Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hiking In Italy

Ken sporting my backpack...glad I didn't buy a pink one
I'm still pinching myself. Look at that title--can you believe it? I never expected to make it to Europe, even as much as I hoped to. (I say Europe, because we were also able to visit Germany to see our former exchange student; no hiking involved though)  It was one of those experiences that just came together somehow, and afterward you have to wonder, "Did that really happen?" Thankfully I have pictures to prove it, and we managed to get some hiking in, so I can write about it as well. 
What's the first thing you do in Rome?
 Climb on the statues and act stupid, of course!
Looking back on our adventures, it's hard to define what was a "hike", and what was not. What makes walking around and enjoying the scenery "hiking" and not just "taking a stroll"? Technically speaking, I should probably only write about hiking in the Dolomite's; which I can't wait to do, because it truly was the best hiking of my life. But I've decided to first give some info on three walks that I think are worth mentioning, even if I can't call them hikes. I hope they will be helpful to anyone who is researching inexpensive things to do in the area; I know I would have appreciated it when I was doing the same. (Although, you WILL spend a ton of money, no matter how much you try not to. Better to except that beforehand)
Grappa in your espresso...the Italian way to start the day
Non-hike #1) Night walk though Rome:
I'm not going to give specifics about this, because it's described in detail in Rick Steve's "Pocket Rome". I'm mentioning it mostly to let you know there truly is something magical about walking through Rome at night; and to advise you to save your money on everything else. This is just my opinion of course, but I really didn't see the point in spending a ton of cash to tour the sights. (made that mistake with the Sistine Chapel, and regretted it) Rome itself IS the sight, and it's all around you. Rome is a great example of the saying, "the best things in life are free", so take advantage of it.
Non-hike #2) Cortona to Conveto delle Celle
We stayed 7 days in Cortona, which is a very small, quaint, and incredibly old town in the Tuscany area. Again, the town itself is the main attraction, but it only takes a couple days to explore the entire thing. Without a car, you have to get a little creative as to how to spend your time. (although, just sitting in town and drinking wine is a great option)
Real monks wear Keens

We decided to spend one afternoon walking to the monastery where St. Francis spent some time; and we were not disappointed...once we got there.
I scribbled down the directions off of Google, thinking they looked so easy; but it was harder than I thought. (I take for granted being able to stop and ask directions...that didn't work out so well. Did you know they don't speak English in Italy? So weird. ;)) Hopefully these directions will work better for you:
At the top of Cortona
1) Walk up to the biggest church on the top (there are a ton of churches, but this is the main one--as long as you keep heading up, you are guaranteed to find it) and take that exit out of town. (exit meaning the big arch opening of the wall that surrounds the cool)
2) When you get to the next town (town meaning store and restaurant) take a left at the fork heading down.
3) When the road turns left, keep going straight on the smaller unpaved road. You'll see a sign for a monastery; don't be confused that it's not the right name. It is the one your looking for. 
4) Keep walking for about a mile; you'll run right into it.

Non-hike #3) Isola Marroire
If your staying in Cortona, you'll have to take a bus, then a train to Lake Trasimeno, then a ferry to get to this island. This takes a bit of planning...go to the information/tourist office in town and they will help you. This was a day I felt like looking cute; but I'm glad we took my hiking shoes to change into because this is quite a walk. (maybe even a real hike?)
Nobody I asked seemed to think this island was worth going to, but I'm so glad we went anyway. It only takes a couple hours to walk around the whole island and see several very interesting historic sites; we both agreed it was pretty amazing. Not to mention the ferry ride being beautiful and relaxing; I would highly recommend it as a day's excursion. 
A run down castle on the island

As remarkable and stunning as our trip was thus far, the best is yet to come. The Shangri-La of the hiking world is our next stop. Prepare to be amazed. 
To go to Dolomite Hike:

The unbelievable view from our room in Cortona
To stay there yourself go to