Discover with us 10 Italian outdoor adventures: from the Brenta Dolomites to Vieste, the island of Ponza or Mount Etna, Ravello and Bobbio and others
Has summer finally arrived and are you looking for new hikes and outdoor activities? This is the article for you.
Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, thanks to its history and culture, its many museums and monuments, but also thanks to the breathtaking landscapes that vary from region to region. With the arrival of warm weather comes the desire to be in contact with nature and experience outdoor adventures, to enjoy the warmth and scents that the beautiful country offers.
Every place in Italy offers new and unique points of view. Here we recommend 10 open-air experiences to enjoy in Italy: wherever you are or whatever your preference, you will find what's right for you!
10. Cinque Terre, Liguria
Cinque Terre are a magical place out of time. Set between the sea and the mountains, these five unmissable seaside villages in the Ligurian region welcome millions of visitors every year. In the province of La Spezia, along a 10-km stretch, are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare, which with their National Park have been part of the Italian UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1977.
If you want to spend a short holiday in Cinque Terre, take Manarola as a reference point. It will be very easy to arrive by car and leave it at the car park outside the village walls, find a small flat to rent and from there continue on foot, by boat or by train to the other towns in the following days.
For a train ride, there is the '5 Terre Express', a ticket you can buy online or at the station that allows you to take several trains in one day and visit all the stages of this wonderful Unesco site. By sea, on the other hand, there is a ferry with an unlimited ticket for 1 day at a cost of 30 euro. Whichever way you decide to reach Cinque Terre, after a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear water, continue along the Sentiero Azzurro: 12 km of trekking from Monterosso to Riomaggiore that crosses all the villages passing through the natural park we have just told you about, one of the best hiking trails to discover!
Local tip: there are two other towns that vie for the title of 'sixth of the Cinque Terre' and are worth a visit. We are talking about Porto Venere - a small jewel located on a strip of land in the Golfo dei Poeti, overhanging the sea - and Framura - an ancient seafaring village that today is home to long sandy beaches and can be reached by continuing two train stops from the Monterosso al Mare stop.
9. Brenta Dolomites, Trentino-Alto Adige
We are still talking about trekking, but we are moving to high altitudes: the Madonna di Campiglio Dolomites offer incredible opportunities for trekking and outdoor activities. Here are some suggestions on where to go and what to do.
If you don't quite know where to start, begin your adventure by visiting the impressive Vallesinella waterfalls. This beautiful area is easily accessible from Madonna di Campiglio and offers a network of well-marked trails. Enjoy the breathtaking views and refreshing atmosphere as you walk through the greenery.
On the other hand, let's talk about the wonderful Brenta Dolomites: located near Madonna di Campiglio and renowned for their majestic peaks. We recommend ascending by cable car or on foot to Rifugio Graffer, and from there continue exploring the surrounding trails or attempt a summit climb with a guide. The Spinale Ring, for example, is a popular trekking route offering breathtaking views of the Dolomites and the Adamello-Presanella group. The trail starts in Madonna di Campiglio and crosses alpine meadows, forests and high mountain passes with moderate hikes lasting just a few hours. Our favourite is the route to Rifugio Alimonta, passing through Rifugio Brentei or Rifugio Tuckett and Sella. Don't forget to stock up on pasta with tomato sauce and radler - the drink you get from mixing beer and lemonade - you need energy for the climb!
Local tip: for those looking for a more adventurous experience, we recommend trying a Via Ferrata, protected climbing routes equipped with steel cables, ladders and bridges, which allow you to explore the Dolomites in safety. In Madonna di Campiglio you will find plenty of mountain guides ready to lead the way in this adventure!
7. Toscana on the road
Tuscany is an Italian region rich in history, art and breathtaking landscapes. If you are planning an outdoor adventure, there is nothing better than an 'on the road' trip: remember to enjoy the views, savour the local cuisine and soak up the unique atmosphere of the Tuscan vineyards that you will find along your route.
- Florence: the capital of Tuscany is a must-see. Here is a complete tour of what to do and visit in Florence.
- Siena: a medieval city famous for its main square - Piazza del Campo - and its imposing Cathedral. Explore the winding streets and admire the city's Gothic architecture. Summer is the right time to watch the Palio di Siena.
- San Gimignano: unique atmosphere for this hidden gem in the heart of Tuscany.
- Pisa: famous for its Leaning Tower, an excellent city for a relaxing half-day trip.
- Lucca: with its imposing walls offering a panoramic view of the city.
- Val d'Orcia: hilly landscapes, fields of wheat and cypresses. Once there, visit Montalcino, Montepulciano and Pienza, tasting their wines.
- Chianti: vineyards and fine wines. Take a diversion through the countryside and visit wine cellars for wine tastings.
Local tip: visit the Antinori Winery in the Chianti Classico region for food, wine and cultural experiences. Voted 'Best Winery in the World' in 2022, thanks to its low environmental impact and energy-saving architecture, it is a fascinating and unusual place, invisible from the outside but distinguished by the scenic spiral staircase that connects the structure's 3 floors.
8. Via Francigena, Emilia-Romagna side
Via Francigena is an ancient pilgrimage route stretching from Canterbury (UK) to Rome. During the Middle Ages it was one of the main pilgrimage routes to the tombs of St Peter and St Paul from northern Europe; the route was first described by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 10th century and became an important cultural and religious route. 1,900 kilometres between England, France, Switzerland and Italy immersed in countryside, cities and cultural sites. Today, this open-air journey is a wonderful opportunity to get in touch with nature, meet other travellers and explore Europe's rich heritage.
The route along Via Francigena in the Emilia Romagna part of Italy is well signposted as the 'Via degli Abati' and offers a unique opportunity to explore the historical and cultural sites of the region, on foot and by bicycle for the more adventurous, or by train and car if you simply want to spend some time in the open air without too much effort.
If you are doing the walking route along the Via Francigena/ Via degli Abati, Bobbio will be one of the stops along the way. We have already told you here about this beautiful town, elected Italy's most beautiful village in 2020. Bobbio is an important stop along the route and offers shelters and facilities for pilgrims along the way.
Local tip: every year between the end of July and the first days of August, Bobbio hosts the 'Bobbio Film Festival', thanks to the 'Fare Cinema' Foundation chaired by none other than the award-winning director Marco Bellocchio. Travelling along the Via Francigena and stopping in Emilia-Romagna during those very days is a more unique than rare opportunity to get to know the local culture and customs, while enjoying an event that hosts artists from all over Italy.
6. Campo Imperatore and Gran Sasso d’Italia, Abruzzo
Inside Monti della Laga, in the Apennine mountain chain, we find Campo Imperatore and Gran Sasso: two spectacular places located in the mountains of Abruzzo, destinations for those who love trekking or camping, where you are sure to find other adventurers in love with the breathtaking landscapes before their eyes.
To visit Campo Imperatore and the Gran Sasso, you can reach the area by car following the road signs, or take a bus or train to the nearest towns - L'Aquila and Teramo - and then rent a car. Campo Imperatore is a vast mountainous plain surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Gran Sasso, green meadows and wild flowers with several hikes and trails of varying difficulty and length that you can follow to explore the area. Campo Imperatore is also home to the Astronomical Observatory, one of the most important in Italy. The Gran Sasso is the highest mountain in the Italian Apennines and offers numerous possibilities for hikers, mountaineers and climbers. It is part of the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, a protected natural area of great beauty.
Local tip: arm yourself with a tent or rent a camper van. In the surrounding area there are several camping sites that you can use to spend an unforgettable night under the stars.
5. Vieste, Puglia
Vieste is a seaside destination renowned for its beautiful beaches and spectacular sea caves. Immerse yourself in the culture and flavours of the region: stroll through the narrow streets adorned with white houses in the historic centre of Vieste for a sunset walk to the lighthouse, from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the coast and the sea. By day, however, the Pizzomunno beach with its majestic limestone rock emerging from the water will make you fall in love. For hiking, we recommend the Gargano National Park, which surrounds the entire town, or if you are a water sports lover, this is the place to go surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing or diving in the clear waters of the area. The Tremiti Islands Natural Park is the ideal destination for a boat trip.
- Grotta dei Pipistrelli: located on the coast between Vieste and Mattinata, accessible only by sea, it is famous for its stalactites and stalagmites.
- Grotta Campana: located in the crystal-clear waters of Baia delle Zagare, it takes its name from its bell shape and is one of the most beautiful places to explore for diving enthusiasts.
- Grotta delle Viole: inside the Gargano National Park, this is one of the largest sea caves in the area. It is characterised by wonderful rock formations and can be visited by boat or organised trips.
Local tip: Baia dei Campi beach. About 10 km from Vieste, this secluded beach surrounded by nature offers a quiet atmosphere and relaxation away from the crowds. Try it to believe!
4. Borboni Cycle Route, Puglia and Campania
If you are a cycling enthusiast, the Ciclovia dei Borboni - from Bari to Naples - will take you through fascinating landscapes, historic towns and picturesque coastal locations. Remember to plan your trip according to your cycling ability; you can rent a bicycle in Bari or Naples, or you can bring your own. Before setting off, make sure you have adequate equipment (watch out for helmet and lock). Here is some information on how to get around and what to visit along the cycle route:
Start your journey in Bari, a fascinating city of rich history and lively atmosphere. Don't miss Bari's Old Town, with its fascinating maze of narrow streets, the Swabian Castle and the Basilica of San Nicola.
Continue along the coast to Trani, famous for its magnificent Cathedral of San Nicola Pellegrino sul Mare.
Continuing north, you will reach Barletta, a city with an imposing medieval presence. Here you can visit the Colossus of Barletta, a bronze statue dating back to the 13th century.
Stop in Margherita di Savoia, a seaside resort famous for its salt pans and thermal baths, where you can relax for a break.
Back on the road to San Severo, a town with a great artistic and architectural heritage, where you can visit the Church of San Francesco, the Cathedral of San Severo and the Castle of San Severo.
After crossing Campania, you will arrive in Benevento, a city with a millenary history and where you can admire the Arch of Trajan, the Roman Theatre, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and Benevento Castle.
Before arriving in Naples, make a diversion to visit the Reggia di Caserta, a magnificent royal palace that represents one of the masterpieces of Italian Baroque.
The Borboni Cycle Route ends in Naples, a vibrant city full of life and an excellent destination for this beautiful outdoor adventure.
Local tip: at the start and finish, enjoy a typical local coffee. In Bari, at the Antico Caffè Stoppani ask for a coffee on ice with almond milk (or coffee leccese), in Naples, on the other hand, once you arrive at your destination, stop for a break at the Gran Caffè Gambrinus, a coffee institution in the world.
3. Positano – Amalfi – Ravello, Campania
Let's stay in Campania and this time let's talk about the Amalfi Coast, a UNESCO heritage site with crystal-clear sea. We have already told you about the Sentiero degli Dei, the hiking trail that connects the villages of Agerola and Nocelle, offering spectacular views of the coast and Positano, the pearl of the coast. Amalfi Coast is famous for its picturesque beaches: in Positano, you can sunbathe on the Spiaggia Grande or explore quieter beaches such as the Fornillo beach; once in Amalfi, you should not miss the Spiaggia del Duoglio, a magnificent place to dive in for a swim; Ravello, on the other hand, is situated on a hill about 365 metres above sea level, but from here you can reach the two beaches of Minori and Maiori, you will not regret it! In particular, Ravello is famous for its breathtaking gardens, such as those of Villa Cimbrone.
Explore the coast with a boat trip: you can rent a small boat or join an organised tour that will take you to sea caves, islets and hidden coves along the coast. If, on the other hand, you are reading this article because you are fond of hiking, we recommend a hike on Monte Cerreto, which is located near Ravello. It is more of a challenge than other hikes, but offers exceptional views of the Amalfi Coast.
Local tip: Atrani, a picturesque village near Amalfi, has a small but charming beach worth visiting. It is one of the quietest beaches in the area and offers an authentic atmosphere.
2. Etna, Sicilia
Comfortable shoes, water bottle and sun cream. An excursion to Mount Etna in Sicily is an unforgettable experience. Here is a day trip that will allow you to explore and discover the beauty of this active volcano.
Most excursions to Mount Etna start from Catania, the closest city to the volcano. You can take a bus or rent a car to reach the starting point of the excursion, which will be Rifugio Sapienza, located at an altitude of about 1,900 metres. Here you will find parking, restaurants and services for all your needs.
From the Rifugio Sapienza area, you can choose between two options to reach higher altitudes of the volcano: the cable car that will take you up to an altitude of 2,500 metres, or opt for a jeep tour that will take you to higher altitudes. One of the main points of interest are the Silvestri craters, right next to the Rifugio Sapienza: an extinct crater with panoramic views of the surrounding moonscape, allowing you to walk inside. You can continue the day by visiting a nearby wine shop or wine cellar, where you can taste wines and typical products of the area, such as the prized Etna wine: you will find plenty of useful information on this link.
Local tip: an experience not to be missed is the exploration of the active craters. During the excursion, it is advisable to rely on a guide who is an expert on the volcano, on the geology, history and safety of Mount Etna, and can provide interesting information while accompanying you along the trails, such as our friends at ETNAexcursionSICILY.
1. Roma and Ponza, Lazio
Unforgettable holidays in Rome and its surrounding islands. Rome is a city rich in history, culture and delicious food, while the nearby islands offer breathtaking scenery and a relaxing escape.
Spend a few days exploring the wonders of Rome. Visit the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Admire the works of art in the Vatican Museums and take a stroll through the charming Trastevere district. Don't forget to try Roman cuisine, including red pizza, good pasta cacio e pepe and homemade ice cream. Find 5 special Roman neighbourhoods not to be missed here. If you are instead looking for a quiet island, the island of Ponza is the ideal choice. A beautiful destination located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the coast of Lazio: crystal-clear waters and spectacular cliffs, great for snorkelling in sea caves and sunbathing on more secluded beaches than usual. Ferries to Ponza leave from Formia and Anzio (or Naples). Formia is 130 km south of Rome, while Anzio is about 50 km from Rome. Both cities are easily accessible by train or car from Rome.
Ponza is famous for its beaches and coves: Chiaia di Luna, Frontone, Cala Feola and Cala Fonte, and the famous Faraglioni of Cala Feola. You can relax on the sand, swim in the crystal-clear waters and enjoy the sun, or admire the rocky landscapes up close from the boat. Here is the definitive guide to the queen of the Pontine islands.
Local tip: Ponza's sea caves are not to be missed. Explore the Grotta di Pilato and Grotta delle Barche with a boat and snorkel the surrounding waters just like a local.