Cycling in Italy: The Most Beautiful Regions | Lucca Cycling Club

The Ultimate Guide to Cycling in Italy

Cycling in Italy truly is everything it’s cracked up to be. By far the most popular cycling destination in Europe, it’s welcoming to cyclists of all levels. The history of cycling here dates as far back as the inception in 1909 of the Giro d’Italia and is still going strong today, particularly in the regions of Tuscany, Veneto and Lombardy.

But how does one decide where to cycle in Italy and what to do?

With so many things to see and hundreds of kilometers of pavement to roll over, I know how overwhelming the choices can be. It would have to be impossible to consider any cycling guide complete, but If you love exploring and taking on new challenges, this guide to biking in Italy is for you. Keep reading if you’d like to learn about the most popular cycling regions, Gran Fondos and other events in Italy.

I’ll take you through everything you need to know about cycling in Italy, including the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Dolomites, Italian Lakes, Verona & Lake Garda, Piedmont, Puglia and Sicily.

The Apennine mountains from Emilia Romagna to Basilicata and including Il Pirata’s Cippo di Carpegna, are extraordinary and cycling-worthy but at the tail end of the bell curve, so I’ve left them out. Sardegna is also a popular cyclists destination, but without enough personal experience, I’ve left it out, too.

Now, without any further ado, here’s to your next cycling in Italy journey.

When’s the best time for cycling in Italy?

Although you can ride in most regions of Italy year-round (aside from the high mountains), you’ll be in shorts and a jersey from April/May to September/October.

The weather will be unlikely to get you down in these months, yet the climate in Italy is synonymous with drama and emotion. When it rains, it pours—thunder, lightning, hand gestures, the works. Then the skies clear, the sun reappears, and it’s business as usual.

With the exception of July and August when temperatures can hit 35° to 38 °C, it’s a good idea to carry a light wind jacket or vest for long descents. If you don’t cope well with the heat, the Dolomites is your best bet for avoiding it during these two hottest months.

The 15th of August marks Ferragosto, Italy’s version of the summer vacation. Essentially everybody (outside of tourism) is on holiday this week—if not for the entire month of August. Although many will gravitate to the mountains, most head for the seaside. It’s a pretty relaxed time, except when riding coastal roads.

Pietrasanta, Northern Tuscany in August. Photograph: Simone Orsucci

Cycling in Italy tips

Cycling in Italy, you’ll see fountains nearly everywhere. Once you notice one or two, you’ll start to pick up on them. So many that Italian cyclists carry just one bottle of water, using their second bottle cage for a tool kit.

Fountains can be found in parks (usually alongside benches), piazzas, village centres and random points along the road. Drinking from fountains marked “acqua non potabile”, however, would be a gamble. If you’re dyin’ of thirst with no fountain in sight, here’s how to ask somebody… anybody:

Scusi, c’é una fontana qui vicino?

Cycling in Italy is generally safe, yet be mindful of the influx of non-local drivers in July and August when tourism peaks. You’ll likely find the roads to be narrower than those at home, and sadly, here as everywhere, there’ll be the occasional impatient driver who overtakes on a solid line. It’s always wise to err on the side of caution, no matter where you ride.


The powerhouse of cycling in Italy and the ultimate American dream, cycling in Tuscany can meet many, if not all of your needs. From north to south and west to east, just about anything’s possible.


Introduced to the pro-cycling world by former Danish pro, Bjarne Riis, Lucca has been training grounds for names like Rachel Neylan, Ben King, and how can we forget the show pony himself, Mario Cipollini. It’s also home to the godfather of power and inventor of the SRM PowerMeter, Uli Schoberer. From long climbs in the Apuan Alps and Central Apennine to rolling hills and the Pisan flats, this northern Tuscan town has something special for everyone.

Aside from the pros, Lucca is a perfect cycling base in Tuscany and has one of the most vibrant cycling communities I’ve seen. It’s unlikely you’ll be greeted by other foreign cyclists but by club members wearing some of the least fashionable cycling kit you’ve ever laid eyes on.

Two cyclists riding next to a building.

The Island of Elba

The Island of Elba is where Napoléon Bonaparte was exiled, and only 10 km by ferry from the coastal town, Piombino. With clever tactics, a small team of domestiques, and unwavering discipline, you’ll conquer this entire island in three to four days—tops.

Had Strava existed in 1956, Fausto Coppi would surely also be an acclaimed king. In his later years, he wilfully exiled himself to Elba and made famous his favourite fountain, now enshrined as Fonte di Coppi, just outside of Rio nell’Elba. Rumour on the street has it that Paolo Bettini, and Vincenzo Nibali have also filled their water bottles at this glorious natural spring.

Beyond its reputation as an idyllic vacation spot enclosed by the Tyrrhenian Sea, Elba’s the place to achieve mighty goals.

Island of Elba. Photograph: Simone Orsucci


Rides in North Tuscany are sown together by climbs, while in mid- and South Tuscany, it’s hilltop villages. Chianti isn’t only for wine lovers, but good light-hearted fun.

Hardly the six o’clock breaking news but, as long as you’re here, you won’t want to miss out on Radda in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Greve in Chianti, Castelnuovo di Berardenga, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, and Volterra. Meat-eating fans will want to pay a visit to the world famous butcher in Panzano in Chianti.

The towers of San Gimignano in the distance. Photograph: Poike/Getty Images

The Lands of Siena

There are no words to describe the beauty surrounding Asciano; you’ll have to define them for yourself. There’s a limit to the number of rides you’ll do before overlapping routes. Use them sparingly and for V02 max intervals.

Val d’Orcia, added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004 is a seekers’ retreat. Blankets of bright greens or browns drape the Terre di Siena unlike any anywhere else on earth. The Orcia Valley urges introverted quests—a haven for great thinkers such as 1934 Nobel Prize writer, Luigi Pirandello, and painters at the Siena School of Art who have used it for inspiration to create timeless literature and works of art.

Spend your days meditatively pedaling, and soak away your afternoons in natural thermals spas like the ancient Roman baths in Bagno Vignoni, Bagni San Filippo and Vivo d’Orcia. Don’t miss out on a chance to explore the succession of quaint, picturesque towns that dot the region, including Pienza, Radicofani, Montepulciano and Montalcino. Wind up your tour of the fortified city of San Quirico by capturing your own image of the iconic Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta.

Crete Senesi. Photograph: StevanZZ/Getty Images

Grand Tour della Val di Merse

West and south of Siena is the lesser-known, rural area of Tuscany known as Val di Merse. If you’re yearning for serenity now, these could well be the roads for you — so quiet, in fact, you might go for miles without encountering a single car, let alone a water fountain or café. Grand Tour della val di Merse is a 159 km signposted route with 2500 m of elevation and 12 km of strade bianche.

The Grand Tour takes you through such places and sights as Casole d’Elsa, Radicondoli, Chiusdino, Muro and l’Abbazia di San Galgano (the church with no roof). In Val di Merse, you’re not seen as yet another walking credit card, but the curiosity of gentle souls peering out from wide eyes.

Il Grand Tour della Maremma

Maremma, also off the beaten path, is home to the ancient, dormant volcano, Monte Amiata. At 1738 m, this gentle giant can be crested seven different ways, but a good place to start is from Abbadia San Salvatore (12 km/avg. 6%).

Another permanently signposted route, the Grand Tour of Maremma is a 370 km journey with a 5200 m elevation, unspecified portion of white roads, and Il Muro di Monte Nero — a 1.2 km stretch with sections at 15% to 20%.

Taking the Grand Tour challenge will introduce you to ancient Etruscan sites and L’Area del Tufo, encompassing the towns of Pitigliano, Sorano, and Sovana. Tufo translates to tophus, which is Latin for stone, and alludes to the fascinating tunnels and caves to be explored beneath these unusual villages.

Pitigliano, village of tophus. Photograph: Elena Kharichkina


As Tuscany’s neighbour, Umbria doesn’t get the attention and respect it deserves, but with fewer economic resources, the region offers an authentic travel experience back through time. Beauty shines through its wrinkles, scars and all-knowing eyes, while some areas of Tuscany are photoshopped like a happy-yet-staged family portrait.

The most obvious points of interest to take in are Perugia, Spello and Assisi, as well as La Via Flaminia—the route taken by the Romans through the Apennine Mountains to the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The old Roman road stitches together a string of museum-like towns including Bevagna, Trevi, Nocera and—my favorite for its complex layers of history—Spoleto.

Umbria can be best appreciated through its rolling hills, Apennine climbs and seemingly endless small towns: Vallo di Nera, Orvieto, Città della Pieve, Gubbio, Montefalco and Stroncone. Fewer tourism euros may be reflected in the quality of the pavement; this is no Hilton Hotel replanted in Italy.

Although not technically in Umbria, nearby Cortona—made famous by Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun—is worth a mention on the map as is the breathtaking hilltop village of Civita di Bagnoregio in Lazio, only accessible by foot. If you can’t make it for a non-cycling escapade then definitely do a Google image search.

The Dolomites

If you call an altitude training camp a vacation, then this is your destination. Prerequisites: no fear of heights or self-inflicted pain. Potential benefits: unquantifiable. Caveat: you have to be willing to do the work; nobody becomes a climbing machine by spending their days sitting in alpine spas.

The best way to optimize your time is with an east to west (or west to east), point-to-point tour. This isn’t obligatory, but without it, expect to retrace at least some of your tracks. For example, if you base yourself in Bormio, you’ll be near Passo della Stelvio (21 km/avg. 7.3%), Passo di Mortirolo (14.3 km/avg. 8.3 percent), Passo di Gavia (25 km/avg. 5.6%) and the Passo Umbrail (18.3 km/avg. 7.1%).

If you stay in Corvara or Cortina d’Ampezzo you’ll have access to the Sella Ronda loop: Passo di Campolongo (5.8 km/avg. 6.1%), Passo Pordoi (9.2 km/avg. 6.9%), Passo di Sella (5.5 km/avg. 7.9%), and Passo Gardena (5.8 km/avg. 4.3%). The second half of the Maratona figure eight loop includes Passo Giau (9.9 km/avg. 9.3%) and Passo di Falzarego/Valparola (11.5 km/avg. 5.8%).

The spectacular Dolomites. Photograph: Simone Orsucci

The Italian Lakes

Five lakes span this region that also crosses over into Switzerland, and Lake Como is the most popular. There are many spots in the surrounding mountains that offer breathtaking views of the lake, such as from Pigra on the west side of Lake Como.

The peak of Passo del Ghisallo is considered an epicenter of cycling in Italy. The climb itself has been a part of races dating back to 1905, including Giro d’Italia, Coppa Agostoni and Giro di Lombardia. Ride either the classic side from Bellagio (9.3 km/avg. 5.7%) or take the gentler side, from Canzo.

Each year, thousands of cyclists from all over the world make a point of visiting the Madonna del Ghisallo, patroness of cyclists since 1949. Inside the tiny chapel, you’ll find all sorts of cycling memorabilia from the who’s who of professional cycling.

Next door to the chapel, a cycling museum showcases historical artifacts — from antique bikes to the first pink La Gazzetta dello Sport leaders jersey’s. You can visit the chapel on a bike ride, but you’ll need to make a separate trip by foot for the museum.

Ghisallo Cycling Museum. Photograph: Alessio Soggetti

Verona & Lake Garda

Another must-see place for any well-rounded cycling in Italy experience, fair Verona is anything but tragic. Despite being a little touristy, Verona is a cyclist’s delight because it has a little bit of everything—rolling hills, scenic mountains, and a picturesque lake—and a journey through here offers an intimate glimpse into Italian life. Your potential itinerary might look something like this:

  • bici through the rolling hills and vineyards of Valpolicella, capped with dinner in Verona.
  • bici up Monte Baldo and if you’re not going for time, a sight-seeing detour to the Madonna della Corona Sanctuary.
  • recovery bici to to Valeggio sul Mincio before taking in an opera/concert/play at the Arena—one of the best-preserved ancient structures in the world.

If this sounds too lax for your liking, an 18 to 26 km trip up through Monte Grappa should tame the inner beast, and you’ll be back on schedule in one day flat.


Piedmont is the perfect region for those searching for beyond average. South Piedmont is home to the Slow Food movement while the city of Alba, regarded as its “gourmet capital,” boasts Italy’s highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants. Like Tuscany, the lands are hilly, with towns and castles perched proudly on top.

Indulge your taste for fine wines as you pass through Barola and Barbaresco, two of Piedmont’s most famous wine-growing regions around Monforte d’Alba, Barolo and La Morra. You’ll also want to cycle through the Langhe area—the heart of white truffle season every year from September to January.

The name of the game here is Saliscendi, which roughly means “take no prisoners.” Just kidding, it means, literally, up-down. Your must-see cycling destinations in this area include local restaurants and quaint villages like Neive, Grinzane Cavour, Diano D’Alba, and Castiglione Falletto.

Moving onto other pursuits of non-mediocrity, you have your choice of monster climbs like the 40 km Colle del Nivolet and the 2000-meter-high military gravel roads near the border of France—the same ones stitched together to form the Torino-Nice Rally: Colle delle Finestre, Strada dell’Assietta, Colle Dell’Agnello, Via Del Sale and Col de Turini.


On a ten point scale of cycling in Italy difficulty, you have the Dolomites at an 11, and Puglia between two and four depending on your level of effort and the way the wind blows. In other words, Puglia is for retired people who play golf, chit-chat with the locals and go for leisurely bike rides.

Puglia isn’t only for retired folk, though, it’s also for you, me and trullo houses. When you get to Puglia, you won’t want to spend all your time on the bike when you’re surrounded by glorious, sparkly blue waters anyway.

Your tour won’t be complete without cycling the coastal roads and inland—through Valle d’Itria to the trulli of Alberobello—and taking time for visits to the whitewashed old towns of Locorotondo and Ostuni. I don’t doubt that the bike is also your church, yet consider taking spiritual moments of presence at Santuario di Monte Sant’Angelo (which also happens to be a Giro d’Italia climb).

Lastly, before you float all your days away in the Adriatic Sea, don’t skip the mesmerizing ancient cave town of Matera, and learn of its captivating history of redemption.

Ostuni, Puglia. Photograph: StevanZZ/Getty Images


A tempting site of exploration for archaeologists and cyclists alike, Sicily is a step into another time and another world. Colonized by the Greeks in the 8th century BC, Sicily is truly the stuff of thick, dense history books.

While you probably have the most in common with Italy’s organized, precise Germanic North, why not wander through a dichotomy of humanity’s highs and lows? As the place where Plato once pondered life that also gave rise to the material world of the Sicilian mafia, the history of Siracusa is full of dramatic contrasts.

From the east, you’ll want to visit the towns of Taormina, Castelmola, Noto, Ragusa, as well as Mount Etna, the 1800 m active volcano. Five 30 km climbs lead to its twin peaks—north and south summits that have witnessed the crowning of six Giro d’Italia’s stage winners.

8 Beautiful Gran Fondos & cycling events in Italy

Bonus insider tips to apply for each event:

  • Registration, for the most part, is as competitive as any hot eBay auction, so do your homework and use a strong internet connection.
  • Always scan the photo package.

1. Gran Fondo Strade Bianche, Siena (early March)

Fast emerging as THE wish list event, the white roads of Siena piggyback the pro race that started back in 2007. In 2016, organizers of Giro d’Italia RCS unleashed the Gran Fondo, and it seems to have doubled in size each year since.

The Gran Fondo Strade Bianche is a dramatic and magical event that finishes in Piazza del Campo, home of the renowned biannual Palio Horse Race. Typically, the weather on the second weekend of March is unpredictable, meaning that you won’t know whether to expect white roads or a grey-brown, muddy slip ‘n slide. Either way, it’s a bucket list weekend—and one of my faves.

The Gran Fondo stretches 139.2 km over the Lands of Siena, with 31.4 km of gravel. The Medio Fondo is 86.6 km, of which 21.6 are gravel. The downside of the Medio is that it cuts out the Crete Senesi, which might be just as well if it’s raining (because ouch—that’ll hurt).

Gran Fondo Strade Bianche. Photograph: Sportograf

2. Gran Fondo Firenze, Florence (mid-April)

Inspired by the 2013 World Road Championships, the Gran Fondo Firenze is the perfect excuse to visit this renaissance city and explore the cycling in Florence. You might be expecting yet another Chianti affair; but no—the path heads due north and into the heart of the Florence Apennine, up the same Fiesole climb that Marianne Vos attacked on her way to becoming World Champion.

Not only will you retrace the path of the World Champion herself but, with the race starting from Piazzale Michelangelo (near Galileo Galilei’s old stomping grounds) you’ll also be spending time in history’s fine company.

Take on the Apennine with the Gran Fondo at 135 km and 2800 m, or not for the Medio at a total of 95 km and 1600 m of elevation.

3. Gran Fondo Nove Colli, Cesenatico, (third week of May)

This race calls itself the “Queen of Gran Fondo,” and with its inception back in 1971, who can argue? In Italian, the route is described as “dal mare alle colline, un mix di bellezza, paesaggistica, sudore e fatica,” meaning “from the sea to the hills, a mix of beauty, scenery, sweat and fatigue.” And Italians are fighting tooth and nail for entry and “emozioni indimenticabili,” or unforgettable emotions.

Starting in Cesenatico, you’ll make your way to the base of the Apennine Mountains and on toward the border of San Marino. It’s a stunning area. Why choose beach over mountains, when this race gives you both?

The Lungo is 205 km with 3840 m of elevation, and the Medio covers 130 km with 1871 m of climbing.

4. Maratona dles Dolomites, Corvara (early July)

The crown jewel of Italian Gran Fondos is the Maratona dles Dolomites starting and finishing in Corvara. For amateurs, it’s the most prestigious race you can win in Italy. For rest of us, 9880 members of pack fill, it’s stunning scenery with a good-sized serving of hurt.

The course forms a figure eight, with the first loop being the Sella Ronda with a cool four climbs: Passo di Campolongo (5.8 km/avg. 6.1%), Passo Pordoi (9.2 km/avg. 6.9%), Passo di Sella (5.5 km avg. 7.9%), and Passo di Gardena (5.8 km/avg. 4.3%).

For the full maratona, it’s another round up Passo di Campolongo, Passo Giau (9.9 km/avg. 9.3%), and Passo di Falzarego/Valparola (11.5 km/avg. 5.8%), for a total of 138 km and 4230 m of elevation. I look at it as fine people watching, roadside food, and a pizza party to boot.

5. Sportful Dolomiti Race, Feltre (mid-June)

Next to the Maratona, the Sportful is the pretty but unnoticed sister. The climbs might not be as steep or as famous, but they’re still Giro d’Italia climbs, and equally as beautiful. Although it’s half the size of the Maratona, you’ll still be starting in a sea of 5000 other cyclists, so the earlier you register, the lower your number will be. Unlike the Maratona, the Medio Fondo might be more manageable here, at just 140 km.

The 210 km Gran Fondo, with four main climbs, is the 20th stage of the 2019 Giro d’Italia. It’s made up of Cima Campo (18.2 km/avg. 6.1%), Passo Manghen (22.2 km/avg. 7.3%), Passo Rolle (19.9 km/avg. 4.8%), and Croce d’Aune (13.5 km/avg. 6.3%), but with a downhill finish into Feltre.

6. Gran Fondo Campagnolo Roma, Rome (mid-October)

One of the few chances you’ll get to roam Rome as the Romans did. Starting with the Colosseum at your back and with roads closed to traffic, you’ll have a green light to the Eternal City for the entire day—along with thousands of race-faced Italians, of course.

The 118 km, 2000 m course covers southeast rural Rome, weaving through castles, Lake Albano, and four official timed climbs for your chance to be The King or Queen of Rome.

What’s the prize? Nothing less than your rightful place in the highly sought-after, first-row starting grid the following year, sporting your new champion jersey of course. Chop, chop! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your rivals are already training!

7. Gran Fondo Il Lombardia, Como (mid-October)

Also tagging on to the pro race is the Gran Fondo Il Lombarida. The most worthwhile pursuits don’t ever come with little effort, and here we have Il Muro di Sormano (7 km at 9-27%), where I’m pretty sure grown men cry (not that there’s anything wrong with that). If you think this might be you, you’ll have the opportunity 10 km before to visit the Madonna del Ghisallo and pray to what or whomever you believe in that the wind be at your back.

At 112.6 km with 2700 m of climbing, this ain’t no walk in the park, but race numbers are still selling like hotcakes!

8. L’Eroica, Gaiole in Chianti (early October)

Not classified as a Gran Fondo, l’Eroica is in a category of its own. It’s permanently signposted, meaning you can ride it any day of the week, and with any bike you’d like. Except, that is, for the actual event, when showing up on, say, a gravel bike is bad form—and not in the spirit of the l’Eroica.

In fact, you must come with a historically-inspired or vintage style bike not newer than circa 1987, complete with downtube shifters, strap-in pedals, 32-spoke wheels with steel, aluminum or wood rims, and vintage wool clothing to suit—bonus points for carefully selected accessories.

Founded in 1997, Giancarlo Brocci wanted to preserve Tuscany’s last gravel roads and reconnect the modern generation of cycling with its historical roots. As the Italian Giancarlo is, he defines his participants as “hunters of feelings and emotions.”

Understandably, you may be frightened by the thought of riding steep, dusty gravel roads on a tank of a bike, but at least you have options, with routes of 32, 46, 81, 106, 135, and 209 km. You’ll have from dawn (5 am) till dusk to ride 209 km—a route designed with impeccable attention to detail, including candlelit-lined roads before sunrise.

The event translates into memories for life, and, judging by its rate of expansion, many others would agree. In Italy alone, Eroica has added three additional events: Nova Eroica, Eroica Montalcino, and Eroica Dolomiti.

Who might I be to write about cycling in Italy?

On April 29th, 2011, I kissed pro cycling goodbye, healed my wounds, saved up some Benjamins and moved to Perugia nine months later. I was searching for the wind in my face and the sun on my back. Italy called me loud and clear, and I followed like a lost puppy.

Perugia was the rational choice for an irrational decision. There’s an affordable international language school, Università per Stranieri di Perugia, and cheap rent. It has a little baggage, but that wasn’t going rain on my parade. The pictures were beautiful, and I heard the riding was nice, too.

View from Perugia on a winter day. Photograph: Alison Testroete

I devoted my mornings and evenings to the Italian language, and my afternoons to cycling in Italy. Ride with GPS became my best friend, as did TrenItalia. My classmates were taking the train to nearby towns, but I thought the civility of spending hours on the train to see a single town was for suckers. So I learned to bang them all off in one ride with a single train ride home.

There are hundreds of thousands of villages and roads to cycle in Italy, but one’s riding radius can only be expanded so far. Moving to Verona for two months with the same routine was the solution: language in the mornings, bike in the afternoons. After all, the lost puppy had grandiose plans to get a university degree (but at this point was still unable to read an Italian children’s book). I discovered the incredible area of Lake Garda, the Dolomites and Valpolicella with again the help of TrenItalia.

Nine months in, I packed up my things and moved to Bologna to get after that degree. After all, I’d heard about people doing it whose first language wasn’t even based on the same alphabet. I considered myself a shoe in.

Not really.

I remember picking a random university book off the shelf in a Verona library; to say my comprehension and attention span was poor would be a generous evaluation. But my cycling in Italy was going better than ever! In particular, exploring the vastness of the Apennine area from Bologna lit me up like a Christmas tree.

Bolognese Apennine. Photograph: Alison Testroete

Sadly, all the serenity now I’d managed to achieve cycling in Italy was going to hell in a handbasket when it came to attending university lectures. Finding my assigned classroom alone was like picking out the needle in a haystack of big doors, small doors, roman numerals, floors, buildings, and hallways.

The good news was my Italian was decent enough to ask for directions; it just wasn’t good enough to understand the response. There’s a saying: that the way a relationship starts is usually an indication of the way it will be, and so it was for my journey in Bologna. An SOS course correction redirected my studies to (and eventual graduation from) Pisa, then Lucca.

Through hindsight, I came to realize that we are as many people as the languages we speak. Speaking Italian wasn’t as simple as learning to translate individual English words; I had to develop a whole new way of relating to the world and expressing myself.

That whole new world opened itself up to me as a vibrant cycling community in Lucca. A local Gran Fondo team welcomed me with open arms, and that’s when I knew I had made my first real Italian friends. The race schedule was initially a mystery, but it didn’t take long to see that their toothpick physiques were destined for the high mountains, and that’s when I was to be reborn as a climber, too.

Italians take their Gran Fondo racing every bit as seriously as I did my pro cycling career. If I wanted even to contest in these races, I would need a small army of three to five gregari to take the wind, close the gaps and provide moral support — all for a lousy prosciutto and a bottle of local wine.

Lastly, to fill in the gaps of my cycling in Italy experience, I guided for companies like inGamba, Rapha Travel and others. The thing is, though, as soon as you close one gap, a new one opens.

A lifetime isn’t nearly enough to discover Italy by bike, and that, my friend, is very good news. We have our whole lives to learn new things. Whether you travel slow or fast or I welcome you to never stop exploring.

What about you? Tell me in the comments— is there an area of Italy you love? Do you have any must-see towns or climbs you’ve done?

12 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Cycling in Italy”

  1. Arthur H Carter Jr

    I have been fortunate enough to visit and cycle in Italy a number of times and thoroughly enjoyed them all. I knew I would enjoy the areas around Bormio, Bellagio and val di Gardenia, but two places that surprised me were the area around Feltre and la Cinque Terra. The climbs up the Monte Grappa are terrible and wonderful. I will never forget the Salto della Capra or the Seren del Grappa climbs. Not knowing any better I thought that noodling along the coast of la Cinque Terra would be “relaxing”. Hah! Beautiful yes. Tough yes. Memorable yes. Relaxing? Well maybe after the ride with a glass of schicchetra in hand and a Mediterranean sunset in view. I appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into the content on this site. I wish it had been available the first few trips I did! But the Italians are friendly and understanding. So many lessons learned and friends made. So many places I’d like to further explore but so many places I haven’t seen yet. I wish you the best in your pursuits, and if we are in Lucca again, I will surely say hi and maybe go for a ride. We were only in Lucca for a short stay last time and sadly did no cycling while there so it is very much a possibility!

    1. Alison Testroete

      Arthur — thanks for your thoughtful note. I have the GF Cinque Terre course on my list. I raced it a few years ago, but the scenic road was closed due to landslides. Sounds like Italy has captured a special place in your heart and believe me, I know why. 🙂

  2. I am a single parent, my 14 y.0. son is autistic (aspergers) and have been riding a bike since he was three. It became pretty clear, that he had a talent on a bike. At 6 he won his first race on a heavy ordinary schoolbike, and fra 8 he got his license. He has had quite a few podiums and is very determined. The only books he reads is about cycling: Riders, races from present and past. Right now he is reading Ole Ritters memoirs, after finishing two books by Michael Rasmussen.

    The determination of my son, and his planning is inquestionable, and as I am a pensioner and absolutely no longer in a condition to keep up with his pace, I try my best to help him with whatever I can. One thing I hope will help him is my effort to make him take it easy… and give him self time to grow as a rider. He is a locomotive. He set a pace, and no matter how far he rides, he never loses that pace.

    Now he has come to the point where he wants to go to Italy. He wants to ride in the Dolomites, as he regards them being his best chance to become the worlds best climber…. and that (finally) brings me to my questions:

    As soon as the Covid-restrictions are lifted he want to take on the Dolomites. Is there any suggestions for amateur teams/clubs in the Dolomites/Lake Garda area I can contact to make sure, he is riding in company with riders used to the mountains?

    If he sticks to his passion, he wants to live and ride in Italy for a few years. And he wants to be part of a team/club. He is born i 2007, and he will be 16 or 17 before we move to Italy.

    Any help or suggestions?



    1. Alison Testroete

      Hi Johnny—First, I want to appreciate you for your commitment to your son. It sounds like he undoubtedly has cycling in his DNA.

      I’m not an expert in this field but I know top riders like Vincenzo Nibali moved from Sicily to Montecatini (or nearby) to develop their talents. The best I can do is put you in touch with Alex from Filgomma Bike Store here in Lucca who is much more connected.

      He quickly explained that there are new rules in place that limit foreign riders to 3-5 races/year to favor local talent. I don’t believe that would exclude your son from training/joining the team.

      I’ve sent you an email with Alex’s contact details. I wish you the best of luck in your search!

  3. Hi there,

    Me and my wife and little daughter are planning a 3 week vacation to Italy this October. Was searching for some guidance on where to go and came across this page. So grateful for your summary!

    We are choosing between Puglia, Liguria and Sardegna. Perhaps leaning towards Puglia. Our daughter is just 6 month so we are planning to give each other 1 to 2 hours a day, sometimes three for individual riding. So it will mostly be shorter rides, 30 to 60 km, occasionally 100 km. Just curious if you had any clue for a place in Puglia that would offer many shorter nice rides and also be close to the sea (Swedes so October will be plenty warm for us).


    Hampus and Helena

    1. Alison Testroete

      Hampus and Helena —my experience/knowledge in Puglia is currently limited but you might explore Gargano, Polignano and Alberobello. Best wishes in your trip planning!

      1. So a feed-back on my own question I guess – how was the bicycling in Puglia?
        We had about 1 week in Tuscany, the dolomites and Puglia respectively. Out of them I would say that Puglia was the location that required most experience from the rider and was least relaxing. Of course the 1000+ climbs in the dolomites was demanding in a physical sense. However, Puglia had a lot of traffic (not too used to see cyclist along the roads), the conditions on the roads was in general much worse than in Tuscany and the dolomites (it glittered along the ways of broken glass and plastic bags etc. along the bigger ways). We are pretty used to bike in big cities but Puglia was indeed hectic.

        However, the sea was magnificent, the people very friendly and there were a lot of very cosy and beautiful villages to see. My suggestion for cycling in Puglia would be by Gravel-bike, preferably with a tubeless set-up, and keeping away totally from the bigger roads taking small asphalt and gravel roads between a couple of villages you want to see.


        1. Hampus, thank you for reporting back and offering your valuable personal experience! Having you report back a full year later to share your findings is beyond special. And yep, a gravel bike in Puglia sounds nice. 😊

  4. Hi! My cousin and I are planning on cycling from north to south— any particular way you would tackle this? Some info online but none really lay out the plan / routes. Thanks!

  5. Hi,

    Great website and info, thanks!

    We are planning to stay around 10 days, interspersed with 4- 5 days of riding in Italy in May. We would ride around 30-40 miles, around 3K of climbing or less a day. We are more than recreational riders but less than very fit younger riders. We are interested in scenic rides, in smaller roads with interesting small cities and villages to stop by as we ride.

    We have looked at a map of regions of Italy. We know we can’t go wrong in Tuscany, but wonder if you have other suggestions. And if Tuscany, where do you suggest? Bike hotels, or renting locally at shops?

    1. Alison Testroete

      Congrats on your trip, Luis! For more information on Tuscany, I’ve written blogs about Tuscany and Florence. I would love to update this post with my newest discoveries but for now I’ll mention San Severino Marche. We recently ran a trip through the area and I would return in a heartbeat and stay longer at the Guest House Via Roma apartments. It’s a less-traveled area of Italy with wonderful people, beautiful riding and a good local bike shop, too.

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