Historical sites, great food and stunning scenery are just a few of the many things that draw bikers to Italy’s roads year after year. From its picturesque hills to gorgeous coastlines, this southern European nation is a number one destination for sightseeing on two wheels. Here are VIVA's best biking spots in Italy, organized by skill level and cycling enthusiasm.
The Brenta River: Beginners’ Route
Distance: 17 miles
Time: 1 day
This short route, which can be completed within a day, takes you from Venice along the Brenta River and over to Padua. A beautiful, charming location, this route is especially perfect for bikers with artistic or cultural interests, as it offers the opportunity to get close to some of the area’s most beautiful Venetian villas, including the Villa Foscari and Villa Widmann. Another highlight of this route is the picturesque town of Dolo. Its Lower Island is the oldest part of town, and features old stone watermills and an old boatyard. Dolo is also home to the Cathedral of San Rocco, which, if you’re an architecture fanatic, is well worth a visit.
Pisa to Florence: Beginners’ Route
Length: 28 miles per day
Time: 7 days (for entire length)
This mainly flat route, with a few hilly parts, is perfect for beginner bikers. The stretch between Pisa and Florence is approximately 174 miles (280 kilometres) in length, and takes bikers on a tour of Tuscany’s beautiful landscape and history. With artists from Da Vinci to Michelangelo having been inspired by its sights, there's so much to explore on two wheels. Travel from Pisa where you can see one of Italy’s most famous landmarks, the Leaning Tower, and go down past the Massaciuccoli lake. You'll then pass through the medieval town of Lucca and along to Florence. If you decide to bike back to Pisa, take a closer look at the Arno, Tuscany’s longest river. Most of this route is low traffic, and does not require a great deal of athleticism. Phew!
Val Di Sole: Intermediates’ Route
Distance: 22 miles
Time: 2-3.5 hours depending on route
The Val di Sole bike route runs alongside the Fiume Noce river for almost its entire duration. A route for the intermediate biker, you will face some steep but short climbs, with the highest altitude at Cogolo in Val di Peio (3806 feet). You can start here or at Ponte di Mostizzolo – the latter of the two routes taking approximately an hour longer. The various towns you'll pass include Ossana, with stunning views of surroundings mountains, and the beautiful Pellizzano, featuring traditional stone houses with courtyards, and a church built in the Gothic-Renaissance period. Although the route doesn’t pass directly through Malè, the main town of Val di Sole, it is definitely worth a detour to check out the Val di Sole culture museum.
Finale Ligure: Intermediates’ Route
The beach resort of Finale Ligure features a 12th century abbey, a medieval old town and a lively seaside neighbourhood. But despite its cutesy appearance, this is by no means a quiet biking route – it's home to some of the best mountain biking in Europe. Situated on the Italian Riviera, as you head east from Monaco and San Remo, the roads running through the Ligure have world-class downhill runs. Whether you’re a beginner biker or pro, ride all day to your heart’s content with no ski resorts or busy towns in sight. You can also take advantage of all the delicious food Italy has to offer, with beach-front pizzerias and and other tempting dining spots in close proximity.
Passo di Stelvio: Experts’ Route
Length: 15 miles
Time: 1 day
If you’re looking for a challenge, the Passo di Stelvio boasts some of the most dramatic roads to bike in Italy. Certainly not for the faint-hearted, this is the highest mountain pass in the country, and the second highest in Europe, with a route featuring repetitive twists and turns up and down the mountain. But it’s not all bad – the Stelvio has some of the most exceptional natural beauty Italy has to offer, as well as a breathtaking view of the Alps.
Orvieto: Experts’ Route
Length: 56 miles
Time: 1 day
With a total ascent of 6562 feet, this is the most challenging route in our top six, and only for very athletic cyclists. Orvieto is famous not only for its archictecturally stunning cathedral, St. Patrick’s Well, but also for the incredible white wine produced in the area. Start cycling at the church in Ciconia, beneath the ridge on which the town of Orvieto stands, and make your way up to Colonetta di Prodo, which offers incredible views of the town and of Lake Corbara. Then pass the village of Prodo, which is down in the Timber Valley, and a great spot for art enthusiasts. From there, head towards Fiori and Izzalini and back towards your starting point, Ciconia.