Italy is well known for its wine, beaches, hills… but did you know that Italy is a prime location for rock-climbing as well? Not only are Italians huge advocates of rock climbing, they’re also dedicated sportsmen who started their bolting ventures way back in the 60s. In this article, we’re going to explore the 5 best climbing locations in Italy, and why they are so important to Italian climbers.
1. Cala Gonone / Sardinia
Cala Gonone is a tiny location found on Italy’s biggest island, Sardinia. The island itself is known for its pristine waters and white beaches, but the area surrounding Cala Gonone is a double paradise for tourists and climbers alike. Here, majestic walls crash directly into the sea, with literal spikes coming off the ground, making the entire scene look fairly surreal.
Once you’re climbing here, you just can’t help but stop and look at the view. Cala Gonone offers various bolted routes, both single- and multi-pitch. The rock is always stable, and the surrounding area is safe. It’s not recommended to climb in the summer here due to the extremely humid conditions. Spring and autumn are usually a much better choice.
If you’re looking for a place far away from everything, and if you’re considering taking your climbing experience to the next level, Cala Gonone might be just the right spot for you. It’s a place where nature meets traditional village meets climbing bonanza. The cliffs are many, and the climbers flock from all over Europe to get a true taste of Sardinian climbing.
2. Gran Sasso / Abruzzo
While our first location might have been more of an exotic one, the Gran Sasso is a more traditional climbing location that seasoned climbers will most likely cherish. This mountain massif can be found right in the middle of Italy, and its highest peak reaches 2912 meters. That’s nothing to sneeze at considering that Italy itself is filled with mountainous areas.
One thing to note is that Gran Sasso is mostly covered in limestone walls, making it the perfect location for seasoned and beginner climbers alike. Here, many trails and paths have seen the passing of pioneers who bolted their way to the very top of mountains such as Corno Piccolo, Corno Grande, Paretone (literally “big wall”), and other rocky formations.
Would you believe me then if I told you that the first ever summit of Corno Grande was completed in 1573? Humans have had the ambition of summiting peaks such as these for millennia. Starting from the 70s onwards, Gran Sasso has become one of the most visited rock-climbing locations in Italy, and it’s always been one of the most dramatic, too.
3. Finale Ligure / Liguria
Liguria is found on the Eastern side of Italy, clearly separated from the Western side by the Apennine mountains running along the entirety of the “boot.” Here, the magnificent walls crashing into the sea are known throughout Europe for free climbing, otherwise known as climbing without any kind of assistance (except sometimes ropes and belays).
The limestone here is filled with holes, nooks, crannies, drops, vertical tubes, and so many more quirks. There’s a reason why it’s known throughout Europe. Here, climbers can have fun in a relatively safe environment, practicing their skills on walls that look like they were naturally carved for rock climbers’ ambition, passion, and pure enjoyment.
Climbing directly above the blue waters of the sea truly is a unique experience, and that is why this location has a special place in this list. It’s not often that you find places where the rock is stable enough to climb directly above such an entrancing scenery. In this case, looking at the wall itself will literally give you goosebumps. Ready to tackle it?
4. Palinuro / Campania
Palinuro is an unusual location found in the southern part of Italy. Unusual because this coastal location is covered with red, warm rock filled with deep holes. The pictures won’t do it justice. And while the rock itself can be slightly brittle, the way these walls are formed still allows for plenty of room to climb and have fun in complete safety.
Palinuro is part of the Cilento National Park in Campania, a region found in the south of Italy. This naturally green area offers a wide range of activities, including 100+ single-pitch routes suitable for well-trained and not-so-well-trained climbers. Both can have fun here, and while the surrounding area is filled with green woods, the walls are another thing.
Here, the “Molpa” and “Vauz” are the best-known walls, and for good reason. With many of the routes being often used by professional trainers, it’s a great place to practice sport climbing without going too far in terms of difficulty. Walls like these are a true blessing when you simply want to have fun and practice your favorite sport directly on the beach.
5. Sarca Valley / Trentino
As the name might suggest, these walls extend at the very edges of a valley, and they’re definitely not for the faint of heart. Following the river and going downstream, a gigantic white wall appears to fill in the entire scenery, making for a beautiful backdrop onto what’s officially recognized as one of the most beautiful regions in Italy, at least nature wise.
Trad routes, short routes, bolted routes. There’s everything here. Climbers started developing a serious interest in this area in the late 90s, and since then, they never left! New routes are created every single year, and they just keep growing and growing. If you’re looking for a bit of a challenge, these walls are definitely the ideal location in Italy.
What’s beautiful about this area is that even if the walls themselves tend to be rather vertical, there are places where they can ease you into more of a 70- to 75-degree angle, creating a challenging climbing experience, but not an impossible one. Pair that with a beautiful scenery and villages spread throughout the valley… You’re in for a treat!