Quite possibly the greatest country on the planet to ride a bike. Italy combines stylish cool, incredible food, a long and storied cycling tradition & some incredible routes and climbs. The sportive scene is quite different in Italy to other parts of Europe and the variety of riding on offer is huge. If you have ridden a couple of sportives but not yet been to Italy, stop what you are doing, grab an espresso and read on.
Italy: Key Cycling Regions
There is so much variety in Italy and there are some great riding and sportives in regions not listed here. In general, the road quality gets worse the further south but the food gets better. Most of the bigger sportives are in the north.
Italian Alps – Bordering France & Switzerland, the Italian Alps are home to some of the most famous climbs including the Stelvio, Gavia, Colle delle Finestre, Colle Agnello & the Mortirolo.
Dolomites – The central and western part of northern Italy bordering Austia, the Dolomites is a stunning region with Sound of Music scenery and some incredible cycling.
Lakes – Maggiore, Como & Garda and the most famous but this stretch north from Milan and Verona has plenty of smaller lakes, some long climbs in the foothills and a great mix of flat, rolling and mountainous routes.
Emilia Romagna – On the Adriatic coast, this is a cycling mad region with some great routes both by the sea and in the picturesque hill country close by.
Tuscany – Like Flanders in Belgium, Brittany in France & the Basque country in Spain, Tuscany is THE heart of Italian cycling with passionate fans, great routes and lots of sections of strade bianche.
Sicily – The home of Vincenzo Nibali & a popular destination with pro teams that come to train here, people wanting to climb Etna and anyone wanting a ride that includes a coffee stop in Corleone.
Sardinia – Another spring training favourite with a great climate and some stunning routes. The popular Giro di Sardinia sportive is held here every spring.
The Sportive scene in Italy
Italy is all about the GranFondo and almost all of these are competitive races put on by local cycling clubs / boards rather than large event companies that typically run events in the UK & elsewhere in Europe. The purpose of these rides is to race so there are few rolling starts. Everyone starts together with the quick riders at the front so expect to be waiting in pens for a while. This makes the first kms of any Italian event quick and crowded until people start to gap each other. Many of these events are shown on TV raced by amateur teams and drug testing. Behind the leaders, the events are similar to other sportives with a friendly atmosphere, great feed stations and lots of spectators. The racing is done over closed roads so most events close roads for the whole day or having rolling closures. And of course, you are in Italy so there will be some fabulous cycling kits on display, we’re talking animal print, neon, white leg warmers and more!
Our Top Five Sportives in Italy
Next Events – June 3rd 2018
Sportive Summary – This route takes in the very tricky Mortirolo before finishing on one of the best climbs in the world. Hang around for a couple of days and ride the Gavia and other great climbs from Bormio.
More Info – www.sportivebreaks.com/sportives/gran-fondo-stelvio-santini
Next Event – May 20th 2018
Sportive Summary – Italy’s more popular sportive shown live on TV. The route is a stunner from the coast up to the nine hills which give this sportive its name. Expect very quick flats, some steep climbs and a very fun long descent back to the coast.
More Info – www.sportivebreaks.com/sportives/nove-colli/
Next Event – July 1st 2018
Sportive Summary – One of the most stunning routes in the sportive world. The first 55km are over the Sella Ronda, four gentle(ish) climbs in the most beautiful setting imaginable before you head to steeper climbs.
More Info – www.maratona.it/en/
Next Event – October 8th 2017
Sportive Summary – The very first edition this year and finally a great sportive route over the incredible climbs of Lake Como. Take on the Ghisallo and other climbs made famous by the Race of the Falling Leaves.
More Info – www.sportivebreaks.com/sportives/il-lombardia-granfondo-don-guanella/
Next Event – October 1st 2017
Sportive Summary – In 1997 a group of friends launched L’Eroica, a ride celebrating the history of cycling requiring riders to be on pre-1987 bikes and in vintage kit. It became so popular there is now a pro race inspired by the sportive (Strade Bianche) and L’Eroica festivals all around the world.
More Info – www.eroica.cc/
Food: The Carb Loaders Guide to Italy
Ok, we can accept that it is an open debate about which country is best to ride in, some people prefer Tuscany, others like Provence. Some love the Tourmalet, others the Stelvio. But I am sure we can all agree that the best place in the world to be a carb loader is Italy. There are a lot of local dishes all across Italy but pretty much anywhere you go you can be assured great coffee and great pasta. Our favourite carb loading food in Italy include:
1. Apple Strudel from the Dolomites – no trip to the Maratona is complete until you have stuffed yourself on these amazing pastries
2. Piadinas from Emilia Romagna – this whole region is incredible for food but the local speciality are these flatbreads. Eat them on their own or stuffed like a sandwich, absolutely delicious!
3. Cannoli from Sicily – Favourite with both cyclists and Godfathers, these sweet specialities of Sicily are filled with everything a cyclist needs: carbs, sugar and taste!