Walking in Italy holidays

Wednesday 8 January 2014 08.09 PM

This appalling weather… it's got me thinking about warm, dry places. Like Italy in the summer. And also thinking – or reminiscing – about the pleasures of long sunny days spent out in the countryside doing something outdoorsy.

This appalling weather… it's got me thinking about warm, dry places. Like Italy in the summer. And also thinking – or reminiscing – about the pleasures of long sunny days spent out in the countryside doing something outdoorsy. 

The summer before last we stayed with some friends who have bought a farmhouse near the dramatically-sited (next to a massive cliff) town of Montefalcone Appennino, out in the wilds of Le Marche on the eastern side of the country. This Apennine outpost is not too far from Tuscany, but is - to use the old cliché - a world apart: at least in the sense that no-one from the outside world seems to know it's there. This is strange, because the area is extremely beautiful. Deep gorges, big green hills, sweet little villages. The area around Mt Sibillini, in particular, is fantastic hiking territory - with well marked trails threading their way through the high craggy mountains, huge views, lots of wildlife, great weather. Walking in Italy holidays don't come much better than this.
 

The rolling Marche landscape with the main Apennine range in the distance
Le Marche countryside

 
Another favourite, somewhat better known, is the Cinque Terre national park on the coast north of Pisa. Perfect for those who like their hiking accompanied by blue Mediterranean vistas. But Italy is a funny place: a bit like Spain, it's larger than people seem to realise: there are, of course, an abundance of outstanding heritage sights and some celebrated natural ones, too, but a lot of the country remains totally obscure. South from Le Marche, the entire central spine of the country down to Puglia seems to be a blank in terms of tourism - yet the rugged hills and mountains there are full of interest for the hiker or cyclist. 

Talking of Italy, I read something in a magazine recently, penned by some well-known TV foodie personage, claiming that if you want to eat good Italian food, then you should avoid Italy. Er . . what? I'd just like to say that this person, apparently some sort of authority on the subject, is mistaken. The cuisine we experienced was consistently, spectacularly good. It did help being in the company of a friend who knew a thing or two about food, and Italy, and also that the places we went were somewhat off the tourist trail. The TV celeb must have been stuck in Florence or Siena - surely you can expect to get the kind of bland, overpriced food he complains about in any tourist hotspot. 

Enjoying local food should be an inherent part of any holiday. And a big part of a walking holiday - after all, it tastes better after a day spent on your feet. The best Italian restaurants are often in small villages, like those in the Apennine mountains. So head out to the Italian outback, explore it on foot, and enjoy the best lasagne (vincisgrassi in Le Marche) you'll ever taste. 

For more on walking in Italy, see walking in Italy holidays.

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