On an Italian cycling tour, there is always going to be some climbing as that’s just the topography of Italy; the whole country is very undulating, hilly or mountainous, with only a small area of flat land in each of the Emilia Romagna and Puglia regions.
So when it comes to our Italian cycling tours, you can always expect some climbing, but how does it compare across the different tours? This is a question we are often asked, along with how the ride difficulty varies across tours. Below we unpack the numbers and ratings of each tour and also share some information about the climbs that we encounter across our different Italian Cycling tours, that may make it easier for you to decide which region and tour is best suited to you, and how you like to ride.
While there is the region and topography, there is also the rider, where preparation and mindset are key. There are riders who love climbing and those who don’t, and also not all climbs, suit all riders, all of the time. There are certainly different hills and mountains that have varying gradients, which suit different rider physiologies and power/weight ratios.
There are riders who have higher power/weight ratios and can push over hills that are up to 4%.
There are lighter riders who excel between the 5 & 8% mark, and then you have the mountain goats who just disappear up the road when the gradient clicks over 12%.
Whichever rider you are has absolutely no bearing on how much fun you’ll have or how you’ll enjoy the challenge of getting to the top or crossing off another of the iconic climbs or Italian regions on your bike bucket list. The key is in your preparation. So, our tip is, select your tour based on best fit, do the training and everything else will fall into place to ensure you enjoy a memorable riding experience in Italy.
Comparing our Italian Cycling Tours
Como, Stelvio & Dolomites Cycling Tour
Our Como, Stelvio & Dolomites cycling holiday is rated a 9/10. This is a tour that ticks off some major climbs including the Muro di Sormano, Madonna di Ghisallo, Mortirolo, Stelvio, Gavia, Sella Ronda and also Passo Giau.
Every day we are climbing with nothing under 5% and with climbs up to 11 %, and the lengths of the climbs range from 6km to 26km.
This is a seriously beautiful challenge and absolutely do-able. We have seen riders train hard prior to the tours and then be able to push themselves and enjoy the whole experience. We have also seen other riders who for whatever reason do not prepare as well, they also push to keep a tired body moving and while they enjoy the experience, especially the mental resilience it takes to keep going, they always say they wish they had done more training to have enjoyed it even more.
“…… if you like a challenge on the bike, you’ll love this tour. Maybe you will have to “find another gear” like I did on the Mortirolo, when the body was struggling but the camaraderie of friends prevailed. All up, an awesome trip and one I would highly recommend for the cyclist who wants to push themselves on the bike and enjoy a superb Italian experience off it”
Giro d’Italia Cycling Tour
The final week of the Giro d’Italia is usually fought out by the Pro’s somewhere in the high mountains of Italy and our Giro cycling tour follows this exhilirating race over its final stages. Our tour is rated a 9/10 for similar reasons as our Como, Stelvio & Dolomites tour where the km’s and elevation of the two tours are very similar, and also the type of climbing. For example, the beautiful Sella Ronda loop has an average gradient of 6.9%, with the steepest section at 10%, while Passo dello Stelvio’s gradient is a 7.4% average. Even if a couple of stages take place in the Venetian pre-Alps as they will on our Giro cycling tour in May 2024, there is still a lot of steep climbing and the snow and cold temperatures at this time of year do add an element of ‘difficulty’ to every Giro race, contributing to our rating with more changeable riding conditions.
……..it was truly exceptional and your attention to detail, planning and general care of us all went above and beyond my expectations.
I found the climbs exceptionally difficult and there may have even been days where I muttered “FFS” in amongst the breathing and wheezing, but the sense of achievement in completing each one and the entire tour was amazing”.
Sicily Cycling Tour
Our Best of Sicily cycling tour is rated a 9/10 also, even though it is very different to our alpine tours. The difficulty rating is due to the combination of 760km, 12 500+ metres of elevation and 10 days of riding. Accumulated fatigue can easily set in without specific training prior to departure.
Sicily has some 36 plus climbs that we roll over as we traverse some of the beautiful southern parts of the island and enjoy delightful Spring weather and wildflower lined roads. The average gradient of each climb is 3.7%. This also takes into account our 17km 6.8% average final climb up Mt Etna. So while the average gradients of the climbs in Sicily are less than in the Alps and Dolomites, the continual undulation over 10 days does make for some challenging riding, and some very good training preparation for the legs is required.
“The trip was physically challenging with 10 days of riding culminating with a ride up Mt. Etna; a good level of fitness is required and so the more pre-ride training the more enjoyable this tour is”
Piemonte Cycling Tour
Our Piemonte cycling tour, which in 2024 also takes in two stages of Le Tour, is also rated a 9/10. It includes 9 days of riding, with a mix of 5 days in the spectacular Le Langhe wine region with its short climbs and sharp pinches averaging 5.5%, and then when you add La Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo with its 22km ascent of Colle Fauniera at a 7% average, a day of undulating riding to watch Le Tour arrive into Piemonte, and then finally another 26km climb from Pinerolo with an average gradient of 6.9% up to the French border to watch the Le Tour leave Italy, this makes for a challenging 9 days on the bike.
“Train. You may think you’re in good shape, but there is no climb in Australia that will let you do 2000m of climbing like Colle Fauniera will. So train”
Tuscany Cycling Tour
Our Tour of Tuscany is rated 8/10 and it seems to be our most under-estimated tour in terms of training preparation, with riders always surprised by the challenge of the terrain. The reality is there isn’t a flat piece of land in Tuscany. It is continual rolling hills, with ‘rolling’ literally meaning that one hill rolls straight in to the next… climb, descend, climb descend and on it goes. They say that in Tuscany for every 25km you ride, you will climb 400m. with a normal climb in Tuscany between 3.5 to 6km long, and with an average gradient of 6%. With spectacular scenes unfolding at every turn, the climbing on our Tuscany cycling tour makes for some very rewarding days on the bike and in our view, some of the best riding in Italy, when you are well prepared.
“The “Tour of Tuscany” has 555Klms+ of cycling and over 10000m of elevation. A big task, I thought for an intermediate rider such as myself. However not so big I found. With plenty of spin at the Gym in the months leading up to the ride, the professional support on hand during the ride and the ever-changing scenery and well thought out program. Carb up with the finest food and local wines imaginable at night and burn it off each day. It was pleasantly challenging, very satisfying, very achievable and an extremely fun experience.”
L’Eroica Cycling Tour
Our L’Eroica & Tuscany cycling tour is similar to our Tuscany tour, just with a lot more gravel and some days on vintage steel bikes, which definitely adds a degree of difficulty for many riders. Our 8/10 rating for the tour is based on riding the L’Eroica 135km distance and having a level of comfort with riding on gravel, on a vintage steel bike, however this tour could very easily be rated a 10/10 if you choose to take on the 209km Eroica long course as part of your experience. The 135km medium distance has 2083m of elevation and 58km of gravel on the Strade Bianche and the 209km long course has 3891m of elevation and 100km of gravel. When you add to this that the gear ratio is bigger on the front and smaller at the back, it also adds to the challenge.
The whole ethos of L’Eroica centres around ‘the thrill of the conquest and the beauty of fatigue’ and this is absolutely the experience you will have the chance to enjoy, when well prepared. As an 8 day tour, our L’Eroica cycling tour is designed to give you plenty of preparation time in the hills of Tuscany to familiarise with the terrain, and also on the Strade Bianche on both modern and high quality vintage steel bikes, to help you to feel comfortable for the big day. This is a very unique and magical experience and one that every rider should add to their bike bucket list.
“L’Eroica is a celebration of everything traditional through Italian warm hearts that comforts and challenges the rider.”
Puglia Cycling Tour
Our Tour of Puglia is rated a 6/10 because it includes more days of riding with good stretches of flatter terrain, mixed with a few hills. It is important to note though that the rating is set to compare with our other tours and Italy’s other regions, and is not based on what you are used to at home – so be careful not to take the 6/10 rating lightly. Puglia is still quite hilly in parts and there are still a couple of 100km plus days, and one where there is 1000+m of elevation, so an adequate amount of training is required for most riders, particularly when factoring in 8 days of continuous riding. However, the weather is always beautiful for our cycling adventures of Puglia and we believe this makes for a great experience on the bike – this is a true Summer cycling holiday.
“…. We wanted to see countryside, small towns and culture. Damian and Nancy gave us more than we expected. It was sensational. We rode challenging roads throughout Puglia, stayed in the most wonderful accommodation and finished the days off at the most amazing restaurants you have ever been to…
Damian and Nancy have created a well-organised, and for what you get a very affordable event of a lifetime. We couldn’t recommend it too highly. I loved every minute of it, although there were a couple of hills…..P.S. Make sure you get good miles in your legs before you go. The rides are still serious.
While each location is different, the terrain, road quality and climbs do all have a bearing on how you’ll roll and perform day after day. However, in our experience, it’s a rider’s commitment to pre tour training and their mindset while on tour that are by far the bigger factors determining how you’ll enjoy and get through each day, and the Italian cycling tour experience overall.
If you’d like to know more about any of our Italian cycling tours and how best to prepare, click here to read a few of our blogs.