For its size, Italy sure packs a punch. Between stunning cities — some balanced precariously on water — incredible and imposing mountain ranges, and crystal clear blue lakes, this is a country that caters for every kind of adventurer. City lovers, coastal explorers and extreme hikers can all find something to their liking. I think that its ability to straddle all three of these categories makes Italy one of the best locations for a road trip adventure.
Last Autumn, between lock downs and pandemic scares my girlfriend and I managed to head out to Italy for a three week adventure/holiday. Starting in Florence was the most perfect city break. We spent the days exploring the winding cobbled streets, and walking out of the city to watch the sunset over it at end of day. We ate endless amounts of pasta and drank Aperol Spritz by the gallon: the perfect antidote to a wet and cold Northumberland coastline. We stocked up on fresh produce in the local farmers market before hiring a convertible (because we could) and driving north into the mountains.
We spent the next 5 days hiking our way through The Dolomites. This is where I would like to finally put to bed a grudge I have with guides and articles on which trails to hike/the best views. I am happy with heights, long distances and extreme conditions, so I have never really bothered reading up about hikes because I simply haven’t felt I needed to.
I am a confident and experienced hiker, willing to do almost anything at any ungodly hour for the best view or the photo that I’m dreaming of taking. My girlfriend… Well, she’s a little more normal and measured than me! It is a balance I’ve had to learn to strike, and to be honest I am still learning. I had previously been single for 8 years, and naturally thought of myself as a solo hiker and explorer. Learning to consider someone else’s desires and preferences is a very new and often difficult feeling.
My girlfriend suffers with a severe and often crippling fear of heights; needless to say, hiking into a mountain range as vast and dramatic as the Dolomites wasn’t always going to be a walk in the park. There would be precarious moments, and times when we were exposed.
Thus, I decided to change my approach and research the hikes that I had bookmarked for years now and cross-examining descriptions of them through multiple blogs and guides where people had written about them. I shortlisted the best routes and we set about doing one a day for the four days we were in the Dolomites.
As it turns out, not one of the blogs or articles that I had read actually gave a clear representation of what the hikes had in store for us. One hike in particular, that a couple of blogs had spoken about had, and I quote: “a small exposed section.” Cut to 3 hours into the hike — we came across a path so narrow it had to be done single file, with the exposed edge dropping at least a couple of hundred feet, followed by metal steps built into sheer rock faces with an equally large drop.
At no point during the guides and blogs I had read was this even slightly mentioned or referenced! Imagine my horror when we reached these sections, my guilt at putting my girlfriend in a position that induced such fear and anxiety that she couldn’t even talk while we passed them.
I’m not sure what to suggest as a resolution for this, or if there even is one. Perhaps the point I need to take is to take everything I read online with a bigger pinch of salt than I already do — there’s no substitute for experience.
From the mountains we headed to South Tyrol, for five days of doing nothing, and it was absolute bliss. Falling asleep in a treehouse among the pines, diving into an icy lake for sunrise and lounging by a pool in the hot sun reading book after book was the perfect ending to a three week road trip through Italy. As always I will be back as there seems to be no end to what Italy has to offer any traveler.
Check out more from Amelia’s time in Italy and her other amazing work on Instagram @amslebrun.