Italy is all about good food, good wine….and good form! Mild mediterranean weather coupled with breathtaking landscapes makes this country one of the favorites for bikers from around the world. What better way to see secret spots, meet locals and work off your Italian wedding meal!
Similar to walking tours, sightseeing by bike gives you the chance to reach those intriguing parts of town that the tour buses leave behind for the more popular landmarks. Plus, on a bike tour your guide is a local biker who can fill you in on the best places to grab some grub and show you easy short-cuts to get where you want to go. And there’s always a legendary story to tell which the locals keep alive and pass on from biker to biker.
If you come to Italy equipped with your own bike, the Italian Railway (Trenitalia) welcomes bikers with a special bike car to store your wheels when traveling between cities.
If you don’t bring your own ride there are plenty of bike rental operations in all regions of Italy and they offer delivery and pick-up, plus on-call repair and rescue.
Bike Italy Ferrara
Bike-friendly cities include Florence, Bologna, Mantova and Ferrara, to name just a few equipped with bike lanes. Ferrara is a particularly enchanting town enclosed within medieval walls with very limited automobile traffic. After pedaling around town you can ride out to the Destra Po cycling road which runs along the banks of the Po River all the way to the Adriatic Sea (over 100 kilometers of bike lane). There are small towns to visit along the way and the trail ends in spectacular Comacchio, a sort of mini-Venice. The Po Delta is an enormous Natural Reserve spotted with castles, fishing villages and there is a full forest of Mediterranean pine trees, sand dunes and hundreds of species of wildlife, including graceful flamingos.
Bike Italy Boat
Bike and Boat is a great way to keep that bikini figure trim while you enjoy the Italian beaches. The north eastern coastline is a popular place to travel this way as trips venture into Istria and the Croatian islands which display typical architecture reminiscent of Venetian domination of the area in the middle ages. Bikes are loaded onto the boat and each day leads to a different port. If you’re too tired to pedal or just want to enjoy the sun, stay on the boat and you’ll get to the next port with no effort at all!
Expert road bikers can join in with the many bike clubs that meet early in the morning for their weekend ride. Members of the G.S. Grassina bike club in Florence start in the main square of town and split up according to level and how long they have to bike – lunch is usually on the table by one o’clock sharp! A stop along the way for a shot of espresso coffee and an occasional piece of focaccia break up the 80-100k average trip. Grassina is neighbors with Ponte a Ema, hometown to Hall of Fame Italian roadbiker Gino Bartali, archrival of the infamous Fausto Coppi. Some of the vintage bikers such as Roberto Ferretti, nicknamed “Ferro” (iron) for his strong character, still remember when Bartali, 5 times Grand Tour winner (2 Tour de France and 3 Giro d’Italia) rode in the area in a post-war Italy. For racing fans who like to measure up to the local bikers, the annual “Gran Fondo Gino Bartali” namesake race is held in May and the start and finish lines are right in downtown Ponte a Ema, which lies just outside the city walls of Florence.
One of the most popular road bike races in Italy boasting 11,000 participants this year is the “Nove Colli” or 9 Hills race held in Cesenatico, home of the late biker Marco Pantani nicknamed “the Pirate”. Held in May every year, this race attracts the largest number of bikers and their families than any other race in Italy. Entertainment and events precede the race, which is always held on a Sunday.
The expert mountain biker’s dream of rocks, cliffs and endless dirt roads comes true in the savage countryside of Sardinia. Dry and desolate, the Sardinian landscape is almost lunar, except on the plateaus which conceal natural wonders like the dwarf horses of La Giara, wind-mangled trees and shrubs, plus a wide variety of Mediterranean herbs and spices growing in the wild (rosemary, myrtle, mint, marjoram, thyme). Omnipotent peaks like Is Pauceris Mannu overlooking the bay of Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, and Cuccuru Su Corvu, towering 471 meters above the turquoise waters of Cala Luna on the east coast make this island destination a must for off-road fanatics.
Another heavenly destination for mountain bikers is the Alps and particularly the Dolomites. Starting from Cortina d’Ampezzo you can cross over into Austria and if the elevation change is too much for you, a train takes you back across the border to Dobbiaco. There’s a fun mountain bike race here in July, the Cortina-Dobbiaco. Easy-going and family-oriented, this race is a good way to cool off when you’re in Italy during the summer months.
Bike Italian Alps
Not just biking….. every season brings some kind of culinary gift to savor and discover while biking in Italy
September welcomes porcini mushrooms which are abundant and flavorful especially in Maremma, the south part of Tuscany. Elba island off the coast of this region is a safe-haven for porcinis as only the locals are left by the time the season begins and they NEVER disclose their hunting grounds to strangers!
The island is small and has a variety of challenging trails for mountain bikers and well-kept paved roads for road bikers. Novice bikers will enjoy the center part of the island which is flat and the paved roads run through fields and small beach resort villages.
October brings truffles, a delicacy for the gourmet palate and exquisite when grated on noodles for that daily dosage of carbs.
November toasts to Novello wine, a trendy new wine on shelves by November 5th and which needs to be consumed while it’s young, no later than February of the following year.
All 12 months of the year are ripe for biking and enjoying the “boot” of the Mediterranean. Come and indulge