There are 12,127 named mountains in Apennines. The highest and the most prominent mountain is Corno Grande - Vetta Occidentale.
Italy comes across as a country of hot-tempered, passionate people. So much so, that even Mother Nature has fierce characteristics. The most seismically active country in Europe, it’s no surprise that Italy is home to two incredible mountain ranges: the Alps and the Apennine Mountains, although they are like chalk and cheese.
The Apennines are the backbone of the country and its second major massif extends 1,350 km from Liguria in the north-west to Sicily in the south. The name Apennines comes from the Celtic word Penn "mountain, summit," but the etymology is uncertain.
Made of argillaceous rocks and limestone, the Apennines are a much rounder shape with gentle slopes, differentiating them from the Alps. There aren’t a lot of majestic glaciers bedazzled in snow, or hidden treacherous crevasses. In fact, the only glacier, Calderone Glacier, is located in the Gran Sasso mountain group.
The peaks in the Apennine mountains are modest in elevation, all of them sit below 3,000m. The highest summit of the range, Corno Grande, admirably nicknamed Big Horn of Gran Sasso, towers over the surrounding landscape at 2,912 m a.s.l
Because the name 'Apennine' indicates various mountains in a large area, the Apennine mountains are typically named based on their location. In general, the Apennines can be classified into three big blocks:
The Northern Apennines, the highest peak is Mount Cimone (2,165m)
The Central Apennines, the highest peak is Big Horn of Gran Sasso (2,912m)
The Southern Apennines, the highest peak is Serra Dolcedorme (2,267m)
Castelmezzano village in the Lucanian Apennine. Basilicata
Another name you are very likely to hear is the Antiapennines, which indicates a mountain not directly connected to the Apennines. Antiapennines are separated from the main range by deep valleys and wide mountain trenches, like Lazio Antiapennines.
The Apennines have been inhabited since Paleolithic age, early before the advent of the Greeks and Roman civilization. It’s hard to imagine the vastness of geological, historical and cultural wonders that have been piling up on these mountains since time immemorial.
In fact, several nations and cultures have developed and vanished on these mountains. It’s uncommon to find anywhere in the range that doesn’t have some type of historical significance. Ancient myths, cultural diversity, and religious relics are abundant in the Apennines, making it an ideal place for hiking and exploring. Aside from geographical significance, there are a variety of things to experience in the Apennines.
If you are not a die-hard historian, but are still interested in exploring peaceful Italian landscapes and immersing yourself in the laid-back culture in this region, we suggest you try one of the following trails.
G.E.A. (Grande Escursione Appenninica or Big Apennine Hiking), is a 425-km route that starts from Bocca Trabaria on the border between Tuscany, Umbria e Marche and ends in Lunigiana, a historical region that connects the actual Liguria to Tuscany, at Two Saints Pass. It is feasible in 28 stops and it is recommended to hikers who want to take in a typical Apennine atmosphere during a single long hike.
Italy coast to coast is a 400-km long trail that goes from Ancona, on the Adriatic Sea, to Orbetello, on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It passes through Marche, Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany. Even though it is not a route that goes on mountaintops, you will have a chance to admire the Apennine range from different points of view.
The Italian Apennines have witnessed numerous historical changes. People from all walks of life, from venal mercenaries to valian conquerors, humble pilgrims, crazy wanderers, or cunning merchants have been trying to conquer these mountains since the Roman Empire built the roads. Some of those ancient trails still exist and are known for their cultural heritage. The majority of these trails can be walked by hikers of any experience level because they traverse the mountains without significant elevation gain.
Besides 'Camino de Santiago', this is probably the most famous pilgrimage trail in Europe. It indicates a group of trails used by Christian pilgrims to reach Rome from France. In medieval times it was an important road and pilgrimage route for those wishing to visit the Holy See and the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul. It starts from Canterbury (England) and ends in Brindisi (Italy).
The following sections of the Via Francigena go through the Apennines:
La Via dei Romei
In ancient times, this route connected Eastern Europe with Rome and Venice, going through the Apennines via Ravenna. From there you have different choices. We suggest you take Via Romea Nonantolana from Nonantola, then proceed by walking or MTB until Sestola, on Monte Cimone (2,165m) and Fanano, a village of high artistic value.
Via Degli Dei (The Way of the Gods)
From the Etrurian to the Romans, many cults and religions settled on the Apennines, and relics of this ancient past are still traceable in the local toponymy.
This trail of the Gods from Bologna to Florence stops exactly in places named after ancient gods, such as Monte Adone (654m), Monte Monzone (from Latin Mons Iovis, in English “Jupiter’s Mountain”), Mount Venus (966m), Monte Luario (1140m). Nowadays Via Degli Dei is one of the main tourist attractions of the Apennine: numerous trekking and mountain bike lovers come here to devour the beauty of this landscape. The entire route from Bologna to Florence is doable in less than one week.
No matter the season or weather, there’s never a bad time to plan your adventure in the Apennines. In fact, walking is just one of many ways to experience these blissful mountains, there are at least three alternatives to walking:
By Snowshoes and Ski
Despite the fact that the most famous Italian ski resorts are located in the northern part of the country, specifically in the Alps and the Dolomites, you can do winter sports in the Apennines as well. There are about 726 km of ski runs on the Apennines and 272 ski resorts amount. They can definitely compete with the Alps.
Monte Cimone (2,165m) - Tusco-Emilan Apennine
Abetone Area – Tusco-Emilan Apennine
Gran Sasso (2,912m) – the Central Apennine
By Mountain bike (MTB)
An alternative way to explore mountains is on a mountain bike. Between Tuscany and Umbria there is an easy route from Mercatello to Metauro, going up the local road that reaches a panoramic spot from which you can admire an awe-inspiring view from 1,525m.
The Tidone Valley, near Piacenza, offers MTB and trekking itineraries for all levels of difficulty. Marmore falls (Umbria) MTB route is suitable for families while MTB routes on Mainarde Mountains in Molise are definitely an original choice for expert bikers and hikers who want to explore this small but rich Italian region. Ciclovia del Volturno may be another smart choice in this sense.
Real or not, Italy is well known abroad for the Mediterranean diet, pizza, and pasta. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Regional varieties and local products are so abundant, that planning your hiking experience and leaving out food escapades would be a huge mistake. Since the Apennine Mountains extend from north to south through many regions, you are likely to find immense variety of authentic, local mountain products like berries, chestnuts, herbs, dairy products, and rare vegetables.
The Lucanian Apennine is famous for such dairy products as Caciocavallo Podolico, or the Red Eggplant from Rotonda. Combining a visit to the Lucanian Apennine Val d'Agri Lagonegrese National Park with a stop at one local restaurant will definitely upgrade your experience. If your trip includes Monte Volturino (1,836m) you can try a medium level 4-hour trail (11km one way) that starts from Copone Spring and leads to the top of the mountain.
Dairy products are a must of Emilian Apennine as well; Parmesan cheese is the king of this land and it goes really well with Lambrusco wine. At Cerreto Pass and on Monte La Nuda (1,895m) you can experience the taste of Lunigiana made of local honey, chestnuts, and mushrooms.
It goes without saying that if you are a wine lover, Monte Cusna (2,120m) between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany won’t disappoint you. It is the 2nd highest peak in the northern Apennines after Monte Cimone, but, it is much steeper and more remote.
Hiking routes in UNESCO sites, National Parks and Nature Reserves
Most of the Apennine mountainous area belongs to natural parks and nature reserves.
The Blue Path is the easiest and the most famous trail in the entire Cinque Terre. It is divided into four sections and connects all the five villages of the Cinque Terre. Total length is about 12 km (7.5 miles) but some of the sectons are closed. The trail along Ligurian coast is of great scenic and cultural value. The layout and disposition of the small towns and the shaping of the surrounding landscape, overcoming the disadvantages of a steep, uneven terrain, encapsulate the continuous history of human settlement in this region over the past millennium.
Gran Sasso, Laga Mountains, Majella
Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park is one of the largest and most precious, protected areas in Europe. Here, the great natural treasures live alongside amazing cultural heritage. Snow can continue to fall on the park’s highest mountain Corno Grande (2,912m) until late May and remain thick in summer as well. If you’re going to do any of the Gran Sasso trails, you will need the CAI Gran Sasso d’Italia map. The Majella is the second highest mountain group of this area, and its most elevated peak is Monte Amaro (2,793m). The main hiking route starts from Pomilio Hut and is meant to satisfy the most fastidious hikers.
Sibillini Mountains are named after Monte Sibilla (2,173m) where the Apennine Sibyl, a sort of witch with extraordinary powers, was believed to dwell. Most of the peaks of this range are over 2,000m; the highest is Monte Vettore (2,476m). Since 1993 the area is part of the Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini (the Sibillini Mountains National Park). Thanks to a long tradition of sheep-farming culture, today we can easily access these mountains through well-established sheep tracks.
Due to a severe earthquake in 2016 some trails may be still closed.
Cilento (Campania) is a mountainous area, as well as a famous UNESCO Heritage site, due to its long history and the permanency of ancient agricultural traditions. The Cilento National Park is a lesser-known paradise of jagged coastline and inland hills that combine beautiful seas with green natural splendour but it is a world away from the crowds and tourist shops. Here you will find street markets where the locals shop and small stores for everyday life. The most important range of this region is the Alburni Mountains, also called the Southern Dolomites, due to their resemblance to their northern cousins. A walk on Monte Panormo (1,742m), also known as Alburno, will lead you to Panormo Hut starting from Ottati village, right on the mountain top, going through beech woods and sheep tracks.
In addition, there are a few trails that go from Monte Cervati (1,899m) to Santuario della Madonna Delle Nevi (Virgin Mary of the Snow Sanctuary), like “Alta Via del Cervati e degli Alburni trail” or “Madonna Della Neve historical trail”, which goes from Piaggine to Caciocavallo Fountain, Gipsy Fountain and Monte Cervati Hut, reaching the sanctuary where you will find a beautiful garden and a stunning view. But this choice is recommended to expert hikers only. Sometimes trails may not be tracked, so it is always better to use a combination of GPS and PeakVisor app to plan your route and check your position for a safe and relaxed trip.
The lack of tourist accommodations outside the typical tourist routes like Paestum or Salerno may result in a complicated travel planning. Local people are not used to seeing outsiders here, and despite the deeply rooted hospitality culture, you are unlikely to find linguistic support or tourist guides here. If you are not afraid of mingling with locals and enjoy travelling in unexplored lands, you can rent a car in Salerno and ride to small mountain villages like Roccadaspide or Controne. If you drop by in the summer, you can also experience summer festivals like Controne’s Beans Festival or Santa Sinforosa Patron Saint’s Festival in Roccadaspide.
View of Alburni Mountains from Roccadaspide (Salerno, Italy).
Sila is located in Calabria, between Catanzaro and Crotone, on the Calabrian Apennines. The highest peak, Monte Pollino (2,267m), is located inside Sila National Park, an area particularly rich in flora and fauna, with about 31 trails waiting to be explored. Occasionally, the Sila woods remind of a Scandinavian panorama. Also, the Sila Mountains are one of the last and most populated bulwarks for wolves in Italy.
The second highest peak of Sila Mountains is Montenero (1,881m) on the slopes of which you can find pseudo-dolmenic monoliths. A challenging 6-hour trail will lead you from Cagno to Montenero and Arvo Lake, from May to October. When it comes to hiking, Valli Cupe is another nature reserve which offers a beautiful alternative in Calabria region. Canyon, gorges and waterfalls create a unique environment.
Most big Italian cities lie either at the foothills of the Apennines or amid the surrounding ranges. Here is a brief region-based list containing big cities together with interesting small villages you will find in the Apennines.
Trails and hiking areas mentioned above are a matter of personal preference. There are a variety of landscapes and routes to choose from, and including them all here would be impossible. So, we suggest you use this guide as a starting point and begin planning your adventure in the Apennine mountains. You can leverage PeakVisor tools to discover amazing places and allow your insticts to take you where you want to go. And, last but not least, we’d love to hear about your discoveries at firstname.lastname@example.org