West Essex Ramblers Conquer Northern Italy

West Essex Ramblers Conquer Northern Italy

Every year, West Essex Ramblers takes a large group of 50+ on a Ramblers Worldwide Holiday tour. Organiser John Juchau sent us this account of their adventures this year in the Trentino Highlands.

On a late June morning, 54 West Essex ramblers arrived at Verona airport en route for a walking holiday in the Trentino Highlands with Ramblers Worldwide Holidays. They boarded a coach which eventually began the climb via many hairpin bends up into the alpine foothills. Our destination at just under 4,000ft, was the small village of Chiesa in the rural district of Lavarone. The Grand Hotel Astoria was an impressive and welcoming sight and made a comfortable base for the next seven days.


With three leaders, the group had three options on each walking day. One leader, Karen, had an encyclopaedic knowledge of wild flowers which were the major focus on two of her walks with over 90 different plants identified on the holiday, including 12 different orchids. The holiday had been specifically timed to get the best of the late spring in this area. The fields and waysides were like an artist’s palette, full of colour. Even with the multitude of stops on these particular walks, a good mileage was covered with plenty of ups and downs – well, we were in the foothills of the Alps! The two other leaders, Chris and Fred, were gamely followed on walks of varying levels of difficulty, their participants achieving higher heights and more impressive mileage.


Whilst now a haven of peace and beauty, the high ground on which we walked was, before and during the First World War, a battleground involving border disputes between Italy and Austria. Close by were seven Austro-Hungarian forts built as defence against Italian attack. Most of the group walked to Fort Belvedere, now a museum recording the grim events that took place there. The views from the top of the fortress, overlooking the valleys of Torto and Astico, were spectacular.


Time was allowed for a day of culture and relaxation. Over 30 members headed down to the Trentino Valley for a city tour of Verona, followed by an evening performance of the opera ‘Carmen’, not returning to the hotel until after 3am!. A smaller group took off to Bolzano and the Ice Man exhibition. Some stayed at the hotel, relaxing on the terraces and balconies, enjoying the view down to a small lake (Lago di Lavarone) which usually had a beautiful reflection of the surrounding hills and higher peaks beyond.


All too quickly, the week was over. We had been so lucky with the weather and Ramblers Worldwide Holidays had done us proud with a lovely hotel and three great leaders. The holiday seemed to have had something for everyone. Easier (nothing was totally ‘easy’) walks for some, quite long and challenging hikes including a bit of scrambling, the beauty of the flowers and the mountains, great food and good company.