7,000km Solo Hike Through Italy

Photo: Elia Origoni

On February 8, Elia Origoni, 29, left on a 7,000km journey through Italy. Over eight months, he will hike through 20 regions from Sardinia to Trieste along the Sentiero Italia, the longest hiking trail in Europe. It will take him through the Alps, the Apennines, and to Italy’s islands.

To make the entire journey human-powered, he will row from Sardinia to Sicily, across the Strait of Messina and across Lake Maggiore — 300km in all.

Starting in Santa Teresa di Gallura, a small seaside village on the north coast of Sardinia, he “indulged in one last beer” on February 7 before finding shelter for the night away from the wind. He didn’t bother putting up his tent but came to regret it when it began to pour in the middle of the night.

Photo: Elia Origoni

Apart from that miscue, his first week has been relatively successful. He has covered the planned 30 to 40km a day. The main challenges have been the unrelenting winds, the brief days (sunset at around 17:30), and the repairs to the Sentiero Italia that have forced detours.

If he continues at the same pace, the trip will take about eight months, but he is no rush. He prefers to explore as he goes. His backpack weighs just 15kg, and he will resupply often, sometimes daily, depending on the section of trail. Occasionally, he will carry enough food for a week.

Though the route tries to stay in the mountains, it is not always possible. He is carrying a Spot device and a Garmin GPS, but he will only use them in emergencies, preferring to navigate with paper maps.

He plans to camp along the way but won’t turn down an offer of shelter. During winter and spring, he may go for days without seeing anyone, but as tourism picks up in summer, this will change. He’s most looking forward to the Apennines, which he hasn’t visited before. As a mountain guide, he has spent a lot of time in the Alps, and previously solo hiked the entire Alpine arc from Vienna to Genoa.

Photo: Elia Origoni

Origoni considers himself an athlete, especially in mountains, but concedes that rowing is completely new to him. He joined a rowing club half a year ago to prepare; Matteo Perucchini, who rowed the Atlantic in 2016, has been coaching him.

From Sardinia to Sicily, he will use an ocean-rowing boat that is already in place for him. The other two bodies of water aren’t as exposed and allow smaller boats. The other difficulty of the trip will be the long separation from his partner. However, Origoni has agreed that “this is the last long trip I will do for a while.”

Italy currently has COVID-19 restrictions in place, but as a mountain guide, Origoni has managed to get this expedition classed as work, so he is allowed to move through the “moderate” or orange zones of somewhat higher infection rates. Everyone in Italy is encouraged to wear masks even outdoors, but the isolation of much of his hike will avoid the need for that, except when he approaches other people.

The route. Image: Elia Origoni

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About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a freelance writer and science teacher based in the UK.

She is a keen traveler and has been lucky enough to backpack her way around Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans and aims to dive and open-water swim in as many seas as possible.

Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife, adventure travel, and Harry Potter trivia.

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Guido Vettorello
Guido Vettorello
15 days ago

Will he be writing a book about his travels ?

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Louis-Philippe Loncke
14 days ago

Just love the idea. We need more of such new adventures. Unsupported is of course not possible but not needed either, more value in meeting a few people underway and a few rest days I guess. Hopefully he’ll do it in 1 go, so without a 1-3 break or so.

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Susan ( Suzie)
Susan ( Suzie)
14 days ago

Amazing adventure. Having been to all 20 regions of Italy I know of the beauty and charm he will discover on his journey. I’m wondering if the route will be along the Via Francigena at all or is this an entirely different sentiero.

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