We’ve been riding through Italy for decades, getting to know its topography through our favourite way of seeing the world: on two wheels. Whether you’re at the top of the boot or in the heel, here are our top picks for the 8 best bike routes in Italy (in no particular order).
1) The Dolomites
Proving Ground of the Greats
The road from Cortina to Ortisei is not for those weak of leg or lung. Two regions, three high Alpine passes (including the legendary Pordoi), and innumerable hairpin turns mark its route amid the jagged spires of Italy’s most striking mountain range. Funny thing is, the sheer exhilaration of the scenery, and the camaraderie of the fellow cyclists who flock here on pilgrimage often brings an energy that makes those switchbacks feel almost—almost—like they’re downhill.
Route: Cortina to Ortisei Distance: 65km Recommended Activity Level: Enthusiast Best time of year: June-October
2) Sicily – Noto to Portopalo
A seaside journey along the Sicilian coast
Right along the coast of Sicily, this ride (that we enjoy on our Private Sicily Biking trip) is best taken in the morning accompanied by the splendid scent of saltwater and fresh air. Starting from Noto, a beautiful town with 17th and 18th c. architecture, pedal on quiet roads lined with vegetable and fruit plantations. You’ll pass some of the coast’s most beautiful traditional fishing villages, and through scenic Portopalo di Capo Passero and the lovely Isola delle Correnti (Isle of Currents). Don’t say no to a dip in the ocean after grabbing the freshest catch of the day for lunch!
Route: From Noto to Marzamemi, Marzamemi to Portopalo Distance: 32km Recommended Rider Level: Enthusiast Best times to ride: Spring or fall (avoid July and August)
3) The Veneto
From Verona to Lake Garda
This ride takes you from fair Verona, the home of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. Bike a flat path along the lazy Adige River as you wind your way to the vineyards of Custoza, which lend its name to the crisp white wine that is produced here. Onward, the road descends gradually to Valeggio sul Mincio, a well-preserved medieval borgo with an ancient bridge.
Route: Verona to Custoza; Custoza to Valeggio sul Mincio Distance: 48km Recommended Rider Level: Occasional Best times to ride: June-September
4) Tuscany – Asciano to Arbia
A lunar experience under the Tuscan sun
The magic of Tuscany weaves together rolling hills, medieval towns and meandering roads for an idyllic ride. (Yes, those iconic cypress trees, too.) But you’ll also be astounded at the lunarlike clay landscape, the hilly crete (pronounced cray-tay), leading northwest from Asciano to Siena. We have been riding this otherworldly route on our Tuscany Biking trip for years. It is not to be missed.
Route: Asciano to Arbia along the 438 Distance: 20km Recommended Rider Level: Enthusiast Best times to ride: May-October
5) Otranto to Leuca
A seaside ride to the tip of the heel
Gear up to pedal from the seaside town of Otranto right to the very heel of Italy’s boot, Leuca. Cycling among the jewel-toned Mediterranean coast, take pride in knowing you’ve traversed the easternmost edge of Western Europe.
Route: Otranto to Leuca Distance: 52km Recommended Rider Level: Enthusiast Best times to ride: May-October
Trulli time…uncover the mystery
The most distinctive and mysterious feature of Puglia are the trulli—conical-roofed stone houses, found in many parts of the Mediterranean. Beginning in the Val d’Itria, ride into Alberobello, the UNESCO-minted “city of trulli” to explore these idiosyncratic structures. This spectacular ride features some rolling hills along the way, followed by an incredible downhill to the sea. Experience it for yourself on our Puglia Biking trip.
Route: Val d’Itria to Alberobello, Alberobello to Savelletri Distance: 56km Recommended Rider Level: Recreational Best times to ride: June-September
Ride the Giro d’Italia
In the land of sparkling wine, find your bliss biking some of the routes used in the Giro d’Italia, the annual bicycle race primarily held in Italy. You’ll pass through small towns along the way: Vittorio Veneto, San Pietro di Feletto, and Refrontolo. Stop by the Molinetto della Croda, an ancient watermill built in the 17th c. for a photo stop, and continue biking on to Rolle, where a bit of bubbly may revive your spirits at the end of the day.
Route: Follina to Conegliano; through Vittorio Veneto, San Pietro di Feletto and Refrontolo; all the way to Rolle Distance: 57km Recommended Rider Level: Recreational Best times to ride: June-September
8) Piemonte – Alba to Costigliole d’Asti
Hazelnut groves abound in this region of Italy, which cleverly invented Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Nutella (a.k.a. gianduia). From the town of Alba, ride by mountain peaks in the distance, then cruise in a winding descent towards Neive and Barbaresco, the vine-rich villages of the Barbaresco wine appellation. Perhaps that red wine will improve your legs as you pedal onwards on a quiet (but no less spectacular) route to Costigliole d’Asti.
Route: Alba to Neive and Barbaresco; end in Costigliole d’Asti Distance: 65km Recommended Rider Level: Enthusiast Best times to ride: June-September