Where do we even start choosing the best hikes in Italy? From the Tre Cime in the Dolomites to the elevated excursions overlooking Lake Como, Italy’s natural heritage just keeps giving. There are lakes, volcanoes, gorges, waterfalls and some of the country’s greatest summits in our list of its classical beauties, in a country that is not only a walking wonderland, but which has some of the finest food and drink to fill your boots at the end of each trail. As you will see in our list of the best hikes in Italy, it’s all just one big, blissful, bellissima.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Dolomites
One of the most iconic treks in the Dolomites is to the great three peaks called Tre Cime de Lavaredo, or Drei Zinnen. Your starting point is at Prato Piazza, a plateau at 1,991m in the South Tyrolean area of Italy, where green meadows contrast beautifully with the surrounding peaks. From here you head up to Strudelsattel (2,200m) which must be the perfect place to have a coffee and cake break, before a gorgeous descent towards Valle di Landro through woodland.
It’s all ups and downs on this trek, with another ascent through Val Rienza’s woodlands and streams, which then open out to more pastures at Rin Bianco valley, before one more stretch to Rifugio Auronzo (2,333m). This wonderful mountain hut is where you lay your head for the night, with not only a superb wake-up view of the north face of the Tre Cime, but also a long trek all around these iconic towers and peaks after your caffe lungo. For a quick peek of how the view looks today, check out their webcam.
Hiking time: 6-7h
Gola di Gorropu, Sardinia
Starting out at Domus De Jana Biduai, an ancient rock tomb, your journey to Gola di Gorropu is a glorious one, following the Rio Flumineddu into the heart of Sardinia’s Gennargentu National Park. Gola di Gorropu is Italy’s deepest gorge, with white limestone walls towering up to 400-500m high, where you may even be lucky enough to spot golden eagles soaring. Pack a swimsuit for this one as there are some pools and streams to cool down in, and boulders to rest on, if you just want to paddle. The hike down to the floor, where the canyon walls shrink to as little as 5m wide, is a trail through holm oak woods and along rocky slopes peppered with ancient caves. You definitely want your walking poles too, especially for the way back up to the entrance of the gorge.
Hiking time: 5h
Breglia Loop, Lake Como
Choosing the best of treks on our Lake Como walking holiday is a bit like trying to choose a favourite child, as they are all close to our heart. However, there is one all rounder that is guaranteed to give trekking tingles. Starting in the mountain village of Breglia, you follow a 4.5km trail up to Rifugio Menaggio (1,400m) on the southern slope of Monte Grona (1,736m), which not only has a terrace with great views of Como, but also serves some of the best polenta lunches.
From the rifugio you can choose between two further treks, or indeed both if you have started out early. The first is up Monte Grona (1,736m), which takes 1h 15mins on the Via Normale. From this trail you can see Lakes Como, Lugano and Piano, as well as the neighbouring Monte Bregagno, Legnone, Pizzo di Gino and Grigna. This really should be called the Full Monti route. The second longer trek is to the ridge of Monte Bregagno (1,652m, with the summit at 2,107m), which starts on a similar trail as the one to Grona, and then diverts around Val Pessina en route to the grassy ridge. From here, you descend to a saddle and chapel of the same name, Sant’Amate, with almost ethereal views of Val Sanagra, Lake Lugano and the Alps beyond.
Distance Monte Bregagno trek: 14km
Hiking time: 6-7h
Grand Col Ferret, Tour du Mont Blanc
The highlight for many people on the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB), a circumnavigation of the much celebrated massif, is the trek across Grand Col Ferret, which marks the border between Switzerland and Italy. To be more precise, it’s an Alpine pass between Italy’s Aosta Valley and Switzerland’s Valais Canton and it’s also one of the highest points on the TMB at 2,537m. When you follow the traditional TMB route, starting and ending in Les Houches, walking in an anti-clockwise direction, you walk from Italy into Switzerland. Starting out at the famous Rifugio Elena, a mountain hut on the lower section of Grand Col Ferret at 2,061m, this big day starts out with the hut’s spectacular views of Glacier de Pré de Bar.
You spend the day traversing the colossal col, following the TMB for 11km as far as the village of La Fouly in Switzerland which takes around five hours, slowly ascending to take in views back over the pine-covered Val Ferret and Col de la Seigne beyond. You will often come across snowy patches or frozen streams as you climb but it’s worth it, as is the change of landscapes from the dramatic eastern slopes of the Mont Blanc massif to the softer, greener ones in Switzerland. On some tours, such as this hut to hut one, you start your journey at Rifugio Bonatti, in Val Ferret facing the Fréboudze Glacier.
Distance from Rifugio Elena: 12km
Hiking time from Rifugio Elena: 5-6h
Distance from Rifugio Bonatti: 18km
Hiking time from Rifugio Bonatti: 6-7h
Mount Etna, Sicily
On our Aeolian Islands walking holiday, you spend eight days walking on four of these volcanic islands, just north of Sicily, with some superb treks to the likes of Monte Guardia (369m) on Lipari or along the lava fields, Sciara di Fuoco of Stromboli. The tour comes to a fiery finish, however, with a trip to Sicily and a guided trek up the active volcano Mount Etna. Starting at Piano Provenzana, on Etna’s northern slope, this is actually a ski resort in winter at an altitude of 1,810m, with views across the Ionian Sea.
The trek doesn’t take you right to the top because, well, although you may be active, so is Etna. However, you do get to walk amongst recent lava flows, past caves and surprisingly vineyards up to 2,500m, with Etna coming in at an impressive 3,357m. Still, this is a steep, scrambly and steamy trek, but an extraordinary one.
Hiking time: 5h
Lago di Loie, Gran Paradiso National Park
Gran Paradiso National Park is Italy’s oldest national park, spanning some colossal landscapes in Italy’s northwest. Our walking holiday in the Aosta Valley drops you into its core, following various treks for nine days surrounded by high peaks. Each day brings another Aosta adventure, but one of the hiking highlights is the trek to Lago di Loie (2.354m), nicely timed for your penultimate day. Starting at Lillaz Waterfalls, which are actually in Cogne Valley, they are a beauty, so the bar has been set pretty high for this trek from early on.
The trail becomes a forested one soon after the falls, where larch, pine and fir provide soothing shade on a hot day, opening out finally to alpine pastures, peaks and a peek of the lake itself. The icing on the cake is the view of Mont Blanc which, depending on cloud cover, you can see as soon as you start to ascend, as well as other closer mountains such as Grivola (3,969m) and Punta Fenilia (3,055m). It’s worth bringing a swimsuit and towel for this one, as this lake really does feel like a natural infinity pool. If you are lucky enough to get it on a quiet day, you may even spot an ibex or marmot, which the national park was originally set up to protect.
Hiking time: 6h
These are just a few from the great menu of treks and trails to explore in Italy. For more details, see all our Walking holidays in Italy. You may also enjoy our blog on Most underrated places in Italy, Staying in a mountain hut, Everything you need to know about the Tour du Mont Blanc hike, and Best time to go to the Amalfi Coast.