Top Ten Family Walking Tours in Italy

1. Leonardo da Vinci & Michelangelo trails above Florence. Take a local bus up to Fiesole, and follow a trail to the spot where Leonardo da Vinci tested his flying machines (1 hr). Continue the walking tour, complete with spectacular views of city of Florence and its Duomo, to Settignano, where Michelangelo came to sketch the quarry workers (2 hrs). This is followed by a visit to the interactive da Vinci museum to fiddle with replicas of his inventions.

2. Mt Etna active volcano walk in Sicily. Take a jeep up to the black lava fields for a guided walking tour into a spooky lava tunnel, caused by volcanic gas. If the weather is clear and the volcano is cooperating, you’ll see the red molten lava in one of the main craters and enjoy views stretching all the way to Calabria. (1-2 hrs)

3. Roman Villa walking tour on the island of Capri. Take a breezy ferry to Capri from Positano, Sorrento or Naples and walk up to the Villa Jovis perched on a clifftop, the pleasure palace of Emperor Tiberius, where he disposed of his party-pooping enemies with a mere push over the edge (1 hr). You can do a circular walk, stopping to gaze at the huge rocks in the sea called faraglioni, where a rare blue-bellied lizard lives, and walk down a long stairway and back to the piazza in time for gelato. (2 hrs)

4. Etruscan pathways from Pitigliano to Sovana in southern Tuscany. Explore the hill town of Pitigliano built atop of a huge rock, to see the Medici aqueduct and synagogue before walking along the 2000 year-old Etruscan roads carved into the rock, with creepy grottos and tombs scattered along the way. Survivors emerge to green fields with grazing sheep, and lovely cafes in Sovana where you can call a return taxi. (3 hrs)

5. Ancient stairways and secret gardens of Ragusa, Sicily. This walking tour starts in the center of Ragusa Ibla, and climbs the steps past the magnificent Baroque cathedral (count how many times you see St George slaying the dragon!) that lead up to the cupola. Continue up the ancient stairways with a great view of the city, and then reward yourself with savory rice arancini and the creamiest cannoli in town at Di Pasquale. (1 hour) Take a city bus back or continue down a trail into a lush canyon of limestone quarries, secret gardens and old water mills. You’ll pop out back in the old town of Ragusa Ibla, with one last hike up to the starting point at the city gardens. (90 mins)

6. Truffle hunting trail to Barolo in Piedmont. Start in the town of Serralunga, play King of the Castle, and climb the soaring tower for a commanding view of your kingdom. Arrange in advance to romp through the woods with a truffle hunter and his trusty dog, and hope Fido finds a nice truffle for your lunch. End in the town of Barolo, and cool off in a wine cellar. (3-4 hrs)

7. The trail of St. Francis of Assisi in Umbria. Start on the top of Mt. Subasio at the edge of peaceful woods, and visit the tiny monk’s cell of St. Francis, where he came to meditate amongst the woodland creatures. Follow the wide track that zig-zags down the mountain to the hill town of Spello. As you wind your way through the narrow streets of town, see who can spot the Doors of the Dead, separate little doorways used in medieval times, to avoid the bad luck those pesky dead bodies might bring. (2-3 hrs)

8. Alpine meadows and climbers at Cinque Torri in the Dolomites. The walking tour begins at the Cinque Torri (5 Towers) lift above Cortina. As you ride the 4-person chairlift up above the treetops, keep a sharp eye out for chamois and marmots. Once at the top, there is a rifugio for lunch or hot chocolate, where you can watch climbers scaling the sheer walls of the Cinque Torri by the World War I trenches. Walk down a trail of log steps, and see how many different wildflowers you can spot – dark pink rhodendron, bright yellow alpine poppies – and watch for deer drinking in the cool stream. If the kids have caught the climbing bug, they can test their skills on the artificial climbing wall with an instructor while parents relax with a drink on the pedestrian mall in Cortina. (2-3 hrs)

9. Santa Margherita to Portofino on the Italian Riviera in Liguria. Take a well-signed path up steps through silvery olive groves past the villas of the rich and famous. The protected park land has some resident cinghiali (wild boar) so stand clear if you spot them. The walking tour breaks for a dip in the turquoise sea at Paraggi beach (2 hrs). Continue on the wide paved path to Portofino, (30 minutes) and have a gelato in the port while seeing who has the biggest yacht. Take a bus or ferry back to town, or take another ferry around the peninsula to Camogli, where the huge frying pan for the annual Free Fish Fry is on display. Trains take you back to Santa Margherita.

10. San Quirico to the hot springs at Bagno Vignoni, Tuscany. Begin in the pleasant walled town of San Quirico, and walk along a cypress-lined lane to the crest of a hill with outstanding views of the Val d’Orcia. See who can name the hill towns in your view- Montalcino, Pienza, Monticchiello, Montepulciano, Monte-this Monte-that. Walk down to Bagno Vignoni, and soak your feet in the hot springs that flow in a channel through the village. Icky Tip: Since this is a favorite place for Italians to sit, soak, and read the paper, try to find a spot towards the beginning of the channel, so that your feet are among the first in line.