With its incredible art, world-famous cuisine, compelling history and stunning landscapes, Italy has always been one of the world’s most culturally and historically rich places, attracting millions of visitors each year. Outside the bustling city centres of Rome, Milan and Florence, you’ll find charming villages, UNESCO-listed sites, beautiful lakes and coastlines, and plenty more, coming across many hidden gems along the way.
Walking tours have become an increasingly popular choice of touring amongst travellers wishing to get off the beaten path and truly connect with the heart and soul of a place. Engaging and diverse, walking tours allow for an immersive and personal travel experience, especially when done through a reputable and knowledgeable operator that knows where the local charms are.
Borne from a passion of walking Italy’s countryside, riversides and coasts, Australian family owned and operated walking tour specialist Hidden Italy has been organising both guided and self-guided walking tours of Italy since 1993, specialising in exploring places well off regular tourist trails.
“For me, there are still few greater pleasures than entering the walls of an ancient Italian town after a good day’s walk, with the prospect of a fine meal and a warm bed in front of me, and the original idea for Hidden Italy was to share this experience,” Hidden Italy director Simon Tancred says.
The routes focus on a single region and are designed to be enjoyed at a relaxed walking pace, alternating walking days with exploring days, so travellers can truly get to know and understand the place they are visiting through exploring its history and cultural traditions.
Every aspect of every tour is personally and thoughtfully selected, monitored and reviewed, taking into account the seasons, and include private transfers at the start and end of each itinerary to the nearest major train station, support drivers to take your luggage from spot to spot and also be on hand should you wish to take a break from walking, and carefully selected accommodation.
Guided tours travel in small groups, from seven to 15 people, offering a flexible and personalised service, while self-guided walks are carefully planned out and safe, and include detailed, up-to-date daily walking notes, GPS waymarking, and 24-hour telephone back-up via Hidden Italy’s local operation managers. Customised tours are also available on request.
Travellers can enjoy a wide variety of tours to appeal to a range of interests, including island hopping, visiting vineyards, interacting with locals, discovering archaeological treasures, and exploring beautiful castles and gardens.
Hidden Italy has just added two new guided tours specifically designed for garden lovers, exploring some of Italy’s most beautiful gardens, guided by art historian, landscape gardener, author and Florence University lecturer Paul Blanchard.
“Paul is a wonderful guide offering genuine insight into the extraordinary gardens, history and landscape of these glorious regions of Italy, and as with all our tours, you can expect your accommodation and food to be as much a highlight as the remarkable places Paul will introduce you to each day.”
Departing for the first time in May 2017, the two-week Gardens of Piedmont tour visits UNESCO-listed royal palaces, gardens and parklands in and around Turin, with highlights including some of the finest vineyards, and Italy’s oldest national park, before ending at the romantic Lake Maggiore.
Gardens of Tuscany explores a variety of famous, hidden, classical and modern gardens the region is known for. Highlights include visits to a biodynamic farm near Vico d’Elsa, two beautiful national parks, and one of Italy’s finest vineyards, not to mention, an abundance of local culinary specialties.
The two itineraries combine sightseeing with short walks along well-marked country trails ranging from four to 14 kilometres at a maximum of four hours walking per day, which can be shortened or skipped if desired.
For those seeking something more adventurous, the extraordinary nine-day Trails to Freedom hike in the Italian Alps is a bit more up-tempo. Starting in Biella and finishing at the Mt Moro Pass, it retraces the same route taken by four young Australian soldiers during World War II, after their escape from a fascist prison camp in 1943. The trail passes through some of the most spectacular scenery in the European Alps and will be led by Simon himself.
“It has been an extremely rewarding journey putting this walk together, and after years of research and connecting with some of the families of the Australian soldiers, we are proud to offer this special walk to our travellers.”