Compagnia dei Cammini: leisurely journeys in the footsteps of the Histories of Italy

With the new year, new roads open up, new paths are created or we simply decide to follow those that someone, often far away in time, has walked before us to breathe in their essence. Travelling on foot, in fact, goes back to the origins of mankind and if before it might have been a necessity due to displacement, today it is done to make an experience. Here, then, is a round-up of unforgettable walks to do throughout the year, backpacking alone, in company or accompanied by associations such as the Compagnia dei Cammini, which has always been dedicated to organising slow journeys:

The path of the Samnites: Safinim! – What would have happened to all of us if in 91 BC the confederation of Italic peoples led by the Samnites had defeated Rome? This journey through Molise is to discover this untold story, that of a mysterious people who were on the verge of defeating the Romans, but were wiped out 2000 years ago, so little is known about them. History is made by the winners, and the Romans wanted nothing to be remembered of the Samnites, condemning them to damnatio memoriae. The Samnites were the brigands of pre-Christ and left in seven thousand from Sabina, in the spring of the eighth century BC, they were all 20 years old. They had been prepared for years for this sacred journey, by which they were to go in search of lands in which to settle. They passed through the lands of the Equi and the Marsi, but there was no place for them. Then they saw a wild land from above, with few scattered inhabitants, lots of water, woods and greenery. This is how the Samnite Pentri people were born, a people of shepherds who became warriors. The route follows the footsteps of a novel, “Viteliù”, which means Italy, in the ancient language of the Italic peoples, because Italy was born there and was born to defend itself from the Romans. Following the many traces that remain, this journey of medium/high difficulty is structured in 81 kilometres to be done in 8 days in the least known region of Italy. A journey reserved for those who know how to suggest themselves, so that cyclopean walls on a mountain become an encampment, the foundations of a temple come back to life, and every square stone on the way can tell ancient stories. The Sanctuary of the Nation, the city of the Sacred Bull, the Stone-that-comes-first, the cavern of Kerres… To the cry of “Safinim!”. Without forgetting today: encounters with real people, nature and culture. In the first part of the journey, the environment is more mountainous and we will climb some panoramic mountains, including Mount Kaprum and Mount Campo, both around 1,750 metres high, then on the Celano-Foggia sheep trail, one of the main sheep trails that connected Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia for the seasonal transfer of flocks.

The Wayfarer’s Path: Known as Via Regia, or Via Ducale in historical documents, the route of the current Wayfarer’s Path in Lombardy links Lecco to Valtellina, perhaps even from Roman times along a route of 44 kilometres of medium/low difficulty that can be done in 4 days. The itinerary, rich in historical vestiges such as the Castle of Vezio and the village of Corenno Plinio, offers a lake panorama that instils calm and invites you to take it slowly. However, there are many different forms of water: the placid water of the lake, the water that gushes powerfully from the gorge at Bellano, or the white foamy water of Fiumelatte, and then wash-houses, small canals and fountains that are the friends of travellers. The secluded coves, the cobblestones, the low walls, the rough mule tracks, the tiny hamlets, the chestnut groves clinging to the slopes of the Grigne – grey silhouettes, at times looming over the eastern shores of Lake Como – tell the story of the Lecco area and give an insight into the daily life of valley dwellers, fishermen and boatmen in times gone by. A simplicity that contrasts with the richness of the villas and gardens overlooking the lake and the severity of the ancient manors. The water is also linked to the traces of a less ancient, but no less important history: the hydraulic textile mills, now disused, silent witnesses of the second industrial revolution and of a great working-class and manufacturing past. The classic route begins in Abbadia Lariana (LC) and consists of four stages that lead steeply uphill into the hinterland before returning, with subsequent descents, to the Larian shores at Lierna, Varenna, Dervio and finally Colico. The effort is amply rewarded by the views from the many vantage points, the coolness of the wooded areas and the poetic details to be found along the way: dahlias and carnations in flower at the edge of the vineyards, curious little goats, thin veils of romantic mist along the mountain profiles.

Lucania, from the ravines to the gullies: This medium-high difficulty walk covers about 144 kilometres along the ancient sheep tracks of a harsh and welcoming land, full of nuances, contradictions and magic. The encounter with the narratives of this part of Lucania – poets, theatrical performers, musicians and keepers of ancient stories – is one of the highlights of this walk, which takes place mainly on old sheep tracks, dirt roads, paths and asphalt. Here you will come across villages and hamlets that appear minute from a distance, but are the focus of ancient popular collective rituals that still survive today: transhumance, masks and dances that evoke beliefs of the past, songs and rudimentary instruments that alleviated the daily labours of farmers then and, even today, those of today. The route starts from the ravines of Matera, the wonderful capital of Lucania, and passes through villages and historic sites such as the Castello del Malconsiglio, the scene of a conspiracy against Ferdinand I, and Ferrandina, one of the main epicentres of post-unification brigandage, before continuing on to Craco, a veritable ghost town. Through numerous stages made up of small villages out of time, we reach Aliano, once the land of exile of Carlo Levi, who described the spatial and temporal isolation of these places and painted them on canvas with care, in a lucid effort to understand them in their diversity from the cities of the north. This journey of immersion in the spirit of the South, in search of the most authentic and genuine spirit of a welcoming South, generous and full of hope, is to be travelled with a poem in your pocket, to be left as a gift to a land that tells its story in poetry.

The Via del Tratturo: One hundred and ten kilometres to discover the tratturi, the great grassy roads that connected the Abruzzo Apennines and the Tavoliere delle Puglie and were used by shepherds and their flocks to take their animals to less cold lands. In 1447, Alfonso of Aragon revitalised those roads on which the sheep moved and created a large network of sheep tracks, the regi tratturi, which had a well-defined width, sixty Neapolitan passes, corresponding to 111 metres. These included the Pescasseroli – Candela and the Castel di Sangro – Lucera. The rediscovery of the “tratturi”, the long grassy roads that connected mountainous Abruzzo with the Tavoliere di Puglia, is a unique experience that takes the form of a medium/high-difficulty walk to be done in 8 days. The route follows the same tracks used by the Samnites, the Romans and above all, from 1200 onwards, by hundreds of shepherds and millions of sheep as far as Molise… Entering nature, breathing it, listening to it and touching its contours. Walking with respect for a precious pastoral tradition, rich in stories that wind through silent territories, authentic villages, typical refreshment places where you can taste natural and generous dishes. Walking for hours and not hearing a sound, imagining those vast expanses of grass covered by thousands of sheep and caravans of mules laden with goods. It is like taking a journey into the past, into the traditions, culture and religiousness of the people of Abruzzo, who have always linked their lives to transhumance. To get your bearings, you can also consult the website:

The Regina Viarum: the Appian Way. – This medium-high-difficulty route covers 119 kilometres over 7 days on sheep tracks, cart tracks and paths between Basilicata, Campania and Apulia to Gravina in Apulia, the last Roman statio along the Appian Way for the supply of grain and wine. In between, we come to Lucania, Venosa, a symbolic place and birthplace of the poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, and Melfi with Mount Vulture acting as guardian and compass. The wheat fields and the wind will be the best travelling companions along this route, along with the stories of those who live in these harsh lands, where the intimate and forgotten Apennine Italy is hidden, the fractious, the industrious and the mistrustful, in the words of Rumiz, people of a hidden Italy who however “possess one thing that city people have lost: the sense of the limit”. You walk on paths and stretches of asphalt: here, beneath your feet, you feel the memory of the multitudes who have passed through, History, because as Horace reports: “you give us the certainty that we are going in the right direction; you tell us that here Rome was a lady and, between Benevento and the sea of Brindisi, merchants and legionaries passed by, shepherds from Epirus and carters from Thrace or Bithynia, patricians from Neapolis and helmsmen landed from the windy Cyclades”.

The Via Lauretana Senese – Walking along the 115 kilometres that lead from Siena to Cortona means walking in your own footsteps along one of the most ancient connection and trade routes in Tuscany which, since Etruscan times, has marked the fortune and development of this territory: the Valdichiana. Over time, this route has increasingly taken on the character of a pilgrimage for those who, from Siena, which has always been an important reference point for the paths of faith, made their way to the Holy House of Loreto, hence the name Via Lauretana Senese. It starts in Siena and walks for 6 days on a medium-difficulty route that passes through the Crete Senesi and its Biancane di Leonina, which give the landscape the lunar appearance known in ancient times as the Accona Desert, to reach first Asciano and then Serre di Rapolano. Continuing on, an extensive rural landscape opens up to meet villages such as Montepulciano and Torrita di Siena, before reaching Valiano and its Leopoldine, rural architectural structures that tell a piece of the history of the Valdichiana. A final stage reaches Cortona, the final point of the Via Lauretana Senese, but also the start for those who continue on to Assisi or Trasimeno and then, crossing Umbria and Marche, to the natural destination of this route: Loreto. The Via Lauretana Senese, a route that allows us to rediscover one of the most fascinating spiritual paths in Italy, but also a path that secularly allows us to experience a territory that the hand of man has wisely built and protected over time: boundless landscapes, authentic medieval villages, works of art, archaeological routes, but also a laborious and careful preservation of local crops that have contributed to the construction of a landscape that we can now walk through, thus celebrating slowness, an ancient metaphor of human existence.

Once upon a time there was the Iron Curtain: it divided Gorizia in two. It was erected many years before the Berlin Wall and only ceased to exist in 2004. And yet of all the border areas in the far east of Italy, the area from Gorizia to Cividale is the most amiable, the kindest. A fertile land, called ‘ponka’, where vines, cherry and peach trees reign supreme, and the soft lines of the hills create a landscape of tranquillity and grace. And it is precisely there, in those hills once battered by the First and Second World Wars, hardened by the Cold War, that grace and brotherhood, the desire to live in another, more relaxed way, are possible, real and palpable today. The walk in the footsteps of this history unfolds from the Collio to the Colli Orientali of Friuli Venezia Giulia among the shadows of farmers, soldiers and pilgrims on a route of medium difficulty that is covered in 5 days. You walk in the footsteps of many memories, thinking of those who, like Scipio Slataper and his trench mates, lost their lives in battle, or of pilgrims on their way to Castelmonte or even further north, to Mount Lussari. Above all, we walk among the vineyards, among the stubborn farmers who replanted the vines after the bombs and, in just a few years, transformed their wines into some of the best nectars in Italy and the world. You can follow them into their cellars to taste their nectar and get a better understanding of these lands and people. But you can also walk in oak and chestnut forests, or higher up among the beech trees, or in oases on the plains where birds stop on their migratory routes. We speak in Italian, Slovenian, Friulian and dialect, amidst the sounds and rhythms of a veritable miniature Mitteleuropa, until we reach the Ponte del Diavolo in Cividale del Friuli, the Longobard pearl, admiring the emerald reflections of the Natisone river and thinking of the water that accompanies the entire journey, that of the Isonzo.



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