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.
Tuscany - Volterra to Florence
Umbria - Assisi to Orvieto
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 each day.

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 holiday.

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.
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Links to long walks
Where to walk
How to get going
Map of Italy
Click for Photo Galleries
Italy is different
Where to walk
How to get going
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Links to other walking
le Cinque Terre
Umbria - Gubbio, Piano Grande
Parks of the Central Apennines
Val d'Aosta
The Dolomites
Apennines of Emilia Romagna
Puglia - Trulli and Sassi
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