Sentiero Italia: A Thru-Hike in Italy

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I am Italian, raised close to the Alps of the Italian Piedmont. I spent my youth dreaming of completing a thru-hike. Now, in a different Piedmont, I am still dreaming of a trek in the Alps of my home.  And what better time than 2019? The Italian Government has declared 2019 as the “National Year of Slow Traveling” and the coming spring will see the reopening of the “Sentiero Italia,” a trail that runs across the whole Boot of Italy.  

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I was 15 years old when I first heard about the idea of a long trail that would travel  the whole peninsula and the islands of Italy. It took about 12 years for this proposal to become reality; 12 years of hard work from passionate volunteers in the Italian Alpine Club (CAI). In 1995 the Campaign “Camminaitalia” (translation: walk Italy) became an official trail supported by the club and many followers excited to join the project. But it took only a few more years for the project to be forgotten, a distant memory. I have waited a long time to embark on this endeavor and carefully selected my travel companions: Yuri, Sara and Giacomo. These three young fellows are the founders of the Va'Sentiero project, an association with the goal of bringing back to life the forgotten treasure of the trail.

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The Sentiero Italia starts from the North-eastern Alps, continues along this mountain range to meet the Apennines, the backbone of Italy, and reaches the mountains of Sicily and Sardinia. The trail crosses 20 regions, 6 UNESCO Natural Sites, 655 passes, 360 villages, towns and hamlets for a total climb of 1.150.000 feet (more than 4 times Mt. Everest!). It is organized in 368 stages to cover 4,275 miles.  Is this the longest trail in the world? Someone says it is the longest high route, but for sure it is the most diverse. It is impossible to find another trail in the world with the same variety of landscapes, biodiversity and heritage, not to mention food…

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After living for a long time in the United States, I go back to Italy with new eyes. Things that I used to take for granted are new to me every time I visit my home town. Now venturing to regions where I have never been, it will be an adventure full of surprises and discovery. This will be true for all the people walking the trail: the itinerary covers a Minor Italy, off the beaten paths, where not too many tourists go. The thru-hike wants to bring awareness to the incredible outdoor opportunities we have in Italy to the larger population, especially young people, not particularly accustomed to getting outside with the increasing role of technology in daily life. I hope that more and more young people are exposed to what I experienced when I was a teenager. Growing up in the mountains, I saw them as an invaluable source of wealth. I know their beauty, their tranquility and, at the same time, the empowering effect the mountains have on me.

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The team and I are setting out to thru-hike the trail in a dynamic way where it is possible for others to follow along on the journey and experience Italy. My teammates Yuri, Sara and Giacomo plan to write a book and create a documentary detailing the trail to guide others on a trip of a lifetime.

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Social media will play a key role in keeping everyone informed about the hike and the challenges encountered: not only sore legs and blisters under the feet, but the environmental and economic sustainability of areas that have seen their population dwindle in large numbers. We hope that the trail will play a part in revitalizing economies in small towns much like the Appalachian Trail has done in the United States.

The VaSentiero team will start walking May 1 and reach Central Italy in November. They will take a break for the winter and start again in March 2020 to reach Sardinia in August. I hope to be able to join them in June. The whole thing takes about 9 months, without stops. You can also section hike the trail with or without the VaSentiero Team on a trip of your own.

Yuri, Sara and Giacomo have launched a crowdfunding campaign to support part of the effort to realize all this. Learn more and check out the campaign.

https://igg.me/at/vasentiero

I hope this blog post has made you curious to check it out and support it.  

If you are interested in learning more, the Italian Alpine Club has a good website: http://sentieroitalia.cai.it/. It is in Italian, but you can download the maps.

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About the Author

Alessandra was born and raised in northern Italy, near the city of Turin. She holds a master degree in Geology from Italy. After working for few years in a firm and then in a lab, she realized she likes things that are alive. She decided to move to cheesemaking and attended a course funded by The European Union, to learn the theory and the practice of working with milk. She is currently working with Boxcarr Handmade Cheese.

To learn more about Alessandra, check out this interview.

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