Southern Italy's ultimate rock-climbing guide

Climbing destinations
March 8, 2021

‍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.

Southern Italy is not just about breathtaking landscapes and coastlines. But you'll get them as well © Francesco Guerra

The landscapes, which can be both gentle and rugged, the sense of wilderness that can be found in some areas just a few steps outside of civilization and the enormous amount of virgin rock that still awaits to be developed. Among all the terrific climbing spots, a winter escape to the 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 few steps away feeling like an adventurer discovering a new hidden paradise, Southern Italy is the place that you want to travel to.

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
Bottom: The view is nothing special at Falesia degli Dei in Agerola, located in the surroundings of Naples. Climber: Sergio Morra.
© Francesco Guerra

Within 2 hours drive from the world capital of pizza, Naples, you find a huge variety of climbing. If you drive north to Sperlonga, 18 km of vertical coastline have 600+ single- and multi-pitches.

From the 100 routes on the huge limestone cliff Paretone del Chiromante, where you find also a lot of easy ones, to the overhanging Grotta dell’Arenauta, with lines up to 9a overlooking a beautiful beach. The countryside crags of Moneta and Pueblo also offer 250+ lines. The downside: these crags get crowded, so avoid them on sunny winter days; drive south of Naples, instead, and discover the Amalfi Coast.

Expect these views if you're willing to spend some of your time in Positano © Francesco Guerra

The Amalfi Coast, and its crown-jewel Positano, never fails to seduce. The vertical towns, the crystal-clear water, the huge cliffs right on the sea, and the mind-blowing food.

The best part? All those cliffs are crags, still uncrowded. 200+ routes from 5a to 8c, perfect for winter months. Sleep at the organic farm La Selva above Positano, run by Cristiano, one of the local climbers and bolters. Here, routes start from 6a and demand endurance and good technique on tufas.

La Selva above Positano, run by Cristiano, knows how to do things in the right way.
This stage is designed to offer to all the customers the best yoga sessions they will ever have © La Selva above Positano

For easier climbs, Capo d’Orso crag is worth a visit - and a picture! Another gem is Punta Campanella, overlooking Capri island. To get away from the parking nightmare of the Amalfi Coast, drive to Palinuro: you climb right on the beach, Thailand-style! The 50 routes (5a to 8c) on solid limestone were bolted largely by the local Alpine Guide Oreste.

For the warm months, when Amalfi Coast gets too hot and flooded with tourists, drive 2 hours north-east of Naples and discover Molise. This region is famous for one thing among Italians: it doesn’t exist. At least this is the popular joke since it’s such a small and quiet region! A visitor finds here a timeless beauty, made of soft hills and scattered villages. A climber finds a true playground.

This is what climbing in Molise looks like. You won't find crowds here, guaranteed.
Be aware: good conditions and sharp limestone are daily business here. Pietro Radassao, local and 9a-climber, knows that pretty well
© Francesco Guerra

Around Frosolone, at 1200m altitude, there are 60 big blocks of very compact limestone scattered on a grassy plateau, with more than 600 sport routes from easy grades to 8c+/9a. We recommend the sectors Morgia Quadra and Gemelli and to contact the local climber Pietro Radassao: he is a 9a-climber, La Sportiva athlete, one of the developers of the area, and runs a climbing gym.

Pietro Radassao on "Guerre Sannitiche" 8b+ in Frosolone crag © Francesco Guerra

If you are a boulderer, explore another curious little region of Italy: Basilicata. Next to Campomaggiore is Pietra del Toro. A paradise with 450+ blocs of compact sandstone from 3C to 8B+, up to 7m tall and with good landing. Despite being immersed in a forest, avoid it in summer. Once your skin needs healing, wander and get lost in Matera, a spectacular village where you sleep, eat, drink aperitivo, and even view art in caves, the unique ‘Sassi’.

Pietra del Toro is a truly gem, often underrated by many climbers. Caterina Maiullari couldn't ask for more: she is a strong local boulderer who uses to climb here a lot. The rock features shows what bouldering here is about © Francesco Guerra

Drive now to the tip of Italy-boot, Calabria. Your jaw will drop in front of the overhanging wall of Stilo. It looks like a painter had 3 buckets, orange, gray and black, and just threw them on this tufa-infused limestone cliff. Routes are long and athletic. There are 100+ lines from 4a to 9a, most of them with shiny new bolts thanks to the expedition of Ragni di Lecco. A trip here is a 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 on the heel of the boot: Apulia. Statte, close to Taranto has 230+ routes (4c to 8b) on superb limestone in a wild, lush canyon. And at the bottom of the heel-boot, is Salento. A hot, dry region, retaining a flavour of its Greek past, with endless olive trees and stunning sea. For a perfect picture and if you have a solid 7a, climb at Mannute, a cave that opens up on the sea, with huge stalactites. 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, are 40+ routes (from easy 4th). Last but not least, the cilindric open cave of Prazziche, for a 3D climbing experience.

Francesco Guerra and Pietro Radassao © Francesco Guerra

Apparently, that's all. Now you have a comprehensive view about what Southern Italy has to offer in terms of climbing, culture, adventure. If this is not enough, you can find several local climbing guides which can help you to find the perfect area where to spend you next climbing holiday.

Still hungry? Cool, that's awesome. Very recently, I answered a few questions during a deep 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.


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

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