Road Cycling

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

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

Northern Italy is nothing short of a road cycling paradise.

From ride outs that have become the stuff of legend thanks to the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France to more casual, gastronomic routes through stunning scenery, 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.

Liguria is known around the world as a cycling paradise for both mountain biking and road cycling.

The region is actually one of the most popular with long distance cyclists in all of Italy – no doubt thanks to the stunning coastal views, where you can find wonderful cycle tracks like the Pista Ciclabile del Ponente Ligure, a 24 kilometres freewheeling 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 Giro d’Italia is no stranger to the Ligurian coast. The 177k cycle from Albenga to Genova is a beautiful route that has been used in the Giro before. It 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.

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.

2) Cycling the Ciclovia del Sole, Emilia Romagna

Emilia Romagna, bikers at Nove Colli.

14 ancient roads and pilgrimage routes 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.

There are a massive 8,000km of routes for cyclists in Emilia Romagna, from roads and paths to dirt. It’s the top region in Italy in terms of cycle paths and eco-mobility, something you’ll notice when you’re on the roads in terms of the bike cafes that pop up along the way.

They’re there to let you recharge your batteries, both metaphorically with some food and drink and literally if you’re riding an e-bike.

There are also stages of the Giro, and the renowned but challenging Nove Colli sportive in the region drew in 12,000 participants from almost 50 countries last year.

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 grants you access to everything from Alps to Apennines, mountains to rivers and vineyards to rice fields. It’s also where you need to go if you want to access climbs from the world famous Stelvio Pass, Mortirolo Pass and Madonna del Ghisallo.

If you’re serious about road cycling, you’ll have heard of the Stelvio Pass. 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 and is now one of the most famous climbs on the planet.

If you’re heading out with your family of course, you’re probably not going to want to cycle the Stelvio. But there’s plenty of other options. You’ll enjoy any part of the 279km cycle from the Rhaetian Alps to Lake Iseo. Don’t worry, 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

Veneto boasts around 1200km of cycle paths, with the four main routes divided into separate stages. The routes are all signposted well and safe to ride, and for the hardest-working of riders, there’s no lack of climbing to do in the mountains of Veneto either.

What’s really impressive about Veneto is the sheer diversity of conditions and cycles on offer. The Lake Garda-Venice and L’Anello del Veneto will both see you pass through water and greenery, but 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.

Families opting for some time outside on the saddle might want to look at following 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

The Friuli Venezia Giulia area (also pictured in featured image, top) can take you from lagoons to parks and oceans to mountains and back again in one day. There’s no better way to travel through it than on bike.

The Friulian Dolomites are actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and some of the routes 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 ranging from mountains to the coast. In Friuli Venezia Giulia, the Alpe Adria trail crosses the whole region. You’ll head through Tarvisio and the stunning Prealpi Giulie Natural Park.

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, a picturesque island with a stunning lagoon, two natural reserves and seemingly endless green scenery for you to stick in your film roll.

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

Riding the Valle d’Aosta. Photo: Enrico Romanzi

The Aosta Valley is the smallest region in Northern Italy, but it’s also one of the most beautiful. The dramatic landscape offers huge mountains, enormous valleys and all the outdoor greenery you could ask for.

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

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 2,188 m, requires some serious endurance skills, but not only do you get a lot of downhill for you 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 Orta.

The UNESCO-certified landscapes of Piemonte are the epitome of serenity and peace. You’ll find yourself riding up and over rolling hills, through gorgeous valleys and, should you choose, taking on thigh-burning climbs.

From Turin there are 11 valleys through the province which can all be accessed from one cycle path. This route 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 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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