Planning Your Active Trip to Italy
Whether you want to hike, cycle, ski, or windsurf in Italy, it's important to plan ahead. Start by considering the best season for your outdoor activity of choice: the coast and mountain trails are at their busiest in August, when Italians go on holiday. Hikers should bear in mind that Italy's network of rifugi (mountain huts) are only open from June through September, and many require advance booking. Spring and autumn are excellent times for many outdoor activities, as temperatures are a little cooler, crowds are smaller, and the countryside is at its most colorful. Winter — December through March or early April — is the optimal time for winter sports enthusiasts to visit.
You can organize your own adventures in Italy, but if you're short on time, you may get more out of a guided itinerary. Local guides aren't only knowledgeable: they're also helpful with practical details including transportation, luggage storage, equipment rental, meals, and lodgings.
Find out more here about the best times to visit Italy.
Hiking & Trekking
Italy has several excellent hiking regions traversed by thousands of miles of sentieri (marked trails) that lead up into the highest reaches of the mountains. The Dolomite Mountains ripple across Italy’s north, straddling the border with Austria and Slovenia. These rugged turrets and pinnacles of granite are ravishingly beautiful, and trails in the Dolomites are accessible: reasonably fit adults will have no problem with most itineraries. Come to hike on the high-altitude, multi-day, peak-to-peak Alta Via routes, or hike around the phenomenally scenic Tre Cime di Lavaredo, famous for exhilarating climbs with views of three foreboding grey-stone peaks.
Every bit as spectacular as the Dolomites, the Italian Alps — located in the country's northwest, near the border with Switzerland — offer challenging high-level hiking with views of glaciers and snow-capped summits. A highlight is Gran Paradiso, Italy’s oldest and best-known national park, wedged between the Aosta Valley and Piedmont. Named after its eponymous peak, a major draw to climbers, the park is vast and remote, with 450 miles of marked trails and mule tracks.
For sea breezes and wide-open views, take the classic hike in the Cinque Terre along the 7.5-mile Sentiero Azzurro. Doable in a day, this hike in Liguria connects five cliff-hanging villages painted in bright pastel colors. Alternatively, hit the trail on the Amalfi Coast, where the fairly easy 5.5-mile Sentiero degli Dei (Path of Gods) from Bomerano to Positano takes you on an old mule trail along terraced fields, orchards, and sea cliffs, offering tremendous views over the Bay of Salerno and Capri.
Recommended Hiking Itineraries
Tuscany, with its olive groves, vineyards, and poppy-speckled cornfields, is perfect for two-wheel adventures. The region of Val d’Orcia is a delight to explore by bike, crisscrossed by strade bianche (white gravel roads) that unravel between fortifications, rolling hills topped with cypress trees, and abbeys that were once part of the Via Francigena (a long-distance route connecting the Val d’Aosta to Rome). Cycle through medieval hill towns like Pienza and Montepulciano, and pause to sip Brunello red wines in Montalcino.
You could also go mountain biking further north in the Alps or the Dolomites, where tough ascents are rewarded with exhilarating descents, or pedal around the Italian Lakes, with mountain views on the horizon. Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and the Veneto are other beautiful regions for low-key bike touring. In Italy's south, cycling trips go along mostly flat routes. On a bicycle trip through Puglia, you'll ride past vineyards, beaches, and the iconic sassi (cave dwellings) of Matera.
Recommended Cycling Itineraries
Windsurfing, Rafting, & Diving
With 4,720 miles of coastline to explore and 1,500 lakes to play in, Italy is ideal for water sports. Go windsurfing and kitesurfing on Lago di Garda, with its constant winds and mountain backdrop, or try the breezy north coast of Sardinia. For a rafting adventure, it’s hard to beat the foaming white waters of the Alps and Dolomites. Top billing goes to the beautiful Valsesia in northern Piedmont, where you can raft, canoe, kayak, canyon or tube on and around the Sesia River during high season (roughly April through September).
Italy's glittering coastline is a good place to try your hand at SCUBA diving, too. PADI courses and equipment are available at many coastal resorts during the warmest months — roughly June through October. Great spots to take the plunge include the Bay of Naples (in particular the wrecks, reefs, grottoes, and caverns off the islands of Ischia, Procida, and Capri) and Punta Campanella Marine Reserve, linking the Sorrento peninsula and the Amalfi Coast. Other diving hotspots include the waters around La Maddalena National Park, located on the coast of Sardinia, and the Arcipelago Toscano National Park in Tuscany. To swim among the remains of extinct volcanoes, dive into the warm waters of Sicily’s Aeolian Islands.
Recommended Windsurfing, Rafting, and Diving Resources & Itineraries
The Italian Alps offer some of the wildest and most extraordinary winter sports opportunities in the world. For style, world-class slopes, and spirit-lifting views of the towering peak of Mont Blanc – the highest in the Alps at 15,781 feet — Courmayeur in the Valle d'Aosta is an excellent choice with backcountry powder and a wide variety of slopes. Straddling the border with France, the resort offers access to the Vallée Blanche, a legendary off-piste descent. Also in the area is high-altitude Breuil-Cervinia, with views of the pyramid-shaped peak of the Matterhorn, and Monte Rosa, with slopes spread across three valleys.
In the Dolomites, skiing and snowboarding are just as good. Famous for its fashionable crowd, Cortina d’Ampezzo attracts skiers with everything from beginner slopes to black runs. Sunny Alta Badia in South Tyrol has plenty of Alpine charm, guaranteed snow, and a laid-back vibe, plus access to the Dolomiti Superski region — an area with 745 miles of slopes and 12 resorts covered by a single ski pass.