Across the Apennines to the seaBack to Routes
Vines and village
The afternoon ahead
I liked walking through the different sorts of landscapes. We didn't even meet any other walkers, except on the Sunday, at the top. The flowers were fantastic! The paths themselves were often truly lovely - the old road, the contouring bits, the ridges in both woods and open.
It was great to get to each place to find each accommodation so different and interesting. They were all nice and the food and drink excellent. I like that the places we stay are low key but have what we want, and knowing that there are people on the ground who know what we are doing and are there to help if necessary.
Stephen and Joan Carter, Edinburgh, UK - June 2019
We had an amazing time so wanted to thank you very much for all the seemless service and preparation materials, maps, instructions and overall experience. We were very satisfied.
I am glad I contacted you last minute for the GPS files and downloaded the app, as it certainly came in handy. Even my paper map-loving Dad agreed it was very useful!
Flora Last, Sheffield, UK - June 2019
We are just back from the fantastic walking holiday experience we enjoyed on the Via del Sale! Everything was so well organized and the maps and notes were spot on. Hosts in all the hotels and guesthouses were wonderful!
The walks themselves were simply stunning with unspoilt scenery and magnificent terrain. We received warm welcomes everywhere, ate delicious food and revived weary legs with delicious wines and cool beers!
Gillian Perdue, Dublin, Ireland - April 2019
We loved the walk.
Views were amazing and it was great to be walking through the vineyards at harvest time and the woods at mushroom picking time.
Susan Roughton, Bristol, UK - September 2018
We liked the remote hills and ridge walks, particularly on the last four days.
We enjoyed the ancient paths, the old and attractive forests, the accompaniment of lots of butterflies and birdsong and the tranquillity of the walk.
Colin Passey, Southsea, UK - June 2018
Liguria really was unspoilt Europe. Challenging and exciting route - terrain that I did not even know existed before coming here, and could not possibly have done without guidance.
We loved the way agriculture was still active here, and farms and villages were alive in a way they are not in other parts. Exhilarating walking and hospitable local hosts.
Helen Grove-White, Anglesey, UK - May 2018
The places we stayed were fabulous – warm, friendly and each unique in their own way.
All were superb but Paul and Arabella were particularly welcoming and their cooking sublime. Capanne di Cosola put on the most amazing meal and the boys thought the meat cooked over the fire at Due Ponti heaven. A big thank you to everyone at every place who went the extra mile in dealing with the fact that 3 of us were gluten free.
Elizabeth Fisher with Corin (13) and Arthur (11), Oxford, UK - August 2016
We wanted to tell you how much we enjoyed the walk in the Ligurian Hills.
It's our favourite so far! The scenery was spectacular and so were the meals at the end of the day. It was a real bonus that we had sunny, coolish days. What a beautiful part of Italy! I'm sure we'll never forget having our picnic in the middle of the huge field of narcissus in full bloom, or sharing the very narrow hillside path with a herd of 20 cows.
Susan Johnstone, Victoria, Canada - May 2016
At a glance
8 nights, (6 walking days - full route) including two at the end by the sea in Camogli. Additional nights possible in all accommodation.
How much walking?
Full days: 15-24km per day, 4½-7 hrs walking
Using shortening options: 10-17km per day, 2¼-5 hrs (using taxis)
From the high Apennines to the stunning Ligurian coast
Following the “Via del Sale” (Salt Road) from “Little Tuscany” or Oltrepo Pavese, this route travels across the foothills of the majestic Apennine chain in its westward extension from Pisa. This is bucolic Italy, fiercely proud of local traditions and in particular local food and wine. The first two days walking in this region is through vineyards and woods, to get you in trim for the next four days of high ridge walking, scene of Hannibal’s march on Rome in 218 BC. From the historic valley town of Varzi on Night 3, you will climb swiftly above the 1000m mark and will stay there for much of the next four days, before tumbling down to the sea at the picturesque fishing port/resort of Camogli, about 30km west of the Cinque Terre and, we think, far more authentic and Italian.
This is a route for the seasoned walker – the views are tremendous but the days are quite long, unless you take our shortening options. Shorter (5-7 night) options are available, but we recommend spending an extra night at the start (take in historic Pavia with its ancient university, or the lovely monastery at Certosa di Pavia).
For those who would like a day (or more) in the company of a guide we can offer the services of Lucina Gioia or Alberto Campora – contact On Foot for more details.
Walked by On Foot staff: Simon and Mary
REVIEWS: For independent walker reviews submitted to the Association of Independent Tour Operators visit Aito.com.
TRAVEL ADVICE: To find the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for UK citizens travelling to Italy, click here. Citizens of other nations will also find it useful, but should always check their appropriate local agency.
- The picturesque countryside of the Oltrepo Pavese – “Little Tuscany”
- Walk in the footsteps of Hannibal and Frank Sinatra’s mother
- Local wines and sophisticated home cooking
- Varzi and its historic centre
- Crossing the Ligurian Apennines
- Your first glimpse of the blue Mediterranean
- The harbour and beach at Camogli
This route features the following characteristics and interests: Coast, Mountains, Remote, Villages and farms, Food, Vegan friendly, Wine
An extra day at the start to visit Pavia or just to relax after your journey in Arabella's lovely villa (with pool), and extra nights at the end to explore the Ligurian coast and the Cinque Terre.
Eating and Drinking
Arabella at Villa Arabella goes for her own “Ravioli di Brasato con sugo di Brasato, followed by Coppa Arrosto (roast back of pork) (wine with this one Rosso Riserva DOC dell’ Oltrepò Pavese, of course) and finish with Tiramisu di Fragole or Panna Cotta – wine Moscato dell’Oltrepò Pavese”. Paolo at Capanne de Cosola, a remote restaurant on a high pass (Night 4) recommends “home-made pasta stuffed with mashed potatoes and topped with melted Montebore, a typical cheese of the Val Borbera. With this dish usually the best wine is the ‘Bonarda’ wine produced in the Oltrepò Pavese.”
However this is also a route where we can now offer a special experience for vegan and vegetarian walkers – Paul has been assiduous in securing a varied and imaginative diet all the way along the route (though strict vegans will need to miss out a night in Varzi). The end, Camogli, boasts several restaurants that specialise in vegan dishes. Find out more in our Travellers Blog here, and see some sample dishes here.
How much Walking?
Using shortening options: 10-17km per day, 2¼-5 hrs (using taxis)
Walking on paths and tracks, several steep sections after leaving Varzi. Paths are well marked. Highest point on route: 1,650m.
Medium-hard: Average cumulative uphill stretches (CUSs) 634m (425m – 1210m) per day.
Medium: CUSs 422m (250m – 900m) using shortening options on Days 3-6
GPX file available for handheld GPS or smartphone App for complete route.
Important note: Times given for each day are walking times for an “average” walker and exclude stops. “CUSs” stands for “Cumulative Uphill Stretches” and measures the aggregated ascents in each day, expressed in metres of climb. See “Walk Grading” for more information.
When to go?
The best months to walk: May, June, September
Other possible months: April, July, August, October
This is a route that is best walked after the snow has melted from the hills (still a possibility in May). May and June are lovely for flowers but June can start to be a little hot though height will ameliorate excessive temperatures. September can be busy, but October should be glorious, though with the risk of rain.
Temperature and rainfall chart for Varzi
Arrive in Mornico Losana (earliest check-in time is 14:00) and rest after your journey - in Arabella's lovely villa - maybe swim in the pool and certainly have a good dinner.
Day 2 - Mornico Losana to Fortunago
From your first night’s accommodation today’s lung expanding walk takes you through the bucolic vineyards and meadows of the Oltrepo, past Montalto castle, and through the lively centre of Montalto Pavese (shops and cafés for those wishing to practise their Italian). From here, the views become more expansive, as you dip back down into the valley of the Ghiaia di Montalto and up again (yes) to the ridge. A lovely, if switchbacking end to your walk takes you off the ridge and through the lovely villages of Fortunago, where you should linger, as this is one of the “Borghi più belli d’Italia”. (Hard: 4½ hrs, 19 km, CUSs 850m). Alternatives: From Montalto (if you are staying there) the walk is 5km shorter and the first climb is already done for you – if staying at Villa Arabella ask for a lift to Montalto (Medium: 3½ hrs, 13km, CUSs 600m). Or miss the walk completely by hitching a lift with the luggage (ask your host).
Day 3 - Fortunago to Varzi
The day starts with a quiet stretch of asphalt before rejoining the ridge, with the last views of the Oltrepó. Leave the open at the “Cross on the col” and then track through beech woods along the ridge top of M. Bruno to the castle at Oramala, before descending to the old town of Varzi in the valley. Your next day’s walking rears up ahead of you! (Medium-hard: 4¾ hrs, 19km, CUSs 650m) Alternatives: Arrange a ride with the luggage courtesy of our excellent host, as far as the Cross. (Easy: 2¾ hrs, 10km, CUS 225m)
Day 4 - Varzi to Capanne di Cosola
Start with a sustained climb up to Castellaro (you can ride with the luggage along this section if you prefer), then up the valley of the Fosso. Climbing steeply up through beech woods, you reach the main ridge just before Monte Bogleglio. Then – a long and sometimes dramatic ridge walk, with a possible bagging of Monte Chiappo at the end before your next night’s excellent meal at the mountain lodge at Capanne di Cosola. (Hard: 7 hrs, 21 km, CUSs 1210m). Alternative: ride with the luggage to Castellaro, saving 2 hrs and 350m of ascent.
Day 5 - Capanne di Cosola to Due Ponti
This is the majestic day. 14 km of high walking, culminating in the meadows which surround Monte Cavalla and views for ever. From here you will be following the old road down (now abandoned except for foresters and walkers) for 6 km to the valley floor, to your comfortable accommodation at the hamlet of Due Ponti. (Medium-hard: 6¾ hrs, 23km, CUSs 550m) Alternative – two easier shortening options (8½ km and 19½km), or ride all the way with the luggage.
Day 6 - Buffalora to Calcinara
This gorgeous walk seeks to do the impossible. After a short transfer, climb (gently) up to Monte Lavagnola; the climbing is then all but done and the rest of the walk consists of high contouring – maintaining the same level but with the most stupendous views of a much more cultured landscape than the day before – wooded valleys, small farms and villages. And you even get not one, but two, potential pit stops at good bar-restaurants. Your final walk into Calcinara will be rewarded by great friendliness, good food and drink – and almost no English! (Medium: 6 hrs, 19 km, 490m CUSs). Alternatives: Shorten to 2½ hrs or 4 hrs (with lifts).
Day 7 - Calcinara to Camogli
A wonderful final day – you continue along the ridge eastwards, then southwards to the coast at Camogli. Again the views will never let you down, and the final mountain spur before the end, with the sea on each side, will be much photographed. Your hotels in Camogli are all welcoming, whatever grade you have opted for. (Medium-hard: 5 hrs, 15 km, 430m CUSs). Alternatives: None except to ask Fausto’s uncle for a lift with the luggage.
Day 8 - Free day in Camogli
Do a bit of free coastal walking to San Fruttuoso’s idyllic car-free bay, or to Portofino, take a trip on the coastal ferry, take the train to the Cinque Terre (1½ hrs) for some station-to-station walking – or just relax!
Return home – or why not stay a day or two longer?
ARRIVING BY AIR
The best airports are Genoa, Milan (Linate, Malpensa and Bergamo), and Pisa. Flights also possible via Turin.
Land By: 16:00 (Pisa 14:30 and Milan by 15:00 so as not to miss supper) for public transport connections to Voghera.
Return flight earliest: 12:00 (Genoa), 13:00 (Pisa), 15:00 (Milan airports) for train connections from Camogli (see transfer information below).
Land by/earliest return times not applicable if using pre-booked taxi.
Flight information can change rapidly and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner (see below) before finalising any booking with us. Do not book your flights until we have confirmed that we have provisionally reserved accommodation for you.
For up-to-date schedules and flights from all airports check Skyscanner.
See “getting to the start of the walk” below for transfer information.
ARRIVING BY TRAIN
Nearest railway stations:
By rail from the UK:
It is possible to get to the beginning of the route by train in one day from London, albeit a lengthy day. A typical journey starts with Eurostar from London St Pancras (7:01) to Paris (10:17), then crossing Paris to Gare de Lyon (two stops on the RER line D) for a TGV train (11:37) to Marseille-St-Charles (15:01), and a Thello train (15:28) onwards to Voghera (22:06). Alternatively go via Paris to Zurich HB and Milan Centrale – a quicker route but with one more change.
The return route from Camogli might require an overnight stop. Look at travelling via Genoa, Turin and Paris, or taking a longer route via Milan, Basel and Paris. Another choice might be to get to Milan Centrale for the 23:10 Thello sleeper train to Paris, and be in London by lunchtime the next day.
Getting to the start of the walk
The first accommodation is normally in Mornico Losana, though the 5-night version starts in Varzi. The last hotel is in Camogli. Transfer times and methods are suggested for the three Milan airports, Genoa and Pisa. For train arrival transfers see below.
Please note that the earliest check-in time at Mornico Losana (Villa Arabella) is 14:00.
Outwards: Bus/Train then either short taxi (Mornico Losana) or bus or taxi (Varzi) – Milan airports or Genoa 2½ hrs, Pisa 4 hrs, OR pre-bookable taxi transfer from airport to first hotel
Return: Train then Airport bus – Genoa airport 2 hrs, Milan airports 5 hours, Pisa airport 3 hrs
Transfers from train stations:
Outwards: From Voghera station pre-bookable taxi to Mornico Losana, public bus or pre-bookable taxi to Varzi
Return: Camogli station is within walking distance from most hotels
For pre-bookable taxi costs, see “Prices”
Full transfer advice, including timetables, is provided in your Walkers’ Pack. Contact us if you would like additional pre-booking information.
Where You'll Stay
A wonderful range of local accommodation, including the highly stylish, the earnestly mountain and the friendly basic. All are committed to our ideals, and those before the coast all use locally-sourced (or home-grown) food and wine.
Mornico Losana – Villa Arabella (dinner, B&B)
Gorgeous and stylish villa with pool and Arabella's cooking. Late arrivals (after 8:30pm) will be on Bed & Breakfast only basis.Website
Varzi – Locanda Le Cicale (B&B)
Lively gelateria/B&B in a small town on the edge of the hills, run by Greta and Allesandra.Website
Loc – Capanne di Cosola (dinner, B&B)
Mountain pass restaurant with classic regional cuisine and newly refurbished rooms. Small spa.Website
Due Ponti – Hotel due Ponti (dinner, B&B)
Friendly family run old coaching inn with large gardens on banks of the Trebbia.Website
Camogli – Cenobio dei Dogi (B&B)
Grand old lady of Camogli hotels, overlooking the sea, with pool, terraces, private beach etc.Website
Total 8 nights in double/twin room, all breakfasts, 5 evening meals, 6 picnics, all luggage transfers, and a shortening transfer at the start of the day from Varzi if required; full Walkers Pack with route directions, maps, transfer and background information; local telephone support. Locally levied tourist taxes are not included.
All prices are per person unless otherwise indicated, and are based on a standard booking in early May. Prices may vary seasonally and a fixed price will be given to you before you commit.
Single Room Supplement (SRS): From £175
Lone Traveller Additional Supplement (LTAS): From £275
Larger party saving (LPS): Groups of more than 2 people (on an identical itinerary, on the same booking and booked at the same time) – discount of at least £60 per person
Maximum party size: 10
Extra nights at Villa Arabella, Camogli hotels and/or other stops en route: Contact On Foot Holidays (seasonal pricing)
Upgrade hotels in Camogli: Contact On Foot Holidays (seasonal pricing)
Taxi Milan airports to first hotel: Malpensa £167 (1-3 pers.), £191 (4-8); Linate £122 (1-3), £147 (4-8); Bergamo £211 (1-3), £243 (4-8)
Taxi Genoa airport to first hotel: £167 (1-3 persons) £200 (4-8)
Taxis from/back to Pisa airport: Contact On Foot Holidays
Taxi from Voghera station to Mornico Losana (pay locally) €35 (1-4 pers.), €42 (5-8); from Pavia station €55 (1-4), €66 (5-8). Voghera to Varzi €50 (1-4); €60 (5-8)
Spa entry at Capanne di Cosola: €15 per person (pay locally)
Sending Walkers Packs to addresses outside the UK and Ireland: £10-£40 (per pack, location dependent)
Guided walking day with Lucina Gioia or Amberto Campora – price depends on day(s) chosen, but budget for £150 per day per party
Route designed by:
Paul is a seasoned voyager and has travelled extensively for both business and pleasure (bleasure!?) to over 50 countries and over 500 places on all continents. He speaks five languages.