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 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
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
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.