Italy’s undulating hills, old Roman roads and mountainous terrain, including the awe and granduer of the Alps and Dolomites and the ancient beauty of Tuscany and Puglia, provide the perfect setting for those seeking an active cycling holiday – with a challenge.
For an unforgettable cycling challenge, Italy is one of the best places in the world to dial up the altitude and dive into something far more than just a physical experience.
Beyond this, the region gives you the opportunity to be rewarded with its rich history, stunning landscapes and sub-cultures that span across the whole country. It’s all there and waiting for you to enjoy after a day in the saddle, pushing yourself past the “pinches” and around the hairpins of its often testing, undulating terrain.
However, all that Italy has to offer is worth every bit of the challenge. Its various regions cater to many different riding challenges, and while this often means having to step up the training before hitting its shores for 8 days of riding, what we can guarantee is that with the challenge, comes immense reward.
With A’qto you can take on nine different tours suitable for a range of riding levels. If you’re a determined rider, we recommend following in the paths of some of the most iconic cyclists that Italy has produced – all the while immersing yourself in a country that’s got plenty to offer those with a sense of adventure.
How popular is cycling in Italy?
Beyond its notable food and extensive history, Italy draws the attention of keen riders from all across the globe. This is due to its many mythical mountains and diverse landscapes that allow cyclists to enjoy a ranging scale of difficulties that provide a challenge at their level. For those that like to push themselves harder and further, two-thirds of the country is covered in mountainous lands. This is one of the primary reasons why the destination is a world hotspot and peloton-favourite for cycling enthusiasts from all corners.
Part of the DNA
Cycling is part of the local DNA in Italy. They live and breathe it, and that’s precisely why it should be number one on your list of countries to ride in. No ride here is easy, but they’re all rewarding, offering you sights and experiences you simply won’t see or feel anywhere else.
Italy’s obsession with cycling began at the start of the 1900’s, and in 1909 the first Giro d’Italia was held. What started as a race just for Italians has since grown to be contested by riders from across the globe and watched by millions.
Today, Italy produces over 25 million bikes each year – spawning from their incredible ability to contribute exceptional concepts and designs. This makes it the third-largest manufacturer outside of Asian nations, but many of those models being created offshore were born from the brain trust of Italian locals, with bike craftsmanship in their blood.
For many, Italy is a popular destination to test their cycling skills with its rolling countryside, picturesque peaks and challenging roads.
A’qto alone hosts nine different holiday cycling tours every year which are highly popular and range in difficulty, extending from the ‘relatively flat’ heel of Italy up to tours for riders who are as comfortable in the Alps and Dolomites as the local mountain goats.
And it’s not just the young taking on the Italian hills and mountains either, with the country proving extremely popular for cyclists in their mid-40s up to mid-60s, and even riders in their 70s that still take to the hills and mountains each year. But none of this crowd are sensitive to a challenge – they’re all in it to push themselves, taking on the additional training required before their trip to enjoy the very best experience.
While the challenge appeals, riding with the locals who have cycling in their DNA is another huge drawing point, as well as sitting down to reward yourself with the local vino & delicacies after a long day in the saddle.
Cycling is a significant addition to the Italian culture, almost as much as the boastful menus that populate the local eateries. After a long challenging ride, there’s almost nothing more rewarding than talking to the locals about your experiences, all the while sampling the very best the region has to provide.
How safe is cycling in Italy?
Italy’s challenging nature means there is a reputation for ‘less-developed’ conditions relating to roads and infrastructure. Mostly, the major cities lack bike lanes dedicated to cyclists, so creeping through, congested roads can sometimes be difficult. However, this mostly just requires caution and a sense of remaining alert, to avoid any unnecessary dramas.
More importantly, riding through the city isn’t where the appeal lies anyway.
A’qto Cycling tours take riders away from the congested centres and out onto the quiet back roads, where there is far less traffic and much less congestion. We also enforce a few safety guidelines, including staying on the right-hand side of the road (seems an obvious one, but isn’t always) and ensuring that you’re looking ahead and are aware of what is possibility around the corners as you take your line when descending, in particular. There is a tendency for cars to use the whole road on the smaller roads, and it goes without saying, but it’s paramount we share the road with motorists equitably.
We also have a documented Ride Charter that’s readily accessible for those undertaking our tours, which details all of the safety criteria and possible conditions you can expect. Additionally, each of our tours includes a support car, for convenience, added peace of mind and security throughout the ride.
In saying all this, the tours are not designed for beginners. The terrain can be demanding at the very least. For example, the white gravel roads of the Strade Bianche in Tuscany will keep you on your toes and require concentration and control, to ensure you get the best out of your ride. Additionally, while the “flatter” region of Puglia has less elevation, the roads are tiny and often meander through ancient olive groves and along seaside cliffs. There’s no ‘easy’ way to ride in Italy, and that’s exactly why we love it.
Because of this diverse terrain, we encourage you to join us if you feel comfortable with your own riding abilities and skills. While each rider will go at their own pace, you will enjoy the experience best when you’re able to experience the surrounding landscape, without placing too much pressure on your body.
Where to go cycling in Italy
There is so much to see and do, but the best places for cycling in Italy in our opinion include the Dolomites, Tuscany and Puglia. We also host tours in other regions that we think are also very special.
The undulating hills in Tuscany, Piemonte and the Prosecco Rd area north of Venice, all provide amazing riding, with plenty to see and do along the way.
A’qto has focussed on these regions because they have been assessed and approved by us to provide the perfect blend of challenge, reward and immersive experiences, both on and off the bike
Each tour has been analysed for accommodation as well, with stays in villas and family-run boutique hotels, farmhouses and Italian Masserie (famous in Puglia). These are the preferred options to give riders the authentic, local feel.
Riders also get to immerse themselves in the sensation that is the local food and wine scene. You’ll find these hidden away from the usual tourist traps (however we know exactly where to find these hidden gems).
Each location has its own culture, and we aim to provide an interactive experience that lets riders challenge themselves by day and enjoy the local cuisines as part of the total package, at night.
Easy cycling tours in Italy
Put simply, if you are looking for an easy roll across the countryside, then Italy is not the destination for you.
Our tours are geared towards those living fit and active lifestyles and who are looking to challenge themselves somewhat across Italy’s magnificent, but often diverse terrain. It all comes down to your attitude towards challenging yourself and what you want to see yourself experience and achieve.
In terms of difficulty, the tours start with Puglia, which has the least amount of elevation at 5495m but this is over 600km. The next step up is Tuscany, which is nearly double the intensity with 9965m of elevation and 566k, as well as our L’Eroica cycling tour in Tuscany, the ultimate vintage bike ride and celebration of the golden years of cycling, with 8790m of elevation and 505km.
The most challenging tours are the Dolomites and Prosecco Road Tour, followed by the Giro d’Italia Tour. Here you’ll ride the same roads and climbs made famous by the likes of Coppi, Bartali and other famous pro cyclists during the Giro D’Italia.
And for a blend of the two, we have the popular Piemonte and Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo Tour; which combines undulating hills like Tuscany for five days in the famous Barolo wine region, with a mountain climb as the culmination of the week, with the famous Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo.
Essentials for a cycling holiday or tour
While quality gear and an appropriately spec’d bike is essential, we believe it’s your mindset that will best prepare you for these tours.
Attitude, coupled with fitness, are the keys to being prepared for these challenging and rewarding experiences, “if you think you can, then you can” is a motto we subscribe to.
These tours are about exploring new landscapes and throwing yourself into something that is not your comfort zone. They’re about setting new boundaries and pushing your riding to new levels, while allowing yourself space to rest and immerse.
We have a minimum of two ride guides on each tour which allows us to split the group should we need, and still support all riders based on their fitness levels, abilities and how they’re feeling each day. This gives you the chance to get the most out of each ride, no matter your position in the group.
Our tours are best enjoyed when you come equipped with the mindset that you are going to be tested (because let’s face it, how many of us ride 8 days consecutively very often?). Given this, pre-tour training is essential, and it needs to be adequate, so your body becomes conditioned to the feeling of fatigue, as you ride the 8 consecutive days.
In saying all this, our tours are not ‘run like a boot camp’ and the rides are not about doing rolling turns in one peloton. If you want to sit behind the group to enjoy some solitude, soak up the scenery or take photos, you have the chance to do so.
On the flats, we try and stay within 150m of each other but on the climbs, each rider can go at their own pace. We will then regroup at the top of the climb and continue on.
Prepare, train and ready yourself for the challenge and immersion, and you will come away having experienced the trip of a lifetime. We live by the ethos of ‘challenge and reward’, so if you share our passion, let us show you how to experience the magic of Italy.