My favourite thing about late afternoons in Italy is the aperitivo. From around 5pm until often as late as 10pm, Italian bars serve unlimited ‘nibbles’ with each drink you buy. These include anything from crisps, nuts and slices of pizza, to a whole table bursting with a selection of tasty snacks (see photo below).
A mere €5 gets you two glasses of Italian wine and enough snacks to keep you going until dinner, or even to replace it. This is Marche – a region of Italy that is known to very few, but offers some of the best sport climbing (and scenery) in all of Europe, and the best value après-climbing, as I like to call it.
My hands already feel sore after our first day of climbing as I pick up the well-deserved glass of red and relax back into my chair. My climbing partner Valentina and I are in a bar called Tuxedo, in her home town of Communanza, about half an hour’s drive from the climbing crag where we spent our first day. I have just discovered this wonderful Italian tradition and I absolutely love it! Especially after a day of climbing, this feels like a welcome reward for all the hard work we put into the day.
This year’s first sport climbing trip couldn’t have been luckier – having rained continuously for days before my arrival (Valentina went to Italy earlier than me to stay with family, so she can testify to this), the Italian sky had a complete change of heart as soon as I arrived, and we had beautiful sunshine for most of the trip! So much so that I came back with the customary sports bra tan on my shoulders. I doubt the skin on my back will ever all be a uniform colour again, considering how much of my time outdoors is spent in climbing clothes…
But even despite the accommodating weather, the crags we climbed at were practically empty. It seems that not only foreign sport climbers, but the locals themselves haven’t discovered what, to me, is the best thing about this place. Even on the Saturday before Easter we only encountered one family climbing with children (oh, how strong they will get by the time they are in the their 20s!), a group of three climber and two women, at the entire crag (which is relatively big, maybe 100 routes!).
I, however, was like a child in a sweetshop. My mind raced back to weekends in Stanage, where on a good weather day it can be hard to find a free route if you turn up later in the morning, for all the climbers eager to take advantage of the good weather window. I thought also of Harrison’s Rocks, our (sort of) local sandstone crag, which is teeming with Londoners and locals alike on dry sunny days, and nearly every route is occupied. How can this Italian climbing paradise be so empty? Surely these people must know what a goldmine they have on their doorstep?
I must admit, I am extremely lucky to have an Italian climbing partner, who has been able to introduce me to this place. The guidebook we bought is in Italian, so I doubt I would have been able to ever find these crags on my own. Not to mention the driving on the local windy roads is not for the fainthearted!
We spent five days basking in the glory of this place and making the crag our home, getting so comfortable we could have easily just stayed there every night. The routes here are very well bolted and marked, which never fails to amaze me. It is worth coming for a visit just to appreciate the work, and funding, that goes into maintaining this crag in such perfect condition.
I will write all about the climbing itself in my next post. For now, have I convinced anyone yet to try sport climbing in Italy? 😉