If you want to go walking in Italy but need a little guidance and don't relish the prospect of lugging your baggage around with you, a number of companies offer packages whereby you do the hiking, following maps or a guide, while they move your luggage for you.

Between May and October Headwater Holidays (01606 48699) offers two options which have been devised for independent walkers rather than larger groups. Walking in the Florentine Hills (described opposite) involves a 10-day trek around Tuscany. Prices per person for two to three people are from pounds 526 if you drive there yourself (the cost includes car ferry) or pounds 759 including flights.

For the less energetic, eight days in the Alto Mugello in northern Italy combines walking and sightseeing by car (which you hire or drive there yourself). Based at the Hotel Senio in the medieval village of Palazzuolo sul Senio, you take day trips of the area - maps and walking notes are provided. Prices per person for groups of two to three start at pounds 388 (self- drive) or pounds 569 (with flights).

Explore Worldwide (01252 319448) has three Italian alternatives for guided, group holidays. From April to September, the company organises 15-day walks through Tuscany, starting in Volterra and finishing in Siena. Price, including flights, is pounds 615. The Sicilian Volcano Hike (between May and October) is an eight-day trek up the three active volcanoes of Sicily and the Aeolian Islands: Etna, Stromboli and Vulcano. This is not one for the faint hearted: the walking can be tough and the trip involves camping out for a night on the crater rim of Stromboli. The tour costs pounds 619 including flights. Meanwhile, Explore's Alpine Trails (June to September) offers pretty hill walking but without the pyrotechnics. The trips take 15 days and costs pounds 598 including flights and most meals.

The Alternative Travel Group (01865 513333) has a wide range of walking holidays for groups of up to 16 people and also for small parties or individuals. From April to October, the independent holiday packages (pounds 695 with flights) include a seven-day walk in southern Tuscany; a seven-day walk through the Marches to Urbino; and a seven-day trip along the Cinque Terre, talking in some of the west coast of Italy from Levanto to Portovenere. The company can also arrange tailor-made walking holidays.

Alexandra Cockburn