There is a bit for everybody in Italy... the Alps arch from east to west starting right on a crystal blue sea, the Apennine run across the whole peninsula, and each island is a unique oasis to be explored. Add to these breathtaking landscapes thousands of years of human history, diverse cultures and a culinary tradition that will motivate you to hike even longer... you will never have enough of this country!
I must say, I am playing at home here, but I can easily say that still I find new places that amaze me, and I never lose my appetite... I am based in Trentino, and that is where most of my hikes are, but having the time, I am very motivated to explore new places with my Raffalo...
The Club Alpino Italiano (CAI) is the main organ that looks after the paths and the huts ("rifugio") in Italy. It is broken down in different local sections which you should refer to when planning a hike.
First steps at the 3 cime di Lavaredo (drei zinnen)
If you want to venture in nature for more days, you have different options to spend the night. You could sleep in a:
Getting ready for the night at the rifugio Vajolet
In case of health emergency, call 118 -valid in all Italy.
If you are in a mountain or in cave, ask to the 118 operator to activate the Soccorso Alpino (Corpo Nazionale soccorso alpino e speleologico (CNSAS). They are people especially trained to operate in mountains, from the Italian Alpine Club.
Wherever active, 112 is the unique European number for emergency.
The "Societa´ degli alpinisti Tridentini", commonly known as SAT, is the beating heart and soul of alpinism in Trentino. The society looks after the hiking paths and many serviced or basic huts.
The headquarters are in Trento (check out their amazing library dedicated to local mountaineering) while local sessions are located throughout the territory. They organise numerous events such as hikes, trainings, evening presentations... It always feels like a family gathering... ;-)
Check out their website to find all the information you need before heading out, including weather reports and state of the paths.
A comprehensive interactive map with all the paths and their status is available in the SAT webpage. Also you will find the location of all the huts and other places you can spend the night, with all the information you need. A great starting point to plan your trip!
"VisitTrentino" made a superb work in describing different hikes, all levels, all seasons, all wishes. The site is also available in English and provides information as well on biking trail, places to sleep etc...
A visit to their webpage is definitely recommended to get some orientation on where to go (at least to admire the photos!).
SAT manages 35 serviced huts within the Trentino territory. Serviced huts have some sort of heating system, offer a bed either in small rooms or big bunk rooms, have blankets (bring your own travel sheets!), have toilets and offer food (the best I may say... usually traditional food, rich with local ingredients). Some huts are children-friendly (have high chairs, travel cots...), some do not welcome children below a certain age, some have special rooms dedicated for those hiking with dogs. It is always a good idea to contact the hut manager ahead of time, describe your team (kids, dogs??), book the beds and ask for the current status of the paths.
Serviced huts are open between 20 June and 20 September, with some exceptions.
There are many basic huts ("bivacco") across the Alps. They are very basic structures, usually they have a traditional wood stove to cook and warm up the place, sometimes a fireplace, sometimes mattresses, an outhouse generally no running water or electricity. Nevertheless, they are my favorite retreats, and some have the luxury of a spring nearby and solar power.
Bivacchi could be managed by the local alpine group, be owned by the municipality or be private.
This is my process to see whether a bivacco is suitable for me:
1. I choose the hiking destination and buy a 1:25,000 map.
2. I circle all the bivacchi and huts and start drawing a route.
3. I google information about the bivacco, and call who is responsible to check conditions and to make sure it is available (some are locked!!!).
Basic huts are usually free.
If you are new to the mountain environment but you will want to explore it in total safety, you can ask the help of the "mountain guides". These are men and women specifically trained to accompany you in total safety during your hike. Some offer specific packpages, others will work with you for a tailored expeditions.
The best way to find a "guida alpina" is to google: "name of the valley you are planning to visit" + "guida alpine", as they tend to group together in the valley they operate (and know the best).
Although these people are especially trained for the hardest environments, they may not be ready to spend few days with a baby! ;-) So make sure you specify your current situation, so find the best match for you!! I noticed many set an age limit, but I didn't ask to all of them yet! ;-)