CYCLING THE AMALFI COAST

Set on the Sorrentine Peninsula, between the Bay of Naples and Cilento National Park, the Amalfi Coast has long prospered as southwest Italy's most attractive coastline. The 40km stretch from Positano to Vietri sul Mare has gained near mythical status and not just for the wonderfully warm climate and unimpeded cliff top views.

This coastline features startlingly steep slopes bedecked in low hanging lemon trees and terraced vineyards. Narrow, winding roads transport three-wheeled Piaggios down to fishing villages like Cetara, famed for its anchovies, and larger seaside towns, such as Minori and Maiori.
The Strada Statale 163 follows the Amalfi Coast to link Salerno in the east with Sorrento in the west and has become known as one of the world's most scenic roads, but also one of its most terrifying. Hairpin bends, switchbacks and tiny tunnels carved out of the rock face have helped to turn many a tourists' sightseeing tour into an absolute nightmare, with passengers placing hands over their eyes rather than sitting back and soaking up the scenery. Cycling sections of the Strada Statale is far more enjoyable than being trapped on a coach. Its long, winding descents combine with sea breeze, sunshine and lemon zest and promise unforgettable moments, for all the right reasons.
Although the Strada Amalfitana, as it’s also known, is an undeniable highlight of a cycling tour of the Amalfi Coast, it is just a small part of the overall experience. All along the southwest coast of Italy there are spectacular cycling routes with gentle climbs to hilltop towns, such as Ascea and the village of San Giovanni a Piro, as well as circular inland routes showcasing the natural wilds of Monte Bulgheria and the Mingardo Canyon in Cilento National Park.

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN CYCLING THE AMALFI COAST

‘Unforgettable’ best describes some of the gravity-defying roads along the Amalfi and Cilento National Park coastline. Although some sections of road might have a few issues with potholes, in the main, these Tarmac surfaces are smooth and steady with some long, steep ascents providing moderate challenges for experienced recreational cyclists. Inland roads around Cilento are quiet and relatively free from traffic, but the closer you get to towns such as Amalfi, Positano and Ravello, the busier conditions become, especially in summer.
Although cycling on the busier Strada Amalfitana is a real highlight, it’s only a small section of a cycling holiday and it’s certainly not the norm when it comes to what you will experience throughout the week. Daily distances average around 50km, which gives you plenty of time for lunch and to explore and relax off the bike in the afternoon.

BEST TIME TO CYCLE THE AMALFI COAST

The peak season for tourists here is July and August, when a cavalcade of coaches winds its way up and down coastal roads. Summertime is also pretty hot (expect high 20°Cs and low 30°Cs), so cyclists will need to take care. Early starts are the best policy if cycling in summer, with lunchtime breaks in the shade definitely advisable, especially when accompanied by a dip in the sea. April, May, September and October are the best times to go cycling on the Amalfi Coast. The Strada Amalfitana isn't quite as busy and temperatures are a lot more comfortable. Sea temperatures are also still warm in the autumn, so its ideal for a swim after working up a sweat in the saddle.

Our top Italy cycling Holiday

Cilento and Amalfi Coast cycling holiday, Italy

Cilento and Amalfi Coast cycling holiday, Italy

Rocky ridges set between small picturesque inlets

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AMALFI COAST CYCLING HIGHLIGHTS

Greco-Roman ruins

Greco-Roman ruins

Cycle through the seaside towns of Acciaroli, Santa Maria di Castellabate and Agropoli, and you’ll find yourself close to Paestum, home to three of the world’s best preserved ancient Greek temples. Relatively intact paved roads, amphitheatres and council chambers make Paestum a must see for history-loving cyclists. Velia is another UNESCO-listed Greek settlement that’s well worth exploring – especially after the easy going climb up to the hill top town of Ascea.
Cilento National Park

Cilento National Park

Although not officially on the Amalfi Coast, Cilento National Park offers ample incentives for cyclists to discover a lesser visited, wilder vision of Italy’s southwestern shores. Incredible views over the Gulf of Policastro from the rocky Capo Palinuro contrast with inland undulations around Monte Bulgheria and the Mingardo Canyon.
Coastal villages

Coastal villages

There are untold tiny towns and villages dotted along the length of the Amalfi and Cilento coastline. Not only do these make for the perfect place for a pedalling pit-stop but they also provide a fascinating human story to the region’s stunning natural beauty. Pisciotta (famed for its olive oil), Acciaroli (allegedly where Hemingway met his real ‘Old Man’), and the fishing village of Cetara (Amalfi's anchovy capital), are just a few of Amalfi’s heavenly haunts.

RECOMMENDED AMALFI COAST CYCLING ROUTE

This cycling route along the Amalfi Coast is every (fairly fit) cyclists' dream ticket. From the Greek ruins around Velia and Paestum to the hairpins and switchbacks of La Strada Amalfitana, there's so much to get excited about against a backdrop of fishing villages, lemon groves and the twinkling blue hues of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The route that we recommend is best undertaken as part of a small, guided group (max 16 cyclists) with expert assistance, luggage transfers and back up vehicle. Starting to the east of the Amalfi Coast, in Cilento National Park, you'll cycle daily distances of up to 60km on 100 percent tarmac roads. From the wild and untamed natural surroundings of Cilento National Park you'll head westwards by bike before taking a train - from Paestum to Salerno - and then continuing to cycle to where the actual Amalfi Coast and the legendary Strada Amalfitana begins. Accommodation in Palinuro, Agropoli and Minori lets you experience this famed coastline from lesser known points of view. Prepare for: undulations aplenty with max ascents and descents of around 1,100m. Point to point pedalling for 300kms over seven days.
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: ickick] [Intro 1: Sander Crombach] [Intro 2: Dan Russo] [Intro 3: Amabile.F] [What to expect 1: Naveen Srivatsav] [What to expect 2: _topo_] [Best time to go: James Burke] [Greco-Roman ruins: K?rlis Dambr?ns] [Cilento National Park: senza senso] [Coastal villages: VV Nincic]
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