One of Italy’s greatest beauties is her landscape, her mountains, and national parks. While you may find many tips for planning a trip to Italy’s greatest hits: Rome, Venice, Florence, and the Amalfi Coast, what about planning a hiking trip in Italy? Spending weekends in the Piemontese Alps is one of my favorite activities here in Italy, and I wanted to share some information that could be useful for planning our next outdoor trip to Italy!
Finding & Reaching a Trail
Most places you will need a car to reach. While a quick google search will give you some top trails, these are usually highly popular, meaning packed full. If you are looking for a little more peace and quiet, the best thing to do is first decide on an area on the map- say Gran Sasso Park or Val di Susa in Piemonte. Then depends on if you plan on spending a night in the mountains or not. If you want just a quick day hike, I recommend searching on Gulliver, where you can filter length, difficulty, and area to find the perfect hike for you.
If you want to spend a night or two in the mountains, you should design your trip based on where you are going to stay. Let’s see what those options could be.
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Sleeping in the Mountains in Italy
By Italian Law, wild camping, pitching a tent wherever you want, is prohibited. You’ll be fined several hundred euros, and the closer to protected or tourist areas you are, the larger those fines will most likely be. However, if it is an emergency, you are on a long hike and the sun starts to set and you can’t reach a rifugio, then you can pitch a tent but must take it down and pack out first thing in the AM. Given these strict restrictions, tent camping is less common, and more choose to stay in either a rifugio or bivacco.
A rifugio, refuge, is like a mountain hostel. They offer beds, bathrooms, and a full kitchen acting as a restaurant. Low altitude ones may be a bit fancier, especially in the restaurant, offering lunch and dinner to visitors who even drive up. The higher you go, the rougher it gets. You will need to bring up a sleeping bag with you as well as any toothpaste, shampoo, etc.
A night in the rifugio, with breakfast and dinner included averages about 50euro per person. You will need to reserve your spot, especially on the weekend as spots fill up quickly.
A bivacco is just a simple shelter, usually found at higher altitudes in Italy. They are one-room shelters with few beds. Bivacchi is free to stay in, however, you will need to bring all your equipment, and food. You won’t need to reserve your spot, but always know there is a chance it could be full.
When to go?
If you plan on spending a night in the mountains and going above 2000 meters above sea level, you will want to go during the summer, in the hotter months. However, if you plan on taking a route with a ghiacciao, a glacier, or iced path, you might want to go towards May or September where the ice will be stronger.
Lower altitude day hikes can be great at any time of the year, though under 1000m may be quite hot during August.