Three Trips to Italy for the Most Independent Travelers

Three Trips to Italy for the Most Independent Travelers
Many people visit Italy for the churches, the cathedrals, the food and the museums. Others enjoy its outdoor activities. Some people enjoy guided tours with other English-speaking participants. A select few like to find their own path. These three destinations provide a chance to enjoy Italy's outdoor activities, while getting a taste of Italian history and culture. English will be heard less frequently in these regions. If possible, take an Italian conversation course before your trip.

Spring or Fall: The Hill Towns of Umbria

The medieval hill towns of Umbria are located in central Italy. As the name implies, this region is characterized by its steep hills and mountain vistas. Begin your journey by taking the Rome-Ancona train line to Perugia station. From there, you can walk the steep hill, or take the bus to the center of town. While most people associate Perugia with Perugina chocolates, it is also home to the University for Foreigners, which is an excellent Italian language school. From Perugia, you can take a bus to Assisi. The Basilica of Saint Francis is the main attraction in Assisi. On October 27, 1986, representatives of 120 world religions gathered at this UNESCO World Heritage site to celebrate a World Day of Prayer for Peace. However, even those without any religious affiliation are often charmed by the stories of Saint Francis and his affinity for animals. In fact, some people take the 49-mile walk, known as the Saint Francis Walk from Assisi to Gubbio. The trail follows the typical pathways that were enjoyed by the saint. While some people take it as an organized pilgrimage, others take it as an independent, non-religious journey. You can get maps, and learn about lodging availability at the Saint Francis Walk website.

Main Office of the Saint Francis Walk
c/o APT di Rieti
Via Cintia, 87 Rieti 02100
+39 0746 201146

Summer: Abruzzo National Park

If a trip to Assisi inspires an even deeper love of animals and wildlife, consider visiting the National Park of Abruzzo. The park is located on the Adriatic Coast of Italy, and is home to a variety of species, which include the Mariscan brown bear and the Italian wolf. The golden eagle, the gray heron, peregrines and sparrowhawks are examples of the park's bird population. Additionally the park has more than 2,000 plant species, which include black orchids, primrose, violets and lilies. You can get to the park by taking the train to Avezzano on the Roma-Pescara line to the train to Sulmona on the Castel di Sangro line. From there, you will have to take a bus to the park. However, since the bus schedule is infrequent and confusing, you might want to fly into the Abruzzo National Airport and rent a car. Since the park is not a popular tourist destination, it is the perfect place for those who must vacation during the summer.

National Park of Abruzzo
Viale Santa Lucia
67032 Pescasseroli

Winter: Bormio

Bormio is not an Italian ski resort. It is a medieval village that happens to have a ski mountain. The town owns the mountain, and a private lift company owns the chairlifts and gondolas. A number of competing ski schools hold classes on the mountain. As such, Bormio is not the best destination for anyone who wants a pre-planned, pre-packaged ski trip. However, for those with an adventurous spirit, Bormio is the perfect place for anyone who wants to combine a bit of skiing with an exploration of Italian medieval history. The skiing is best suited for intermediates, but the unspoiled medieval village more than makes up for its lack of thrilling terrain. Those who miss the hot tubs can enjoy Bormio's ancient thermal baths, which are yet another unique feature of this Italian Alps destination.

Article Written By Lisa Mercer

In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.

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