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Walking in nature: five amazing slow routes in Northern Italy

by Marzia Parmigiani
12 minutes read
cover Walking in nature five amazing slow routes in Northern Italy

Experiencing nature on foot is an authentic way to enjoy a truly “slow” holiday in Northern Italy. This region offers a variety of trails that cater to different levels of hikers and bikers, providing unique experiences for all. Here, we explore five remarkable routes: the Celestial Way (Cammino Celeste), Via Claudia Augusta, Via degli Abati, Via degli Dei, and Sentiero Liguria. These trails offer more than just walking; they provide an immersive journey through the landscapes, culture, and history of Northern Italy.

Five slow routes in Northern Italy: Celestial Way (Cammino Celeste)

The Celestial Way, ideal for seasoned hikers, spans the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. This path is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and traverses magnificent mountainous landscapes. The journey starts at the Patriarchal Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta in Aquileia, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999. It climbs the Collio hills, passes through the majestic Julian Alps, and concludes at the Sanctuary of Monte Lussari. Key stops include the Sanctuary on the Island of Barbana, the Sanctuary of Castelmonte, and Camporosso, where the ascent to Monte Lussari begins. This trail, spanning 210 kilometers, is best hiked from June to September to avoid winter snow. The Celestial Way offers a deep connection to the spiritual and natural worlds. Hikers will find themselves surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, from rolling hills to imposing mountain ranges. The journey through these terrains not only challenges the body but also rejuvenates the spirit. The historical significance of the stops along the way adds another layer to the experience, making it a profound pilgrimage as well as a scenic hike.

Five slow routes in Northern Italy: Via Claudia Augusta

Via Claudia Augusta is a historic Roman road established in 15 B.C., offering a scenic and cultural route suitable for all. It primarily follows forest paths at the foothills of mountains. Beginning in Bolzano, it splits in Trento into two paths: one leading to Altino (VE) through Valsugana, the National Park of the Belluno Dolomites, the Prosecco Wine Route, and the Venice Lagoon, passing towns like Feltre, Treviso, Jesolo, and Mestre. The other path heads towards Ostiglia, near Mantua, through Monte Bondone, Lake Garda, Valpolicella, and the Po Valley, also passing Rovereto and Verona. This 600-kilometer trail can be hiked year-round, taking approximately 19 days to complete. Traveling along Via Claudia Augusta is like stepping back in time. This ancient route offers a glimpse into the past, with remnants of Roman engineering and historical landmarks scattered along the way. The diverse landscapes, from lush forests to serene lakesides, provide a constantly changing backdrop, making each day of the trek a new adventure. The cultural richness of the towns and cities along the route adds depth to the experience, as travelers can explore local traditions, cuisines, and histories.

bolzano Walking in nature Northern Italy lcn firm blog
Bolzano Route

Five slow routes in Northern Italy: Via degli Abati

Via degli Abati is a challenging mountain route traversing rough trails, mule tracks, and forestry roads. Starting from Pavia, it delves into the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, crossing the provinces of Piacenza, Parma, and Massa Carrara, and ends in Pontremoli. Here, it connects with the Via Francigena, extending towards Lucca or Rome. The 190-kilometer path, navigable in 8 days, passes through historic villages such as Bardi, Borgotaro, and Bobbio, the latter housing the remains of the Irish abbot St. Colombanus, a pioneer of European monasticism alongside St. Benedict. This route is accessible throughout the year. The Via degli Abati is not for the faint of heart. Its rugged terrain demands physical endurance and mental fortitude. However, the rewards are immense. The route offers stunning vistas of the Apennines, with each twist and turn revealing a new natural wonder. The historic villages along the way provide a chance to rest and reflect, offering insights into the region’s rich monastic history. This trail is a testament to the enduring spirit of those who walked it centuries ago, and it offers modern hikers a chance to connect with that legacy.

Tuscan-Emilian Apennines

Five slow routes in Northern Italy: Via degli Dei

The “Way of the Gods” blends history and nature as it winds through mythologically named places like Monte Venere and Monte Adone. It links Piazza Maggiore in Bologna to Piazza della Signoria in Florence, traversing the Tuscan-Romagnolo Apennines and the National Park of the Casentinesi, Monte Falterona, and Campigna Forests. Along the 120-kilometer path, hikers encounter historic villages, protected areas, and archaeological treasures like the Roman aqueduct of Sasso Marconi, the Pliocene Buttress with its fossils, and the Roman theater and acropolis at Fiesole. The trail also intersects with the Ways of Dante, celebrating the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death. This pet-friendly route can be completed in 4 to 6 days and is accessible year-round, though winter may bring snow. Via degli Dei is a journey through time and myth. As hikers traverse the ancient paths, they walk in the footsteps of historical figures and mythical deities. The trail’s natural beauty is complemented by its cultural significance, with each stop offering a story from the past. The route’s accessibility makes it a popular choice for families and pet owners, providing a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. Whether you’re exploring the forests or discovering ancient ruins, the Via degli Dei promises a memorable experience.

Bologna

Five slow routes in Northern Italy: Sentiero Liguria

Sentiero Liguria offers a picturesque trek along the Ligurian coast, from Luni to Grimaldi, featuring beaches, cliffs, vineyards, olive groves, and Mediterranean scrub. It passes through charming villages, including the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Cinque Terre and its national park. This 457-kilometer trail, which can be divided into 31 daily stages, is suitable for everyone thanks to organized transport services and connections with the Ligurian Cycle Network. Additionally, it integrates with the Ligurian Hiking Network and the Grandes Randonnées, linking the Via Francigena with the Camino de Santiago. The route is accessible throughout the year, making it a versatile option for hikers. Walking the Sentiero Liguria is like taking a stroll through a postcard. The coastal views are breathtaking, with the azure sea stretching out to the horizon and the rugged cliffs providing dramatic scenery. The trail offers a unique combination of natural beauty and cultural richness. Each village along the route has its own charm, with colorful houses, bustling markets, and welcoming locals. The Cinque Terre, in particular, is a highlight, with its picturesque landscapes and world-renowned hiking paths. This trail is perfect for those who want to combine their love of nature with a desire to explore local culture and traditions.

Cinque Terre

Embracing the slow pace

Taking the time to walk through these trails helps one reconnect with the natural world and personal rhythms. Each of these routes offers a distinct experience, whether it’s the spiritual journey of the Celestial Way, the historic passage of Via Claudia Augusta, the rugged adventure of Via degli Abati, the blend of mythology and nature on Via degli Dei, or the coastal beauty of Sentiero Liguria. They provide not only a physical challenge but also an opportunity to delve deep into the history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes of Northern Italy. Hiking these trails encourages a slower, more mindful pace of travel. Unlike the rush of modern life, walking allows time for reflection and appreciation of the surroundings. It’s a chance to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. The physical act of walking, combined with the serene landscapes, promotes a sense of well-being and tranquility. Each trail offers a different perspective, whether it’s the spiritual serenity of the Celestial Way, the historical depth of Via Claudia Augusta, the rugged beauty of Via degli Abati, the mythical allure of Via degli Dei, or the coastal charm of Sentiero Liguria.

Practical information and tips

For those planning to embark on these five slow routes in Northern Italy, it’s essential to prepare adequately. Most trails are best hiked between spring and autumn, although some are accessible year-round. Winter hikes may require special equipment due to snow. It’s advisable to have a travel passport or credentials to access hospitality facilities along the way, ensuring a smooth and authentic experience. Hikers should consider their level of experience and physical condition when choosing a trail. While some paths like the Via Claudia Augusta are suitable for everyone, others like the Via degli Abati are more demanding and require a higher level of fitness and experience. Proper gear is essential for a safe and enjoyable journey, including sturdy hiking boots, appropriate clothing, and navigation tools. Additionally, carrying enough water and snacks is crucial, especially on longer stretches where amenities may be sparse. Another important aspect of preparation is understanding the local culture and customs. Respecting the environment and the communities along the trail is paramount. This includes following Leave No Trace principles, such as packing out all trash, staying on marked paths, and respecting wildlife. Engaging with locals can also enhance the experience, providing insights into regional traditions and history.

Five slow routes in Northern Italy: the bottom line

Walking through Northern Italy’s natural landscapes is an enriching way to experience the region’s diverse beauty. Each trail offers a unique blend of nature, history, and culture, providing a deep connection to the land and its stories. Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a casual walker, these routes offer an unforgettable adventure, fostering a slower, more mindful pace of travel. Exploring these paths not only leads to personal discovery but also to a profound appreciation of Northern Italy’s heritage and natural splendor. In conclusion, the five routes described here—Celestial Way, Via Claudia Augusta, Via degli Abati, Via degli Dei, and Sentiero Liguria—each offer their own unique experiences and challenges. They invite travelers to slow down and savor the journey, to immerse themselves in the beauty and history of Northern Italy. Keep following us to discover other curiosities and travel guides about Italy and get updates on our LCN App.

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