There is wonderful walking in Italy but it has its own unique characteristics. Perhaps this is because,
although there are many avid walkers and climbers, Italians are not as passionate as the French about
walking as a pastime. Just take the language. The French have a vocabulary that moves from the generic
sentier and marcher to the much more serious randonner, randonneur and randonnee. The Italians make
do with camminare and sentiero.
Then there is the fact that in Italy there is no over-arching organisation like the FFRP and consequently,
no well coordinated system of sentieri like the GR's of France.
There is nevertheless the Club Alpino Italiano (CAI) which was established in Torino in 1863. As its name
implies, the CAI's main interest is the alpine areas of Italy. Its purpose has been to promote alpinism, to
develop and maintain tracks in the alpine areas and to maintain refuges, rifugi, along the trails. In recent
times it has extended its role to assist in coordinating the few long distance routes that do exist. But for
the most part it has been left to the national park and local authorities and various other clubs to establish
shorter and more localized routes.
Mostly Walking ...
... in Italy
There are three serious long distance walks. One traverses the Alps, another follows a route along the
spine of the Appennini and there is an ambitious plan to create a continuous chain of pathways to run the
length of Italy from Calabria in the south to Trieste in the north. These are essentially a linking of existing
trails and pathways and theoretically can be accessed at any point along their length.
Most of us are more likely to do shorter walks, and there are many routes that can be planned to take up
to a week or more. These will pass through lovely countryside, mountains and vineyards and, every night,
there will be a small town with a comfortable bed and a good meal. Alternatively there are lots of local
pathways in some of the most beautiful parts of Italy where you can stay for a time and do leisurely walks
As in France there are old established pathways, rights of way and rough tracks that traverse the
countryside. Sometimes the walking will be along what are known as "white roads", very minor roads that
are unsealed. In the mountains where lifts have been built as part of the skiing infrastructure you can be
lifted up into mountain meadows and walk down at your own pace.
Nearly 5% of the Italian countryside is protected in National Parks and they are well provided with
excellent walking. Australians need to be prepared to find parks more structured and organized than they
are used to, but once away from the busy areas, you can lose yourself in the wonderful landscapes.
Potential traps for even the most experienced walker are the frequent unreliability of mapping, the lack of
track maintenance and the often haphazard nature of signage. Too often you will set out on a well
marked, well signposted track only to discover after a while that the track branches or disappears and the
signage is either confusing or non existent. Not that this is so terribly serious as you are never far from
somewhere and there is usually a way around the problem. Just hope you don't encounter fierce barking
dogs on these detours.
There are, we have found, many books of walks and many maps
published by a range of specialist publishers. Some are excellent but
many are out of date and there are frequently errors and omissions,
such as when the paths have been relocated or even discontinued. In
some areas the walker has to rely on very outdated military maps
which are very slowly being updated.
There is no consistent series of topo guides although there are good
ones for some specific routes and good information produced by local
information centres. In Rome you can't walk into an equivalent of the
FFRP, IGN shop or Au Vieux Campeur in Paris and browse shelves
and shelves of topo guides offering enticing alternatives for a walking
The best information is usually found locally.
As with most things you can do your own planning or you can get someone else to do it for you. We
have done a bit of both.
We have done our long distance walks as independent walkers with the English company Sherpa. They
have a mouth watering catalogue of walks in many parts of Italy, they carry your baggage, have local
contacts to provide advice and assistance and, most importantly, they have reasonably good maps and
walking notes. There are many companies that offer this service but we found them to be good for our
two walks in Chianti and Umbria.
For the rest, we have done our own planning in places as diverse as Gran Paradiso, Monte Cervinio, the
Barolo, the Apennines, Abruzzo, Liguria, Sicily and the wonderful Dolomiti.
Accommodation is easy to find and, especially in the uniquely Italian institution of the Agriturismo, you
will receive a warm welcome. Agriturismi are farms, generally well outside of towns, where a range of
accommodation is available from self contained apartments to bed and breakfast arrangements. When
first established they expected you to do some work on the farm but that arrangement has long passed
and now they offer very good accommodation in lovely rural settings.
We have included here some of our recollections and pictures. True to our fundamental approach to
travel, there is a lot more than just walking.
On this page
Links to long walks
Italy is different
Links to other walking