Hiking Italy: ancient Salt Paths from Cinque Terre to Piedmont.

Walking Italy’s centuries old Salt Paths, (Via del Sale), across the Italian Apennines from the Piedmont Region to coastal Liguria is a unique experience. Ancient trails – established since pre-Roman times until before the Second World War – were used by salt merchants and their laden mules to transport salt from the area of Genoa, on the coast of the Italian Riviera, to the interior, rich cities of Piedmont and Italy.

The Ligurian Coast

The Ligurian Coast

The Italian Appennines

The Italian Appennines

Hannibal and his elephants used this route in 218BC, recruiting Ligurian soldiers to fight the Roman Empire. Just 2,112 years later, a 16-year-old Albert Einstein walked it with a friend on his way to visit an uncle.

For hundreds of years from the Middle Ages onward, mule trains loaded with sea salt would labor up to these heights from the coast, crossing range after range of the Ligurian Apennines, which separate the Gulf of Genoa from the Po Valley in north-west Italy.

The network of paths this  precious cargo traveled on became known as the Via del Sale, the Salt Path(s).

The route takes travelers along grassy paths through the Piedmont vineyards, before heading into the Apennine foothills where vast forests of sweet chestnuts replace the vines.

Quaint Bed and Breakfast inns (Agriturismo) dot the path.

Local architecture

Local architecture

As must have been the case in the early days of the Salt Paths, much of the food that will be consumed at the comfortable local lodgings along the path is foraged or sourced nearby. Chestnuts, acacia flowers, alpine herbs, nettles and salvia leaves all find their way on to delicious recepies of pasta, risotto and frittata omelettes.  A wild funghi and pasta dish called maltagliati del frantoio can be tasted at the small village of Uscio, along the path.

Italian pasta

Italian pasta

 

The path crosses ancient forests and winds through villages forgotten in time, such as Varzi, Uscio and Bobbio.

At  the ancient market town of Varzi the trails hit the  mountains, dotted with alpine flowers – royal blue gentians, mauve pansies, ivory asphodels, orchids in their thousands and mushrooms (funghi). On a clear day, from the summit of Monte Chiappo, in the Appennines, you might see all the way to Venice.

The path starts in Piedmont and ends in Camogli, a quaint village and a port town on the Ligurian Sea, clinging onto a precipitous hillside. Gone are the alpine flowers and in their place you can find groves of oranges, lemons and olives, while the air is scented by vast arrays of jasmine, wisteria and bougainvillea.

The Ligurian Coast

The Ligurian Coast

Casa Italia will host an 8 day walking tour on the Salth Paths this Fall from Sept. 29th to Oct 6th. 2015.

This small- group guided  8 day walking tour offers a unique travel experience, immersing travelers deep into nature, silence, and history.

You will enjoy expert bilingual Italian – English guides, delicious meals, quaint country inns, seamless ground transportation, spectacular landscapes, nature, friendship, and much more.

 

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