The first thing that comes to mind when you think of northern Italy is the mountains. The steep shapes of the Dolomites are iconic and the Alps that go on to push through Europe provide astounding viewpoints over not only the country but over its neighbours as well.
Of course, what these two mountain ranges also mean is that northern Italy is a hotspot for outdoor adventures - and is home to some of the most astounding hiking destinations in the world.
We’ve teamed up with Green & Blue, an initiative set up to promote this beautiful corner of the world as an ultimate adventure destination, to give you a flavour of what’s on offer.
1) Hiking The Cammino Di Sant’Agostino
If you like your hikes to be rich in history, culture, and religion there’s plenty on offer for you in Lombardy – a region that’s begging to be explored, either on foot or by bike.
One nice Lombardy walk, with a pilgrimage feel very much woven through it, can be found on the very pleasant Cammino di Sant’Agostino between Monza and Pavia. Families that love going for big strolls in wide open spaces that seamlessly merge together art, nature, and history will have a great time here.
Lombardy, while we’re on the topic, is also home to several religious trails which belong to the so-called “Sacri Monti". These trails features chapels built between the 16th and 17th centuries, and are situated in some of the most peaceful surroundings imaginable.
2) Hiking The Via Claudia Augusta
Veneto has a lot going for it. And when we say “a lot", we mean a lot. Golden beaches, pretty lagoons, majestic rivers and wild natural parks with views straight out of a Disney fairytale. A varied outdoor adventure awaits in Veneto, with visitors encouraged to discover the wealth of history, art, and culture that exists in the region’s towns and villages.
There’s trekking and Nordic walking opportunities aplenty in Veneto with countless paths skirting along the slopes of some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. One of the most popular, manageable, and historically significant walking routes that passes through the area is the Via Claudia Augusta. This trail follows an ancient Roman road which connects the Po River with Rhaetia (located across the Alps in southern Germany).
3) Hiking The Tour Du Mont Blanc
The Valle d’ Aosta may be Italy’s smallest region, but what it lacks in horizontal size it more than makes up for in the vertical. A mountainous region, more than 40% of its terrain is situated at over 2,000 metres above sea level. You’re no doubt already familiar with Monte Bianco (also known as Mont Blanc); the highest mountain in the Alps, and west Europe, at 4,808 metres.
Because of the sheer number of epic mountains here, it’ll come as no surprise that Valle d’Aosta is an awesome place to go hiking in. One of the most loved routes here, and in Europe in general, is the Tour du Mont Blanc. It circles the Mont Blanc massif and covers a distance of roughly 170 kilometres. Be sure to have them cameras ready as the sights you’ll see here are second to none.
4) Hiking The Alta Via Dei Parchi In Emilia-Romagna
The Alta Via dei Parchi cuts its way across the Apennines in Emilia Romagna, as well as a bit of a Tuscany and Marche. It offers walkers over 500 kilometres of uphills and downhills to get their hiking boots stuck into, and is a must visit for anyone who loves putting one front in front of the other in the great outdoors.
Featuring a mouth-watering cocktail of thick green forests, glacial rings, volcanic rocks, chalk cliffs and beautiful lakes backdropped by some of the most picturesque scenery imaginable; a hike here is like no other hike on earth. The route crosses two national parks, five regional parks and one interregional park. With Mount Cusna, Mount Prado, and Alpe di Succiso all situated within its boundaries – the national park of Appenino Tosco-Emiliano is where you’ll find some of the highest peaks in the Northern Apeninnes. In terms of the region’s hiking highlights, this place is definitely right up there.
5) Hiking In Parco Nazionale Del Gran Paradiso
Home to the famous city of Torino, Piemonte is a region in northwest Italy. It borders Switzerland and France; as well as the Italian regions of Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Valle D’ Aosta and Liguria. Situated on the frontline of the Alps, with a wide range of heart-melting hiking trails to immerse yourself in, Piemonte not only brings together “foot" and “mountains" in its name but in its nature as an activity-focused outdoor destination.
Hiking, climbing and mountaineering lovers will experience a real exploration adventure in the Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso’s Piedmontese slopes, one of the oldest natural reserves in Europe, which offers amazing sport and cultural, but also well-being and relax oriented events in every seasons in the valleys around the Gran Paradiso massif. Any chat of the hiking credentials in Piemonte would be remiss if we didn’t also mention the sprawling network of ways to be discover on foot from the Torino, Biella and Monferrato area to the Ossola Valleys with a view to the Lake Maggiore and Orta, through the Valsesia with the Parco delle Lame del Sesia, Canale Cavour and Parco del Ticino.
6) Hiking The Sentiero Liguria
Liguria is a fun, banana-shaped, coastal region in the north-west of Italy that adventurous souls will love. The remarkable nature of this place is perfectly illustrated by the fact that you can surf and do proper hiking/mountain biking within a few kilometres of each other in the same national park; in the space of one afternoon.
This region’s park network consists of one national park, nine regional natural parks, the Alta Via dei Monti Liguri hiking trail, four regional nature reserves and several protected areas. Before we discuss the Sentiero Liguria, big shoutout to the amazing Alta Via dei Monti Liguri that traverses mountain ridges and which is somewhat of a promised land for both walking boot-wearers and mountain bike-riders.
Connecting Luni in the province of La Spezia with Grimaldi in Ventimiglia, the Sentiero Liguria is a hiking trail that stretches for over 600km. Visitors to it can take the trail in either direction, passing olive groves, vineyards, holly oak woods, beach clubs, cliffs, sacred routes, ancient Roman roads, tiny tracks and narrow, atmospheric, Italian alleyways known locally as “creuze" along the way. A magical walking experience this, it will stir your senses in ways you’ll never forget.
7) Hiking In Carnia
Friuli Venezia Giulia, which is where you can find the hiker’s paradise of Carnia, is Italy’s north-easternmost region. It borders Slovenia, Austria, and the Adriatic Sea. With its sea, lakes, parks, lagoons, nature reserves, and mountains Friuli Venezia Giulia delivers some of Italy’s most beautiful and varied environments. If getting active outdoors is what you’re all about, this region, despite being one of the country’s smaller ones, is very easy to love and very difficult to get bored of.
Carnia is a part of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region and, as we’ve already said, well worth a visit for people who like to stroll about outside. There are seven valleys here, crossed by torrents which give all of them except the Valcalda, their names. This place is pure, unfiltered, nature bursting at the seams with woods, waterfalls, canyons and mountain lakes to explore.
The Carnic Alps, which runs across Friuili Venezia Giulia in Italy and a part of southern Austria, has a number of jaw-dropping mountains over 2,000 metres. The highest of these and one that mountain hikers, scramblers, and climbers alike will relish is Mount Coglians (2,780m).