The classic venue of Finale in Italy has been on my radar for years. And now having finally visited, I'm already planning a return!

If you’ve been climbing as long as I have you’ll remember way back when there were only just a few sport climbing venues on the map. Places like The Verdon, Buoux, Pen-Trwyn, The Frankenjura and Malham; these cliffs were where it was all beginning. Funnily enough, not one of these has a reputation for soft grades! The other Old School venue is in Italy: Finale, and like all the others, holds a reputation for stern grades! But even so, these classic venues must be visited, for the all round rock climber it’s essential experience, and after years of not quite managing a trip I found myself there. Finally – Finale!

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These classic areas often sprang up around masses of rock, and Finale has just so much rock! The hillsides are complex folded valleys, with solid clean limestone on all sides, giving one of the largest concentrations of sport routes anywhere. There are over 4000 thousand routes all within just a few minutes drive of the village of Finale. This kind of blew me away, and it’s hard to convey just how much there actually is. If you buy the guide book, which is the size of a wall-brick, then you’ll know what I mean.

There is loads of information out there about Finale, the website below is really good.

However, if you are considering a trip I want to give you the information you need; not the best flights or where the super markets are or which routes are good, all that can be found elsewhere. But the real questions are who, when, why, what:

Who will like it there?

When is the best time to visit?

Why should you go?

What should you do?

In no particular order;

Why should you go? Well, the masses of rock. There is a lifetimes worth. Probably a few lifetimes. But there is more to it than climbing. For a start it’s Italy, not far from Nice in France, so it’s warm and sunny, even in winter. It doesn’t rain that much and even if it does, the limestone dries incredibly fast, like in a few hours! The climbing faces absolutely every direction for your desired suntan or cool shady conditions. And Finale is beautiful, a walled village with quaint alleys and ancient architecture at every corner. Lovely restaurants and bars are everywhere, and good value too, with pizza for as little as four euros! If you like to cycle, then Finale has become one of the number one spots for mountain biking, with endless single-track trails, apparently as good as anywhere in the world.  

Who will like it? Well, the grade bagger after an ego massage should stay away! And also the super steep tufa climber will quickly run out (see later though…). Finale is really all about 6’s and 7’s. There are plenty of 8’s, but there are thousands of excellent routes in the 6 and 7 range. The rock is hard and excellent quality, and very featured so there are many foothold options. It isn’t usually reachy, but very technical and quite fingery. There are also lots of pockets too, and tufas and corners and and cracks. Basically it’s very varied! Some of the 6a’s I did were as good as any I’ve done anywhere in the world, often climbing unlikely terrain on crazy massive holds and on a rock type that seems to resemble Corsican Granite. Walk-ins are nearly always short, 20 minutes would be a long one! Mostly single pitch, but tons of multi-pitch too! This is best suited to the technical outdoor climber, operating in the mid 6’s to mid 7’s.

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When to go? Unlike many sport crags, Finale has a long season. The multi facing direction of the crags means you can be warm on a Baltic windy day by seeking sunny sheltered sectors, or you can be cool in the spring and autumn in the shade. Only really the summer months are too hot, but even then, you may enjoy the sea (did I mention the Finale is a beautiful summer spot right on the beach with crystal clear water perfect for snorkelling or easy days with the family). If it rains in winter the rock doesn’t really seep, and will dry in minutes. If I were to suggest a month then probably November or March, but really, it could be October all the way through to May! As a winter venue, it’s pretty safe, unlike some which stay wet after rain. This is a large plus point.

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What should you do? Firstly book a place to stay, probably AirBnB is the easiest these days. Driving from the UK is doable, or fly to Nice or Genoa (less than 2 hours from Nice). Enjoy many pizzas, and actually much finer cuisine in the village for not much money! Buy the guide book so you can get an idea of how much there is to climb and plan your days to fit your requirements. Wander through the walled village, swim in the sea, hike in the mountains. It’s kind of got everything really and I wonder why it took me so long to visit.

Though actually I know why it took me so long to visit!! The reputation for old-school climbing! I like my steep tufas, and tend to get slapped on pocket covered faces and 8a’s that were done in the 80’s. True, Finale is not new school – however… Oltra Finale is just up the road, and is totally different to ‘normal’ Finale, with steep overhangs and tufa strewn walls. I had just one day there, my last day and was blown away by the quality of the movement leaving me with an urgency to return. But even so, I’m not sure I can decide which I preferred, there is something about the leisurely approach at Finale, and the routes have a certain ambience that is hard to match. It seemed for a climber like myself, the combination of the two areas made for paradise really, and with a base in Finale a haven to return to. I doubt it will be long before I return!