Blessed with hills, mountains, lakes and more than 8000km of coastline, Italy offers much more than Roman ruins and Renaissance art. Adrenaline addicts can get their fix in any number of ways: there’s mountain biking, climbing and skiing in the Alps, hardcore hiking in the Dolomites and horse riding in the Apennines; you can climb active volcanoes in Sicily and shoot whitewater rapids in Calabria. Less daunting, Tuscany’s rolling landscape offers tasty cycling.
On the coast, sport goes beyond posing on packed beaches. The precipitous peaks of the Amalfi Coast harbour a hidden network of ancient paths, while further north Sardinia’s cobalt waters boast some of Italy’s best diving. Windsurfers flock to the northern lakes to pit themselves against fierce local winds.
Looking for a buzz even stronger than that lethal Sicilian espresso that just blew your head off? Allow us to offer a few suggestions…
Wild off-piste skiing on the slopes of the Matterhorn
Some of Europe’s highest-altitude skiing is possible year-round in the Valtournenche Valley, dominated by the 4478m Matterhorn - described by English poet Byron as ‘Europe’s noble rock’. Not for the faint of heart.
Traversing the Dolomites along Alto Via No 1
One of four alte vie (high routes) through these spectacular peaks, the Alto Via No 1 takes you from north to south, and can be tackled in sections or in its entirety.
Peering into Stromboli volcano's explosive crater
Towering dramatically over the island of the same name, Stromboli's permanently smouldering cone attracts amateur and expert volcano fans like moths to a flame.
Canyoning down the Sesia river in the Piemontese Alps
From May to September, the Sesia's wild rapids are a magnet for action-junkies who like to make a splash!
Windsurfing among the champions on Lago di Garda
Could there possibly be a more picturesque setting to test your board skills than this dazzling lake?
Snowboarding the half pipe at Madonna di Campiglio
With its pretty village square, glamorous après-ski scene and formidable slopes, Madonna di Campiglio has a justifiable reputation as one of the Alps' most desirable resorts.
Shooting the Lao river rapids in deepest Calabria
The most beautiful way to experience Italy's largest national park, the Parco Nazionale del Pollino, is to go white-water rafting down the glorious Lao river.
Climbing the Apennines’ highest peak, Corno Grande
A surprisingly straightforward climb, this 2912m peak is popular with trekkers of all experience levels.
Diving in the spectacular waters off Ustica
Not all of Italy's natural attractions are above-ground. Bring your waterproof camera, because Ustica's underwater delights are impossibly photogenic.
This article was updated in Jan 2012.
For more tips on how to enjoy Italy's great outdoors, check out our special hiking and cycling guides to the Bel Paese.