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Loving the long-distance trails in Italy

Loving the long-distance trails in Italy Uncategorized Walking and hiking The Natural Adventure

Everything sounds so much more poetic in Italian really. You don’t just have long-distance trails. You have vias, cammini and sentieri. You even have a Via degli Dei, or Path of the Gods, which takes you between Bologna and Florence. Which is, in fairness, as close to ethereal as you could imagine. In addition to spectacular trails such the Tour du Mont Blanc or the Amalfi Coast, there are so many other long-distance trails in Italy to delve into. We may not have the poetry to describe our favourites, but we do have the power to book them for you. From the heights of the Alta Via to the coastal wonders of the Via Francigena on Sicily, we’ll show you the way. 

Path of the Gods from Bologna to Florence

The Path of the Gods, or Via degli Dei from Bologna to Florence really is a gobsmacker. Not to be confused with the one on the Amalfi Coast, this one takes you through the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and way off the beaten path into a landscape of five mountains, each named after a Roman god or goddess. You don’t need to worship anything but nature to really appreciate this walking trail, however, which is, thank the gods and goddesses, available from the beginning of April until the end of October. 

Our fifth fantastic walk with The Natural Adventure! Wonderful walk through glorious and historic countryside. Excellent accommodation and very good support from Marco who helped us to shorten some walks because of the heat and some foot soreness! Descriptions of the walks were accurate and useful for daily planning. The app works very well for navigation.” – Ermie in Perth, Australia.

The Path of the Gods between Bologna to Florence is an ancient Roman way.

Alta Via 1

Alta Via translates as high route, and the term is used a lot on Italy’s elevated trails, which is why they are often numbered. Alta Via 1 (AV1) is in the heart of the Dolomites, a world-famous landscape of jagged peaks, dramatic natural sculptures and some of the most spectacular alpine trekking. It’s 120km long with 11 stages, and we cover the highlights of the trail on this walking holiday over seven days. Experience the drama of the Dolomites from the likes of Cortina d’Ampezzo, which is enveloped by the peaks, hiking across Ritjoch saddle or through Fanes-Senes-Braies Natural Park, one of the largest protected areas in the Dolomites.

Stunning adventure in the Dolomites! This is a brilliant tour and really well organised by The Natural Adventure… All the resources provided (maps, app, lift passes, etc) were very clear and so easy to follow through some breathtaking scenery. The routes were exactly what we were looking for – challenging but still really enjoyable and well worth the views from the tops… The accommodation was excellent throughout and much better than we expected. Luggage transfer was seamless for each hotel and the villages we stayed in were simply idyllic. If you want to experience the Dolomites, this is the tour for you!” – Pete and Lesley, Marple, UK on our Dolomites Alta Via Walking Highlights tour. 

The Dolomites are a bit like the godfathers of Italy’s natural heritage, watching over the country from a craggy, majestic northern throne

Alta Via dei Monti Lattari

This is a very different beast to the Alte Via 1, but with a significant rambling roar that’s a calling to many keen hikers. It refers to the higher route along the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento Peninsula, following the ridge of the Lattari Mountains, so it’s got plenty of challenges along the way. Starting from Cava dei Tirreni in the east, you spend nine days traversing these exquisite elevations as far as Punta Campanella, where the Sorrento Peninsula almost touches the tip of Capri. Along the way, you’ve got the full Monte of a tour, with views of Monte Avvocata to the west, an overnight in Santa Maria dei Monti mountain hut, overlooking the Gulf of Salerno, treks along the northern cliffs of Monte Sant’Angelo or to the iron cross at Monte Vico Alvano, with panoramic views across the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. There is a shorter version of this trail that you can do over five days. 

The Alta Via dei Monti Lattari takes you up and over the Amalfi Coast.

Via Amerina 

The Via Amerina is a well-preserved Roman road connecting Rome with Umbria, with a sumptuous series of ancient towns and villages, including the town of Amelia, (which had the ancient name of Ameria, thus the name of the trail). From there it continues north to Perugia, then west from Umbria into Tuscany. The section between Amelia and Rome is the most popular with walkers, and one that you can do in eight days. It’s a 100km ravishing route with natural highlights including the Corchiano Gorges, wooded ravines of Pian Sant’Angelo and Treja Valley Park, a mountainous area with waterfalls and ancient settlements. Including the daddy of them all. Roma. 

Via Spluga 

It’s definitely worth splurging on the Spluga, especially as it’s one of Italy’s lesser-known long-distance trails, and one that is shared with Switzerland. The Via Spluga is a 70km long-distance trail between the Swiss town of Thusis and the Italian town of Chiavenna, following a route through the Spluga or Splügen Pass (2,115m) in the Lepontine Alps. This ancient cross-border route dates back to Roman times and a roamin’ you will go on this perfectly packaged six day escape. As both Thusis and Chiavenna have train stations, one of the other glories of this holiday is that it’s accessible by rail, if you are able to get to Europe without flying, that is.

Absolutely stunning scenery – We ventured on this trail in October 2023 and would recommend. The walking length daily was perfect…we saw very few other walkers and on three of the days the walk was peaceful with stunning views, varying through pine forest, broadleaf woodland, river valleys, mountains, gorges and alpine villages. The hotels were of a very high standard and the half board option for food was excellent with high quality food…. the luggage transfer was seamless.” – Five-star review of the Via Spluga, Happy walkers, Crowthorne England

The Splügen Pass is at the heart of the Via Spluga.

Via Francigena

The Via Francigena is an ancient pilgrimage route that opens up the sacred heart of Italy’s much worshipped interior. Originally, it was a route taken by the ecclesiastical elite between Canterbury, Rome and the sacred town of Santa Maria di Leuca. Today, it’s broken into various segments within Italy, and can be walked or cycled, the longest being between the magnificent walled city of Lucca and Rome, walkable over 22 days. Follow a soulful southern section between Rome and Terracina in the province of Latina, or seek out its northern nirvanas between Pontremoli, in the heart of the Lunigiana and Lucca. There is also a sizzling segment on Sicily, which is a north to south walking trail between Palermo on the north coast and Agrigento on its south-west shores.

Say ‘si’ to the Sicilian section of the Via Francigena.

Cammino Materano 

The Cammino Materano is a network of ancient trails across the heart of Apulia. It’s as if an Italian designer created the prettiest of straps to decorate this already beautiful boot. Our chosen section of the Cammino is between Bari and Matera, on an inland idyll of a trek along Roman roads, medieval paths and shepherds’ trails through Apulia and Basilicata. Spend seven days exploring a hinterland where highlights include Bari’s Basilica di San Nicola, the region’s famous trulli houses, the handsome and historic town of Altamura and, last but not least, the UNESCO town of Matera, with its famous ancient rock churches and stone houses. 

Sentiero del Viandante 

If you thought that Lake Como was all high-end and high prices, then think again, because this ancient trail, along its eastern shore, gives you a more natural Como experience. Although historically the lake was the most important means of transport, this mule route was also a key way of getting from Lecco in the south to Colico in the north. Some of the best views of the lake are on the section between Lierno and Varenna, the latter being the most stunning lakeside town. Other highlights include waterfront chapels such as Chiesa di San Giorgio, and Orrido di Bellano Gorge, a narrow canyon with a system of footbridges. And for a glorious finale, fitting of an iconic lake, on your last day you ascend up the cobblestone path to take in your last views, then descend to Colcio, where the snowy peaks of the Alps begin to appear in the distance.

Looking down on Lierna while walking on the Sentiero del Viandante.

Cammino di San Nilo 

This is one of the ancient trails going through Cilento National Park, following in the footsteps of Saint Nilo of Rossano, a Greco-Italian monk from the 11th century. Over eight days, it takes you on your own natural pilgrimage between Sapri in the east and Palinuro in the west, with waterfalls, woodland and wild, tranquil trails that feel far from mass tourism. You also ascend to some top viewpoints, such as Monte Gelbison from which you can see as far as the island of Stromboli. Like many caminos, there’s a Pilgrim’s Passport that you can get at the first hotel on this tour, which you then get stamped along the way, allowing you to get your Testimonium, or certificate of completion, in San Nazario. This is the location of the former Monastery of San Nazario, where San Nilo da Rossano received the blessing and undertook his rite of passage to become a monk. 

The Capelli di Venere waterfall is the perfect pilgrim spot to bathe one’s feet on the Cammino di San Nilo.

Alpe-Adria Trail, Cividale del Friuli to Trieste

The Alpe-Adria Trail is an adventurous artery created for hikers and cyclists, covering 750km of the Austrian Alps, Slovenia’s Triglav National Park and Italy’s Alpine foothills, then finally the Adriatic. Spend a week walking the final section of the Alpe-Adria Trail between the UNESCO Cividale del Friuli in the foothills of the eastern Alps and finishing in the elegant port city of Trieste, and historical hub of the Habsburg Empire. You even get to pop into Slovenia en route, with views of the beautiful Brda region as you go. This holiday is also accessible by train at Manzano (14.5km from Cividale del Friuli) and Trieste stations. 

A great adventure. We enjoyed the challenging (at times) but beautiful terrain along the Alpe-Adria. The trails were varied and the views spectacular. Our hill town stopovers were fantastic, and all of the hotels were beyond expectations. It was a great introduction to Slovenia (Smartno) as well as a chance to see a less-visited part of Italy.” – Donna, from Maine USA

For more information on Italy’s treks, trails and tantalising adventures, don’t hesitate to check out all of our Italian tours. You may also enjoy our other Italian blogs, including one on the Tour du Mont Blanc, which takes you through not only Italy but also Switzerland and France. For any other information, don’t hesitate to contact our adventure specialists.