Many are the reasons why people love traveling: the desire to explore new places, the thrill of adventure, the need of a break from everyday life… Sometimes it is also an inner journey that makes people change, facing new horizons. Climbing is nothing more than a vertical journey that has always captured and fascinated. It’s almost an art, which followed a long evolution during the course of its history: from the first explorations in the late 1700s to the great climbers of our time, much has changed, from ethics to materials. Despite this evolution, there is one thing that is always the same: climbers truly love mountains and have the desire to travel in an alternative way!
I have been captured by the magic of climbing too! And the best part of it, is traveling across our Peninsula, in search of new places where to climb. The rock changes, the scenery, the technique and sometimes even the standard of difficulty is different. Every time it is a new and unexpected game, to play together with precious and very closed friends and fellow adventurers!
If you also have been captured by the magic of the vertical journey, here are 10 places in Italy that you cannot absolutely miss:
1. Val di Mello – Lombardy
This is an Alpine region in the province of Sondrio, Lombardy. Val di Mello looks very similar to Yosemite Valley (California), with its granite walls that tower over the valley from both sides. It is a paradise for climbers!
The Valley will welcome you with the quiet of its alpine meadows, dotted with small rural houses, the sound of its stream and the imposing walls, surrounded by majestic snow-capped peaks over 3000m, one of these, Mount Disgrazia. Since 2009 it is also a Natural Reserve, the largest protected area of Lombardy.
The valley has been discovered in the 70s by a group of young climbers that firstly climbed its walls. It was an adventure for them, a creativity game, with no interest in winning the top of a mountain, but just to express themselves. At that time it was a revolutionary way of thinking of mountaineering. Today the multi-pitch routes are about 300: long cracks and flakes or compact slabs, which allow elegant movements in friction climbing. The rock is always wonderful! A good mountaineering experience and strong nerves are needed to climb here: bolts are often absent or very distant from each other! Among the best known routes are: “Il risveglio di Kundalini”, “Luna Nascente”, “Oceano Irrazzionale”, unmissable masterpieces that attract every year many climbers!
The Valley is also well known for bouldering, practiced on large boulders dotting the fields all around, made famous by the international meeting held every year, called Melloblocco.
Recommended Guide: Masino Bregaglia, Regno del granito, Volume II, di Andrea Gaddi. Polaris Ed. Sondrio. 2009
2. Sarca Valley – Trentino
This beautiful valley stretches between the towns of Arco and Sarche in the province of Trento, following the course of Sarca River. An infinite number of routes, trad and multi-pitch, are traced on the right side of the valley: they are now more than 500, and increase every year! The fortune of the Valley begins in the 90s, when a group of climbers began to open new lines, taking also care of the access paths, thus creating a real “fun park” for both local climbers and tourists.
The mild climate due to the influence of the nearby Garda Lake, allows to climb almost every month of the year, surrounded by olive trees and oaks. It ‘s always a thrill to be hung on the wall, and look at life flowing beneath, in apple orchards or vineyards, in the small villages dotting the valley, admiring the green mountains all around and the blue of the many lakes in the valley.
Here there’s something for every taste: from trad or aid routes to bolted ones, from long and challenging routes to shorter ones, that you can do in a few hours. Among my favorite areas are “Mandrea” and “Lo Scudo” of Cima alle Coste, but almost all the walls have at least one way that deserves to be repeated!
Recommended Guide: Arco Pareti, Vie classiche moderne e sportive in Valle del Sarca, Diego Filippi, Versante Sud
3. Orco Valley – Piedmont
It is a pristine valley which lies between the massif of Levante and the Gran Paradiso National Park, a place not to be missed if you like climbing on granite!
The first climbers on these walls in the 70s, were a group of young guys guided by the spirit of Californian climbers in Yosemity valley. They did not want to win hard peaks, but to prove themselves and to have fun and pleasure!
Sergent, Caporal, Vallone di Noaschetta or Piantonetto, are just some of the names of the walls, where many routes can be found, especially in traditional style. The best time for climbing in Orco valley is between April and November.
Recommended Guide: Valle dell’Orco, Dal Trad all’arrampicata sportiva, Maurizio Oviglia, Versante Sud
4. Rocca Sbarua – Piedmont
At about 50km from Turin there is an historical place for climbing in Piedmont: the Rocca Sbarua ( 1050m ), which rises above the woods of Pinerolo’s plain, on the southern slope of Mount Freidur, with a wonderful view on Monvisio Mount.
Its walls of solid granite, offer elegant climbing movements along cracks, corners and slabs. Every year, in all seasons, many climbers, come here to repeat the routes opened by important names of Italian climbing tradition, such as Gervasutti, Boccalatte and Motti.
Here you will find about one hundred bolted multi-pitch routes, but also trad ones. Melano Hut, at the foot of Rocca Sbarua, is a comfortable and welcoming place to stay, where you can also enjoy meals from the Piedmont tradition.
5. Finale Ligure – Liguria
The magnificent walls of Finale Ligure, at about 25 Km from Savona, are well known all over Europe, especially for free climbing. In this area (about 10km square) there are more than 150 cliffs, that can be climbed all year round thanks to the mild climate and the particular exposure of the walls.
The rock here is unique: limestone drawn with holes, drops, vertical tubes and cracks. The erosion game of water through the centuries can be clearly seen. Among the best known are the cliffs of Capo Noli, overlooking the sea, where the thrill of climbing directly above the blue water can be experienced.
Very famous are also the multi-pitch routes of Bric Pianarella, also called “Paretone”, the highest of the entire area, surrounded by enchanting landscapes. In the left part of the routes are about 150m long: do not miss “Fivy” and “L’impari lotta del conte di Montesordo e del drago sanguinio”. The central par is also worth visiting, with definitely the best routes to climb. The right side, offers some routes of great satisfaction as well, such as “Amicizia”, “Il tempio della Gioventù Psichica” and “Via Lunga”.
6. Pietra di Bismantova – Emilia Romagna
The Rock of Bismantova stands majestic and isolated over the profile of Emilian Apennines, it is impossible not to be noticed while approaching Castelnuovo Monti, a peaceful town, rising at its feet, at about 40Km from Reggio Emilia.
This rock of sandstone with yellow and gray vertical walls, is covered with woods of hazel and green, flowering meadows, and is surrounded by green cultivated hills. Since the beginning of the ‘900 many rotes have been climbed: trad, aid or multi-pitch.
Not to be missed are definitely “Oppio”, “Zuffa-Rouggeri” and “Italia ’90”, but the choice is really very wide! Some areas have been equipped with single pitch, and bouldering can be practiced as well…there is definitely something for all tastes! And after a day of climbing in this magical place, do not forget to try the local cuisine: gnocco fritto, ciccioli and tortelli!
Recommended Guide: Pietra di Bismantova. Vie e Falesie, Diego Filippi, Matteo Bertolotti, Versante Sud, 2015
7. Gran Sasso – Abruzzo
In the heart of Italy with its limestone walls, the Gran Sasso Mount is a fascinating place, where you can find magnificent routes for climbing.
Corno Piccolo, Corno Grande, Paretone, Pizzo d’ Intermesoli, are just some of the areas where to find routes, from 200m up to 1000m long. Because of the altitude, the most suitable period to climb is definitely summer, with its warm and sunny days. Snow can be found on trails until late May, and in autumn it can be too cold: carefully plan the trip, if you decide to explore this peak, the highest of the Apennines.
Recommended guide: Gran Sasso. Vie classiche, moderne e d’avventura, Alberto Bazzucchi e Igor Brutti, Versante Sud.
8. Palinuro – Campania
Palinuro is a pearl of Cilento National Park, in the south part of Campania. Here the red and warm rock is reflected in the sea: the “Gigante Addormentato” hangs over the blue of the water, which outlines caves and cavities.
This is the ideal place for an holiday of both climbing and relaxing on the beach! The best known cliffs are “Molpa”, equipped with more than 40 single-pitch routes and “Vauz”, surrounded by green woods, located at about 3km from Palinuro, where there are about 25 single pitch routes, suitable for well trained climbers!
9. San Vito lo Capo – Sicily
Along the beautiful beaches of San Vito lo Capo, on the west coast of Sicily between Palermo and Trapani, extends a long cliff, crossed by beautiful single-pitch climbing routes.
Red walls with sharp holds overlook the sea. Here you can find from easy to challenging routes. If the weather is nice, you can climb also in December, enjoying magnificent sunsets on sea. In spring, San Vito is the ideal place for a climbing and sunny holiday.
Not to be missed is the Calamancina cliff, overlooking the bay. In the various sectors in which it is divided, you will find routes of all difficulties, from those suitable for beginners, up to ” Chr.is.to ” (8a), and “Banana Biologica” (7a+), the most famous of “La Grotta”
Recommended guide: Di Roccia di Sole. Arrampicate in Sicilia, Massimo Cappuccio, Chiara Cianciolo, Giuseppe Gallo , Versante sud
10. Cala Gonone – Sardinia
Sardinia is definitely a place to visit, not only for the crystal clear sea and its beautiful wild beaches. This island offers many opportunities for people looking for an adventurous dive into nature: from wild paths through the Mediterranean vegetation to magnificent walls where to climb on the blue sea.
One of the most popular climbing area is Cala Gonone, a charming village overlooking Orosei Gulf. Here cliffs are so many, equipped with single-pitch route of all difficulties. Fuili and Biddiriscottai are the curious names of two of the most popular cliffs overlooking the sea while “Poltrona” and “Budinetto” lie just outside the town of Cala Gonone.
The walls of Mount Oddeu, just off the coast, offer many multi-pitch routes on a fantastic rock. The best times to explore this area is during spring and autumn, thus avoiding sweltering summer heat, but at the same time, enjoying som rest on the beautiful beaches of the Gulf.
Cover image: Roberto on “Stelle di Polvere”, Sarca Valley – picture by Anita Cason