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Set off and discover some of the most beautiful mountain ranges of the peninsula. Let yourself be mesmerised by awesome landscapes and unmissable mountain treks. From the Alps to the heights of the Apennines, connect to nature discovering valleys, waterfalls and other many other experiences to enjoy on your mountain trips during both summer and winter holidays.

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Art & Culture
Verrès castle

Castello di Verrès

Verrès Castle: home of a noble leader An imposing monolith in a dominant position on a rock overlooking the ancient village and valley. This is Verrès Castle, a majestic monobloc manor built in the late 14th century by the Challant family, one of the most prestigious in the entire Aosta Valley. All around, the picturesque landscape and unspoilt nature of the lower Aosta Valley bathed by the Dora Baltea. The mule track leading to the manor house As soon as you arrive, you’ll feel projected into a dimension of yesteryear. This is because you must follow a steep mule track to reach Verrès Castle, perched on a rocky spur overlooking the Évançon stream: a ten-minute walk to forget civilisation and immerse yourself in another world. Even from the village of Verrès it’s a 20-minute walk, a recommendable alternative to driving, for intense contact with the landscape. Another famous Aosta Valley castle stands on the other side of the Dora Baltea River, that of Issogne with a very different structure, in an interesting architectural contrast. A revolutionary castle The nobleman Ibleto di Challant started from a pre-existing complex and gave the manor its current appearance, choosing an innovative path compared to the region’s other castles, characterised by several buildings enclosed in a defensive wall. Instead here it is a single compact block, which emphasises the military function and attracts for its power. The refined style of the interiors The interiors are less austere: admire the grand staircase in the courtyard that connects the three floors, the ornamental work on the windows, doors and fireplaces, and the ornate white and green stone details created by the skilled craftsmen of the time. Don’t miss the Hall of Arms and the Dining Room, where you can see the detail of the serving hatch to the master kitchen. The Middle Ages return here in May Verrès Castle hosts the Historical Carnival, a re-enactment of the epic deeds of Countess Catherine of Challant, in a combination of historical events and fascinating legends. Between May and June each year, you can enjoy medieval costume parades, knights' tournaments and dances; a sumptuous banquet is also organised at the castle. Strolling through the centre From the castle, return to the village of Verrès, a small stone jewel whose origins date back to Roman times. Wander through the narrow streets and stairways, reach the small Place René de Challand, then walk along the cobbled street to the Collegiate Church and the Parish Church of Saint-Gilles. Climbing enthusiasts can stop at the climbing gym near the village in Chopine, with diversified walls suitable for everyone, including children. Plunge into nature The Arboretum trail starts from Verrès and goes up towards the entrance of Ayas Valley. The easy nature hike also offers a view of Verrès Castle from afar, so you can fully grasp its strategic and panoramic position on the plain. The route is also called Borna di Laou in patois, meaning Den of the Wolf, because legend has it that the animals built their den here in the 19th century. You won’t encounter any ferocious beasts here today, only beautiful and varied vegetation that the educational signs will help you decipher. The native species include dogwood and hawthorn, followed by ash, chestnut and linden trees and a few rarities considering the area: medlar and laurel. Cycling along the Dora Baltea Verrès is one of the stops of the Via Francigena: a long bike route. Here you pedal between continuous ups and downs mainly on the left bank of the Dorea Baltea, even on short mule tracks, on a route that touches on some of the most beautiful castles in Aosta Valley, including the Fortress of Bard, as well as scenic spots with peaks outlining the mountain skyline.
Art & Culture
Ussel castle

Castello di Ussel

The Castle of Ussel: the spectacle of an impregnable fortress As you progress along the steep path, the solemn vision of the Castle of Ussel approaches. And, wow! It is not protected by defensive walls, because the manor already has in itself the absolute character of an impregnable fortress. The stone parallelepiped with its austere lines towers above a rocky promontory, its severe silhouette guarding the towns of Châtillon and Saint-Vincent as far as the valley floor crossed by the Dora Baltea. An amazing sight. On the rock with a dramatic panorama The last 50-metre stretch towards the Castle of Ussel from the plateau below can only be travelled on foot: a slow approach from the access side, while a dizzying precipice opens up on the other side. The manor is a landmark in the history of military architecture in Aosta Valley. In fact, it was the first fort to be built from scratch as a single compact body, by Ebalo II of Challant around 1343. Today it is a perfectly preserved testimony to the last stylistic phase of the medieval castle. Over the centuries, it passed several times from the feudal family of Challant to the Savoy family and was even turned into a prison after the death of the last lord in 1470, only to be completely abandoned a hundred years later. Traces of the monumental floors and fireplaces can be seen inside, and one of the attractions is the ornate mullioned windows, which provide the perfect frame for photographs with the landscape framed by the arches. Don't miss what was once the patrol path, a footpath flanked by battlements only recently made accessible to visitors. From up there, the 360° view of the Châtillon plain is truly breathtaking. The Baron and the Bic pen A more recent, but no less fascinating, story is that of the Castle of Ussel when it was acquired in 1984 by Baron Marcel Bich, whose family was originally from Châtillon. The nobleman was a brilliant entrepreneur; it was he who bought the patent for ballpoint pens from the inventor László József Bíró, and then marketed it worldwide under the name BIC. And he continued his successful climb with the worldwide success of disposable razors and lighters, also of the BIC brand. After purchasing the fortress, the baron donated it to the Aosta Valley region, with the stipulation that the institutions would undertake to restore and open the Castle of Ussel to the public. This happened right on time, with a grand opening in 1998. Since then, the fort has become an exhibition space for temporary exhibitions, the first of which was naturally dedicated to the donor and his BICs. Horseback riding around the manor Are you ready for an unusual experience? The Castle of Ussel and its surroundings can be visited while riding magnificent horses. It is a two-and-a-half hour group tour with an equestrian guide, suitable for everyone with the only restriction being age: those under 14 will have to wait a little longer. Horseback riding is a slow and sustainable way of exploring the territory. Forget the car and test yourself with a few trots. The fort stands before you in all its magnificence, with its almost menacing stone, its two turrets, the living rock on which it literally stands anchored. The rest is landscape as you pass through a beautiful part of Aosta Valley, the nearby Saint-Vincent and the surrounding forests; cross ancient mule tracks and encounter tiny mountain villages where ancient ovens are still standing.
Tourist destination
merano

Merano

Merano, of art nouveau and contemporary design In the footsteps of Sissi But let the beloved empress guide you along Merano's most famous themed path, which bears her name. The three-kilometre-long Sissi Trail connects the city centre with the prestigious Trauttmansdorff Castle, via highlights and vantage points. It starts from the Kurhaus, the Art Nouveau masterpiece palace and symbol of the city, and leads through the shady stretch of the Parco Elisabetta and the Roman bridge over the Passirio, the oldest bridge in the city, to the Hotel Bavaria, another Art Nouveau gem, and to Rottenstein Castle, where Sissi was a guest of her brother-in-law, Archduke Karl Ludwig. And then on to Pienzenau Castle, a jewel tucked away in a park of centuries-old cedars and pines, and finally to Trauttmansdorff Castle, the empress's official residence during her health treatments in Merano, where she occupied the entire top floor. Garden City With its extraordinary variety of flowers and plants, the garden of Trauttmansdorff Castle symbolises the green soul of Merano, which has earned the name “garden city” because of its large parks and beautiful flowering promenades, the result of a favourable interaction between Alpine and Mediterranean climates. Botanical species from all over the world, from 80 different ecosystems, can be found here. Merano 2000, the sportsman's paradise on the roof of the city From Merano it is just a cable car ride to Merano 2000, in Avelengo, the sunny terrace of the city, a panoramic plateau with a large ski and hiking area. In the summer it serves as a base for hiking and mountain biking excursions, and in the winter it is criss-crossed by 40 kilometres of alpine ski slopes, most of which are covered in artificial snow, a snow park, two toboggan runs, one of which is one kilometre long, and two tracks for cross-country skiers. For experienced skiers, we also recommend the Val Senales glacier skiing area, with slopes that start at over 3,000 metres and are mostly black runs. Ötzi Glacier Tour And it is precisely from Maso Corto, the last village in the Schnals Valley, that the guided Ötzi Glacier Tour starts. It leads to the site of the discovery of the Similaun mummy, the so-called “Iceman”, who has lain on the Schnals Valley glacier for more than 5,000 years. It is a tour either by foot or on skis up to the Giogo di Tisa, at 3210 metres, the terminus of a demanding but exciting crossing, involving a roped party and some rock passages secured by wire ropes, which is recommended for both mountain lovers and history and archaeology enthusiasts. Caution: you must be in good physical shape, have good stamina, experience and the proper equipment. As always, before a hike, enquire locally about the conditions of the route.
Nature

The Vesuvius National Park

The Vesuvius National Park, a land of fire and rebirth Vesuvius National Park protects the territory of the only active volcano in continental Europe, the symbol of the city of Naples. An ascent along its slopes, amidst the scent of broom and the smell of sulphur, offers the thrill of looking out over the crater of the Gran Cono, in a landscape marked by the geological formations shaped by the last eruption in 1944. This is a unique territory, rich in the archaeological treasures of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the fruits of an exceptionally fertile land. A spectacular caldera with an active volcanic cone Visiting the Vesuvius National Park allows you to take a stroll through at least two million years of history. The great caldera of Somma is what remains of an ancient volcano three hundred thousand years ago, and inside it is the Gran Cono del Vesuvio (1281 metres), with its typical truncated cone shape, a diameter of 450 metres and a depth of 300 metres. Inside it there are small fumaroles that reveal its state of 'active rest'. Along path number 5 traced on the ashes and lapilli of the last eruption, that of 1944, one can admire the inside of the crater. Having conquered the summit, visitors are rewarded by a magnificent view of the gulf and the city of Naples. There are 11 paths in all. Number 9 allows you to observe how the vegetation is regaining its hold on the 20th century lava flows of 1906, 1929 and 1944. How pioneer plants get the better of lava Despite the succession of eruptions, the slopes of Vesuvius are covered with dense vegetation that has reformed on the lava flows due to the phenomenon of 'ecological succession': when the lava cools, the first to colonise it are lichens and mosses, the so-called pioneer species. These are very hardy organisms that form an initial organic substrate on which more complex organisms such as ferns or some graminaceous plants can begin to develop, in turn creating a layer for plants with more complex root systems. Today, a grey, filamentous lichen (Stereocaulon vesuvianum) can be observed on the areas affected by the most recent eruptions, which prepares the ground for other plants, while older flows feature shrub species such as helichrysum, cistus, mugwort and red valerian. The next stage is that of broom, large expanses of which can be seen colouring Vesuvius yellow in the springtime. The different stages of the 'ecological succession' can be clearly observed along path number 3, where sections of still exposed lava are flanked by areas colonised by lichen, alternating with broom and holm oak woods. What to visit in the Vesuvius National Park After hiking to the crater, inside the Vesuvius National Park you can visit the Park Museum in the municipality of Boscoreale, where plastic models are on display that illustrate the evolution of the volcano, materials showing the special features of the soil and biodiversity, as well as the story of the complex interaction between human populations and the volcanic environment. In Boscoreale there is an archaeological museum, the Antiquarium, explaining the territory of Vesuvius before the eruption in 79 AD that affected Pompeii and Herculaneum. In the latter location is the world's first volcanological Observatory, created in the 19th century for the first research and measurements of seismic activity, with its original instruments. Among the municipalities on the slopes of Vesuvius, it may be interesting to visit Borgo Casamale in Somma Vesuviana, the only medieval quarter left in the area; Terzigno, an area where lava stone was worked, where a museum has been opened with the archaeological remains of several Roman villas; and in Torre del Greco, visit Villa le Ginestre, where the poet Giacomo Leopardi was hosted. The good products of a fertile land Lacryma Christi is a white and red DOC wine produced from various vines grown on the slopes of Vesuvius, whose palatability has been known since Roman times. There are also apricots, about 40 varieties of which are grown in the area; they are known to be sweet and tasty, and the secret always lies in the volcanic soils which are so rich in minerals, especially potassium. The same can be said of the Monte cherry, with its pinkish-yellow fruit and pale, firm flesh, and the Catalanesca grape, so called because it was imported from Catalonia by Alfonso of Aragon in the 15th century. It has the distinctive quality of remaining intact on the vine until Christmas. You cannot leave the park without having tasted (or bought) the Piennolo del Vesuvio DOP cherry tomatoes, harvested in clusters: hung in well-dried places, they can last for up to 7-8 months, from summer until the following spring, preserving their intense flavour that derives from a high concentration of sugars and a wealth of organic acids. What makes the area of the Vesuvius National Park one of the most fascinating and most visited places in the world is a mix of natural treasures, breath-taking landscapes, centuries-old cultivations, popular traditions and much more.
Nature

Campi Flegrei

Discovering the Campi Flegrei, between myth and well-being Between the municipalities of Pozzuoli, Bacoli, Monte di Procida, the islands of Ischia, Procida and Vivara lies the vast volcanic area of the Campi Flegrei, technically an ancient caldera , or dormant supervolcano, one of the few on the earth's surface. Here, it is possible to see several small craters, some of which are characterised by solfataras, effusive gaseous manifestations, others by hydrothermal phenomena. The Campi Flegrei in mythology Such an evocative place could not fail to fuel myths. The Greek colonists, for example, believed that this land was the tomb of some giants defeated by Hercules on behalf of Zeus. According to legend, the giants wanted to usurp the king of the gods, and were punished for their recklessness. It is precisely from this that the name Phlegraean derives: it goes back, in fact, to the Greek word flego, meaning ardo. In the myth, it was the wounds of the giants that burned: provoked by the divine thunderbolt, they produced fire and water. Even Virgil, in theAeneid, mentions the Phlegraean area as the burial place of these mythological characters. It is no coincidence that Aeneas begins his descent into the underworld from Lake Avernus, located precisely in the Campi Flegrei. The myth should not be underestimated: beyond the fanciful interpretations, it offers a vivid picture of volcanic activity at the time. Cumae, the first Greek colony in Italy The geophysical characteristics of the Phlegraean Fields make the area particularly fertile, and thanks also to the mild climate, the ancient Greeks had already built some of their cities there: the most famous was Cumae, the first Hellenic colony in Magna Graecia. Today in Cumae you can visit the Acropolis, which includes the Sybil's Cavern at the base of the hill, while going up towards the fortress there are the Byzantine Tower with the Belvedere, the Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Jupiter also known as the Lower Terrace and the Upper Terrace. Converted into churches in the Middle Ages, the two temples retain traces of both their origins and their later use. The Campi Flegrei thermal tradition It was not, however, only myth that fuelled the fame of the Campi Flegrei. Due to the volcanic activity, this area was chosen by the ancient Romans as their favourite spa area. While in Rome, in fact, it was necessary to wait for the baths' rooms and water to heat up thanks to an underground system of fireplaces, in Cumae and its surroundings there were no such procedures: this is why many decided to have their patrician villas built here, to relax and enjoy the beauty of the place. Baia, the sunken city The most famous was the Pausilypon, erected by the freedman Publius Vedius Pollonius, who left it to Augustus upon his death. Does this remind you of anything? Yes, the Promontorio di Posillipo owes its name to this very dwelling. Epicentre of wealth, Baia, frequented by Julius Caesar and Nero, Pompey and Hadrian; an irresistible pole of attraction. Much of what we know today about this ancient city we owe to Pliny the Elder, commander of the Roman imperial fleet in nearby Misenum. The boiling water gushed from underground along with its vapours, and both were exploited in saunas carved into the rock. A perfect place to spend idle hours; only with the decline of the Empire did this come to an end. Today, the ancient Bay no longer exists. It is a completely submerged area due to the bradyseism, a volcanic phenomenon that led to the sinking of the coastline. Also called The Sunken Pompeii, because it is very similar urbanistically, ancient Baia falls within a protected marine area. Much of what characterised it can be seen at the Campi Flegrei Archaeological Museum at the Aragonese Castle. Don't miss it if you want to get an idea of what this wonderful location, beloved of Roman patricians, might have beenlike.
Nature
Filicudi - Isole Eolie, Sicilia

Alicudi and Filicudi

Alicudi and Filicudi: slow tourism in the wildest of the Aeolian Islands Alicudi and Filicudi offer the chance to lose yourself somewhere new, go off the beaten track, switch off and recharge – the wildest and most authentic islands of the Aeolian archipelago in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea, electricity only arrived here 20 years ago. Sharing proximity with each other and elective affinities, these remote islands, are the perfect destination for slow and sustainable tourism, for holidays that allow you to detox as you indulge in pristine nature. Being in tune with nature is so important for the locals that you can only arrive and depart when sea and wind conditions allow. So set aside your planner and get used to sniffing the air and using the sun as a clock and compass, because the weather here has its own rules. The only device you need to carry is a small torch, even an LED one, which you’ll find very useful after sunset, because there is no street lighting on these islands. Alicudi, no taxis but plenty of donkeys Formerly called Ericusa (named after the presence on the island of heather, which you will see everywhere as soon as you step foot on the land), it is the smallest, westernmost and most remote of the Aeolian archipelago. There are no tarmacked roads or cars here, the only means of transport are donkeys, the scecchi, as the locals call them; otherwise, people generally walk, on volcanic stone stairs and alleyways, paths and mule tracks. Be sure to pack comfortable shoes and no heels! In Filicudi, you will see no sight of ATMs or banks, nightclubs or discos, just a small post office, a hotel and one cosy little restaurant, which closes in mid-September. All nestled in a village with five hamlets, dotted around the port. All around is blissful silence, or rather, the great symphony of nature. The sea: a treasure to discover Alicudi's coastline is high and rugged, often interrupted by volcanic coves and caves. There are two beaches, but only one, a pebble beach, is accessible by land. Here, you will have to take on the sea, climbing like crabs over rocks and coves, or we recommend renting a boat or setting sail on one of the tours around the island. Or if you like snorkelling and diving, the rocks, reefs and seabed, home to dozens of species of fish, are an enchanting setting. The best way to explore Alicudi’s rugged, wild soul is to hike to the centre of the island, to its highest point, Filo dell'Arpa, home to an extinct volcanic crater, at an altitude of 675 metres. This itinerary takes a couple of hours, along a series of rather steep stone stairs, past the church of San Bartolo. Just before you reach the summit, you will come across the so-called Timpone delle femmine, a fortification of natural caves, where the women of the island apparently once sought shelter during pirate raids. Filicudi and the 7 extinct volcanoes Filicudi, which has a slightly larger surface area than Alicudi, about 9.5 square kilometres, is the archipelago's geologically oldest island. It hosts no fewer than seven volcanoes that have been extinct for years and owes its name to what the ancient Greeks called phoinicussa, the dwarf palm, still prevalent on the island's headlands. Its almost 200 inhabitants live in the southern part, in several hamlets connected by a paved road. In Filicudi, only residents are allowed to travel by car, but you can easily explore the island on foot or by scooter. An ancient history, guarded from the depths Once in Filicudi, you will feel the irresistible call of the sea, the main attraction of the island, which has three beaches: in addition to those at the port and Capo Graziano, the most beautiful is the black pebble beach of Pecorini A Mare, a picturesque village on the southern side of the island, where you can relax among the colourful boats and low-lying fishermen's houses. Just above the beach of Cape Graziano – a beach scattered with grey volcanic pebbles, perhaps the easiest spot to take a dip in the sea – you should definitely visit the prehistoric village, which stands in one of the most scenic spots on the island and is home to what remains of 27 huts dating back to the Bronze Age. If you are experienced in diving, with at least a level 2 diving licence and accompanied by an authorised diving instructor, then your visit can continue below the sea level: the seabed at Capo Graziano cradles the most beautiful underwater archaeological site in the Aeolian Islands, where you can discover the wrecks of nine Greek and Roman ships. Exploring the coast, amid the secrets and magic of the sea The best way to experience the sea at Filicudi is by boat: it is the only way to explore secret coves and caves. Among the most spectacular is the Grotta del Bue Marino, the largest cave in the Aeolian Islands, once home to a thriving colony of monk seals, now a magical place of reflections and surprising plays of light. Continuing along the same stretch of sea, you will come across the Scoglio della Fortuna (Rock of Fortune)—with its concave shape that encompasses a natural pool of crystal-clear water—and the La Canna rock, a giant, 70-metre-high sea stack vaguely resembling the figure of the Madonna and child. Many consider this the guardian of Filicudi and recognise its magical aura: legend has it that if you touch it, all your wishes will come true.
Nature
960963794

Vulcano

Vulcano: the Aeolian island with a relaxing open-air spa If you want to make peace with nature, de-stress and detox from sedentary habits, Vulcano, with its full-of-life, primordial and, above all, healthy elements, is the island for you: its irrepressible volcanic temperament and spectacular, untamed landscape will help you relax and regain your inner balance. Welcoming and friendly Vulcano, a UNESCO World Heritage site less than a kilometre from Lipari, is the closest to the coast among the seven islands of the Aeolian archipelago. On this strip of Sicilian land, under the benevolent gaze of the ancient dormant “Vulcano” volcano, you can delight in the benefits of the thermal and sulphurous waters and an unspoilt seascape, for a holiday far from the masses. The island is very compact, so the best way to travel is by scooter or bicycle. A healthy volcanic vigour According to Greek mythology, Vulcano once housed the forges of Hephaestus, the god of fire and blacksmiths, who was served by none other than the Cyclops. Even though the last eruption on the island, composed of four original craters, was recorded around 1890, the ancient volcano continues to make its presence known through fumaroles, the jets of steam on the crest and on the seabed, and the sulphurous muds renowned for their therapeutic properties. Despite the overwhelming smell of sulphur, if you’re passing by Vulcano, you cannot miss out on the exciting experience of diving into the thermal mud baths, natural volcanic pools with curative properties. It was first made accessible to the public in the 1960s, when the superficial crust covering the pool was removed, without altering the natural habitat. This open-air spa offers remarkable benefits: it can sooth inflammation and pain, heal the skin and is a real pick-me-up for the respiratory system. A hike to the summit with breathtaking views Why not follow your mud bath with a dip in the island's crystal-clear waters? Or this might be your final stop for a well-deserved refreshment after a challenging hike to Vulcano’s Great Fossa Crater, at 391 metres above sea level. It is a somewhat strenuous seven-kilometre route, but is suitable for everyone. We recommend hiking during the cooler hours of the day: it is a three-hour round trip, but it is well worth it for the breathtaking 360-degree views of the archipelago at the summit. Jurassic park in lava stone Starting from Porto Levante, in the northern part of the island, you can head along a paved road to the Vulcanello peninsula: one of the three original eruptive craters of Vulcano, whose activity has shaped a surreal landscape known by the locals as the 'Valley of the Monsters'. Here, on a carpet of fine black sand, nature has fashioned a bizarre kind of Jurassic Park out of lava rock. When you let your imagination run wild, in these sculptures eroded by water and wind you will begin to see fantastical prehistoric monsters, crouching beasts and menacing creatures: in reality, nothing but bubbling lava formations solidified by a sudden cooling of the air. Black beaches with reflective natural pools After tackling monster valleys and volcanic treks, you deserve to treat yourself to some seaside relaxation. The shores of Vulcano are famous for their dark beaches and seabeds, where the lava stone plays with the sunlight’s reflections as it filters through the water, creating striking effects, especially at sunset. You can get a great picture of this at the Sabbie nere (Black Sands) beach, in the bay of Ponente, perhaps the most famous beach on Vulcano. From here, you can hire a boat and visit the enchanting Cavallo cave. Then there is the nearby Pool of Venus, which can only be reached by sea but is well worth the effort: also known as Bagno delle Vergini, it is an immense natural pool of tuff and basalt with inviting turquoise waters. Relaxation and nightlife: all in one beach If, on the other hand, you want to pamper yourself with a dip in bubbling water heated by sulphur vapours, you should stop by Fumarole beach, protected by a wall of rocks and Mediterranean scrubland, nestled in the bay of Ponente. Easily accessible by taxi boat or by taking a downhill path from the main road, Asino beach, private and secluded during the day, becomes a popular destination at night: this well-furnished cove hosts a fantastic bar where you can spend unforgettable evenings amid music and cocktails, the sea and starlit skies.
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