National Parks of the Apennines Introduction

Published on:  | Last updated: 16 May 2017

Warning

In 2016 there there were three earth­quakes in part of the area that this route passes through. The earth­quakes have caused pretty much reduced the towns of Amatrice and Arquata del Tronto to rubble and caused severe damage across a wide area. It's estimated that about 30,000 people are in temporary accom­mod­ation.

The roads around the Pian Grande di Castelluccio, which is at the heart of this route have been badly affected, and there are still some road closures. Unfortunately these closures mean that you would need to make some fairly long detours off the route to avoid them. 

I hate to say this, but my advice would be not to try to do this route in 2017. Put it in your diary for 2018.

If you want more detail about the earth­quakes there are three wikipedia pages:

You can still donate to the support the work of the Italian Red Cross (Croce Rossa): donation page (in English).

Cyclists in the Gran Sasso national park (Abruzzo) - Campo Imperatore

Cyclists in the Gran Sasso national park (Abruzzo) - Campo Imperatore

The Apennines - Italy's Great Divide

This route takes you for more than 700 kilometres through the chain of national parks along the Apennines of central Italy. The ride is fairly challenging - but not too challenging. It follows quiet roads wherever possible - although there are a couple of brief sections on busier roads.

The Apennines are the chain of mountains that run almost the whole length of Italy from Sicilia to northern Toscana. They are Italy’s equivalent to north America's Great Divide (except you'd have to imagine north America with its mountains but without the Great Plains). As well as being the watershed, these were literally a great divide: until the coming of the railways it was quicker to sail from Ancona on the east coast to Rome on the west.

The tour goes through the national parks of the Maiella, the Gran Sasso and the Monti Sibillini (not to mention a couple of regional parks and reserves). It starts in the Abruzzo region, passing through Umbria, Le Marche and ends in Toscana. (Note: there are other national parks in the Apennines but I decided to keep the title short and simple).

The route takes you though some of central Italy’s wildest highlands: this is a tour for people who like their cycle tours high and wild - to borrow a phrase from Leonard Cohen. But you can also visit some inter­esting cities: best known is the UNESCO World-Heritage-listed city of Urbino, but there are some less well-known gems including Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Camerino, Gubbio, Pennabilli and San Sepolcro.

In the Apennines

In the Apennines

Overview map

  Map:  FT-maps-apennines-show map in overlay    |    FT-maps-apennines-show map in new window 

For altitude profiles see the guides to the individual sections of the tour.

My description goes from south to north - but there’s nothing to stop you doing it the other way.

The tour takes a fairly meandering route, but there are options to take a more direct route if time is limited.

Gran Sasso national park - Castel del Monte (Abruzzo)

Gran Sasso national park - Castel del Monte (Abruzzo)

Distances

Distances
Sulmona-Castel del Monte 106kms
Castel del Monte-Campotosto 83kms
Campotosto – Lago di Fiastra 128kms
Lago di Fiastra-Camerino 52kms
Camerino-Gubbio 120kms
Pietralunga-Urbino 125kms
Urbino-San Sepolcro 94kms

When to go

I did this route in the second-half of August and early September. Much of it is fairly high so is cooler - but I suffered in the heat on some of the climbs. If possible, plan your days to avoid long climbs in the early afternoon.

Options

From San Sepolcro you can continue via Anghiari to Arezzo. Where you can connect with the Ciclopista del Sole (eurovelo 7) route. At Sansepolcro the bikeinumbria.it website (it/​en/​de/​es) offers a couple of possib­il­ities :

Both are excellent routes and defin­itely recom­mended.

There are lots of oppor­tun­ities for day rides along the way. In particular I’d recommend taking some time to explore around the Monti Sibillini and also a ride up to the Campo Imperatore high above L’Aquila. If you have an off-road capable bike there are lots of oppor­tun­ities in the Gran Sasso and Monti Sibillini. 

Getting there and back

If you are flying, the easiest option may be to fly to Pescara and then get the train. I say may because the flight times from some destin­a­tions aren’t partic­u­larly convenient - either leaving very early in the morning or arriving in the evening (see Pescara airport arrivals/​departures timetable page). You could always stop overnight in Pescara. The train is bike-friendly and takes 72 minutes. The airport is an easily-rideable distance from the train station. 

You could also use the bike-friendly trains from Pescara along Italy’s eastern seaboard to get to the airports at Rimini, Bari and Bologna. Bologna is also a major rail hub served by the DeutscheBahn Eurocity trains. 

If you are flying to Rome, there are direct bike-friendly trains from Fiumicino airport (the journey takes 47 minutes) to Rome’s Tiburtina station. At Tiburtina you can pick up another bike-friendly train to Sulmona. The journey takes a bit over four hours from Fiumicino. 

If you change trains at Tiburtina: trains from Fiumicino get into Tiburtina on Binario 5 (Platform 5) you then need to head for Binario 2-Est this is in a separate section of the station and not to be confused both Binario 2. The easiest way to get there with a bike is to keep following the underpass below the station, however the signs all seem to be designed to route passengers up the escal­ators to the concourse above the station and then down another set of escal­ators. There are lifts of course, but it’s still complicated. Follow the signs for Piazzale Est and the Circonvallazione Tiburtina. You may need to ask the guys on the barriers to let you through.

On the subject of Fiumicino airport, friends flying through there have reported waits of over an hour for their luggage - so allow plenty of time for connec­tions.

If you decide to overnight in Rome it’s worth bearing in mind that the train from Fiumicino airport to Tiburtina stops at Trastevere station in Rome - this is a more convenient station to arrive at than Tiburtina.

For more inform­ation on taking bikes on trains in Italy see the article: Travelling with a bike on trains in Italy.

Downloads

Maps to print out or view offline

The zip files contain pdf files packaged together for convenience.

 About the maps

sample map page.

Links open in new windows unless you ‘save as’ etc.

The maps are in two versions: A4 portrait format - for printing and maybe also for viewing on an iPad, and A5 for smaller tablets and smart­phones. As far as eReaders are concerned so far I’ve not managed to get them to work on a Nook - but you may have more success with other devices.

GPS files

  •  National Parks of the Apennines gps files
    (.zip file containing 11 gpx track files and one file of waypoints)
  •  Italy Points of Interest

     About POIs

    POIs are like waypoints, but while you can usually only store a limited number of waypoints on a device, you can store thousands of POIs. These files include inform­ation about campsites and hostels, bike shops, train stations, drinking water sources as well as warnings for tunnels and roads where bikes are banned. Please check the ReadMe file for instruc­tions. Updated March 2017.

More information

Places to stay

Hotels and B&Bs

You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding accom­mod­ation - although there are points where the route makes detour in order to go to towns with places to stay.

Hostels

There are several hotels and rifugi along the way:

Campsites

This aren’t a huge number of campsites, but there are enough. 

  Map of campsites along the route:  NPA-campsites-map-show map in overlay    |    NPA-campsites-map-show map in new window 

Transport and services

Transport connections

The route starts at Sulmona, where there’s a train station. Along the route there are train stations at:

  • Torre dei Passeri
  • Nocera Umbra
  • Urbino

and a number of others are within easy reach

There’s a station at the end as Sansepolcro, but it’s probably easiest to continue on to Arezzo and catch a trenitalia train. The reason for this is that to take a bike on the trains operated by the Umbria region you need to book three days in advance (officially at least, the cap di treno may let you get on without a booking) - see Umbria Mobilità: Carta della Mobilità and timetables for the Umbria Regional trains.

Resources

parks.it (it/​en/​de/​fr) is by a long way the most useful resource for the parks along the way. It includes a very helpful accom­mod­ation search engine.

There’s also:

Piano Grande di Castelluccio - Parco di Monti Sibillini (Umbria/Le Marche border)

Piano Grande di Castelluccio - Parco di Monti Sibillini (Umbria/​Le Marche border)

Articles in this series

Get in touch

Please get in touch if you find any errors in the information, or if there’s anything, good or bad, that you’d want other cyclists to know.


Join the mailing list?

If you’ve found this site useful why not sign up to the mailing list for occasional updates about new routes.