Published on: 27 July 2014 | Last updated: 25 December 2019
The 2016 earthquakes in Central Italy
In 2016 there were three earthquakes in the area at the heart of this route. The earthquakes have 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 have had to move out of their homes.
The Monti Sibillini area, was particularly badly affected. Most of the roads around the Pian Grande di Castelluccio have recently reopened (see ANAS-sisma2-16.it). However, at the time of writing(July 2018), the road between Castelluccio di Norcia and Castelsantangelo di Nera was only open at weekends. My advice would be to go from Castelluccio di Norcia to Norcia and then take the road to Preci and Visso.
Several towns have suffered significant damage, and many hotels and other accommodation have been forced to close. It is still possible to find good-quality accommodation, but please do your research, and plan carefully for this section. (Note to cycle-campers: all the campsites in the area are open with the exception of the Camping Monteprata).
If you want more information about the progress of the work in repairing and reopening roads in the area, ANAS, the national highways agency, has set up a dedicated site: ANAS-sisma2-16.it.
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 through 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.
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.
|Sulmona to Castel del Monte||106kms|
|Castel del Monte to Campotosto||83kms|
|Campotosto to the Lago di Fiastra||128kms|
|Lago di Fiastra to Camerino||52kms|
|Camerino to Gubbio||120kms|
|Pietralunga to Urbino||125kms|
|Urbino to 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.
From San Sepolcro you can continue via Anghiari to Arezzo. Where you can connect with the Ciclopista del Sole (eurovelo 7) route.
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 website). 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 Deutsche Bahn 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.
Maps to print out or view offline
The zip files contain pdf files packaged together for convenience.
About the maps
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. (A4 and A5 are international paper sizes).
Links open in new windows unless you ‘save as’ etc.
National Parks of the Apennines gps files
(.zip file containing 11 gpx track files and one file of waypoints)
Italy Points of Interest
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 April 2018. The file format is only compatible with Garmin GPSes .
Places to stay
Hotels and B&Bs
You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding accommodation - although there are points where the route makes a detour in order to go to towns with places to stay.
There are several hotels and rifugi along the way:
This aren’t a huge number of campsites, but there are enough.
Transport and services
The route starts at Sulmona, where there’s a train station. Along the route there are train stations at:
- Torre dei Passeri
- Nocera Umbra
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.
Articles in this series
- National Parks of the Apennines: overview
- National Parks of the Apennines: Part 1: The Majella and Gran Sasso national parks
- National Parks of the Apennines: Part 2: the Monti Sibillini
- National Parks of the Apennines: Part 3: The Monte Cucco Parco Regionale
- National Parks of the Apennines: Part 4: Urbino to Sansepolcro