9 Beautifully Hard Climbs Near Lucca | Lucca Cycling Club

9 Beautifully Hard Climbs Near Lucca

Back by popular demand as the second edition of Lucca climbs, we reveal training grounds that transform average cyclists into well-trained, persevering champions. Otherwise, take them for the beautiful suffering they so graciously offer.

9. Passo della Foce

11.3 km, average 6.8%

Gates open for the Garfagnana Amusement Park from May to October each year. It’s the green light for the high mountains, and no sane human being will disregard this rule except on New Year’s Day 2019, during my lapse of intelligence. One or two valley roads bring you to the region of Garfagnana, which branches off into a network of climbs and hilltop towns. Not all are considered equal, but Foce is spectacular. Have a close look at the photo (below), where there’s a profile of a man’s face.

Passo della Foce. Photograph: Alison Testroete

8. Val di Vaiana

5 kilometers, average 9.9%

Speaking of hidden climbs in Garfagnana, this one up to Renaio might be only five kilometers long but steep enough you’ll want to stop and pet the sheep halfway. With 18 hairpins, it’s like an eerie Alpe d’Huez of Tuscany. Ride in via Barga and out Tiglio Basso. Then do the loop in reverse—but not before a visit to the Masterpieces of Sweetness in Barga, “Theobroma Capolavori di Dolcezza.”

7. Passo del Vestito

18.8 kilometers, average 5%

Starting in Versilia from the town of Massa, Passo del Vestito is an important pass over the Apuan Alps and through the Marble Mountains. Michelangelo’s David and the Leaning Tower of Pisa are just two examples of Renaissance art and architecture made from Carrara marble. It makes for an epic ride from Lucca, but nothing can replace the peacefulness of mountains in the heat of summer. Go on a warm, dry day because wet Italian asphalt equals a not-so-fun slip ’n slide for overly optimistic adults. Don’t miss photogenic Isola Santa descending into Garfagnana on your right. You’ll also be wise to embark on this mission with a front and backlight for the tunnels.

Passo del Vestito. Photograph: Giuseppe Panìco

6. Passo Croce

18.8 kilometers, average 8.7%

This one’s my absolute fave, and I’ve only been up a few times. You’ll literally and figuratively die on the Cross, but its beauty guarantees your resurrection. Only a two-hour warm-up spin from Lucca, you’ll ride most of Cipollaio, 10 km pedalabile—yes pedalable—before taking a right up to Croce. “Mount” Cipollaio from Seravezza where you’d be wise consuming a gelato or espresso before steamrolling the next 16 km of upward-tilted asphalt. So about 10-12 km on Cipollaio before the final 6 km up to the mountaintop. Not a lazybones pursuit—but a view of the Promised Land never is.

Passo Croce. Photograph: Alison Testroete

5. Abetone

16.8 kilometers, average 5.4%

Where the Tuscans ski. But let’s not talk about snow. I wouldn’t touch Abetone in the winter with even a ski pole is how I feel about rain at sub-zero temperatures. In the summer it’s the best 160 km out-and-back ride you’ll do. A gradual uphill along the Serchio River until you’re 15 km from the summit where the road pitches upward. On average, it’s not steep, especially knowing once you get to the top, it’s practically all downhill back to Lucca.

4. Pietrabuona — Macchia Antonini

25.1 kilometers, average 3.3%

One of many beautiful climbs in the Pistoiese mountains that show how diversified the region is. At 3% and 25 km, it makes for an enduring threshold test, but one with scenic mountain towns and panoramic views. Once you’re through Pescia, it’s all about you, the bike and whatever the adventure brings.

3. Official Monte Serra Test from Buti

6 kilometers, average 8%

The official fitness test for pros and amateurs alike, this 6 km segment of the entire 7.2 km climb is a telling benchmark of how dedicated and disciplined you’ve been with your training. Whether you go with a pacer or front this challenge on your own, remember: Ride the second half harder than the first.

2. Pizzorne from Matraia

9.4 kilometers average 9%

Most people know of Monte Serra, but not Pizzorne. Opposite Monte Serra at the other end of the Lucca plain is Pizzorne. A dramatic trilogy with the ultimate climax leading from the church/bell tower at Matraia. If your Garmin or Wahoo grade caps out at 10%, don’t worry, the correct reading is “F me.” This section would not be an ideal time to attack. You’re welcome and good luck.

1. San Pellegrino in Alpe

12 kilometers, average 9.1%

Easily the most difficult HC climb in the vicinity of Lucca with sections at 17.7%. She has a gentler and kinder sister named Passo delle Radici, but she’s not spunky nor feisty like San Pellegrino. The closer you get to the top, the harder she makes you work. And once you’re finally there, don’t plan on just coasting home. No no. Then you ride up the backside of Abetone until “La Casina” where they have as many flavors of pies as colors in the rainbow you’ll undoubtedly be seeing by now. 160 km with 2400m from Lucca is what San Pellegrino asks of you.

Are you planning to ride any of the above-mentioned climbs? Let me know in the comments below which one was your favorite and how your recovery went. Thank you in advance for your participation.

Two cyclists riding next to a building.

2 thoughts on “9 Beautifully Hard Climbs Near Lucca”

  1. Knut Frigaard

    Alison is underselling San Pellegrino. This beast of a climb has (what feels like) long sections of 20%, maxing out at 22-23%. Just make sure to be properly dressed for the occasion depending on the weather forecast. Can be very chilly (I went in mid-April – and yes, I was very cold.) And then next, the Abetone climb is awaiting:)

    1. Thanks for reporting back, Knut. 🫣 I remember using an older Garmin that didn’t register grades over 14% — your recollection sounds more accurate. I shall return shortly with new technology and see for myself!

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