritage Site. If you are looking for a quintessentially Tuscan experience, the Via Francigena is the way to go.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre
It is true—Cinque Terre is just as breathtaking in person as it is in photos, and chances are that you have stumbled upon an iconic image of one of the Cinque Terre villages at one point in your life.
To be out of the reach of marauders and invaders, the villages were built high on the cliffs. As a result, each village offers jaw-dropping views.
The trail runs through five colorful fishing villages perched alongside the Italian Riviera. It is just 12 km long, so it shouldn’t take more than 3 or 4 hours to complete it. At the end of each section, there’s a glass of chilled local wine and a plate of fresh seafood waiting to reinvigorate and delight you.
In between villages, the trail will lead you through vertiginous vineyards and masterfully terraced gardens. You can start the hike in Monterosso in the north or Riomaggiore in the south.
The Cinque Terre trail is a hike to be savored, even though there are some strenuous parts. Between Riomaggiore and Manarola lies the most popular section of the trail—the Street of Love (Via dell’Amore). It makes for a great evening stroll, locally known as a passeggiata.

Sentiero degli Dei

amalfi coast
Photo by Dan Russo

The path of the Gods, known in Italian as Sentiero degli Dei, offers magnificent views of southern Italian landscapes, densely wooded Lattari mountains, the island of Capri, and the Amalfi Coast.
But, if you want to gaze down at the glittering Mediterranean sea from the ancient hamlet of Nocelle, first you need to follow the elevated, rocky mule trail. It will take you past holm oaks, rosemary shrubs, lemon orchards, and terraced hills.
Even though the terrain is rocky, it is not too challenging. The hike is 8 km long and takes about 4 hours to complete. When you get tired, you can stop for a refreshing dip at Arienzo beach. Be sure to pack a picnic.

 

Tre Cime di Lavaredo, The Dolomites

Dolomites
San Gimignano isn’t the only UNESCO-listed hiking marvel in Italy. The unique rock formations of the Dolomites have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009.
The other-worldly peaks of the Dolomites are truly a rare and magnificent sight. The Dolomites are also a national park, and the Tre Cime circuit will lead you along all the landmarks of the area, including the God’s Throne (Mt. Pelmo).
The Pian dei Boi high plateau is excellent for a gentler, family hike. It offers mesmerizing alpine scenery. If you are up for a more strenuous adventure, the Mt Piana high plateau reveals marvelous pinnacles of the Cadini mountain.
The Tre Cime di Lavarredo is the most popular trail, but it is not the only one. You’ll have a chance to see the Dolomites and their surrounding beauties from a lot of different angles since the national park offers 200 km of hiking paths.

I’m Rebecca, a translator and avid traveler, a book worm and horror flick enthusiast. My job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them.

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