A focus on: cycling in Italy
Much like the popular cycling destination of France, Italy is a big country, with a wide range of different landscapes and regions. Of course, Italy is renowned for its classic cuisine and endless sunshine, and a case can certainly be made for it being one of the best cycling holiday destinations, certainly if the family are in tow. We’ve chosen 7 regions which we think are great for a cycling break.
Cycling in Italy is not all about the mainland, and winter training camps are not all about Majorca. Sardinia’s quiet coastal roads in the south east sample the island’s white sand beaches, while a trip on the Giro d’Italia’s SS125 road ensures a stomp on the pedals through the mountainous heart of Barbagia.
The imposing Monte Albo climb is one for the bucket list. Self-guided coast to coast itineraries are possible for those who enjoy the feeling of a journey – punctuated by archaeological sites, vineyards and top-notch Mediterranean cuisine.
Tuscany is the posterboy of cycling in Italy. Among the lush, green, rolling lands and picturesque hilltop towns are miles upon miles of riding, taking in some of the nation’s most beautiful countryside, fuelled by Italy’s best cuisine.
The Giro is known to swarm through Tuscany, past the vineyards of Chianti, north past Pistoia and south past Grosseto – so don’t take the region, perhaps better known for its gastronomy, lightly. After all, the region’s famous white roads host the classic L’Eroica ride, a route of which you can trace at any time of year.
Seen from a distance it looks like the Alps have cracked and some tremendous geological splinter is imminent. But no, that’s just the 48 hairpins turns of the eastern approach of the Stelvio Pass, the second highest paved road in the Alps and one of the most bewitching in Europe.
Tackling the famed side from Prato will tie you in knots over 24.3km, climbing 1,808m, at an average 7.4 per cent, with your eye constantly on the summit. The western ride from Bormio is no stroll, either. At just under 22km you’ll climb 1,560m at 7.1 per cent, with a 14 per cent kicker at the summit. When it comes to cycling in Italy, file the Stelvio Pass in ‘iconic’.
For achingly beautiful scenery – not to mention the aching thighs – any roads that pass within spying distance of the jagged, spinal Dolomites range are worth a trip.
The list of passes that cyclists travel to northern Italy to conquer is as long as your arm: the Passo Sella, the third climb of the famous day race Maratona dles Dolomites; the lesser-known but equally awe-inspiring Passo delle Erbe; and the Passa Fedaia, with sections of 15 per cent near (but not near enough) its summit, are just the start.
In the Carnic Alps, which border Austria, is a climb regarded as one of the country’s most demanding and regularly features in the Giro d’Italia. There are three routes up to Monte Zoncolan, west from Ovaro and east from either Sutrio and Priola, with the former the least forgiving.
From Ovaro in the Gorto valley awaits 10 kilometres of 11.9 per cent, with a maximum gradient of 22 per cent, and featuring switchbacks, forested steeps and disorientating tunnels.
The final six kilometres average 15 per cent. Monte Grappa, a 23.8km slog up to 1,745m and home to a number of First World War battles, is also in the region for the masochists.
Easily accessible from Milan, the Italian Lakes boast some of the prettiest scenery in Europe. So what better way to explore the region than by bike? Take your time and tick off the picture postcards shots in the region but leave time for some healthy climbs – does the Muro di Sormano ring any bells?
The Wall of Sormano near Lake Como is less than two kilometres but the average gradient is 17 per cent and the steepest tickles 25 per cent. In the area be sure to visit the tiny chapel of Madonna del Ghisallo, belonging to the adopted patron saint of cycling. Link the towns and villages of Lake Garda, including Sirmione, which boasts its own castle, for a more relaxing day out.