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If you’ve never heard of the sport orienteering, you’re probably not alone. However, its name does give it away: orient or to orientate, of course, means to navigate yourself in unfamiliar territory. As a sport, it is becoming increasingly popular, especially among nature enthusiasts, and has been defined as a “sport for everyone”. In this article, we’ll find out a bit about its origins and specifically, where and how it is practiced in Italy.
The Origins of Orienteering
Orienteering came about in the late 1800s in Sweden and began as military training exercises in which cadets would use a map and a compass to traverse unknown territory. It quickly evolved into a competition in northern Europe. After World War II, it had spread to North America, Asia, and Australia. In 1967, the Italian regions of Lazio and Trentino began organizing competitions and by 1987, the national federation (Federazione Italiana Sport Orientamento) had been created in the city of Trento. Today, Italian athletes,”gli azzurri” as they are referred to in their home country, hold numerous world championship titles.
What Is Orienteering Exactly?
Just as its name implies, at its root, orienteering involves using a topographical map and navigating unfamiliar terrain with a compass. In its purest sense, “foot orienteering” is a cross-country style race requiring both skill and agility. Variations have been added since the sport’s creation in the late 1800s including mountain bike orienteering, ski orienteering, and trail orienteering. You can compete individually or as a team on the various legs of the race.
This is an environmentally-friendly sport since no part of the trail needs to be altered from its natural state in any way. A forest, a park, hillsides, mountainous terrain, and even a city center can all be part of the trail.
Orienteering in Italy
Orienteering is practiced in every region of Italy including on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia and events are held all over especially in the month of May, the international month of orienteering. You do not need to be an expert or a world-class athlete in order to have fun!
In fact, orienteering in Italy can give tourists the best of both worlds: outdoor physical activity in some of the world’s most breathtaking locations! For beginners and visitors not interested in competing, there are loads of associations that offer orienteering experiences with expert guides. Imagine getting a group of your friends together, or even your family, and departing on your adventure within Portofino Park in Liguria with views of the sheer cliffs against the turquoise sea. Or perhaps, in the green, high-altitude pastures of Trentino or Abruzzo. The possibilities are truly endless!
If you are interested in competing, check out the FISO (Federazione Italiana Sport Orientamento) website’s events calendar (Italian only) or the International Orienteering Federation’s official website.