7,000km Hike Across Italy Begins 7th Week on Schedule

In February, Elia Origoni started a 7,000km solo hike through Italy. For eight months, he is walking along the Sentiero Italia, through 20 regions of his home country. After six weeks, he has covered about 1,200km and is right on schedule.

“I am finally starting to immerse myself in this new dimension, made up of ever-new panoramas, slow steps, and solitude,” he said.

Early in the trip, his main worry was the upcoming 345km ocean row from Sardinia to Sicily. Strong winds buffeted the Mediterranean during the first weeks of his hike, and currents had shifted. If they continued in that direction, he would have to row against them the entire time, a nerve-wracking prospect for someone new to ocean rowing.

Photo: eliaorigoni.com


On February 22, he started from Sardinia’s Gennargentu Massif. For the next week, he trekked through the historical region of Ogliastra. He had been looking forward to the views, but clouds and fog thwarted his expectations. “The mood was leaden like the weather,” he said.

Photo: eliaorigoni.com


Finally, the weather improved, and the trails were so well-maintained that he could hike on cruise control, without frequently checking the map. He averaged around 40km a day, and by the end of the third week, he had covered 600km. He had almost finished the first section of the Sentiero Italia, and the ocean crossing loomed.

But when he reached the port of Villasimius, the starting point of his 345km crossing, his boat had not yet arrived. Nor had the winds changed. He bided his time, but the delay with the boat continued.

Finally, after a five-day wait, his boat arrived. He spent a few days getting it ready and finally set off on March 10. Origoni had never before rowed in anything larger than a lake. “It excites me and scares me at the same time,” he said before starting.

He rowed for three hours on, one hour off, in continuous rotation. Occasionally, if conditions were particularly good, he kept rowing. Sicily drew closer and closer. On the third day, dolphins surrounded him in the calm water. “The last night at sea was indescribable,” he recalled. “A starry sky enveloped me as if I were in a Van Gogh painting.”

Photo: eliaorigoni.com


He arrived in Trapani on March 14, rested for two days to catch up on his sleep after just catnaps on the crossing, then resumed hiking the Italian Path on March 17.

Over the next two days, his route took him around Mount Cofano and through San Vito Lo Capo and the Zingaro Reserve, Sicily’s first protected natural area. On March 19, rain slowed him down. By the time he made the coastal village of Scopello, he was soaked, the shops had closed, and there was nowhere to get food.

He eventually took refuge in a shed to escape the rain. Unfortunately, the roof leaked, and water was dripping onto his sleeping bag. “Like a skilled contortionist, I found a dry corner where I could sleep,” he said. But he forgot to take his boots with him, so the next morning felt “like walking barefoot in a pond”.

Soggy dogs. Photo: eliaorigoni.com


The rain made the “paths looked like rivers, and the rivers looked like paths. He added: “I found myself wading through a stream in my underwear while scales began to sprout on my feet.”

That night, he stayed at a farmhouse, where he had a home-cooked meal and dried his kit. Although the rain continued unrelentingly, he started again the next day, eager to get to Santa Cristina, reputed to have the best cannoli in Sicily. He was not disappointed. He put in 20km in the morning, feasted on the regional delicacy for lunch, then notched another pasta-propelled 25km. No doubt the cannoli has helped him make up ground after the delay in Sardinia waiting for his boat.

He is now crossing the Nebrodi Mountains and expects to arrive at Etna by March 30.

The route. Photo: Elia Origoni