Northern Classics | 7 of the Best Road Cycling Routes in Italy

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Road Cycling

Road Cycling in Italy | 7 of the Best Rides in The North

We team up with the Green & Blue project to highlight some of the best routes in Northern Italy

Northern Italy is nothing short of a road cycling paradise.

From fearsome climbs made famous by the Giro d’Italia to stunning scenery and family cycling routes, the mountains and valleys of the country might as well have been purpose-built for the sport.

With so many options out there though, it can be hard to know where to start if you’re looking to explore Italy on a bike. We’ve teamed up with Green & Blue, a new initiative set up to promote adventure sports in the region, to shine a spotlight on some of the best road cycling routes in Northern Italy.

1) Cycling from Albenga to Genova, and Around Liguria

Liguria, Ponente Ligure cycle track.

The region is actually one of the most popular for the road cycling thanks to the stunning coastal views, where you can find wonderful cycle tracks like the Pista Ciclabile del Ponente Ligure, a 24 kilometres freewheeling track far from the traffic, from Imperia to Ospedaletti, where the old railway has become a wonderful cycle track where it is possible to rent bicycles.

The 177k cycle from Albenga to Genova is a beautiful route that takes you inland through the hills of Liguria. You’ll constantly be riding either up or down, and riding twisting roads likely to bring a sense of isolation and total escape. This is one of the best preferred routes for the Giro D’Italia.

After that, you’ll come back out to the coast and through some beautiful tunnels on your way to the big city of Genova. If it sounds like a lot of work, there are plenty hotels along the way to break up the route! The Maremonti cycle path in Liguria meanwhile links together the towns of Levanto, Bonassola and Framura and is purpose-built for families. Expect a lot of close-up ocean views, because the path is built along an old railway line just metres above the sea.

For all of these reasons, Liguria could be considered a paradise for cycling.

2) Cycling the Ciclovia del Sole, Emilia Romagna

Emilia Romagna, bikers at Nove Colli.

Emilia Romagna is probably the top region in Italy in terms of cycle paths. There are 8,000km of routes for cyclists, from roads and paths to dirt.

Along the way it will be easy to recharge your batteries thanks to the array of bike cafes that pop up en route, with an abundance of food and drink stations where you can regain your energy and plenty of stations to literally recharge if you’re riding an e-bike as well.

The great historical views are represented by 14 ancient roads and pilgrimage routes which run across Emilia-Romagna, including Via Francigena, Via Romea Germanica and Via Romea Strata – each characterised by greenery, rolling hills, the rise of the Apennine mountains and the ever-stunning Adriatic Coast.

Emilia-Romagna is also home to two national cycle ways. The Ciclovia del Sole is one we’d particularly recommend checking out, providing a stunning cycle between Verona and Florence through typical Italian towns and greenery.

3) Taking On The Stelvio Pass, Lombardia

The world famous Stelvio Pass.

Lombardia has everything you need to experience road cycling at its fullest in Italy, from The Alps to the Apennines, mountains to rivers and vineyards to rice fields. It’s also where to go if you want to access climbs from the world famous Stelvio Pass, Mortirolo Pass and Madonna del Ghisallo.

The Stelvio Pass in particular is one of the most impressive cycles in the world. At an elevation of 2,757m above sea level, it’s the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps and the second highest in the Alps (with France’s Col de l’Iseran being 13m higher). It’s also a road drenched in the history of the sport. It was on the Stelvio back in 1953 during the Giro d’Italia that the famous Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi put three and a half minutes between himself and race leader Hugo Koblet to claim his fifth Giro title. Since then it’s become embedded in the lore of the sport.

The Stelvio Pass is a road for experts though, and probably not the best option if you arrive in Lombardy with your family. Don’t worry though, there’s plenty of other options, including the 279km cycle from the Rhaetian Alps to Lake Iseo. That may sound long but it’s broken up into five segments, so you don’t have to do it all if you don’t want. And no matter which segment you choose you’ll be following the beautiful River Oglio as you go.

4) Riding from the the Dolomites to Venice, in Veneto

Cycling in Veneto. Photo: M. Danesin

Veneto boasts around 1200km of cycle paths, all of which are well signposted and safe to ride. The four main routes are divided into separate stages.

What’s really impressive about Veneto is the sheer diversity of conditions and cycling on offer. The Dolomites-Venice cycle is truly one for the bucket list. You’ll be riding from the shadow of some of the most beautiful mountains in the world down to one of the planet’s most romanticised cities.

Both the Lake Garda-Venice and L’Anello del Veneto routes will see you pass through water and greenery as well. If you’re out there with your family we suggest opting for the rolling hills of historic roads such as the Via Claudia Augusta, an ancient Roman road which spans all the way from Germany and Austria to Veneto.

5) Riding The Alpe Adria Trail, Friuli Venezia Giulia

Fabrice Gallina. Cycling through Friuli…

The Friulian Dolomites are actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and some of the routes that run through them will even take you out of Italy.

The Alpe Adria cycle route runs from Salzburg in Austria to the Adriatic Sea in Grado past some stunning scenery which ranges from mountains to the coast, from lagoons to parks, from sea to mountains and back again. In one day in Friuli Venezia Giulia, the Alpe Adria trail crosses the whole region.

You’ll also get a good dose of city sightseeing, passing through the medieval village of Venzone before reaching Udine, known for its Venetian style and architecture. The route takes you out at Grado, which is a picturesque island with a stunning lagoon, two natural reserves and seemingly endless green scenery for you to stick in your film roll. There’s no better way to travel through it than on bike.

6) Tackling Il Colle del Gran San Bernardo, Valle D’Aosta

Exploring the Aosta Valley on bike. Photo: Enrico Romanzi

The Aosta Valley is the smallest region in Northern Italy, but it’s also one of the most beautiful. Located at the border between Italy, France and Switzerland, 40 percent of the Valle d’Aosta is mountainous terrain, so prepare for some serious climbing if you bring your road bike. This is another region which is no stranger to the Giro d’Italia, and the Tour de France has passed through here as well.

The dramatic landscape offers huge mountains, enormous valleys and plenty of routes on the valley floor that take you through the landscape and pass gastronomical wonders on the way. The 22km cycle and walking path joining Sarre and Fenis is great for those who don’t quite fancy themselves as the next Chris Froome.

If you are up for a challenge though, the Martigny to Bourg-Saint-Maurice route, through Gran San Bernardo Hill from 2,474m to Piccolo San Bernardo at 2,188m, requires some serious endurance skills, but not only do you get a lot of downhill for your efforts, the views you get while you’re on them will absolutely blow you away.

7) Cycling from Dolci Terre to Langhe, Piemonte

Piemonte, Bike_Alessandria

Piemonte is one of best kept secrets in Italy and includes the UNESCO-certified landscapes of Langhe, the epitome of serenity and peace and an area which has an abundance of rolling hills and valley roads.

The region is full of treasures, stunning views and absolutely great cycle paths, there are 11 valleys that can be accessed from Turin with one cycle path. The path will take you past an array of ancient fortifications and stunning villages filled with gastronomic delights.

If you’re really interested in Turin, we’d recommend having a look at the Corona Verde, a pedestrian bike trail connecting the long list of landmarks that have been UNESCO World Heritage Residences since 1997, and boasting some beautiful tranquility around the city of Turin.

If you’re looking to get a bit further from the city, the Dolci Terre to Langhe route runs from Acqui Terme to Mombaruzzo, the home of amaretto. You’ll also ride through Nizza Monferrato, where you can sample some of the best savory Barbera wine the world over, and then ride on to Canelli through beautiful green trails.


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