Imagine you were tasked with creating a perfect walk, taking no more than a day to complete. What ingredients would you collect to compose it? You might start with a medieval town, in Italy for instance, and have your walk begin with a stroll through the almost deserted streets, quiet and empty after the bustle of the previous night, especially if you were to organise your walk on a Sunday. You would arrange for a small pasticceria to be just opening its doors, but not yet open for business and a friendly owner to give you a small bag of pastries for your way; you would arrange for the walk to have some challenging sections, some ancient monument to visit on the way; you would ensure that there was at least one waterfall, several streams to cross, with enough icy rushing mountain water to cool your hands and face and to replenish your water bottle.
You would definitely incorporate dramatic views from on high across broad plains below and forests and mountains all around. You would make sure that each new vista was equipped with a perfectly placed rocky outcrop, shaded and free from ants, upon which you could sit and drink in the scenery. You would, of course, have arranged for a flawless blue sky and a strong, but not too strong sun, probably placing your journey in the second half of May or late September, prefering May, in order to profit from the abundance of wild flowers – from red poppies to blue cornflowers to purple clover and yellow furze – in bloom and the trees in full leaf, yet still fresh in their greening.
You might pay particular attention to ensure that your walker had the entire length of the route to himself, to ensure that meditative state that sets in when the body has found its rhythm and the route does not require full concentration to navigate or negotiate, could fully develop without distraction from other walkers.
After the challenging uphill stage, which you have judiciously placed at the start of the walk, lasting no more than two hours and taking your walker past your selection of waterfalls and mountain pools, along a slender path, well-trodden, after centuries of wear, you would place a monastery, such as that of Montecasale on a ledge, the stones worn smooth over the ages and arrange for a stone table with a cover of vines providing shelter from the sun, and a bench to be strategically placed to give your walker an magnificent view over the mountain just scaled and over the plain below. Your walker would take tea and water and perhaps a fresh peach or pear, resting from the strenuous climb, before departing for a stroll over several hours through shady woods and open trails on the crest of the hills that you have selected.
Finally, knowing that legs that are beginning to tire, you would direct the trail down the far side of your mountain, leading your walker over grassy fields and gently declining broad, comfortable paths, bringing the walk back to the valley in which you had started the tour and leading your walker on to a charming village, with a café in the tree-lined square, serving home-made ice cream and an excellent tea, before guiding them towards a well-appointed hotel just off the main street, where a friendly receptionist, the proprietress herself, welcomes her new guest, asks if she can wash their clothes and boots, dusty from the previous 5 hours exercise and pointing towards the well-manicured garden and a large blue pool framed by cypress trees.
If that is approximately what your ideal walk might look like, then I might have a suggestion for you. You should know that I only lied about the hotel.