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Sunday, 14 December 2008

Get lost with Hidden Italy – off the beaten track


The demand for walking tours in Italy has increased dramatically in recent years, and why not asks Simon Tancred of Hidden Italy, a boutique travel company based in Sydney. What could be better than wandering through some of the most spectacular and peaceful areas of Europe, going back in time to places far removed from the push and shove (and expense) of the classic destinations like Rome, Florence and Venice, with the added bonus of finishing the day with a real sense of achievement and a clear conscience, ready to enjoy the best of Italian regional wine and cooking: fresh, seasonal and local?

“….. We are happy to be able to tell friends that we went to places and saw things that few tourists get to see. The views of the coast that we were privileged to experience were eye-popping. We feel we had the best of both worlds on this trip. With time off the beaten path in the green quiet and beauty of the hillsides and time at some of Italy’s best bustling resort towns, we consider this the trip of a lifetime.” BC, Amalfi Coast 2008

Hidden Italy was one of the pioneers of this style of travel and has been organising walking tours in Italy for over 15 years. “Fortunately,” says Tancred, “the local Italian authorities have become much more aware of the heritage and tourist value of preserving these ancient paths. Many of these that might have been lost in the past under road works or rural expansion, have now been saved.”

Hidden Italy incorporates sections of these paths into its seven self-guided walking itineraries in Italy, like the dizzy stairways carved from living rock by Etruscan slaves 2500 years ago in southern Tuscany; stone paths leading out of Assisi that date from the time of St Francis; and medieval pilgrim paths that run between San Gimignano and Siena.


"I still feel the thrill I experienced as I walked down the steep hill on stones that the Romans had gathered and walked on centuries ago with the walls and turrets of Orvieto suddenly coming into view – a once in a life time experience.” AL, La Tuscia 2007
Each 6 to 8 day itinerary is a continuous walk going from one village to another and covering from 10 to 18 kilometres a day. The walkers’ bags are moved every morning and their hotels and evening meals are waiting at the end of the walk. Each walker is given a set of detailed maps and walking notes and, just in case, there is 24-hour back up from the local tour managers. “A few people have taken wrong turns along the way, but fortunately we haven’t lost anyone yet.”

The walks go from the easiest, from Montalcino to Montepulciano walking through the rolling hills of southern Tuscany, to the more demanding Amalfi Coast, which includes the famous ‘Walk of the Gods’ into Positano on the last day. The most popular walk in recent years has been to the Cinque Terre in northern Italy, with its breath-taking coastal views and picture perfect fishing villages.

"We loved every moment of our walking trip. The organisation, instructions and service were all excellent. The food in the restaurants was quite delicious and very generous… We adored Vernazza and the superb accommodation you arranged there. We loved all the walks through forests and along the coast and the extra special bonus of having our luggage looked after and not having to worry about it." SW, Cinque Terre 2008

“These are walks, not hikes,” explains Tancred, “but you still need a good level of fitness and a sense of adventure. Most of our self-guided tour clients are aged between 35 and 55 but we get plenty of older people doing the walks as well. In fact some of our most enthusiastic walkers are well into their 60’s and beyond.”

“…… PS. As if the tour wasn't good enough, my one off hot romantic date with the New York journalist in Lipari has turned into something else entirely… All I can say is molto grazie!” KM Sicily 2008

The self-guided walks can be scheduled to suit the client’s dates. Hidden Italy also runs guided walking tours to Italy (Sicily in May and Venice and the Lakes in September/October).

For more information and bookings go to www.hiddenitaly.com.au or contact Simon Tancred on 0416 439795.

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