Sentiero degli Dei, Path of the Gods hike
Sentiero degli Dei is one of Italy’s most famous hikes because of the spectacular views of the Tyrrhenian Sea and coastal villages. This clifftop trail above the Amalfi coast is approximately 5 miles (8 km) point to point. The trail begins in Bomerano, which is accessible by car or bus, and ends at Nocelle. The hike can be extended to include the coastal town of Positano by climbing down 1500 steps, which is what we chose to do. Refill your water bottles at the church that marks the start of the Positano stairs. Start early because it gets hot quickly, particularly in the summer months, and wear sturdy hiking shoes because the trail is quite rocky. If you’re like me, you will stop often to take photographs of the colorful wildflowers, abandoned stone houses built into the mountain walls, hillside terraces, and colorful homes along the coast. I highly recommend stopping for lunch and a lemon granita in Positano, as well as taking a refreshing dip in the Tyrrhenian, before heading back up the stairs. The trail is steeper on the return hike to Bomerano.
Mount Redentore Trail, Path of the Redeemer hike
With the rapid increase of baby goat yoga, goats have created quite a buzz recently. If you are as curious about goats as I am, you will not want to miss this moderate hike which allows you to get up close and personal with them in their natural habitat. The hike starts at Rifugio Pornito outside of Formia, Lazio, off of a narrow, winding road, and is 4.2 miles (6.8 km) point to point. Highlights of the trail include the Church of San Michele Arcangelo and the Christ the Redeemer statue. We started this hike in the late afternoon and crossed paths with a local goat herder and his herd going up the trail and again on the way back down. Stopping to watch these agile animals balance on small, teetering rocks was one of the most memorable sights of my trip.
Il Fiume Elsa, a Hidden Gem in the Heart of Tuscany
Since we waited last minute to book a bike and wine tour in Tuscany, we found ourselves with a free day to explore. Rummaging through a pile of brochures and magazines at my AirBnB, Dodo discovered a brochure for Il Fiume Elsa, a beautiful looking river and grotto, a mere 20-minute drive from my accommodations. It happened to be a Saturday and it was an unexpected and incredible experience getting to see what the locals do on the weekend when they aren’t working. Along the two-mile trail to the grotto, we witnessed a lively bridal shower, kids and dogs splashing along the river’s edge, couples napping contentedly or making out, and a group of teenagers crossing a slack line. The short hike took me quite a bit of time because we stopped every few steps to take photos of the beautiful turquoise water, caused by limestone rocks, and the miniature waterfalls located around every corner. The end of the hike leads to a picturesque 25-foot waterfall which many brave souls, excluding myself, jumped off of. I opted to climb down the steep embankment and slowly lower myself off of a rock one foot above the water’s edge!
Pian di Picche Campsite in Levanto
After leaving the Tuscan countryside, we made our way up the eastern coast of Italy and arrived at my first campsite, Pian di Picche in Levanto. Italians know how to camp, aka glamp! The camp sites were all located on a terraced hillside and included electricity and much needed shade. Showers were hot, washer and dryers were readily available on the premises, and the popular Italian Aperol Spritz was sold at the on-site convenient store. The campsite was in walking distance to the local train that gets you to the start of the famous Sentiero Azurro hike in Cinque Terre.
Sentiero Azurro, the Blue Path
Hiking and swimming through the five villages of Cinque Terre was an epic experience. We were only able to hike the first two sections of the trail because three sections are still being repaired from a landslide in 2011. Luckily, a train runs between all of the villages, so they are accessible. You have to purchase a train pass for the day, which also gives you access to the portions of the hike which are open. After arriving to Monterosso by train, we spent 2.5 hours hiking to Vernazza, my favorite of the five villages. We swam in Vernazza’s crystal blue water to cool off, before hiking to Corniglia, a village located higher in the mountains than the other four. From Corniglia, we had to take the train to see Manarola and Riomaggiore. While I had good intentions of hiking back from Corniglia to Vernazza, and then back to Monterosso, I was thankful the train was available!
Via Ferrata Tridentina in the Dolomites
Just when I thought our trip couldn’t get any better, we made it to our final northern destination, the Dolomites. Via ferrata is an Italian term that means “iron path” and refers to a climbing route with steel cables that you can clip into. I had never climbed a via ferrata prior to this trip but Dodo and I decided to attempt it without a guide. We brought climbing gear with us from the US, including shoes, helmets, gloves, harnesses and one touch carabiners (do not climb a via ferrata without a one touch carabiner; they are a huge time saver). We chose Via Ferrata Tridentina for our climbing adventure; completing it was probably one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done given my fear of heights. It took us over four hours to get to the top but that included a long break at the gorgeous Pisciadu Waterfall. Living in Florida, it had been a long time since I’ve seen snow, but we saw a lot of it on our climb. I started to lose steam about three hours in but knew there was no way I was going back down so I kept pushing forward. Some sections were very vertical and I couldn’t bring myself to look up. I simply clung to the cable and used my arms to hoist myself up. When we arrived at a shaky suspension bridge I knew our journey was almost over and I saw the light at the end of the tunnel! We stopped for a quick photo shoot on the bridge (I clung to the overhead cables for dear life) and finished our climb twenty minutes later. Completing my first via ferrata was the perfect culmination to an incredible trip exploring Italy’s natural landscape.