Italy has a wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy.Italy’s mountainous landscape is ideal for skiing, with the best conditions and resorts located in the spectacular alpine regions of the north. There are a number of fine skiing resorts, including the fashionable Cortina d’Ampezzo and the less pretentious, more family-orientated resorts in the Val Gardena in Trentino-Alto Adige. Courmayeur – at the foot of Mont Blanc, in the Graian Alps range – is a particular draw for tourists, boasting excellent facilities and home to both summer and winter skiing. The picturesque scenery and healthy mountain air make it an attractive destination all year round. It is one of Europe’s most famous ski locations and contains the Giardino Botanico Alpino Saussurea, which describes itself as Europe’s highest botanical garden. In the summer months, Courmayeur is also a popular destination for hikers. Part of the Southern Limestone Alps, the spectacular Dolomites are located in northeastern Italy. The northern and southern borders are defined by the Puster Valley and the Sugana Valley (Val Sugana). The Dolomites are a tourist mecca, famous for skiing in the winter months and mountain climbing, hiking, base jumping, paragliding and hang gliding in summer and late spring/early autumn. There are also plenty of opportunities for winter sports along the southern section of the Dolomites, including the Gran Sasso, just east of Rome. Here you’ll find the Campo Felice Ski resort, which features 16 ski lifts and a top class ski school. One national park and many other regional parks are located in the Dolomites, which in 2009 were declared a natural heritage site by UNESCO.
Football is a national obsession in Italy. The Italian game – Calcio – is a weekly celebration of noise and colour, providing the perfect outlet for its passionate people. The Azzurri (Blues) -as the national team are known – have won the FIFA World Cup four times to date, trailing only Brazil (who can claim five to their name). Italy’s club sides meanwhile have won 27 major European trophies, making them the most successful European nation in footballing terms. The powerhouses of Italian football are based in the north of the country, with Juventus (27), Inter Milan (18) and AC Milan (18) claiming the majority of the ‘Scudetto’ titles. With famous stadiums such as the San Siro (Milan) and Stadio Olimpico (Rome), Italy possesses iconic cathedrals of football, which are hugely popular with fans and visitors alike. Prior to hosting the 1990 FIFA World Cup, ten Serie A venues all underwent extensive programmes of improvements in preparation for the tournament, with two brand new stadiums also being created (The Stadio San Nicola in Bari and Turin’s Stadio delle Alpi). Additional seating and roofs were added to most stadia, with further redevelopments seeing running tracks removed and new pitches laid. Due to structural constraints, several of the existing stadia had to be virtually rebuilt in order to implement the changes required. Today, football is the most popular sport in Italy and of immense importance to its culture and identity, revealing more about the national character than any other facet of society.
There are many lakes throughout Italy, but the most famous and prominent are situated in the north of the country, where a string of narrow glacial lakes lie between the Prealpine foothills, aside the border with Switzerland. From west to east, the four most important lakes are Lake Maggiore, Lake Lugano, Lake Como and Lake Garda. The region as a whole offers classic images of Italy and provides visitors with some of the most stunning settings in Europe. Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy and largest of southern Switzerland. It extends for roughly 70 km between Locarno and Arona, its jagged banks surrounded by the Lepontine Alps. The Borromean Bay between Stresa and Verbania is blessed with three islands known as the Borromean Islands, which should not be missed on any visit to Lake Maggiore. Isola Bella is known for its baroque palace and gardens, Isola Pescatori for it’s fishing character (replete with typical lake boats), whilst the scenic Isola Madre is known for its gardens. Lake Lugano is named after the city of Lugano, lying at the border between Switzerland and Italy. Its Mediterranean-type climate ensures it remains popular all year round with visitors the world over Lake Lugano’s waters and mountainous backdrop make the region a haven for watersports, trekking, hiking, horse-riding, mountain-biking, sailing and numerous other outdoor pursuits. The towns and villages around the lake such as Morcote, Gandria, Porlezza, Carona, Melide, San Mamete and Campione d’Italia offer visitors a vast array of history and culture, including medieval churches, art galleries, museums, sub-tropical parks and gardens. Lake Como meanwhile is the third largest lake in Italy and at over 400m deep is one of the deepest in Europe. It is shaped much like the letter ‘Y’. The northern branch begins at the town of Colico, while the towns of Como and Lecco sit at the ends of the southwestern and southeastern branches respectively. The small, picturesque towns of Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna are situated at the intersection of the three branches of the lake – a triangular boat service operates between them. The Lake Como ferry service is in fact a highly developed public transport system, which links dozens of small towns and villages dotted around the perimeter of the Lake, allowing locals and tourists alike a convenient, enjoyable passage through these dazzling waterways.
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. Its shoreline is divided between the provinces of Verona (to the southeast), Brescia (southwest) and Trentino (north). Being easily accessible from the north via the Brenner Pass, the lake is a major tourist destination, which includes a number of exclusive hotels and resorts along its shore. The lake has numerous small islands and five main ones, the largest being Isola del Garda. Nearby to the south is Isola San Biagio, also known as the Isola dei Conigli (“Island of the Rabbits”). The three other main islands are Isola dell’Olivo, Isola di Sogno and Isola di Trimelone.
The ancient fortified town of Sirmione, located on the south of the lake, is one particularly popular destination, home to the Virgilio & Catullo Spa Complexes, as well as a variety of restaurants, bars, hotels, fashion stores and a market. The picturesque Scaliger castle dates from the 13th century.
Bocce is an Italian ball sport belonging to the boules sport family, which bears a similar resemblance to bowls and pétanque. It is the perfect outdoor party game and very popular in Italy. It’s easy to learn and play, whilst seasoned veterans have no greater advantage over less experienced participants, which makes it fun for people of all ages. Whatsmore, you don’t have to be particularly fit or strong to play. Though male dominated traditionally, a number of women do participate. Developed into its present form in Italy (where it is called ‘Bocce’, the plural of the Italian word ‘boccia’ which means ‘ball’), the sport is also very popular in Slovenia, while in Southern France it is known as Boule Lyonnaise. Bocce is actually played worldwide in any area that has received Italian migrants. For many, the game is a nostalgic reminder of their homeland. Equally, many others partake as a way to improve their co-ordination and their traditional bowling game or simply just to have fun and relax. A typical game can be conducted between two players or two teams of two, three, or four. A match is started by a randomly chosen side throwing a smaller ball – the jack (called a boccino or pallino in some areas) – from one end of the court to the other. If they miss twice, the other team is awarded the opportunity to place the jack anywhere they choose within the prescribed zone. Players are permitted to throw the ball in the air using an underarm action. This is generally used to knock either the jack or another ball away to attain a better position. Tactics can get quite complex when players have sufficient control over the ball to throw or roll it accurately. Italy stages a number of regional competitions, which help reinforce the country’s strong regional rivalries. International play is mainly limited to Italy and France – the two occasionally competing at adult and juvenile levels. There is a trophy provided by the prince of Monaco, whose territory lies between the two main contenders, although Italy has dominated proceedings for many years now. The real appeal of Bocce lies in its being a fun and popular sport, which is essentially associated as being part of an Italian summer.
Cycling or Bicycling as it is less known is a form of transport, recreation and sport which has had a significant resurgence in recent years due to rising fuel costs, traffic congestion as well as a means of keeping fit. Depending on the kind of cycling you wish to do, there is a bike suitable to your needs. From mountain bikes, Tourers, Road Bikes to racing bikes, there is a cycle to fit all.
In areas in which cycling is popular and encouraged, cycle-parking facilities using bicycle stands, lockable mini-garages, and patrolled cycle parks are used in order to reduce theft. Local governments promote cycling by permitting bicycles to be carried on public transport or by providing external attachment devices on public transport vehicles. Conversely, an absence of secure cycle-parking is a recurring complaint by cyclists from cities with low modal share of cycling.
The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) is coordinating the development of a network of high-quality cycling routes that connect the whole continent. The routes can be used by long-distance cycle tourists, as well as by local people making daily journeys. EuroVelo currently comprises of 14 routes and it is envisaged that the network will be substantially complete by 2020
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