It’s almost as if an Italian designer created the country’s intricate landscapes, lining the coast with exquisite Amalfi villages, layering it with Dolomite and Alpine wonders, and bejewelling it with lakes Como and Garda. They wove in the likes of Tuscany and Umbria for silky style and then added the Cinque Terre as shiny buttons. Then, as if these aren’t enough, they accessorised with the sublime islands of Sardinia and Sicily.
Self-guided tours of Italy are the perfect way to wear the country’s natural riches, as you can try them out in your own time, and select them to suit your style. Walking tours of Italy, for example, range from the ridiculously pretty Amalfi coast to the UNESCO towns of Matera and Alberobello in Puglia. The Dolomites walking tours are for wilderness lovers and the Aosta Valley is for peak seekers, whereas bike trips in Italy combine countryside with city greats such as Venice, Siena and Florence.
Where to go
The Amalfi coast is a peninsula packed with culture and nature, with generous sprinklings of chic. Behind all the glitz and glam lie hiking trails and a more down to earth Italy, ancient woods, family farms, vineyards and lemon groves. After losing your breath at the sheer beauty of the clifftop wonders of Amalfi, Ravello, Praiano, Positano, you can breathe deeply again walking along the aptly called Path of the Gods, or give yourself over totally to Monti Lattari mountain range, pure hiking heaven.
Puglia’s walking and cycling trails pull off a perfect duet of both cultural and natural heritage. Walk between the two UNESCO towns of Matera and Alberobello, with their respective ancient rock churches and trulli stone houses, and then leave buildings and bustle behind to saunter through the coastal idyll of Dune Costiere Regional Natural Park. With plenty of sunset swimming spots along the way.
These are a bit like the godfathers of Italy’s natural heritage, watching over the country from a craggy, majestic northern throne. Walking tours of the Dolomities vary from elevated trekking along the Alta Via 1 to leisurely paced walks through lower valleys and pastures, or being lifted up to the likes of Dolomieu Panoramic Trail by cable car. Dolomites cycling tours take in some extraordinary routes, many of them adding Austria into an already impressive itinerary.
Translated as the Five Lands of the Ligurian coast, the villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are linked by the Azure Trail, all jewels in the crown of Cinque Terre National Park. Hiking the Cinque Terre is one of the most sought after walking tours of Italy, but knowing where and when to go is vital in order to avoid the crowds. On a self-guided tour of the Cinque Terre, you can travel out of peak season while seeking out smaller hamlets and hikes, swimming and snoozing spots.
Cultural pilgrims flock to the Tuscan towns of Florence and Siena all year round, but nature lovers have the gift of the Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrimage route that opens up the sacred heart of Tuscany’s much worshipped interior. Walk in ancient footsteps between the medieval town of Lucca and Siena, or cycle the Via’s southern section all the way to Rome. Off the main Via, there is a vast array of vineyards and valley trails to explore.
Things to do
- Our walking tours of Italy ensure that you can escape the seasonal surges of city tourists. The Sentiero Azzurro, or Azure Trail linking the Cinque Terre, and the Amalfi Coast’s Path of the Gods are two of the most famous routes, and with carefully crafted itineraries, you can easily escape the crowds. The high trails of the Dolomites are perfect in summer when the rest of the country sizzles, and the Tuscan and Umbrian hills are lands of ambrosian ambles at any time of year.
- Fill your boots or pack your panniers on our self-guided tours of Italy, where every walking or cycling trail has a trattoria, pizzeria or osteria boasting regional menus. Tuck into pizza on the Amalfi coast, meet the makers of Prosecco in the Dolomites, savour the seafood risotto of Puglia and get addicted to arancini in Sicily.
- Visiting a vineyard in Italy is, in vino veritas, the best way to imbibe the country’s natural heritage. Take a cycling holiday in Tuscany through the Brunello vineyards, have lunch in a winery in the shadow of Sicily’s Mount Etna and enjoy many of Piedmont’s warming reds after a cycling or walking holiday through its wine country.
- You can create a cheeky combo holiday with Italy, as its borders know no bounds for natural adventure seekers. One of the classics is the Tour du Mont Blanc, which circumnavigates the great ‘white lady’, taking you through Italy, Switzerland and France. You can also combine Italy and Slovenia on a cycling holiday, or trek between the high peaks of the Austrian Tyrol to Italy’s Alto Adige.
Responsible travel tips
- Italy is prone to overtourism in tourist hubs such as Venice and Florence. Our self-guided holidays in Italy facilitate an escape from the crowds and bring positive economic impacts to small, rural communities.
- Italy and, in particular, Piedmont, is the home of slow food, and so there is no better country to celebrate traditional, artisanal foods. If you are buying foodie gifts, look out for denominations like DOP on products, which show they are approved for quality and local provenance.
- Don’t drive or use a hire car in built up coastal areas such as the Amalfi or Cinque Terre. You will not only be stuck in traffic in their honeypots, you will be polluting these world renowned paradises.
- Italians are inherently proud of their culture, be it their language, music, arts or cuisine. Learn a few phrases, get to know the regional food specialities and respect their cultural heritage by covering up in churches, not taking photos of people without asking and remembering that ancient sites and local festivals are sacred for many.
- Italy recycles 79% of collectable waste, one of the highest rates in Europe, and each region has its own colour-coded guidance. As with all travels, leave any packaging at home, avoid all single-use plastic and bring a cloth shopping bag with you.