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There are few things more wonderful than experiencing a country by foot, taking in the sights, smells and sounds, not to mention the tastes, at a leisurely pace. Here are our three top destinations:
The best of Italy
Puglia’s southeast coast throws up many delights for walkers, from La Cutura Botanical Garden in Giuggianello to the ancient standing stones of Dolmen Stabile. You'll traverse the alien-esque landscape of the blue lake at Uggiano La Chiesa, along a glorious coastline to one of Italy’s southernmost tips, via some incredibly fresh, homemade mozzarella.
Up in the north of Italy lies Südtirol in all its Alpine glory. The region is rich in vineyards, orchards and castles, with the dramatic backdrop of the Dolomites. It produces some fantastic wines, which the easy route allows you time to sample. You’ll walk to flower-filled meadows and seek out spectacular mountain views. Tyrolean cuisine blends the Austrian penchant for desserts and dumplings with Italian specialities like exquisite cheeses and fresh tomato.
The highlights of Portugal
From the glorious golden cliffs in the south to the rich, rust-coloured wine country in the north, Portugal is paradise. The Algarve is romantic, with great cliffs, secluded coves and a riot of cliff-dwelling flowers, all edged by the aqua-marine sea.
Alternatively you might like a walking tour to the fairy-tale town of Sintra, via the undulating ‘Moon Hills’. Your destination is a hillside collection of some of Europe’s most stunning follies, castles and Moorish and Gothic architecture. While here, stop at a Ginja cafe – often just a kiosk in a wall – for a warming shot of cherry liquor served in an edible, chocolate shot glass.
Further north still, our walking tour of Douro starts in the pretty town of Porto, before following the course of the Douro river into the rippling hills. Douro wine country lends itself to wine tasting and to line your stomach, Portuguese cuisine typically includes fish dishes, like cod and octopus, cured meats and cheeses and bakeries galore.
The delights of Austria
The chocolate-box countryside of Austria will not disappoint, from mountainous terrain to lush, green meadows with the jangling of cow bells, from crystal clear air to sparkling great lakes and quaint alpine huts. Lake Zell, just outside of Salzburg provides easy walking and glorious views of the wide blue expanse of water and up to the mountain.
Alternatively you can don your boots and head from the quaint ‘Gasse’ (alleys) in Salzburg, to the Pilgrim Trail, along gentle river paths into the Tyrol region. While walking in Austria, pit stops for apple strudel, giant, soft pretzels and ‘Pinzgauer Kasnocken’ (indulgent cheesy dumplings) are highly recommended.
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