We are back to bring you some more inspirational walks and hikes in Italy, this time in the southern part of the country. Andiamo!
We start in sunny Calabria, in Rocca Imperiale and follow the Cammino Basiliano (Way of St Basil). The route finishes up in Reggio Calabria and is divided into 73 smaller parts. Italy’s super long-distance hiking trail has nearly 1500 kilometres, and it traces paths of the Italo-Greek Basilian monks who settled in the region many years ago. You walk through a green, wild and mountainous land little touched by development or tourism. On the way you will see Pollino massif, the Sila plateau, the Serre Calabresi and the Aspromonte massif. The landscape will be changing on the way, meaning you can immerse yourself into coast, valleys, mountains and a collection of the most beautiful villages.
Make a stop in the village of Caccuri, a Byzantine mix of cobbles and fortifications, where its Castle dominates. It is possible to visit it during the week by booking first. Check out the Riforma Church for its works of art, and the S. Maria del Soccorso with its 15th-century bell tower. There are many other places of interest surrounding this area such as the S. Vito and S. Chierico churches, the abandoned villages of Fantino and Carelli and the remains of the S. Maria Nova Abbey. Naturalistic excursions in the Sila National Park, Lake Ampollino, and the mineral springs in Caviglia and Lepre are great possibilities.
Next on our route is Santa Severina, known in ancient times as Siberene. Here you can enjoy the panoramic views of Neto Valley. Stop at the cathedral and the Castle to check the archaeological finds and some frescos.
We continue to the 6th-century town of Stilo. Here you should visit The Cattolica, a small temple, built in the 9th century. It is made in a true Byzantine style. Inside the church are several beautiful frescoes dating back to 11th century. Another beautiful church to visit is the church of San Nicola da Tolentino , that was built by the monks. A quirky feature that you notice is a Trullo-shaped dome with flat tiles on it. From the Church you can admire beautiful views of the sea and the surrounding hills. There are a few other churches that you can discover, but if you are in the mood for something else, look into The Norman Castle. It was built on top of Mount Consolino by Roger II. You can reach it on foot through a path that provides beautiful views along the way. Only ruins of the Castle remain today.
Finally, progressing through the Cammino, we enter the Aspromonte region and the town of Bova, capital of Greek Calabria. The town is dominated by the Castle dating back to Norman times; today it is reduced to ruins. Another important monument is the Cathedral of Bova, with Chapel of the Sacrament, built by Sicilian craftsmen specialized in processing multi-colored marble inlays. The Bova also has an important museum, called the Museum of Paleontology and many magnificent noble residences. To check all the stops and places to visit go to the official web site: https://www.camminobasiliano.it/en/cammino-basiliano-where-nature-nurtures-the-spirit/
The Cammino Basiliano is a path that guides the visitors to discover the true soul of Calabria, the most authentic part. It can be explored in all seasons, with each area offering something different.
It can lead to a spiritual walk as you connect to nature and to the mind. You don’t need to have company. Even a solo trip can lead to unexpected and profound discoveries.
WALK THROUGH VESUVIUS NATIONAL PARK
We move to another region (Campania), where we follow the trails near Mount Vesuvius – the volcano famous for the 79 AD eruption that destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Today the volcano is part of a protected area, the Vesuvius National Park.
The Park created a “Walkway Network of the Vesuvius National Park” consisting of 11 paths for a total length of 54 kilometres. Different types of trails have been made, including six circular nature trails, one educational trail, one panoramic path, and an agricultural path.
The first route Valle dell’Inferno takes you through the grandeur of the volcanoes by observing Mount Somma and Vesuvius from below. You will learn about the related history of the two volcanoes and the extraordinary biodiversity of the Park, immersed among dense forests, lava, lichens, broom trees and great views over the Gulf of Naples.
Second Itinerray Lungo i Cognoli starts from the Medici Palace in Ottaviano. You cross through a thick stone pine wood and then of a mesophilous wood. The route continues through bends and turns into a shady chestnut woods. At the end of the wood, you will find a panoramic square. The view is spectacular: you will see Punta Nasone (north-west), the Gran Cono of Mount Vesuvius (south-west), Atrio del Cavallo (west), at its feet, Canalone dell’Arena and Valle dell’Inferno. Nearby you will find a steep slope that ascends to the cognoli of Ottaviano.
Itinerary number three, the Monte Somma crossing, develops for almost 8 km. This fascinating circular trail leads up to Punta Nasone, which with its 1132 m is the highest peak of Monte Somma. Once in Punta Nasone you can enjoy a breathtaking view overlooking the underlying Valle del Gigante. The lava river is awe-inspiring, and with a bit of imagination, it is possible to see how it flows again! The last stretch of the itinerary cuts the entire western slope of Monte Somma almost flat. It passes through lush forests of locust, chestnut, oak, Neapolitan alder, maple and many other species affected by innovative naturalistic engineering works. The trail ends on the top of Monte Somma, this itinerary also covers beautiful views of the Gulf of Naples.
Note down Itinerary number four as it is said to offer the most spectacular view in the entire Park. It’s called Riserva Forestale Tirone Alto-Vesuvio and takes you through a lovely oak wood and across one of the most beautiful and panoramic stretches of the entire Park: you will come upon the blue sea of the Gulf of Naples and the barren slopes of the majestic Gran Cono
Itinerary number 5 is the most popular, taking you to the Gran Cono of Vesuvius (the large cone that was produced during the eruption of 79 AD). It’s approximately four kilometres long. This is a thrilling experience, walking along the crater of an active volcano and for the view of Campania and Lazio that you can enjoy. The trail starts from the parking area in Herculaneum. You will need to have a ticket before joining this trial. Also, please note to follow the path, you need to be accompanied by the Alpine and Volcanological Guides of the Campania Region.
The four remaining trails are relatively short, each with a different focus. Path n 6 Lungo la Strada Matrone – you will reach Gran Cono through the road which was marked out by brothers Matrone in the 20s – 30s. On the way, you can admire panoramic views of rare beauty and practical interventions of naturalistic engineerings, such as the grates “Vesuvio” and dry lava stone walls.
Path n 7 – Il Vallone della Profica Paliata – enjoy the view on the Eastern slope of Mt. Somma with Cognoli di Ottaviano and Levante. The partly agricultural trail passes by fruit trees, including fig trees, apricot trees, cherry trees and plum trees, while on the other side, there are vineyards, hazelnut groves and some chestnut trees. Moreover, there will also be a part taking you through the pine forest and chestnut grove.
Path n 8 – Il Trenino a Cremagliera – from the town of San Sebastiano to the foot of the hill on which the Vesuvius Observatory is. The route runs along part of the track of the cogwheel train that connected the Power Station (today known as the Cook Station, owned by the Park Authority and recently renovated) to the Observatory. Along this path, it is still possible to observe the lava streams from 1944.
Path n 9 – Il Fiume di Lava – starts near the Vesuvius Observatory. On the way, it is possible to visit the museum. As soon as you get on the path, you pass by mixed wood of chestnuts, hazelnuts, black hornbeams and oaks until you reach the lava stream, which dates back to the eruption of 1944.
Path 10 and 11 L’Olivella (goes through Saint Anastasia countryside) and La Pigneta di Terzigno (a lovely walk through pine trees) are nor strenuous neither long, so perfect for a family trip, where kids and the elderly can enjoy nature.
WALK INTO THE WILDERNESS
Now something for adventure seekers and ones who love the extremes. If you look for a thrill and splendid views, head to The Selvaggio Blu (Wild Blue) hiking trail. Please bear in mind that it is recommended for those who are fit and experienced with mountaineering. It is Italy’s most arduous trek, but at the same time beautiful and mesmerising. The route is 35 km long and takes you through the wildest part of Sardinia, from Pedra Longa north to Cala Sisine.
The path was created in 1987 by Mario Verin and Peppino Cicalo, two local guides looking for adventure. This itinerary takes you through abandoned trails and the dramatic coastline. Many of the sections involve rock climbing and abseiling and are best navigated with a knowledgeable local guide. If you feel this hike is suitable for you, I am sure you won’t be disappointed. The scenery is just stunning and worth the sweat, as it reveals hidden coves, shepherd huts, forgotten olive groves and dramatic limestone cliffs. It is the only chance to see the jaw-dropping panoramas of the Mediterranean, stunning views of remote beaches of Sardinia and at the same time challenge yourself. The entire trail can be broken down into four stages, each of which lasts about a day. There are no villages to stop at during the trek, so bringing necessary supplies, including water, is crucial.
WALK TO THE ACTIV VOLCANO
The last route is located in one of the most remote areas of Italy- Stromboli. A jewel of the Aeolian Islands, situated near Sicily. Stromboli is known as one of the most active volcanoes in Europe, and we are taking you to climb the crater, something that cannot be missed. Climbing the volcano is only allowed with an official guide, and there is a limit to the number of people allowed to visit the crater each day. The excursion to Stromboli’s crater is a unique and fascinating experience during which you can admire a fantastic show of nature. This track will take you through other scenery made up of black sand and volcanic pebbles characteristic of this Aeolian island. It provides a natural fireworks display guaranteed to surprise you. Once you arrive at six active craters, you can see bubbling lava along with rising clouds of steam, something that you will never forget. An epic live show – the volcano explodes every 20 min, that is why it is called the Lighthouse of Mediterranean.
You can opt for various routes and options:
New climbing route
Start in the afternoon to the summit, observation of the volcano’s activity, return around 11 pm
Old route (Sciara del Fuoco) Climb via Punta Labronzo and Sciara del Fuoco to Pizzo, stay on summit, descend (6-8 hrs total)
Ginostra route: Transfer to Giostra by boat, climb along the western rim of the Sciara del Fuoco to the Valle della Luna, then on to Pizzo, observe the craters, descend to Stromboli village.
Other things to do in Stromboli: (for non-hikers)
Visit Ginostra village- escape to the tranquillity of the island, a little zone with a few restaurants and shops and donkeys for transport. This hamlet is set in the rocks, and it was only connected for electricity in 2004. There aren’t beaches here, but it is possible to bathe from rocky shores.
If you enjoy some scuba diving activities, you can get access to the tiny island of Strombolicchio, located across the Stromboli town. You can experience some clear waters and also watch the continuous motion of volcanic activities consisting of Strombolicchio just down the surface.
Visit other Aeolian islands: each of the islands has its particular highlights, so there is a lot to explore in this area.