Eat, Drink, Trek: Top Trails In Italy And Spain

12 October 2017

Who says an active holiday is all hard work and no pleasure? There’s no reason why days filled with outdoor adventures, new discoveries and spellbinding views can’t be topped off with a delectable cheeseboard, perfectly matched vino and superb accommodation to keep you cosy at night.

An active tour of the luxury kind can take you to some of the best and most remote parts of Europe – no sweat, blood or tears required. For those who enjoy the finer things in life and like adventure just as much, here are some of our favourite active holidays in Europe that you can do in style. 

Cinque Terre And Beyond 

Cinque Terre, or the "five lands", is by far one of Italy's most walkable spots, with a string of five pastel-hued fishing villages connected by a meandering track along five rugged miles of arduous, stunning coastline, complete with UNESCO World Heritage status. Perched in the Liguria region of northwest Italy, The Cinque Terre Explored is one easy way to do it while also venturing beyond to discover medieval gems, gourmet indulgences, endless stunning seaside vistas and character-laden towns that feel as though time has stood still. Both amateur and professional hikers can find their bliss, with no shortage of chances to dip into those sultry, blue waters to cool off, the harbours are dotted with bobbing, colourful-hued boats. 

Manorola, Cinque Terre Manorola village, nestled along the Cinque Terre trekking trail.

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A journey through the Liguria region unearths a swathe of medieval marvels. In the medieval-infused town of Levanto, find yourself in awe of Sant'Andrea Church and, behind it, the fascinating Castle of Levanto, dating back to the 12th century and once part of the city's defensive medieval walls.

The Abbey of San Fruttuoso is another drawcard of the medieval kind. Perched on the Italian Riviera near Portofino, this seaside Catholic abbey has a fascinating history - it has also played host to a monastery, a pirate's den, a humble fishermen home and a residence of the Princess of Doria.

Vernazza Vernazza at sunset, in the Cinque Terre.

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Monterosso is famous for its lemon trees and anchovies, and while the distinct aroma of freshly picked basil is hard to avoid, one of the most gourmet indulengences to be had here comes from the grapes. The Cinque Terre area produces a very special local dessert wine: sciacchetra. Relish the chance to enjoy a wine tasting session at a local wine shop in Monterosso. Another local flavour to put on the list is coniglio alla ligure - a signature dish made from red wine-braised rabbit with olives and pine nuts, which is iconic of the Ligurian region. 

Camino de Santiago

Spain's famed Camino de Santiago has lured pilgrims from across the world for over a thousand years. Also known as The Way of Saint James, the trail follows the route of medieval pilgrims bound for Santiago de Compostela - one of the three most important pilgrimage cities of Christianity. You too can complete the trek and earn yourself a Compostela certificate - passing through stunning Galician countryside, wandering through quaint hamlets and over original bridges from stop to stop. The last 100 kilometres of the track can be done in one week for a perfectly balance Camino de Santiago experience. If you like the sound of doing it on your own, but want a little help, Peregrine's self-guided 'A Week On The Camino' itinerary offers you that peace of mind - pack your own bags and hit the road, knowing that all the finer details have been looked after for you. 

Camino de Santiago in SPain. Walking along the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain.

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A sure highlight and a reward for finishing this legendary route is that first glimpse at the Cathedral de Santiago, home of the relics of St James. Just one look at the facade and it's clear why this is one of the finest Romanesque churches in Spain and forms an integral component of the Santiago de Compostela World Heritage Site. 

View of Cathedral of Santiago. Terrace bar of Parador Nacional de Santiago with the Cathedral of Santiago.

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Santiago de Compostela is like a big village, oozing atmosphere and with so many wonderful finds tucked away amongst alleys and quaint granite streets. A great wayto soak it up? From one of the rooftop restaurants in the old town. Dine on traditional local cuisine while admiring the historic cityscape below fall into darkness and take on a whole new feel. 

Tuscany

Tuscany conjures images of rolling hills dotted with quaint villages, rows of vineyards and winding roads made all the more beautiful by the dusky hues of an Italian sunset. Many travellers flock to Tuscany to soak up the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Florence and to taste-test the sprawling wineries, but for those who want to truly take in the region's best and finest, a walking journey is a must. A guided Walking in Tuscany departure leads the way from Florence, through ancient villages of the Val d'Orcia region, past crumbling castle ruins, over stunning hilltops and to lovely Siena. 

Monticchiello, Tuscany. Famous Cypress Road in Monticchiello, a small town in the countryside.

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Sometimes, getting lost opens the door to unforgettable moments and memories on the road. In the hilltop village of Volterra, getting lost in its character-filled cobbled lanes is a must. Discover hidden restaurants, local homes and new vantage points for panoramic views from its highest points - and you're bound to bump into locals going about their everyday life too.  

Volterra The charming narrow streets of Volterra.

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The best way to top off a day spent strolling in the Tuscan hills? Wine tasting, of course. In the medieval and Renaissance hill town of Montepulciano, step into the coolness of a local wine cellar for a taste of the local drop. There are many to try, but a very special highlight is the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo - made from the Montepulciano wine grape on the rolling doorstep of this beautiful town.

Barrels of wine in Montepulciano, Tuscany. Barrels of vin santo dessert wine inside a winery in Montepulciano.

Andalucia

The Spanish region of Andalucia is a walker's paradise. It's also a foodie paradise - so thankfully, they equal each other out rather nicely. On a Trails of Andalucia trip, you'll get to experience it all first-hand in a myriad of beautiful and welcoming Andlucian towns and cities filled with history and memorable sights to tick off. The stunning Alcazar, the famous Alhambra Palace and the beautiful architecture of Granada sum up the top three historic highlights, just to start. But you'll also be mesmerised by simply strolling the streets of Seville, including the old Jewish neighbourhood of Santa Cruz, and the very old and very special clifftop town of Ronda. En route, put those feet to work in the midst of rolling green hills, stellar natural beauty and fresh air between stops. 

Beautiful flowers over the city of Grazalema.

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No trip to Spain is complete without witnessing the passionate flamenco dance. It forms a integral part of Spanish culture and musical heritage. Even on a walking tour, the chance to stop and take in this unique performance can't be missed - whether you stumble across it in the streets or attend a private show complete with dinner and the works. 

flamenco dancer in Spain A flamenco dancer in the streets of Granada.

Put on the menu:

Paella, cured meats, jamón and churros are just the start. There's so much to eat - and drink - in and around Andalucia. What to put at the top of the list? The local beers and Iberico ham - both easy to pick up at local stores and delis, or else on the menu at your pick of restaurant. Another must-taste is the local olive oil. The best way to experience this is at one of the local family-run mills. 

Tijana Jaksic

Tijana loves new adventures as much as she enjoys reliving old ones. Favourite stops on the map so far include Greece (beyond the islands!), Mexico City (hello ancient ruins and wonderful art), Poland (for the history and off-the-beaten-track finds), Berlin (so artsy and chilled) and Bosnia (ahhh the natural beauty). Choosing is always hard though - that's why her list is so long and she spends her 'real life' time writing about travel until she's out there on the road again.

 

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