By- Claudia Quesito
Taking long hikes is a popular activity, in Italy like almost everywhere else. Even if it’s a small country, Italy offers a lot of opportunities to explore nature, small villages, and forgotten routes.
There are also some very peculiar hikes, i cammini: long and silent walks that might be prompted by religious, cultural or just spiritual or personal reasons. One of the most famous is the Via Francigena: the journey actually starts in the UK – in Canterbury – and crosses Europe to end in Southern Italy.
The Italian section of the hike begins at the Passo del San Bernardo in Valle d’Aosta, continues down to Roma – of course – and ends in Puglia, where pilgrims used to board to reach the Holy Land. Similarly to the more famous Cammino di Santiago, you can buy a “pilgrim’s passport” to gain the credentials needed to access specific accommodation facilities spread along the route and to get a stamp at every location until the conclusion of the walk.
If walking so many miles – basically the whole “boot” – looks too daunting to you, you can pick a shorter cammino, like the Via degli Dei: an 80 miles hike through the woods of the Appennino mountains covering an ancient Roman road from Bologna to Firenze.
In some stretches you can still see the paving of that time, meaning from 2,000 years ago! There are many other options: most of them have obviously Roma as their final destination, while others retrace the milestones of important Christian personalities, such as San Francesco or San Benedetto.
Then there are newest cammini, mostly with no religious traces, like the Basilicata Coast to Coast. Basilicata is a small region in Southern Italy that has the luck of being touched by 2 seas, the Tyrrhenian and the Ionian. The route starts from Maratea, on the Tyrrhenian Sea, and ends in Scanzano Ionico, which is by the Ionian Sea, and touches a lot of interesting, genuine and – at least so far – off-the-beaten-paths locations.
As you can see, there’s something to suit everybody’s fancy, and remember that – if walking is not your cup of tea – you can always pick up a bike!