Cycling in Italy - Where to start?

Published on:  | Last updated: 1 October 2015

You can find good places to cycle throughout Italy, but, if you're wondering where to start here are some pointers.

It would be impossible to write a 'ten best places to go cycling in Italy' article ( a '101 best places'? - well maybe…). Cyclists are all different: the best rides for someone who likes challenging mountain climbs could be a nightmare for someone who likes their cycling gentle and relaxed. This section is organised by theme so if, for example, big hills bring you out in a cold seat then go to the 'Easy riding' bit. If you prefer the tranquility of traffic-free cycleways go to the 'Traffic-free' bit. (…and so on)

If you're inter­ested in a particular area of Italy you can use the regions map - or skip down to the Overview map showing cycle routes and cycleways on this site.

Regions Map

Click on the map to go to the region you're inter­ested or select from the list. (Note there are no pages, yet, for some regions).

Easy riding

Cycleway between Bozen (Bolzano) and Trento

Cycleway between Bozen (Bolzano) and Trento

Italy is pretty mountainous, but even if you hate the idea of climbing hills there are still plenty of options:

  • the Südtirol and Trentino offer high-quality cycleways although the Trentino cycleways aren't joined up;
  • the Veneto offers lots of possib­il­ities between Verona, Vicenza, Padova and of course Venezia. Add in neigh­bouring Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and you have even more choice;
  • there's Emilia-Romagna: and the cities of the great flood­plain of the Po - including Ferrara, Bologna, Modena. Or you could try the wetlands and lagoons of the Adriatic coast between Ravenna and Trieste taking in Venezia.

And even if you hate hills with a passion, electric bikes are becoming increas­ingly available to hire.

Start here:

Cycleway in the Südtirol near Brixen (Bressanone)

Cycleway in the Südtirol near Brixen (Bressanone)

Traffic-free tours

Italian roads are pretty safe; ignore the stereo­types about hot-headed Latins: Italian drivers are generally pretty calm and courteous. But if you're cycling with children, or just in search of some peace and tranquility, Italy's growing network of traffic-free cycleways (there are well over 1,000 kilometres of them) offers some great possib­il­ities. The north-east offers the greatest choice but other regions are catching up.

The cycleways along the Adige river mean that you can cycle on traffic-free cycleways all the way from the borders with Austria as far south as Verona . A short section through the city of Verona and you can continue on to the Adriatic coast. Or you can turn off before Verona and head for the Lago di Garda and on from there to the city of Mantova.

The river Po, also has its cycleways, the Destra Po cycleway, takes you for over 80 kilometres from the coast to the city of Ferrara and beyond.

Start here:

Via Claudia Augusta, looking down towards the Vinschgau (Val Venosta)

Via Claudia Augusta, looking down towards the Vinschgau (Val Venosta)

Historic art cities

Italy has more UNESCO World-Heritage-listed sites than any other country. While Rome and Firenze have got lots to see, there are dozens of other jewels to discover with archi­tecture and art treasures that are in every way the equal to what you'll find in the big-name cities, and in many ways the smaller cities are easier for cycle tourists to enjoy.

Again, the Veneto and neigh­bouring Friuli-Venezia-Giulia makes a great place to start, with cities like Verona, Vicenza, Padova and Venezia. Or you could try cycling along the Po taking in Mantova, Ferrara, Ravenna and on to Venezia, Aquileia and Grado.

Of course there's also Toscana. If you don't mind a bit of climbing (those classic hilltop towns can be at the top of some fairly big hills), the Heart of Toscana tour takes in San Gimignano, Volterra and Siena.

Or you could try something different and head for southern Italy. The Puglia Grand Tour starts in the gorgeous historic city of Lecce with its southern baroque and takes in the World Heritage-listed sites of Matera, Alberobello and the mysterious Castel del Monte.

Start here

Cyclist in Bologna

Cyclist in Bologna

Coastal rides

There are places where Italy's coast can be crowded and overde­veloped with roads and railways threading their way through a narrow coastal strip. But the good news is you can still find enjoyable riding beside the seaside. Where to start:

  • the Gargano peninsula in Puglia (almost at the heel of Italy) offers some of the best scenery of the Adriatic coast, while Puglia has some of Italy's nicest coastal towns;
  • the coast of the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia have some lively seaside resorts but also extensive nature reserves;
  • the coast of Toscana.

There's also the coast of Campania including the World Heritage-listed Costa Amalfitana and further south, the coast of the Cilento national park. (I'm hoping to explore these areas next year 2015).

Start here:

Framura-Levanto cycleway (Liguria)

Framura-Levanto cycleway (Liguria)

Mountains

And then there are the mountains. There's not just the arc of the Alps there are also the Apennines that stretch the length of the country from Liguria south to Sicilia. Where to go? Many Italians will tell you that the Dolomites are the most beautiful mountains in the world. And if you see them in the golden light of sunset then you might well find yourself agreeing.

The reason why the Dolomites glow pink in the morning and evening light is because they were once coral islands. The fact that they were once coral islands means that they offer lots of combin­a­tions for day rides and tours. The famous Sella Ronda circuit goes round one of these ancient islands.

Further to the west both Lombardia and Piemonte offer some of the most famous and Alpine challenging climbs where riders like the legendary Fausto Coppi wrote pages of cycling history.

Start here:

Sunset in the Dolomites near Forno di Zoldo (Veneto)

Sunset in the Dolomites near Forno di Zoldo (Veneto)

Lakes

You've probably heard of the Lago di Garda and, perhaps thanks to George Clooney, of the Lago di Como. These are just a couple of the dozens of Italian lakes. The Italian lakes are a magnet for tourists and in high summer the roads can be busy, but there are still plenty of options for an enjoyable cycling.

Start here:

Lago di Como from the road to the Madonna di Ghisallo, near Bellaggio (Lombardia)

Lago di Como from the road to the Madonna di Ghisallo, near Bellaggio (Lombardia)

North and South

Most of the routes featured on Italy Cycling Guide are in the north. That's just the way things have turned out: please don't assume that that means that the best cycling is in the north. Southern Italy has plenty of beautiful landscapes and beautiful towns and villages. 15 of Italy's national parks are in southern Italy.

Start here:

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

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

International connections

Italy has some great possib­il­ities for cross-border cycling. The Via Claudia Augusta connects Augsburg near München (Munich/​Monaco) with Verona and Venezia, while the Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg runs from Salzburg in Austria to the coast at Grado in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region. The eurovelo 7 also runs north to Salzburg, fans from there to northern Norway. Heading south it goes to Firenze (Florence) Rome and the Lazio coast. The eurovelo 8 crosses Italy from west to east linking Spain and France with Slovenia and the Croatian coast. Last of the great inter­na­tional routes is the eurovelo 5 inspired by the tradi­tional pilgrim routes from northern Europe to Rome and Jerusalem.

Start here:

Bike hotels and single-centre holidays

Most of the routes on this site are aimed at people who are cycle touring and going from place to place. However, Italy has a growing number of 'bike hotels' hotels offering packages aimed at cyclists planning to stay for a few days or longer. Bike hotels offer a range of services: from the basics like a secure place to keep your bike, a tool kit etc to bike hire and guided rides.

The hotels around Riccione on the Adriatic seem to be the best-estab­lished group, but there are a growing number of bike hotels around the country including the Alta Rezia (which includes Livigno and Bormio at the foot of the Passo dello Stelvio and the Passo di Gavia), the Cuneo and Südtirol.

Mountainbiking

There's nowhere in Italy that isn't within easy reach of some mountains. So mountain-bikers are spoilt for choice. The main ski areas like Bormio, Livigno, Cortina d'Ampezzo and Sestrière all have Bike Parks. In July and August most ski areas have their lifts running and offer lots of possib­il­ities for XC riders - and of course if you think lifts are cheating there's nothing to stop you climbing the hill under your own steam.

While the ski areas have lifts and bike parks there's still plenty of enjoyable riding in the other places including the Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini on the borders between Umbria and Le Marche, around the Lago di Trasimeno in Umbria, the Altopiano dei Sette Comuni in the Veneto, and Finale Ligure in Liguria.

My list of things to do

Most of the tours in the Italy Cycling Guide are in northern Italy. That's not because the cycling in these parts of Italy is the best: there's lots of great cycling in southern Italy, Sardegna and Sicilia. I'm hoping to fill the gaps over the next couple of years.

Overview map

  Map:  show map in overlay    |    show map in new window   

Zoom in and click on the route you are inter­ested in, then click the link to go to the article or to the region guide. Some sections of cycleway may form part of more than one route. Note: this map only shows routes described in articles on this site: there are lots more cycleways and cycle routes in Italy.

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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.


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