Carabiner clipped into steel wire across view of Italian mountains

Destinations Via Ferrata in Italy

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Introduction to Via Ferrata

Have you heard of via ferrata? Sounds like a dessert, right? You’re in for a treat for sure.

The thrill seekers amongst us will be familiar with this Italian term, which translates to ‘iron path’ or ‘iron way’. Via ferrata is an adventure activity somewhere in between scrambling and rock climbing. More exciting than trekking for some and a way to navigate terrain not navigable on foot along, via ferrata routes take explorers to places that may otherwise be inaccessible.

Experiencing via ferrata is not for everyone and if you’re averse to heights then maybe you should steer clear of trekking routes requiring supported traverses over large drops, iron walkways or cliff ascents. However, if you’re of a more intrepid mindset and like to try something different then exploring mountains accessible by via ferrata might be well up your street. Via ferrata is both thrilling and daunting which is what attracts many to this massively rewarding adventure sport.

Essentially via ferrata is the use of steel cables, ropes, ladder rungs and suspended walkways where climbers attach themselves to support cables to traverse hard-to-get-to routes. Metal pegs or spikes and cables are used to link the route together providing safer access for otherwise tricky terrain. Clipping yourself onto via ferrata as you climb using carabiners and a safety harness reduces the distance you may potentially fall when trekking across potentially dangerous or rocky paths.

The benefits of travelling by via ferrata is that a small amount of equipment is needed, read more about this below, than is required for mountaineering or rock climbing. In addition to this, peaks that may otherwise have needed technical equipment to reach are more accessible when via ferrata routes have been provided, offering exciting new challenges to adventurers.

The Alps are arguably the home of via ferrata and it is suspected that mountain farmers used climbing aids such as rope and ladder for centuries to navigate high altitude terrain. Via ferrata were purpose built in Austria, Italy and the Pyrenees in the 19th century but most famously the Dolomites via ferrata were constructed to support troops across the mountains during the First World War I.

Sassolungo/Langkofel in the Italian Dolomites

Types of Via Ferrata

Via ferrata vary from short ascents that take an hour or two to cross to long multi-day routes where via ferrata can be joined together, taking short treks in between and using refuges for overnight accommodation in between. It is estimated that there are around 1,000 via ferrata in Europe alone and approximately 600 of these are in Italy.

Via ferrata have no set universal grading scale but the most common systems are the Hüsler and Schall scales. The former uses numbers to grade difficulty whereas the latter uses letters. It is always a good idea to research and investigate your planned route before you begin your journey to make sure that it is within your ability, you have the right equipment, the conditions are suitable and you allow enough time to safely traverse without getting stranded.

Most via ferrata fall into one of two categories. There are via ferrata routes that you can do for fun, such as the Lake District via ferrata at Honister Slate Mine in the UK, which is a circular ascending route and a short walk back to the start. Alternatively, there are via ferrata that pave the way for you to get from one point to another. Many of the Dolomites via ferrata in Italy fall into this second category as they form parts of trekking routes or are the journey themselves.

Via ferrata steel bridge across crevice

Best Via Ferrata in Italy

It is really hard to narrow down the best via ferrata in Italy as each have their own unique properties and are suited to different abilities. We have put together a list with something for everyone.

Best Via Ferrata for beginners

Via ferrata Degli Alpini in Col dei Bos, in the Dolomites, is a relatively easy 400m route offering great views of the Cortina basin. There are several more difficult sections which can be avoided easily for those who don’t fancy tackling them. This is a great starter route for those who want to give via ferrata a go. Beginners should make sure they are with a guide if this is a first via ferrata attempt.

Best via ferrata for families

Via ferrata Sass de Rochia is a short course in the Marmolada region without any traverse in between, a relatively short and fun ascent, as well as some bridges, ladders and scrambling parts to enjoy.

Typically, via ferrata in Italy are made for adults with technical sections interspersed with long traverses, large-spaced rungs and sections not appropriate for younger children. We would recommend going with a guide who is familiar with child-friendly routes and using extra safety precautions such as belay safety lines. Saying that, there is really no reason that children can’t experience via ferrata for themselves.

Best via ferrata for intermediate climbers

Via Ferrata Marmolada is a challenging and exciting route that takes you to the top of Punta Penia, the highest peak in the Dolomites. The route is best for those with trekking and climbing experience, as conditions can be treacherous closer to the top. The opportunity to hike across a glacier is not one to be missed, however, so make sure to pack crampons and enlist an experienced guide to help you navigate the glamourous Queen of the Dolomites.

Most challenging via ferrata route

Perhaps one of the most famous and most challenging via ferrata in Italy is the Piazzetta Piz Boé. This route is almost 9km and begins with a very technical ascent and tapers to a more intermediate level as you proceed. This is not to be attempted by beginners and technical equipment is essential to navigate the initial sections of this trekking route. Those experienced climbers who attempt this via ferrata will be rewarded with breathtaking views and elevated heart rates throughout the traverse.

Most scenic via ferrata

Sentiero Contrabbandieri Via Ferrata is the notorious ‘smugglers trail’ which connects Italy to Austria and was used by bandits to take contraband through the mountains in the early 20th century. This is a very technical route which overhangs Lake Garda and a guide is essential unless you are a proficient climber with the right equipment. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with incredible views of the lake below as you traverse sheer rock faces and ascend overhanging cliffs.
Climber using via ferrata in Italy

Equipment needed for via ferrata

In order to give via ferrata a go you’ll need to sort yourself some basic equipment, including a few technical items as well as appropriate clothing and supplies.


For short, fun via ferrata a sit harness should be sufficient. If you’re trying anything intermediate or carrying a rucksack a full body harness is more appropriate as it will suit your centre of gravity better.

You can purchase via ferrata kit packages from mountaineering shops which should include a harness but always check your harness suits your level of activity and size

Via ferrata lanyard

A via ferrata lanyard is a Y shaped strap that has a shock absorbing strap that attaches to your harness and two straps that have carabiner on the end to clip into the via ferrata route. This is your safety backup. You should always clip both carabiners to the via ferrata cable and when belaying from one section to another, make sure you stay clipped to one side as you clip into the second, so you are always attached.


I mean, you’re basically climbing over rocks, it just makes sense. Protective headgear is essential to ensure no accidents from rock fall, which is common when there are people climbing above you, and any slips or falls against rock surfaces.


Loose clothing should be avoided when on via ferrata as it can get caught on protrusions and cause accidents. Make sure to tie long hair back for the same reason. Warm clothing and layers are a good idea as the higher you climb the cooler the temperatures will get. You should also make sure your footwear has plenty of grip and good treads to give you plenty of purchase on rocks


If you’re going to be climbing for more than a few hours, we’d suggest taking a small rucksack with a hydration pack or plenty of water and some snacks. You never know when you’re going to need an energy boost.
Climber using via ferrata in Italy

Staying Safe

This blog must come with a safety warning as without planning ahead and having the right gear the consequences of an accident when on a via ferrata have the potential to be fatal.

·        Always check the weather and conditions before setting out

·        Ensure you pack plenty of water and snacks to maintain hydration and energy levels

·        Wear appropriate clothing to maintain warmth in exposed areas including reliable shoes for rocky terrain

·        If you’re a beginner or are unsure of your route, be sensible and take a guide

·        Make sure you have the correct, detailed map for the area you’re exploring

·        Always keep two clips on the safety cable, wear your helmet and check your equipment for signs of wear before using them

·        Know your own limits – don’t try something

·        Make sure someone knows where you are if trekking alone