Summer means holidays!
Some people favour relaxation and rest while others much prefer fun and adrenaline. That’s why the mountains, the sea, rivers and lakes can be the perfect places to test your sports abilities or try your hand at something new. In fact there are lots of sports you can do in Italy at this time of year.
With endless miles of beaches, lovers of water sports can find a whole range of diverse environments in Italy to do them. Activities like surfing (from this year an official Olympic discipline!) are very popular, and the Italian coasts provide the ideal stage also for beginners. Sardinia, Liguria and the central Tyrrhenian coast in general are the most suitable places for surfing. The sea also welcomes fans of sailing, windsurfing, water skiing, diving, sport fishing and canoeing. But it also means the beach, and the sand provides the ideal playground for a number of sports, beach volleyball first and foremost.
Winter opens its doors to all ski enthusiasts, with abundant snowfall whitening the Alps and Apennines. But the mountains are not just cold and snow, and in the summer too they remain a very popular destination for sports lovers. When the snow melts and the rivers run freely once more is the right time for kayaking or rafting. And when the uplands turn green the mountains become the perfect place for trekking and climbing, or pure adrenaline sports like bungee jumping, paragliding, mountain biking and hang gliding tours.
Many other sports are growing in popularity on the peninsula, taking advantage of its particular morphological and environmental features. These include canyoning, in other words fearlessly plunging into icy waters through caves and gorges, on pre-defined routes across wild and evocative landscapes. Or horse riding, wandering through the woods, hills and rural landscapes of the peninsula.
But what are Italy’s most evocative and sought-after destinations for lovers of sports tourism? Here is a brief overview.
Trekking and mountain biking in Trentino
Trentino is the iconic region for mountain sports, particularly Val Gardena in the heart of the north-western Dolomites. You can walk on perfectly marked paths that will take you to some of the country’s most beautiful peaks, complete with splendid views. The same is true for mountain bike enthusiasts, with many trails specifically set aside for them. The Dolomites are also a perfect destination for people who love to combine trekking and history, with the chance to visit evocative landscapes interspersed with trenches, fortifications and high-altitude tunnels from the First World War.
Mountaineering in the Aosta Valley
At the foot of the majestic Mont Blanc lies Courmayeur, a splendid town and the base for a wide range of mountaineering and hiking excursions, including the ascent to the highest peak in Italy.
Lao River (Calabria), Dora Baltea (Aosta Valley), Marmore (Umbria), Sesia River (Piedmont): the kingdoms of rafting!
These are the most popular rivers for rafting. The Dora Baltea is dubbed the “Colorado of Italy”. Even the most daring rafters train here and the panorama, filled with woods and castles, is truly breathtaking. The landscape of the Marmore waterfall is also one of singular beauty and the river Nera’s descent is an exciting spectacle. In Calabria, on the other hand, lies an enchanting canyon through which the Lao river flows, navigable by kayak. In Piedmont, the river Sesia has become a renowned destination for this sport; travelling through it involves alternating stretches of calm water, where you can admire the surrounding nature, and others where the rapids are merciless.
Valle d’Aosta, Bassano del Grappa, Norma, Gran Sasso Park, Piana Albanesi for paragliding
The whole Aosta Valley is dotted with places where you can pursue this exciting and extreme sport, including the chance to fly over the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa. Bassano del Grappa is the hub of paragliding, although the sport is also widely practised throughout the Alps. Norma, set among the Lepini mountains in the province of Latina, is another renowned destination for lovers of the genre. There are two strategic locations in the Gran Sasso National Park, the Pinetina and the Panettone. Finally, if you go south you really must soar over Etna and Taormina in Sicily, starting from the Piana degli Albanesi.
Basilicata and the Lucanian Dolomites
There are two attractions for sports tourism in the region: the “Flight of the Angel”, a thrilling journey between two peaks of the Lucanian Dolomites suspended from a steel cable, and the Murgia Materana National Park, which offers a splendid trail to walk on foot.
The Langhe by horseback
One of the most famous tourist destinations in Piedmont is certainly the Langhe, classified by Unesco as a World Heritage Site. If you’d like to discover the hills and towns of the area it’s a great idea to do so by bike, combine cycling with the typical food and wine of the Langhe.
Sicily and Sardinia on horseback
If you’re passionate about horse riding then one of the most interesting opportunities on offer is a tour of Sicily on horseback, with a 7-day experience from Cefalù to Etna (also a perfect chance to taste the local cuisine). The same is true of Sardinia, with excursions along beaches and through pine forests.