For a spring time holiday in Trentino and Alto Adige / Südtirol in Italy, I am planning to do a number of day hikes in the areas around Riva del Garda, Trento, and further up north, Brixen / Bressanone. Most of these hikes will be in the hills and lower mountains there. Nothing extreme: no via ferrata or demanding alpine hiking (i.e., only trails up to and including CAI scale EE (Escursionisti Esperti)), avoiding any remaining snow unless trivial to traverse.

For orienteering ahead of time I use the trail data maintained by, amongst other contributors, the Club Alpino Italiano (CAI) on OpenStreetMap, via hiking dedicated websites like Waymarked Trails. I am aware that these, while generally reliable, should not serve as a primary means of orienteering during the hikes, and as a rule I always carry a paper map in mountainous areas, preferably at scale 1:25000.

I am looking for the maps best regarded for mountain hiking in the above areas. I've found the name of Tabacco mentioned a number of times, but lack local knowledge to ascertain their worth. Which paper maps would hikers recommend for Northern Italy?

Since asking this question I have ordered the maps recommend in the two answers below that both solve a part of this question:

  • 4LAND for the area around Riva del Garda and Trento.
  • Freytag & Berndt for the area around Brixen / Bressanone.

The 4LAND maps are the usual 1:25,000, and notable is the excellent paper they are printed on. The Freytag & Berndt map is 1:35,000, but seems serviceable. There certainly is room for improvement in this area of Italy though!


4 Answers 4


Short answer

4LAND is the best bet for the areas around Riva del Garda and Trento, but as of January 2023 they still lack coverage for parts of Alto Adige / Südtirol north of Brixen / Bressanone.

Medium-length answer

Good maps: Geo4Map, 4LAND, l'Escursionista, Fraternali (check coverage for your region).

Poor maps: Tabacco

Bad maps: IGC

Terrible maps: Kompass

Long answer

The quality and availability of Italian topographic maps varies greatly per region. The underlying problem is that the Italian topographic service has no proper base map of the country. The last time they mapped the whole country was in Mussolini times. Since the 1950s they seem to be about halfway through in a new survey. So you're left with commercial publishers, but those rely on official base maps; they don't fly around with their own survey planes. At best, they check out local hiking trails and the status of huts and shelters. Therefore, the quality of such commercial maps depends on the quality of the underlying base map. Between commercial publishers, quality (beauty, readability, reliability) varies considerably.

I'm including some publishers here that don't currently cover the area you are interested in, because (1) this may change, and (2) others may read this post and be interested in other areas.

Good hiking maps for Northern Italy:

  • Geo4Map, excellent maps. So far mostly cover Piemonte and not much in Lombardia or Trentino-Südtirol-Alto Adige yet, possibly because the region of Piemonte couldn't wait for the Italian state and has made its own pretty good topographic base map. Stay tuned as Geo4Map may start to cover your region soon.
  • 4LAND publish good maps. They seem to have some coverage in your area, but check to be sure.
  • L'Escursionista. Almost as good as Geo4Map, but same problem, no coverage further east yet.
  • Fraternali. Quite good, but again coverage further west than you seek.

Poor maps for Northern Italy:

  • Tabacco maps aren't great, but may be the best you can find. If a trail is on Tabacco and also on Openstreetmap, it's probably there. If it's on Tabacco but not on Openstreetmap, chances are it has vanished.

Bad maps for Northern Italy:

  • IGC (scale 1:50,000). Their maps are ugly and unreliable. They frequently draw trails or huts in completely the wrong place. Use with utmost care only as a matter of last resort.
  • Avoid Kompass under any circumstances. They only serve as kindle and not even for that they're not great. You're better off without any map. Avoid Kompass. Did I mention to avoid Kompass? It is amazing how a publisher that makes reasonable cycling maps in Germany can make such terrible maps in Italy, but they do.

There are many smaller publishers that are hit-or-miss, such as maps from local towns or national parks. In my experience, there is a positive correlation between how good a map looks and how reliable it is, but there are outliers. Near the Swiss border you could use Swiss topographic maps. They look great, but on the Italian side they depend on Italian information which may be last surveyed in Mussolini days. If you like to explore if you can locate a trail that was last regularly used in the 1950s, they're a great source. If you just want to hike, not so much. (Of course, Swiss maps in Switzerland are the best maps in the world, but that is a different question entirely.)

The wildcard:

  • Find a WMS or tiling server, load it in QGIS with hiking trails from OSM on top, export it on A1 and have it printed at your local copy shop. I've done that once (not in Italy) and all was good, except that the print shop thought A1 = poster and printed it on way too high quality, heavy, and thick paper that I could barely fold into a map…
  • Great, that gives me some options. Looking at the recommendations, Ge04Map is indeed not applicable to the region I am looking for. 4LAND on the other hand, covers Lago di Garda and Trento, so that's a good fit. The other two in top list also seem to miss coverage for Alto Adige / Südtirol, so that's an open issue.
    – JeroenHoek
    Jan 24 at 11:28
  • I will be carrying up-to-date offline OpenStreetMap maps of the relevant regions on my (and my partner's) smartphone using Organic Maps and OsmAnd, so I will have that data with me in any case. Printing is an interesting suggestion, but probably a bit too involved to get right for the scale I need.
    – JeroenHoek
    Jan 24 at 11:35
  • If you are competent with GIS software you can define the exact scale you like, but it has a bit of a learning curve. And it's not needed at all where you're going because good commercial maps are readily available. It's rather an alternative for places where nothing else exists (I've looked into it in northern Russia, but the added value of Openstreetmap compared to 60-year old Soviet topo maps turned out to be not worth it).
    – gerrit
    Jan 24 at 11:39
  • why Tabacco are bad? Trails are numbered and of course you should get local informations if the trail is still there.
    – EarlGrey
    Jan 24 at 15:50
  • @EarlGrey Ugly and, in my experience, often wrong compared to others.
    – gerrit
    Jan 24 at 17:06

To add to the Gerrit's excellent answer, I'd also recommend hiking maps from the Austrian publisher Freytag & Berndt. Their coverage of Italy is limited, but South Tyrol is covered. Their online store (I won't post the link because I'm not sure it's allowed) also sells maps from other publishers, such as 4Land and Tabacco (that you already know about), Kompass (oh yes, to be avoided) and also Kümmerly+Frey (that I haven't heard about yet, but they also cover the South Tyrol and Trentino region).

  • 1
    4LAND doesn't seem to cover Südtirol (nor do any of the other recommended mapes from the other answer), but Freytag & Berndt do have a 1:35000 map which covers the area I am interested in. Definitely a candidate.
    – JeroenHoek
    Jan 24 at 11:32

I would have thought that the alpine associations have some material for Südtirol, but it seems there are only two Alpenvereinskarten for that region: 51 (Brentagruppe), and 52/1 (Langkofel-Sellagruppe) (both in 1:25.000). The former might fit your needs if you want to hike near Trento. Both of these maps are also available in digital form, e.g. through the AlpenvereinAktiv app.

In addition, Alpenverein Südtirol has a library in Bolzano/Bozen, where you probably just can walk in, research maps, and even get recommendations (and borrow maps, if you become a member).

  • I've used an Alpenverein map hiking up to the Matrashaus on top of the Hochkönig a few years ago. Excellent maps of course, but indeed not quite applicable to the regions in my question.
    – JeroenHoek
    Jan 31 at 11:12

I am not from Italy. I completed few sharp mountain tours there last year. A lot of mountaineers from my country use Tabacco, when going to Italy. Tabacco has nice distinctions like: easy, demanding, very demanding route. There are also crosses for routes like ferratas. Unmarked trails are often shown as darker color,...

Tabbacco maps can also be bought in digital form in Tabacco map app(Google play store for Android), but I don't like it. I can't say about the maps from other publishers.

1:25000 Tabacco maps: https://www.tabaccoeditrice.it/cartografie/125000-2/

Info about rifugio - mountain huts,.. https://rifugi.cai.it/shelters?formData[fields

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