Thursday, 5 November 2009

The ‘Green heart’ of Italy


Hiking holidays have to be, at the heart of things, just about the most pleasant holidays in the world.

Let me explain why. There is simply no other format out there that allows you to see so much of the countryside in such a gentle and thought-provoking way. Furthermore, it gives you time to enjoy the company of your fellow travellers, exercise semi-effortlessly and understand your destination in a way few other travel options would allow.

Had I been asked my opinion on this subject a few years ago, I would’ve instinctively thought of holiday hiking as the choice pursuit for the retired and yet around the hills of Italy all I see is people of all ages and walks of life (possible pun intended) with a genuine interest in nature and local history.

Umbria was not an accidental choice, it is most definitely one of the last bastions of unspoilt Italian countryside and every view is charming yet slightly wild and unkempt.

People refer to this area as the ‘Green Heart of Italy’ and a few days walking around here will show you why that is. Here, you’re neither in the middle of the rugged Alpine mountains of the north nor in the midst of manicured Tuscan hills. The level of difficulty is somewhere between the two, leaning much more towards the latter of course.

The routes are fairly well marked; there are some decent maps of the area available as well as specialist books in most book shops and available online. Generally speaking, the best routes are those marked by red and white ‘CAI’ markers, these are the easiest to follow.

They are regularly maintained by the ‘Club Alpino Italiano’ and, in some cases, follow ancient paths to towns and special sites. In the hills around Assisi several of the paths intercept the pilgrim’s route to the sanctuary on Mount Subasio. Local history has it that St Francis lived in a cave in these very forests, and the atmosphere is both beautifully natural and deeply spiritual. The odd moving bush or wild boar print on the ground, adds to the excitement of the route.


A walker's paradise
A little further south, in the area of Terni, I found my base at La Casella (www.lacasella.it), one of the first properties in Italy to think of eco-holidays with an eye on comfort. They provide the perfect place to rest and recharge after a hard day in the hills.

For those of a more adventurous disposition, they also run some wonderful organised events from canoeing to climbing and even simulated fox hunting (no foxes of course, just their best horse rider to catch!). The nearby Marmore falls (Marmore Website) are an absolute must; they represent an incredible natural phenomenon as well as a moving testament to how wild this region can be.

Other must-visit towns include Spello, Assisi and the obligatory day in Perugia, they will really open your eyes to the charm of this region. The food is spectacular and the hilly hikes will make you feel like you deserve those long leisurely lunches.

In Assisi try La Stalla, a really interesting and completely different experience, simple, tasty and so much fun (www.fontemaggio.it) In the winter you eat in the former stable which in front of a huge fire where everything is cooked. If you are in Perugia for an evening along the chic town centre then try ‘Al mangiar bene’, one of Italy’s first bio restaurants – they even have bio-pizza! (www.almangiarbene.com) The owners ensure that all their supplies come from local farms and the food is really special.

So… great food, great wine, fabulous views and a region with plenty to discover, all worth a little mud on the boots!

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5 comments:

Micah said...

This is a great post.. Very informative... I can see that you put a lot of hard work on your every post that's why I think I'd come here more often. Keep it up! By the way, you can also drop by my blogs. They're about Vegetable Gardening and Composting. I'm sure you'd find my blogs helpful too.

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Peter said...

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essay papers said...

I think some trails can also be used hiking, cycling, or cross-country skiing and less often for moving cattle herds and other livestock.

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Very nice place, i wanna live there! =)