Walking and Hiking in Umbria: A General Guide
The good news about walking and hiking in Umbria is that even if you get lost, you are bound to have such breathtakingly beautiful scenery to distract you that it won’t matter that much.
The bad news about walking and hiking in Umbria is that it is damned easy to get lost.
Some Guidelines for Walking and Hiking in Umbria
Umbria is a fabulous area to explore by foot, yet at the same time can sometimes be not that hiker-friendly and you will need the best boots for tactical use that you can get for the climb. The region has been late to the game in organizing well marked-trails and accessible information regarding itineraries and routes, which is a shame since the undulating landscape, tiny stone hilltop hamlets, and abandoned country churches and fortresses lend themselves to some remarkable hikes.
Here is some general logistical information for walkers interested in discovering this captivating region. For specific hikes, please refer back to the Walking and Hiking in Umbria blog category, where I will be reproducing some itineraries and adding some of my own.
Guides for Walking and Hiking in Umbria
The offerings in English for printed guides discussing itineraries in Umbria are disappointing. Probably the best to date is Walking and Eating in Tuscany and Umbria by Lasdun and Davis, which has 26 walks in Tuscany and…um…a whopping 3 in Umbria. That said, the three they do list for Umbria are all pretty walks with clear information and recommendations for local restaurants.
A second choice is Sunflower Book’s Umbria and the Marche (Landscapes) by Georg Henke. With its 8 driving itineraries, 37 walks, and two regions, this guide is kind of all over the place. It does, however, focus on the Valnerina and Monti Sibillini–two of the most breathtaking areas in Umbria if not all of Italy– and contains large-scale (1:50,000) topo walking maps and transport timetables for all the walks. Sunflower offers a free on-line update service.
There is also a more local–though exhaustive–printed guide which follows a medieval trail through the olive groves between Spoleto and Assisi with English text, maps, and photos: The Olive Grove Path (Il Sentiero degli Ulivi) by Enzo Cori and Fabrizio Cicio.
Alternatively, I can’t speak highly enough of Bill Thayer’s Website. Bill has walked about 2,000 km all over Umbria during his numerous travels here, and has documented his walks with diary entries and photos. In my opinion, there is no better resource for walking in Umbria than his juggernaut of a website.
In Italian, there are two very good walking guides:
A Piedi in Umbria by Stefano Ardito has over 100 itineraries and covers the region well. Unfortunately, the guide is very text-heavy with few maps and no photos, so your Italian has to be pretty good to get any use out of it.
L’Umbria per Strade e Sentieri by Giuseppe Bambini, on the other hand, is chock full of maps, photos, and easily decipherable bullet lists for each walk–even if your Italian is shaky it’s a great resource. The routes described are largely loops, so you can drive to your starting point, follow the walk, and end up back at your car. If this sounds too good to be true, it is. The guide was printed by a small local press, Editrice Minerva Assisi, and is almost impossible to find outside of the Zubboli bookshop in the main piazza in Assisi.
Maps for Walking and Hiking in Umbria
Trail markings in Umbria are maintained by a sketchily organized conglomerate of volunteer groups, like the Italian Alpine Club, and local government agencies so tend to be spotty, at best. A good map is essential.
The two series of trail maps I like best are the Kompass maps (1:50,000 scale) and the C.A.I or Club Alpino Italiano maps (1:25,000 scale), which show trails, unpaved and paved roads. Both of these are readily available at bookstores or larger souvenir shops which carry guidebooks in Italy.
Walking and Hiking Trails in Umbria
Trail markings in Italy look like this:
Or, if you’re really lucky, this:
So, generally, two red stripes with a white stripe in the middle and the trail number. Painted on anything.
Trails in Italy look like this:
Or, if you’re really lucky, this:
As I said, chances are you are going to get lost at least once during your hike, so try to be philosophical about it. Remember, a truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery while on a detour. (Or at least not bicker with whomever was in charge of the map.)
Three quick cautionary words before you head off. Hunting is a popular and widely practiced sport in Umbria, so be aware when hiking in hunting season (September through January) and outside of the regional and national parks, where hunting is prohibited. Umbria is also home to quite a few sheep, and their guard dogs can be aggressive while on the clock–give them a wide berth. Finally, be careful walking through high grass or climbing loose rocks…there are vipers in the area which generally flee at the sound of approaching humans but are not too pleased to be accidentally tread upon.