6 best hikes in Italy – Only for outdoor enthusiasts

6 best hikes in Italy – Only for outdoor enthusiasts

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Ready to hit the trails? You might think of Italy as being all about those fabulous cities and gorgeous architecture, but it’s also seriously underrated as a hiking destination. This is a land of contrasts, with some very different scenery to be admired in the north, the south and the Mediterranean islands, so what better way to see it all than on foot? Plus, there are always some picture-perfect little villages along the way where you can stop for a quick plate of pasta if your energy is flagging. Here are 6 best hikes in Italy.

Hillwalking beside the sea: the Cinque Terre routes

The Cinque Terre, which means five towns in Italian, is a gorgeous coastal region in the northwest of the country. The five towns of the name are marked by their colourful buildings and precarious locations perched high on the hilltops. With cliffs, mountains and incredible spots for swimming, this is a hiker’s paradise — and it’s no surprise that so many people choose a Cinque Terre walking tour for their Italian holiday.

There are over 120 kilometres of trails to choose from in the Cinque Terre, with several different routes that connect the five towns. The most popular has to be the Sentiero Azzurro or blue route. You don’t need to be in top physical condition to tackle it, although it is quite challenging in parts — you’ll certainly be left out of breath. The most popular section stretches between Riomaggiore and Manarola and is known as the Via dell’Amore, which means ‘path of love’. We’re not sure how romantic you’ll find it as you breathlessly climb your way up the path, but you’re bound to fall in love with the views, at least.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre coastline in Italy
A view of Vernazza, one of the picturesque villages along the Cinque Terre coastline in Italy

There are a couple of things to be aware of before you grab your hiking boots. First, there is a daily fee of €7.50 to hike the trails in the high season, although it’s free during the low season. More importantly, some sections close due to flooding, so always check with the local tourist information office before setting out. Of course, you could make it easy on yourself by joining us on our Cinque Terre hiking holiday and we’ll take care of all that for you. That way, all you have to focus on is enjoying one of the best hikes in Italy.

Dolomites trekking adventures: the Alta Vias of the mountains

Fancy a challenge? Then go for some Dolomites trekking. If you want to try walking tours of Italy that will really give you a workout, it’s hard to beat these mountains. The highest peaks of the range are more than 3,000 metres above sea level, so you’ll have to cope with walking at altitude, as well as the difficulty of the trails themselves.

There are eight different options for trails in these mountains, known collectively as the Dolomites High Routes. Choose your route wisely so you can visit some of the most beautiful spots in the area, including Lake Braies and the Three Peaks of Lavaredo. If you’re just looking for a quick adventure, try the Alta Via 7, which covers 36 kilometres and takes around five days to complete. Want something that’ll leave your legs aching? Then it’s hard to beat Alta Via 2. It takes most people around 13 days to complete this 180-kilometre route.

A stunning view of Lake Braies in the Dolomites
A stunning view of Lake Braies in the Dolomites

Our eight-day Dolomites adventure isn’t just about trekking. You’ll also have the chance to explore the region, check out some of the loveliest towns and villages, and, of course, sample the cuisine. If you like, you might just head back in a year or so to tackle those High Routes!

The Beauty of the Amalfi Coast: the Path of the Gods

This is one of the most famous hikes in Italy, and the good news is you can finish it in less than half a day. It’s also one of the easiest routes around, but not if you suffer from vertigo! You’ll be hiking a dizzying path overlooking the sea. The views are certainly beautiful but can also be a bit stomach-churning.

This is the best choice if you want to try walking the Amalfi Coast. The Path of the Gods, which is named for the ancient legends that surround the area, is around six kilometres long, although you can shorten or lengthen it if you want to. According to myth, this is where the great hero Ulysses was almost lured to his death by the sirens — and when you’re exploring this rich, unspoiled countryside, it’s easy to imagine yourself transported to a world of epic legends.

At the end of the trail, you’ll finish up in Positano, one of the most gorgeous towns in southern Italy, with brightly-coloured houses built into the side of a steep hill. Enjoy a glass of limoncello on a terrace before heading down to the beach. Chill out on a sunlounger or go for a dip to soothe your aching legs before heading out on your next adventure.

Positano from the Path of the Gods
Positano from the Path of the Gods

To see more of the Path of the Gods, join our five-day trip to the Amalfi Coast. We’ll go hiking, enjoy some water sports, and indulge in the local culture and cuisine. This is la dolce vita in its purest form, so don’t miss it!

Gentle hikes from Bologna to Florence: the Via degli Dei

How’s this for confusing? The Via degli Dei is another trail that translates as “path of the gods” — and it’s another one of the best hikes in Italy. We’ll forgive the Italians for the confusion since this trail really is divine. It’s one of the best choices if you want to go hiking in Tuscany, following an ancient Roman military road through miles of green woodland. You’ve probably heard people going delirious about the beauty of the Tuscan countryside. Well, now it’s time to see what all the fuss is about.

This route isn’t particularly challenging, but you’ll need around five or six days to complete the full 130 kilometres. Want to go faster? Well, this route doesn’t have the steep, rocky climbs of the previous two, so it’s also suitable for cyclists.

We particularly like the Via degli Dei, especially if you’re new to hiking. Unlike some of the other hiking routes in Italy, it’s not a leg-breaker. Use it as a chance to enjoy the peaceful Tuscan countryside while deciding whether you’ve caught the hiking bug or not. We reckon you’ll end up a dedicated trekker!

San Quirico d'Orcia, Siena
Sunset over a scenic country road in the rolling hills of Tuscany, Italy.

Get a taste of Tuscany with our five-day trip. Besides hiking, you’ll have the chance to explore incredible cities like Florence and Pisa. This is a great trip if you only have a few days to spare and want to have an authentic Italian experience.

The big daddy of hikes in Italy: the Via Francigena

So, you’ve been hiking for a while, and now you’re looking for a challenge? Well, it doesn’t get much more challenging than this. For anyone who wants to upgrade their walking holidays in Italy, the Via Francigena is waiting for you. This ancient pilgrimage route leads to Rome, the Eternal City, and many hikers today still do it for religious reasons, but non-believing adventurers are more than welcome, too. It began in the 10th century when the Archbishop of Canterbury completed the long, perilous journey to Rome to meet the Pope.

The full route of the Via Francigena is not for the faint of heart. It stretches for over 2,000 kilometres. Some hikers even extend it to the Puglian town of Santa Maria di Leuca, which adds another 1,000 kilometres to the challenge. The route officially starts at the cathedral in Canterbury, England. Walkers collect their pilgrim’s credentials, then walk south to Dover, where they take a ferry to France. From there, the trail continues across the entire country before crossing Switzerland and finally entering Italy.

If you don’t have two months to spare, you can just tackle shorter sections of the route. We particularly enjoy the route through Tuscany, which passes through picturesque old villages like San Gimignano and lets you soak your feet in the hot springs at the Gambassi Terme. If you do manage the full route to Rome, give yourself a pat on the back and order extra mozzarella on your pizza. You’ve earned it!

A view through a stone archway of San Gimignano, Siena
A view through a stone archway of San Gimignano, Siena

The Sardinian leg-breaker: the Selvaggio Blu

Just the name of this route lets you know you’re in for a challenge. Selvaggio Blu means Wild Blue. Yes, the sea around Sardinia certainly is blue, but as for the wild part? Well, this is one of the most difficult hikes in Italy. In fact, it’s often considered to be one of the toughest in all of Europe, best reserved for real experts.

The Selvaggio Blu only runs for 50 kilometres, but it’ll take you between four and seven days to complete. That’s because it’s not just hiking: you’ll also have to do some rock climbing and jaw-dropping Via Ferrata as you follow old shepherds’ paths through the mountains. Whatever you do, don’t look down as you inch your way across Via Ferrata lines. Later, you’ll also be faced with the challenge of abseiling. This is a long way from your Sunday morning ramble — we can tell you that much. The views are truly awesome, but you’ll have to work to earn them.

Oh, and the icing on the cake? You’ll need to carry your own supplies because there’s nowhere along the way to buy any food or drink. That means you’re not just climbing and abseiling. You’re climbing and abseiling while carrying a tent and a week’s worth of food and drink on your back. On second thoughts, we might just stick to the rolling hills and woodlands of Tuscany.

Do any of our Italian hiking itineraries tickle your fancy? Dust off your boots and get ready for an adventure through some of the loveliest countryside in the world. Remember, if you join a WeRoad tour, you’ll also meet some awesome new people along the way. So you’ll have some hiking pals to plan your next big adventure with!

For more travel inspiration don’t miss our guide to the 15 best places to visit in Italy.

WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team