Best Hikes of 2013

Alpe di Siusi

June to September is a heavenly time for hikers in Italy since the weather is consistently nice in these months. 

From the majestic Dolomites in Northern Italy to seaside trails along the coast in Liguria, Amalfi, and Sicily to lakeside trails along Lake Como and Garda to vast volcanoes like Stromboli, Vesuvius, and Etna there’s so much interesting terrain to be hiked.  Too many hikes and too little time is the main problem.

Hiking season always sneaks up on me and I always feel ill prepared. What usually happens is that on Thursday, I realize the weekend is coming and we don’t have plans so I’ll scour the internet for hikes; then on Friday I’ll run down to the library or the bookstore and pick up whatever guide books or hiking maps I think will help us NOT get lost.  This method works o.k. and generally brings us to a decent hike.  But our favorite hikes we’ve been on have mostly been found via word of mouth, when a friend tell us about an awesome hike they’ve just been on.  Thanks to our friends, we had a great hiking season in 2013.

Now it’s my turn to share with you all.

Here are our favorite hikes from 2013.

1. Cinque Terre, Liguria

In July we returned to the Cinque Terre for the third time (this time for a family reunion) and we hiked the coastal trail from Vernazza to Manarola.   The Cinque Terre are a string of five picturesque villages that cling to the cliffs along the Ligurian Coast, with a hiking trail connecting the towns (as well as many more hiking trail options in the area). It doesn’t get much better than the combination of sea, cliffside villages, hiking, and a sunny day.


Manarola, one of the five towns in the Cinque Terre

Details: We hiked from Vernazza to Corniglia (Trail 2)  and then Corniglia to Manarola (Trails 7a-6d-6).  Some hiking trails are still closed due to land slides, so check the trail status before you go.

2. Monte Piana, Dolomiti di Sesto

In August, we spent a long weekend at a friend of a friend’s house in Polcenigo, a small town about two and half hours north-east of Bologna located at the foot of the Dolomites in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.  From there, we drove another two hours north to Lago di Misurina near Cortina where we hiked up Monte Piana.  The road trip was well worth it.  The panoramic views from the top of Monte Piana are among the best I’ve seen in my lifetime.  The mountain was the site of fierce fighting between the Austrians and the Italians during World War I.  The Northern summit Monte Piano was occupied by the Austrians, while the Italians were occupying the Southern summit Monte Piana.  Trenches and tunnels from the war can still be seen on the mountain.

Monte Piana

View from the summit of Monte Piana

Details: 6km (3.7 miles) one way, 12km roundtrip, elevation gain of 565m (1853ft).  For those less enthusiastic about walking up mountains, a shuttle service is available that takes you to a rifugio about 1km from the summit.

3.  Alpe di Siusi, aka Seiser Alm

In September, Luke and I made an impromptu trip to the Alpe di Siusi valley of the Dolomites based on the recommendation of an Italian friend.  It’s located in the province of South Tyrol closer to Bolzano.  The valley is known as Alpe di Siusi in Italian and Seiser Alm in German.  We stayed at Hotel Schmung and had a great mountain view from our hotel room.  We showed up without any plans and received excellent hike recommendations from the hotel receptionist, who was decked out in a traditional German dirndl dress.  The scenery was amazing and we had fun checking out all the animals along the way: there were dozens of cows happily grazing on the fresh, green grass; we also spotted goats and even a couple of llamas!

Alpe di Siusi

Green grass and happy cows along the PU trail

Alpe di Siusi

More cow spotting in the Alpe di Siusi

Alpe di Siusi

Rest stop along the PU trail

Details: The first day we hiked the Giro del Bulacia, trails marked 14 and PU, walking time approx. 2.5 hours.  The second day, we hiked from the town Compaccio up to Saltner Hutte and back, walking time, approx. 3 hours.

4. Via degli Dei, Bologna to Florence

In mid-September my friend and I took on a challenge: we attempted to walk the Via degli Dei trail from Bologna to Florence, 100km (62miles), in four days.  The hike starts from Bologna’s city center and ends in the center of Florence.  In between, the hike goes up and down (and up and down) from Emilia-Romagna into Tuscany through the Apennine mountains.  Along the way, the trail intersects with small towns where you can grab dinner, a hot shower, and a good night’s rest.  We made it three days and 75km, by which point my partner’s new hiking shoes had brutally blistered her feet.  We spent a day recuperating at a gorgeous B&B in Mugello and then rode a bus the rest of the way to Florence.  Highlights of the hike: falling into deep conversations along the trail; that feeling you get when you are so exhausted at the end of the day that everything else seems enhanced (a bite of pasta, a hot shower, lying in bed); and staying at the beautiful B&B Il Nido Di Gabbiano for two nights.

photo via flickr creative commons by RedGlow82

View from Passo della Futa; photo via flickr creative commons by RedGlow82

photo via flickr creative commons by Perica

Along the way, the trail intersects with small towns where you can grab dinner, a hot shower, and a good night’s rest; photo via flickr creative commons by Perica

View from the Boboli Gardens in Florence, photo via flickr creative commons by Michela Simoncini

View from the Boboli Gardens in Florence; photo via flickr creative commons by Michela Simoncini

Details: We actually started the hike from Sasso Marconi because we had both walked the first leg of the hike, which goes from Bologna Centro to the Basilica of San Luca, many times before.  If you’re interested in doing the hike or the trail on mountain bike, there’s a great guidebook in Italian; available for purchase online or at bookstores in Bologna like Feltrinelli or Nuova Libreria Accursio.  We would have liked to extend the trip to 6 or 7 days so that we could have walked a little more leisurely and ventured off the trail to stay at small, agriturismi and b&b in the countryside the whole way. Some of the hotels along the route are just o.k. and, if you ask me, the best part of the adventure is getting to relax in a beautiful place after a long day of walking.  The hike was fun, especially because we lucked out with PERFECT weather, and it had its moments with outstanding scenery.  It’s definitely a fun thing to check off your bucket list if you’re living in Bologna or Florence for a long period of time… but… if you only have a short time in Italy and want to do a week long hike, I would personally skip this one and head up to the Dolomites or over to the Ligurian coastline.

5. Corno alle Scale, Lizzano in Belvedere

This was one of our favorite hikes from 2012.  Corno alle Scale is a mountain in the northern Apennines about two hours south-west of Bologna.  There’s a lot of hiking in the Parco Regionale Corno alle Scale and the hike up to the summit of Corno alle Scale offers some great views.  This year I went with a friend on the 1st of September which turned out to be the peak of blueberry season.  There were several groups of people who’d clearly made the trip to the mountain just to pick berries.  They were using traditional wooden tools, that looked like a comb with a box attached, to harvest the berries.  We couldn’t resist trying to grab some berries ourselves.  I emptied my lunch tupperware and we started picking; but the work was too tedious using just our hands.  Even though we didn’t come home with a load of berries, we were able to pluck a sweet snack whenever we wanted along the hike.

Corno alle scale

The first stretch of the hike on CAI 337 leads you through a gorgeous valley

View of Punta Sofia as we approach the summit on CAI 129, another beautiful stretch of trail

View of Punta Sofia as we approach the summit on CAI 129

We found ourselves at the park during the peak of blueberry season

We found ourselves at the park during the peak of blueberry season

Details: Our hiking route was Rifugio Cavone – CAI 337 – CAI 129 to Corno alle Scale – CAI 00 to Lago Scaffaiolo – CAI 401 – CAI 333 to Dardagna Falls – CAI 337 to Rifugio Cavone; Hiking time about 5-6 hours; Elevation gain of 650m (2133ft)

There’s still a lot of hikes we’d love to do while we’re living in Italy.  We’d love to return to the Alpe di Siusse, check out the Path of Gods along the Amalfi Coast, and hike up Stromboli in Sicily (which is unlikely since we went to Sicily last summer).  We’d like to do a hut-to-hut hike in the Dolomites, hiking for 4 – 7 days and sleeping in mountain rifiugi along the way.  And if that isn’t enough, I’m day dreaming about wiping the dust off my harness and climbing shoes sitting in our closet and going on at least one rock climbing trip this year.

What are your favorite hikes in Italy?

Buon trekking!

You might also be interested in:
Five favorite places to hike in Italy by Madeline Jhawar


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