When people think about Southern Italy, they will probably end up thinking about its superb food, the beautiful stretches of coastline, the awesome beaches, and the many historic cities and small towns.
Stunning landscapes - both gentle and rugged - a sense of wilderness, an enormous amount of virgin rock that still awaits development… A winter escape to the rock climbing crags on the Amalfi Coast, Apulia, and Calabria can give you all of that! If you are looking for a place where you can both visit a beautiful ancient town and then climb in a crag a few steps away feeling like an adventurer discovering a new hidden paradise, Southern Italy is the place to go.
Who said Amalfi coast is all about fancy shops and luxury boats? Above: Andrea Sodano here shows he is smart enough to take advantage of the wonderful climbs in Positano
You'll find a lot of unexpected climbing spots within just a 2-hour drive from the world capital of pizza, Naples. If you drive north to Sperlonga 18km of vertical coastline boasting 600+ single and multi-pitch routes awaits. The huge limestone cliffs of Paretone del Chiromante offer over 100 routes, many of which are suitable for beginners. Advanced climbers wishing to test their skills and strength should head to the overhanging Grotta dell’Arenauta, which boasts lines up to 9a overlooking a beautiful beach. The countryside crags of Moneta and Pueblo also offer 250+ lines. The only downside is that these crags can get quite crowded, so avoid them on sunny winter days. Instead, drive to the South of Naples and discover the incredible Amalfi Coast.
The Amalfi Coast, and its crown-jewel Positano, never fail to seduce. The vertical towns, the crystal-clear water, the huge cliffs right on the sea, the mind-blowing food - these are just a few of the things that will draw you in.
The best part, however, is the towering limestone cliffs which remain completely uncrowded. You'll find over 200 routes here, from 5a to 8c, making for a perfect winter climbing destination. You can sleep at the organic farm - La Selva - just a stone's throw from Positano, run by one of the local climbers and bolters. The routes here start at 6a and demand endurance and good tufa climbing technique.
For some easier climbs, the picturesque Capo d’Orso crag is worth a visit. You can also head to Punta Campanella, a crag overlooking Capri island. Drive to Palinuro for some climbing right on the beach, Thailand-style. You'll find approximately 50 routes here between 5a and 8c, on solid limestone, bolted largely by the local Alpine Guide Oreste.
In the warmer months, when the Amalfi Coast gets too hot to climb and flooded with tourists, drive a couple hours north-east of Naples and discover Molise. This region is famous for one thing among Italians: it doesn’t exist. Jokes aside, a visitor will find timeless beauty, made up of soft hills and scattered villages. A climber finds a true playground.
Around Frosolone, at 1200m altitude, you'll find about 60 big blocks of very compact limestone scattered on a grassy plateau, offering over 600 sport routes from easy grades to 8c+/9a. We particularly recommend visiting the Morgia Quadra and Gemelli sectors, and contacting the local climber Pietro Radassao. He is a 9a-climber, La Sportiva athlete, one of the area's main developers, and runs a climbing gym.
If you are a boulderer, it's worth exploring another curious little region of Italy: Basilicata. Near Campomaggiore you'll find Pietra del Toro, a paradise with 450+ blocs of compact sandstone from 3C to 8B+, and up to 7m tall! Although the area benefits from the shade of the forest, avoid it in summer! After your session, wonder around the nearby village of Matera, where you can sleep, eat, drink aperitivo, and even view art in caves - the unique ‘Sassi’.
Drive now to Calabria, at the tip of Italy's boot, where you'll find the jaw-dropping overhanging walls of Stilo. It looks like a painter had 3 buckets -orange, gray and black - and just threw them at this tufa-infused limestone cliff. Routes are long and athletic: you'll find over 100 lines, from 4a to 9a, most of which have shiny new bolts thanks to the expedition of Ragni di Lecco. A trip here is the perfect winter escape: warmly authentic and good for the local economy. And the food is awesome and cheap - try the spicy ‘nduja!
Let’s end at the heel of the boot: Apulia. Statte, close to Taranto has 230+ routes (4c to 8b) on superb limestone in a wild, lush canyon. Salento is a hot, dry region, retaining a flavour of its Greek past, with endless olive trees and stunning sea. If you can climb 7a with ease and want a perfect picture, head to Mannute, a cave with huge stalactites that opens up on the sea. On its right is a more conceding sector, Anga della Mannuta, a 35m cliff on the water. In the Ciolo Canyon, a fiord of rare beauty, you'll find 40+ routes (from the 4th grade up). Last but not least, head to the cilindric open cave of Prazziche for a 3D climbing experience.
Apparently, that's it - you now have a comprehensive view of what Southern Italy has to offer in terms of climbing, culture and adventure. If you need more guidance, you can find several local climbing guides which can help you find the perfect area to spend your next climbing holiday.
Still hungry? That's awesome! I very recently answered a few questions during an in-depth interview with some of the guys from Mapo Tapo. They just published it on this Magazine, here's the link.
It is something a little bit more personal: we'll talk about tourism related to climbing practice, new crags here in the South and what does it mean to commit themselves for the local climbing community.
Feel free to get in touch. I'll be happy to give you a few hints about these places.
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Words and photos by Francesco Guerra
Special thanks to Francesco Guerra and Pietro Radassao.
You can discover more about Francesco's work on his website or following him on Instagram
You can have a look at La Selva above Positano on the official website
Pietro thanks La Sportiva for its long-time support. You can keep updated about Pietro's most recent ascents via his Instagram