Hills, forests, railways and art cities. Looking for the best places to cycle in Italy? Here are some tips.
Cycling is one of the best ways to explore a country: it's fun and healthy, it allows you to enjoy towns and landscapes fully, it's economical and, above all, environmentally sustainable.
Definitely, travelling by bike is a great alternative to the hectic commute that we often impose on ourselves during a trip of just a few days! Cycling has never been sweeter when the background is as enchanting as in the places we have rounded up in our list. You just have to get a good mountain bike and start training your legs and breath. We'll take care of the itinerary.
5. Mountain bike tours along disused railways
In Italy, there are more than 5000 kilometres of disused railways, many of which have been converted into exciting cycling and walking routes in recent years. If you are looking for a trip out of town with a little something extra, here are some ideas for unusual and romantic getaways.
In Liguria, for example, the cycle path crossing the Riviera dei Fiori is one of the most evocative and popular with two-wheel enthusiasts. It stretches for 24 kilometres from Ospedaletti to Diano Marino, passing through sea and mountains, small tourist piers and railway stations, villages and towns where you can stop for a glass of Rossese and a taste of brandacujun (a typical Ligurian dish made with potatoes and stockfish).
Between Trentino Alto Adige and Veneto, the section from Dobbiaco to Calalzo di Cadore crosses the old Dolomite railway in enchanting landscapes surrounded by the most radiant and relaxing mountain nature you can imagine. The route has no particularly critical points, and anyone can tackle it without significant difficulties.
In Friuli Venezia Giulia, the Alpe Adria cycle route shares wooded vistas interrupted by the old Pontebbana railway, a historic crossing now a striking example of industrial archaeology.
Those looking for tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle of the city will be happy to find the perfect route for a relatively quiet break in the Lazio region. The lap covers the Rome-Fiuggi-Frosinone railway line and is far from built-up areas, so replenish your energy levels before setting off, ensure to have a water supply and get ready for the 500 metres of elevation gain ahead.
The Menfi cycle path follows the disused Castelvetrano-Ribera line crossing the colourful Sicilian countryside and the coastline. With its 6 Km length, the itinerary is a real hit-and-run diversion that requires an hour and a half of pedalling. If you don't have much time but still want to treat yourself to a ride in the saddle without giving up the magnificence of the landscape, this can be a good choice.
4. Biking through a mesmerizing riviera
Riviera del Conero and Colli dell'Infinito, in the province of Ancona, are excellent starting points for cycling routes facing the intense blue Adriatic Sea. In this part of the Marche region, the coastline features sandy and pebble beaches, cosy coves and breathtaking cliffs of bare rock or dense and varied vegetation.
There are many routes suitable for a range of abilities. After all, Le Marche is a notoriously bike-friendly region. Consider a ride through the hills around Osimo, with a visit to its enigmatic underground passages and tunnels. Or immerse yourself in a historic and rustic atmosphere on a tour of the Castles of Ancona. You will encounter medieval villages so perfect that it would be a crime not to stop for a glass of Verdicchio with the benefit of a view on the countryside.
The route starting at the mouth of the River Musone passes through Camerano, the town of the mysterious caves, a sort of goose-bumpy underground city. Go on to Sirolo and Numana. Whether in the mood for a seafaring digression, you will embark on an excursion to the enchanting Spiaggia delle Due Sorelle.
The tour around Colli dell'Infinito takes you to quaint towns like Osimo, Loreto, Castelfidardo and Recanati, the beautiful town of poet Giacomo Leopardi, which still boasts the streets and squares that inspired masterpieces of Italian literature.
3. Via dell'Acqua, from Umbria to Lazio
From Umbria to Lazio, from Assisi to Rome, pedalling along the Via dell'Acqua, a 250 km cycle path through some of the principal rivers of central Italy: Topino, Clitunno, Nera and Tevere.
The route is a fairly easy one, suitable for almost everyone, with affordable climbs and good road surfaces. Departure and arrival points are quite symbolic: the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi and St Peter's Square in the Vatican. In between, a feast of art, archaeology, nature, spirituality and genuine flavours that only a slow trip on a bicycle can help you rediscover.
Some helpful information: Rome and Assisi are connected by train. You can load your bike, go to a place of your choice and ride the whole route or just a few stops. Although the itinerary is still rather rough, especially in some places, the immeasurable beauty of the area will overshadow infrastructures that are not always top-notch.
The Via dell'Acqua is shaped by a network of pre-existing cycle routes brilliantly linked to create a single inter-regional way.
The eight itineraries that make up the path alternate paved and dirt roads in a diverse landscape embracing nature reserves and truly unmissable towns, such as the Nazzano Tevere-Farfa protected area, the San Liberato Oasis, Borghetto di Civita Castellana, Narni and Sant'Anatolia di Narco.
On the off-road trail of the former Spoleto-Narni railway, you cross viaducts, tunnels and bridges with a view on hills, valleys, and perched villages, a sight that will repay your effort.
2. The Bourbon cycle route
Discover an intriguing cycle path through three regions (Puglia, Basilicata and Campania), fourteen stages, two seas and an infinite number of landscapes and flavours from Bari to Naples.
The starting point is the seafront promenade in Bari and the picturesque views of the Old Town, with its interwoven lanes, lively squares, imposing churches and buildings, such as the Basilica of San Nicola and the Swabian Castle.
And then, the iconic pasta-making women intent on preparing Bari's must-eat dish, orecchiette. The place to see the legendary ladies at work is via Arco Basso, a narrow street lined with clothes hanging out of windows and stalls full of fresh pasta.
The route continues to Modugno, where you'll wander around the town and discover its charm and history before heading towards Palo del Colle, with intermediate stops at the ancient ruins of Balsignano and the gorgeous medieval Bitetto.
The third stop takes you to Ruvo di Puglia. Wander through the Apulian Romanesque architecture, visit the Jatta National Archaeological Museum, and taste the excellent local olive oil. Treat yourself with taralli and a portion of brasciole, the traditional Apulian meat rolls, and get ready to cross the Alta Murgia National Park towards the magnificence of a splendid UNESCO site, Castel del Monte.
From the fortress of Frederick II of Swabia, you will cycle to Minervino Murge, the 'balcony of Apulia', a surprisingly high and white town also famous for cardoncello mushrooms, celebrated by a tasty festival in October.
The sixth stage is in Montemilone, Basilicata, and stretches to Venosa, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Rapolla and Melfi. From the first Norman capital in Italy, with its soaring ten-towered castle, you will pass through the Grotticelle State Reserve, the kingdom of a rare nocturnal butterfly, the Brahmaea europaea, and the hillside village of Calitri.
Teora, Ponteromito, Avellino and Marzano di Nola are the prelude to Naples, the arrival and conclusion of the Bourbon Cycle Route. Get off your bike, congratulate yourself on reaching the finish line, and celebrate in the city's overwhelmingly passionate and authentic atmosphere.Book now a walking or bike tour of Bari❯
1. From Sirmione to Mantua, a fairytale itinerary in the north
Sirmione, the so called "Pearl of Lake Garda", is the starting point for cycling routes that will entice and seduce even the most untrained legs. The way to Mantua is one of the best known and most famous in the Po Valley.
A little tip: before embarking on the mountain bike tour, have a relaxing visit to the centre of Sirmione. This slender peninsula jutting out into Lake Garda is a refined and precious destination. It would be a shame to overlook it.
Crossing the drawbridge of the fairytale-like Scaliger Castle, you enter a beautiful village that has preserved its timeless charm over the centuries. Walk along the lakeshore and reach the archaeological park Grotte di Catullo, a Roman domus dating back to the 1st century BC that probably belonged to Latin poet Catullus.
Right at the foot of the excavations, there is a place with an exotic name that reminds of other latitudes. It is called Jamaica Beach, and although it's on a lake, it really seems like a true tropical beach. Take advantage of a sunny day for a dip before heading back to the centre.
There is a real possibility that your sightseeing may have taken you longer than expected. Postpone the ride until the next day and do as Ezra Pound and Maria Callas by sipping an aperitif in the stylish Piazza Carducci.
The bike route to Mantua is about 55 kilometres long, with the first section crossing the Mincio Regional Park. From Peschiera del Garda, the road is mainly asphalted and supported by a distinctive landscape that beautifully changes during every season.
There will be no lack of temptations to make a few detours along the way. Suggestions? Parco Giardino Sigurtà, a large historic estate at Valeggio sul Mincio, is one of the most magical places to enjoy spring in Italy.