One of my greatest temptations when visiting a city is to wander off the beaten path. It’s useless to resist. What is this place all about? Who are these people? How does it feel, taste, smell? Nooks and crannies, alleyways and winding cobbled streets that lead to…I must find out! Just what is around that next corner?
“Vagabonding” tourism is free and enriching. Urban Trekking takes you where many feet have never trod and sights that have been overlooked. It means walking through beautiful parts of a city that even the locals aren’t familiar with, up and down hills and stairways, under (or over) arches, along walls, across ramparts, through alleyways, and meeting the unexpected. Urban Trekking is seeking out the interesting and fascinating sides of an area.
There is a special excitement that comes from watching the sun set over a medieval turret and then walking the cobbled streets as twilight gives way to the night. I remember the evening I got delightfully (some would say hopelessly) lost in Venice. After visiting some cicchetti bars, we ventured out into the night, padding up and down pathways that wound deep into the heart of the city. We encountered shopkeepers that sold us stuffed eggs and vino for a song. We passed balconies with open shutters and the sound of voices drifting on the air. Smells of the lagoon and the shine of the moon on the inky waters. The gentle lapping of boats tied to their mooring. I became acquainted with the sights, tastes and smells of the real Venice. I had developed a deeper, emotional connection. Away from the crowds. Slow walking.
Siena is great for exploring on foot. One of the first cities to establish a traffic-free zone, practically the entire area within the Renaissance city walls is off-limits to all but residential traffic. Even so, the residents are required to use the beltway if they want to reach a different part of the city. But any city or village in Italy has fascinating things to see on foot. Just set your course and go. Having an itinerary is great, but I have set out to explore a city without one and stumbled upon some memorable places and experiences that otherwise would have been missed.
Besides the health and heart benefits of walking, Urban Trekking creates an emotional bond between you and the land. The art and architecture, breathtaking panoramas, alleys and gardens, chance meeting with locals, embracing the feel of a place…..this is true vagabonding. I encourage you to bring home the real Italy. The memories will last a lifetime.
Suggested Urban Trekking Routes and Tours (links below)—for those who prefer some structure, these are great ideas.