Cycling in Italy guide

Cycling and Italy are intrinsically linked, with a flash of green, white and red adorning apparel the world over to signify the eternal bond between chic style and two wheels. There’s just something about feeling the road, every lump and bump, of watching vineyards roll by, without windows, that allows you to understand what makes Italians tick. You just don’t get that in a car, or on two legs; it’s that added freedom that sets cyclists apart from the pack.
Italians get cycling, their heroes cycle, it’s in their DNA. This goes for drivers too; they’re used to seeing cyclists road training and you might even get cheered on as they pass.
Cycling as part of a small group lets you appreciate the social side of Italy, both on and off the saddle. Tailor made tours offer the freedom to explore under your own steam to create unique experiences; ones that you’ll never want to forget. From Venice and Turin to Puglia and Amalfi, via Tuscany and Umbria, no matter where you are, the wine and the pasta always taste better in Italy, and we think you’ll find the cycling does, too. Read on in our Italy cycling holidays guide.
Self guided or small group trip?
Italy cycling holidays fall into two camps: small group trips with a guide, or tailor made holidays that are self guided. If you enjoy the social side of cycling, and the reassurance of cycling with a tour leader who knows the language, the points of interest and the best places to eat, then small group cycling in Italy may be your thing. On the other hand, if you prefer to cycle at your own pace, enjoy reading route notes and following a map, but also quite like the thought of your luggage ready and waiting for you at the next hand-picked small hotel, then tailor made cycling tours in Italy are going to put the most air in your tyres.
Andrew Ross, an expert from one of our leading European cycling holiday companies, Exodus, shares his advice on tailor made and small group cycling holidays in Italy:
Andrew Ross: “I love the atmosphere and camaraderie of a cycling group, but every once in a while you cannot beat heading off on your own and losing yourself in the experience of riding in a foreign land. After years of exploring on two wheels it is very apparent that there are always many different ways of getting from A to B and the actual planning of a daily route is also something that I find very rewarding. For these reasons I do love the self guided concept.”
Andrew Ross: “The great thing about a guided ride is that the tour leader will share their knowledge and passion for what is likely to be their home region. Not only will you learn a huge amount about the history and culture, but you’ll also get a genuine insight into life here. Whether you’re in a group or on a self guided trip, Italy is the perfect destination as cycling is ingrained within the culture.”
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Italy cycling or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Is an Italy cycling holiday for you?

Go cycling in Italy if...

… you're a fabulous foodie. Every region boasts its own best dish, so try something new or stick to carb-filled spaghetti – there’s a reason why Italian cyclists love Lycra. … you're prepared for anything. Even if undertaking a guided cycling tour, it’s still pertinent to know what to do with a puncture and how to protect yourself from the elements if a flash storm strikes. … you're into safe cycling. Learn some of the Italian Highway Code, bring your own helmet, get yourself seen, unplug your ears, avoid grappa at lunchtimes, and stick to recommended routes. … you want to stretch your mind. Build a free day into a tour so you can explore ancient sites, read up on local history or just practise Italian at the local gelateria.

Don't go on cycling in Italy if...

… you only want to stick to cities. Cycling in and out of Italian traffic is not fun, it’s dangerous. We recommend rural roads and peaceful paths leading through vineyards to hilltop towns and villages; save city sightseeing for once you've stowed the wheels. … you're more hare than tortoise. You may be cycling, but you’re still on holiday, so be honest, slow down and know your limits before donning your wraparound shades, wiggling your bottom and pumping pedals like Mario Cipollini. … you tend to ignore advice. Self guided route notes and expert local guides provide all you need to have a safe and successful cycling holiday in Italy. Please don't ignore expert advice if you want your trip to be unforgettable for all the right reasons.

Easy cycling in Italy

Packing a Pecorino picnic in your panniers is what makes pedalling in Italy an absolute pleasure. Our easy, introductory cycling holidays will take you over smooth tarmac roads with just a few undulations to ensure you get to enjoy views from the top of a hillside, but without getting too out of puff. Puglia is particularly easygoing, as are some sections of Tuscany, Umbria and even the Dolomites, especially around the lakes. Be honest with yourself: if you’re looking for lazy lunches, afternoons by the beach, or lay-ins after vineyard afternoons - choose an introductory itinerary with distances and gradients to suit.

Moderate cycling in Italy

There are plenty of cycling holidays in Italy that require a moderate level of fitness. Be honest about what you can cope with and don’t opt for a trip with long daily distances (50km) or Tyrolean mountain ascents unless you’re willing and fit enough to push muscles and mind that little bit more strenuously. Moderate cycling tours in Italy are for those who like a challenge, but don’t want to go too far over the top. The route from the South Tyrolean town of Bolzano to the canals of Venice, for instance, includes several challenging climbs around the Berici Hills as well as flat routes along the Bacchiglione River en route to Padova. Just make sure you’re ready for a bit more than a pootle through the park.

Challenging cycling in Italy

Lombardy, in particular, has lots of lovely ups and downs with iconic climbs on Monte Baldo and Monte Grappa just as challenging as the not so well known ascents over the hillsides of Padova and Vicenza. A challenging cycling tour in Italy is for those who want to tackle the Madonna del Ghisallo and the Muro di Sormano - where metres above sea level are marked on the road and the sweat of contestants in the Giro di Lombardia has been burned into the tarmac.

Point to point or centre cycling in Italy

Our cycling holidays in Italy can either be undertaken as part of a small group or on a tailor made and self guided basis. Both options use locally owned accommodation, and the next day’s route will begin from the guesthouse front door or after a short road transfer to the trailhead.

Point to point cycling holidays involve cycling from one place to the next so you’ll be unpacking and packing, but getting to experience different places. Luggage will be transferred for you, so don’t worry about stuffing it all into your panniers. Popular point to point cycling routes include Cabras to Cagliari along the Costa Verde in Sardinia, and Cilento to Minori along the Amalfi Coast.
Centre based cycling holidays in Italy allow you to settle into a hotel or guesthouse and undertake circular routes or trails close to your accommodation. These sorts of trips can be really relaxing and allow you to get comfortable in one place as well as having the chance to duck out of a day’s activities if you just fancy a rest by the pool. Villabassa and Lake Como in the Lombardy region make for great bases if you’ve got plans to cycle in the Dolomites. Surrounded by both flat lakeside trails and challenging climbs, these locations offer great adventures for any cyclist looking to get unpacked, get orientated and wake up in the same bed each morning.
History, culture & food

Historical, cultural & foodie cycling holidays

Southeast Sicily sings to cyclists seeking the ancient sites of Syracuse as well as Baroque beauty in the towns of Ragusa Ibla and Modica. Opt for a cycling tour in Tuscany and no end of walled hilltop towns and medieval heritage comes to the fore, with the undulating route from Pisa to Florence littered with cultural delights amongst swathes of sunflowers and crumbling farmsteads. Abruzzo offers a feast of locally caught and cooked culinary delights to complement easy going itineraries. Think: olive oil tasting, Chieti wine paths and hearty homemade evening meals. Any cycling tour in Italy will place you in close proximity to no end of vintage villages, verdant vineyards and world famous towns; it’s up to you to decide how much time to spend in the saddle, and how much strolling over cobbled piazzas and tucking into tasty treats

Electric bike cycling in Italy

Lots of our small group and tailor made cycling holidays in Italy allow you to hire an electric bike in place of a regular push bike. If you’ve never tried an electric bicycle before then do consider giving it a go. They are really easy to get the hang of, and take a fair amount of effort out of an uphill climb. It’s a bit like getting an extra push. You still use your leg muscles but you also get to enjoy the scenery and not feel too out of puff at the end, when you’re enjoying a coffee and cornetti at a cafe. For more details, see our electric bikes travel guide.
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: ickick] [Tailor made or small group: Lucio De Marcellis] [Andrew Ross Quote 1: TRAILSOURCE.COM] [Andrew Ross Quote 2: Xavi] [Go/Don't go: TRAILSOURCE.COM] [Easy cycling: Michela Simoncini] [Moderate cycling: Winniepix] [Challenging cycling: Sjaak Kempe] [Point to point or centre based 1: John Spooner] [Point to point or centre based 2: Michael Costa] [Historical, cultural & foodie : .sighele] [Are friends electric?: Ciclismo Italia]