Via degli Dei: Italy’s Best Thru-Hike (Complete Guide)

Imagine walking from one of Italy’s most vibrant cities to another, crossing over mountains, forests, and ancient roads, while enjoying the best food and company along the way. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it’s not. It’s the Via degli Dei, Italy’s most popular thru-hike, and my wife and I just completed it.

The Via degli Dei is an 85-mile trail that connects Bologna and Florence, two of Italy’s most beautiful and historic cities. The trail takes you over the Apennine range, where you can admire stunning views, explore quaint villages, follow ancient Roman roads, and savor delicious local cuisine.

Table of Contents

Why Should You Walk the Via degli Dei?

Let me give you four reasons.

First, you get to meet Italians. And I mean real Italians, not those who work in tourist traps or souvenir shops. Italians who love their country, their culture, and their hiking. Italians will greet you with a smile, a handshake, and a glass of wine. Italians who will become your friends for life. On day three of our trek, a woman recognized me from the trail and asked me if I was Alan from Washington. How cool is that?

Second, you get to savor the food. And I mean authentic food, not the kind you can get anywhere else in the world. Food that is fresh from the farm, local to the region, and homemade with care. Food that is cooked with skill and passion by people who love their tradition. Food that will delight your taste buds and satisfy your stomach. Believe me, there is nothing like eating a plate of tagliatelle with wild boar ragù in a charming tavern after a long day of walking.

Third, you get to have a unique Italian holiday experience. And I mean unique, not the same old thing everyone does. How many people do you know who have walked from Bologna to Florence in six days? Probably none. How many people do you know who have seen the Sistine Chapel or the Colosseum? Probably too many. Don’t get me wrong; those are amazing places to visit, but also crowded, noisy, and expensive. The Via degli Dei offers you a different perspective on Italy, which is more authentic, intimate, and rewarding. You will see things that most tourists never see and will feel things that most tourists never feel.

Fourth, you get to walk from Bologna to Florence in six days. And I mean walk, not drive or fly or take a train. Walking is good for your body and your mind. It helps you burn calories, strengthen muscles, improve circulation, reduce stress, boost mood, and enhance creativity. It also helps you slow down and appreciate the beauty of nature and the joy of simplicity. Walking is not a chore or a punishment; it is a privilege and a pleasure. It is a way of living that we have forgotten in our modern society. Walking the Via degli Dei will remind you what being human means.

Day 1 Bologna to Badolo (25 km / 15 mi)

Our adventure began in Bologna, where we picked up our booklet for the Via degli Dei. This booklet would be our passport for the trail, collecting stamps from different places along the way. We started from Piazza Maggiore, the heart of the city, and headed to the longest portico in the world. This stunning staircase with a colonnade leads to the sanctuary of the ‘Beata Vergine di San Luca’. We admired the views from the top and then continued on our way.

We had stocked up on water and sandwiches in the city but found a nice spot to grab a bite just past the sanctuary. The route from Bologna to Badolo was a mix of country roads, hiking trails, and asphalt. It was not too challenging, maybe because we were still fresh and excited. We enjoyed the scenery and the tranquility of the countryside.

Along the trail, we came across a house that offered food and water in their backyard. It was a lovely gesture of hospitality and generosity. We left a tip, filled our bottles, and rested in the shade for a while.

We arrived in Badolo in the late afternoon and checked in at Nova Arbora. This was a beautiful country home with spacious rooms and gorgeous gardens. Andrea and his mother were wonderful hosts who made us feel welcome and comfortable. They also introduced us to other hikers who were staying there. We had a great time chatting with them and sharing our stories.

We went to Antica Osteria Rocca di Badolo, a cozy tavern serving local cuisine for dinner. Andrea drove us there and back for just 6 Euros, which was very convenient after a long day of walking. We had a delicious meal with wine, water, pasta, meat, and desserts. We spent about 80 Euros in total, which was reasonable for the quality and quantity of food.

The best part was that we were surrounded by Italians. No tourists, no crowds, no noise. Just locals enjoying their evening and their food. It was a rare and authentic experience that we could not have had in any of the big cities.

Day 2 Badolo to Madonna dei Fornelli (29.5 km / 18 miles)

Today will test you. It is day two, so your body might be feeling the effects of day one. 

The breakfast at Nova Arbora is wonderful, and you will interact with other hikers, but it does not start until 7:30 AM. I am still glad we stayed for breakfast, but it would have been nice to start walking a little earlier. 

The road is more mixed terrain, including mixed-use gravel roads, dirt tracks in the woods, and asphalt at times.

The halfway point brings you to Monzuno, a quaint central intersection with places to eat, cafes, and places to rest and fill your water bottles. We arrived on a national holiday, and it was still full of activity. 

Today you will start to see the same groups of hikers, again and again, as you take breaks and they take breaks, passing each other throughout the day. Take time to get to know them. It will be the highlight of your entire trip. 

After Monzuno, there is a steady ascent for several kilometers and then a long descent to arrive at Madonna dei Fornelli. We arrived about an hour before dark. 

At Madonna dei Fornelli we stayed at Affittacamere Da Pino. It was very clean, quiet, and centrally located. The rooms are in a multi-family dwelling where an extended family lives that runs the B&B. 

We were just 100 yards from a great spot to eat dinner:  Albergo Ristorante Poli. All of our new hiker friends were there having dinner as well.

The food was local, perfect, and reasonably priced. The Emilia-Romagna region is home to some of the most iconic Italian food in the world, ravioli, tortelli, and lasagna.

Day 3 Madonna dei Fornelli to Passo della Futa (18.6 km / 11 miles)

This was the most scenic day of our hike so far, as we climbed from Madonna dei Fornelli to the highest point of the Via degli Dei at 1200 meters / 3900 feet. We left behind the farms and houses and entered a magical forest of conifers that made us feel like we were in a fairy tale.

We also walked on some sections of the Flaminia Military road, an ancient Roman road that connected Bologna and Florence. It was amazing to think that we were following the footsteps of history.

There were two memorable moments along the way: crossing the border between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, and reaching the summit of the Via degli Dei. We celebrated both with photos and high-fives.

The second half of the hike was mostly downhill as we headed to Passo della Futa. We stayed at a B&B Casa Federico in Traversa, a small village about a kilometer away. The B&B was a lovely manor house with several families living there and renting out some rooms.

The highlight of Traversa/Passo della Futa was definitely Ristorante Da Jolanda. This was a family-run restaurant that served authentic and delicious local food. We had the Assaggi di Primi for lunch, a sampler of three different homemade pasta dishes. They were so good that we returned for dinner and joined a large table with other hikers we had met on the trail.

If you have some spare time and energy today, you should also check out the World War II German Cemetery nearby. The Gothic Line, a defensive line built by the Wehrmacht, ran through this area. It was a sobering reminder of the dark past of this region.

Day 4 Passo della Futa to San Piero a Sieve (31 km / 19 miles)

We started our day with a delicious breakfast at Ristorante Da Jolanda, where we had a cappuccino and a pastry. We also said goodbye to our hosts and our new friends, who wished us good luck for the rest of our hike.

If you didn’t get a chance to visit the World War II German Cemetery yesterday, you could do it today. But I would recommend going early because today is a long and challenging day.

The first part of the hike was uphill, which surprised us. We thought we had done the hard part already, but apparently not. The trail took us over some more hills and mountains, where we enjoyed some beautiful views and some fresh air.

The second part of the hike was downhill, which was a relief. We walked mostly on hiking trails, surrounded by nature and silence. We only saw some country roads as we got closer to San Piero a Sieve, our destination for the day.

We stayed at Mugello Verde, a camping park that offered bungalows for rent. The bungalows were small and simple but clean and comfortable. They had everything we needed for a good night’s sleep.

The best part of Mugello Verde was the restaurant, Cavatappi. We were amazed by the quality and variety of the food there. It was not just a place for hikers and bikers but also for locals who came to enjoy a family meal.  We especially loved the steak tartar with black truffle and the tortelli filled with potato, a local specialty. These, plus our desserts, gave us good energy for the final day.

Day 5 San Piero a Sieve to Florence (39 km / 24 miles)

This was our hike’s longest and hardest day, and I did it in one go. It took me less than 8 hours, but I was exhausted by the end. If you are not in a hurry, I would recommend splitting this day into two and stopping at Olmo or Bivigliano. That way, you can enjoy the trail more and avoid the pain and effort.

The day started with a long and steep climb from San Piero a Sieve to a ridge overlooking Florence. It was raining heavily, which made it even more challenging. But I was rewarded with a visit to the Monte Senario monastery, a beautiful and peaceful place. I had a cappuccino and a pastry at the bar and admired the views.

Then I descended toward Florence, passing through familiar places. This area is my backyard, so I knew the landmarks, features, and names. I felt like I was coming home.

I stopped at Fiesole, where I met some other hikers I had befriended on the trail. We shared our stories and our emotions. We also treated ourselves to some sweet treats at Alcedo, one of the best pastry shops in the area. It was a well-deserved reward for our achievement.

From Fiesole to Florence is a breeze at this point. You can see the iconic Duomo looming large in front of you. All of the efforts has led to this, and the emotions and memories bear you straight to your final destination: Palazzo Vecchio. You finished!

Planning Tips for Via degli Dei

Here are some tips to consider when planning your Via degli Dei adventure.

  • Plan to do the trek in six days and not five. You will be in a better position physically to continue with your Italian holiday.
  • Make use of the official Via degli Dei website., The website includes good information on planning your trip, maps, current trail deviations, and other up-to-date news.
  • Get the Walk + App. Get it here from the App Store. Get it here from Google Play. The Walk + app shows your location through your cell phone and GPS. You can follow your progress on the Via degli Dei. We used the app constantly to ensure we were on the main Via degli Dei path. There are many deviations and side paths.
  • Water can be a problem, especially in the warmer months. The Walk + app has water stations marked on its map. I strongly suggest drinking at these stations and refilling all of your water containers. You will find yourself on some longer legs of the hike with no water sources. Another good idea is to prehydrate in the morning before you begin.
  • If you are coming from outside of Italy, I would suggest staying at the many rooms and B&Bs available along the path. Camping is an option but obviously, you will have to carry more weight and bring these items with you on your flight.
  • I would suggest giving yourself some buffer days before and after the Via degli Dei. I would arrive in Bologna and stay the night before you plan to start. I would also plan to stay at least two days in Florence or nearby after you finish. This will allow you to start a day later from Bologna if needed. Also, after you finish the Via degli Dei, you will need a day to relax and recuperate your energy.
  • If you are not an avid walker or hiker, I suggest training before coming to Italy. You will be walking about 15 miles per day. My iPhone said I was burning more than 4,000 calories per day. One possible training regime is to walk 2-3 miles each weekday and go for a 2-3 hour walk on the weekend. Extend the length of your weekend walk every week by 30 to 60 minutes until you are at 5 hours. In 4 to 6 weeks, you will be trail ready.

Recent Posts