Adventure in the Apennines

by Julia Pennella

The undiscovered terrain of the Apennine Mountains is one of Italy’s hidden gems. It’s also the perfect vacation spot for thrill-seekers wanting to experience history, food, nature and adventure off the beaten path. (IT)

Hiking/Rock Climbing/Bouldering 

The Apennine Mountains have been a place of passage for everyone from the Ancient Romans to Second World War soldiers. “Hiking in the

Apennines is walking through living history,” says Veron McClure, founder of Italiaoutdoors. “The different ecozones and ancient routes offer a different perspective of Italy, a more authentic experience of history and culture rooted in nature.”

The Apennine Campano above Sorrento offers a variety of rocky and rough hiking trails ideal for adventure seekers. “Rock climbing and bouldering is also part of the growing trend of outdoor adventure in the Apennines,” says McClure. The Apennine’s high-quality limestone and granite attracts climbers from all over the world. “Seeing the unspoiled places off the beaten track and experiencing a simpler lifestyle preserved by locals living in the mountains is something you cannot find anywhere else in the world,” he says. “It’s the heart of Italian authenticity.”

Mountain Biking

Unlike the Alps and the Dolomites, the Apennine Mountains run directly through the peninsula, which allows cyclists to ride from sea to sea along the Italian divide. “While the Alps border other countries, the Apennines are within Italy’s borders and capture the diversity of its regions,” says Tourissimo co-founder Beppe Salerno. Next July the cycling tour company will host Apenninica, one of the longest mountain bike stage races (seven stages and over 500 km) ever held in the Apennines.

Cyclists trekking the area are treated to a unique sensory experience of natural thermal springs, olive and oak trees and wildlife. To increase awareness of and accessibility to the mountains, Emilia-Romagna started a project called Alta Via dei Parchi (High Path of the Parks), which marks 500 km of uphill and downhill trails in the Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Marche regions. “The rugged trails, high peaks, sharp bends and twisted descents are part of the thrill of biking through the mountains,” says Angelo Bandini, co-founder of ABCycle, which hosts a biking tour throughout the villages of the Apennines.

Skiing/ Winter Mountaineering

The Apennines are known for their topography, natural slopes and intimate skiing experience. “It’s you, the mountains and nature,” says Pietro Barigazzi, co-founder of La Pietra Guide Alpine. Barigazzi explains, “The Apennines are less developed; there is a lot of untouched land and few ski resorts. It takes you away from the pre-packaged idea of Italy.”

Gran Sasso, a popular skiing destination in Abruzzo, is home to the highest mountain in the Apennines with breathtaking panoramic views. “However, nothing compares to a view of the Ionian Sea while skiing down Europe’s largest active volcano – Mount Etna,” says Barigazzi. Backcountry skiing is also very popular in the Apennines as the ungroomed landscape creates different snow conditions – some soft and fluffy, others covered in ice patches. The uncertainty of snow conditions adds thrill to the experience. You can also trade in your skis for an ice axe and experience winter mountaineering by hanging at a 55-degree angle.

Many ski resorts and trails in the Apennines are operated by national parks that work with local guides to protect the area from being exploited by private investors. This helps local economies grow and preserve the beauty and culture of the mountains. “Unless you’re a local, it’s hard navigating the untouched landscape,” stresses Salerno. “Locals are the link between the territory and the authentic Italian experience. They tell the stories that didn’t make the history books and keep old traditions alive.”

Visiting skiers can also experience agritourism and indulge in a variety of locally sourced foods from the mountains. Traditional foods of the Apennines include tortelli and Parmigiano Reggiano, which is produced at the foot of Appennino Reggiano and Parmense.

With history, authentic culture, spectacular views and year-round activities, the Apennine Mountains are the perfect adventure destination.