Urban hiking, a slow way to discover cities

Making the most of urban spaces by hiking along urban areas

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By Alex

urban hiking

Urban hiking is a practice that combines the desire to discover the cultural, scenic and urban beauty of a city with the good habit of walking. In fact it is a kind of walking tourism, practiced for decades, but only recently formalized: let’s find out more about it.

What is urban hiking

Hiking is a familiar term. It involves walking and hiking in the local area, typically in the midst of nature. Few may know that there is also an “urban” variant of this discipline. A real wander through the streets of cities, which can be free and aimless or more structured through routes designed by experts but always strictly on foot. This variant is certainly not an ephemeral fad. It’s a concept that will soon blow out its 20 candles, as we will see below.

Urban hiking is practice that reintroduces the taste of urban exploration for the tourist who likes to experience vacation at a slow pace away from the crowds. But it is also suitable for those who have lived in a city forever and want to discover its secret places or just lesser known and beaten corners.

Suitable for everyone, whether trained or sedentary, it is a form of soft sports ecotourism that allows you to choose from several routes differentiated by length and difficulty. It can be practiced both in summer and winter, day and night!

The benefits are those of brisk walking, so you fortify your cardiovascular system by warding off the risks of hypertension and osteoporosis and defend yourself from stress and anxiety.

Where urban hiking comes from

Although it is a practice with a very long history behind it, it is a relatively young concept, formalized in recent times in Italy, where it’s known as urban trekking. Some say it was born in America and we’ll happily stand corrected when you prove it, but this is the story we originally learnt: born in 2003 in Siena as an initiative sponsored by the local Department for Tourism, it will turn 20 this year. On the occasion of its 10th anniversary in October 2013, it was celebrated by 34 Italian cities, from north to south, including islands, with a series of routes at various levels of difficulty, accessible to all ages. Interesting celebrations and initiatives should be planned again this year.

Every year, the local Association for Urban Trekking organizes two events to raise awareness of this discipline. A spring and an autumn edition, in which unusual itineraries and fascinating routes are usually provided that have as their theme the connection between water and the city. Unusual corners of numerous Italian cities of art can thus be discovered.

For example, in the past, urban hiking has featured in numerous art cities in the Italian territory, from North to South. Routes made it possible to visit the Roman and Medici arsenals in Pisa, follow the evocative river route of the inner canals in Padova, plunge into the incredible underground world of Pistoia along the 650 meters of the ancient stream bed, cross the ancient German contrada where the irrigation ditches brought water to the whole city of Trento… and many other evocative routes.

Urban hiking is really a nice idea for our next vacation, eco-sustainable and low-cost: a more sporty, but also less hectic and predictable way of tourism. What do you think?

urban hiking or urban trekking
Urban hiking: a sporty, yet relaxed and healthy way of touring.

The benefits of urban hiking

But let’s look at what are the benefits associated with urban hiking or urban trekking, as this activity is also known in Anglo-Saxon countries. In our opinion, they can be summarized in 4 points.

  1. The main benefit provided by urban hiking is the opportunity to discover new places and artistic beauties that are often hidden from tourists or residents due to their location or lack of information.
  2. Second, urban hiking can also be a form of informal education, as it allows people to learn about the history, culture, and architecture of the city in a more direct and engaging way. In this way, urban hiking can also be an educational activity for children and young people, who can discover the city in a fun and exciting way.
  3. Also on a physical level, there are undoubted benefits: walking is good for you, as is well known. And urban trekking can in fact be an excellent form of physical activity, allowing one to maintain health and fitness, without the need to join a gym or sports center. Walking or cycling in an urban setting can be a very different experience than regular physical activity in a gym or outdoors, as it allows you to discover new places and breathe fresh air in an often chaotic and polluted urban environment.
  4. Finally, urban trekking can be a very valuable socialization experience: it can be useful for meeting people with similar interests and forging new relationships, as well as for spending time outdoors in the company of friends or family members. In this sense, it is also a useful stress reliever, an aid to mental health in these times when life is hectic.

In summary, urban trekking is a form of physical activity and urban exploration that offers numerous benefits for physical and mental health, socialization, and cultural education.

Have we made you want to practice it? We hope so!

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