Crossing Italy by bike

Balcony on Florence
© Fabien Leduc – Abicyclette Voyages

From Lombardy to Puglia by bike, an account of a cycling trip

Ciao Bella

Pizza, pasta, Roma, dolce vita! Italia… ma che bella ! Italy is above all its language, rich in vowels, that sings and enlivens your heart as well as your ears. It is the hands that divide the air, that work tirelessly to punctuate the sentences and to give substance to the present.

Italy is its cuisine, colorful and tasty, its landscapes full of history, vineyards and olive trees, its friendly and eloquent natives who make every moment a journey within a journey. Italy is something to dream about, to covet, but above all, to experience. And it must be said, you can never discover a country as well as when you ride a bike through it. Italy, it’s the trip by bike that we promised ourselves, there, at the counter of Chez Luca, between some piano notes and a delicious Limoncello. To cross the boot, from the top of the stem to the heel, that was the project, the global trajectory at least, with for only focal point the beautiful region of Puglia (Apulia). Between the two, nothing but the white pageand the bike that is eager to put a few turns on the wheel.

duomo milano couple by bike
© Fabien Leduc – Abicyclette Voyages

A first stage from Milano to Lodi for a little break…

Central Milan, this is Central Milan. It is here, in the heart of Lombardy that our cycling adventure begins. A first pizza to warm up, a detour by the mythical duomo and the first pedal strokes are taken. Towards Lodi for a day of respite in a small corner of paradise: La Gallina. As its name indicates, the hostess of this place is none other than a pretty and curious hen who likes to share breakfast with her cyclotourists. After two nights in this cosy little nest, your batteries are full. From this charming bed and breakfast, the adventure officially begins.

Italy is something to dream about, to covet, but above all, to experience

Encountering the beautiful Emilia-Romagna, land of cycling

Heading for Parma. We set off on our bikes at the first hour, the sky was slightly cloudy but to Mélissa’s great joy, the August sun kept its promise. As for Fabien, he suffers from the heat and the mosquitoes that reign supreme in the Po plain that we have to cross. After a few hours of cycling under the burning sun and humid air, we took advantage of a stop in Cremona, on the masterful central square, to taste our first cappucini. The impressive cathedral called il duomo di Cremona dominates us. The city of Cremona, cradle of the art of violin making, is famous for its culture as well as for its gastronomy: nougat, Provolone (a spun cheese) and Tortelli (pasta filled with pumpkin or parmesan and sage).

We leave Lombardy behind us for good to go and meet the beautiful Emilia Romagna. The numerous cycling paths offered by the region allow us to fully appreciate the route. The air flies in the rays and we fill ourselves with the green and rolling hills that mark the landscape. After flirting with the Po River (the longest river in Italy) for a good ten kilometers, we finally cross it. Parma is soon within reach of our wheels. We cross the charming town of Roccabianca, with its imposing fortress, and finish the ride on quiet greenways. We arrive shortly after lunchtime in the capital of good eating. Epicurean city par excellence, Parma, besides its famous ham and parmesan, is also famous for its incomparable tomatoes, its Borgotaro mushrooms, its balsamic vinegar and its black truffles. We discover a colorful city, concerned about its cyclists as much as its pedestrians. A city with a double face, with a medieval historical center, all in length, where the Palazzo della Pilota (a group of historical buildings whose name is derived from the Basque pelota game) is enthroned, and a massive and unattractive suburb. There are plenty of delicious restaurants in the center, so you’re spoiled for choice.

Between the two, nothing but the white pageand the bike that is eager to put a few turns on the wheel.

The next day, we are glad to be able to quickly get out of this strange suburb to find the charm and richness of the Italian countryside with its vineyards and its various fruit trees (olive trees, chestnut trees, hazelnut trees…). We ride along the routes of our Gourmet getaway in Emilia Romagna, which we recommend to all food lovers. Although the altitude is rather low, the climbs are still steep. The efforts made are rewarded by the sublime views from the summits and the sensational winding descents. It is so pleasant to let yourself slide in the valleys after the miles of flatness offered by the Po plain.

Bologna the red

At the end of a day of almost 130 kilometers we arrive in the capital of the Emilia Romagna region: the sublime Bologna. It is without doubt the most typical city in Italy. We discover it all decked out in red and arcades. It is also called the city of Portici (arcades). And for good reason! In its historic center alone, Bologna has no less than 42 kilometers of arcades. An architectural and cultural heritage that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021. After sunset, we stroll with joy under these fabulous porticoes and in front of a plethora of beautiful gastronomic addresses. The chance of the alleys leads us to a small grocery store held by a charming nonna, who has long since passed the age of retirement but who prefers to continue to brighten the hearts and taste buds of tourists who have come to discover the area. We leave with a bag full of spinach ricotta ravioli. The best we’ve ever had! Bologna, a city of contrasts where one oscillates permanently between tradition and modernity. A memorable evening that makes you want to live this city for several weeks in order to take advantage of all its attractions.

Tuscan landscape
© Fabien Leduc – Abicyclette Voyages

Tuscany, my love

In the morning — cycling on a slight upward grade — the ride gently wakes us up. Little by little the slope gets steeper, up to 15% on some portions, to bring us to the summit which is close to 1000 meters of altitude. And on the slopes which still separate Emilia Romagna from Tuscany, the rain invites itself for the first time of the stay. We take refuge in the village of Monghidoro, perched high on its ridge where the morning market ends. We warm up and regenerate ourselves with a beautiful rustic cooking in an old dark tavern with thick walls.

In the afternoon and for our greatest happiness, the sun comes back. Freewheeling for almost 20 kilometers, we fully enjoy this entry in Tuscany. With the relief small roads become rarer and the traffic more dense. To try to get away from the trucks and cars that the Italians are so fond of, we venture into a narrower valley. The cartography plays tricks on us and the road quickly becomes a stony path. The deeper we go into the mountain, the more dangerous the road becomes on our loaded mounts and shod for the tar. We get off the bikes to cross the last hectometers of a descent that has become steep before a small ford. The mountain and the path to reach its summit are then in front of us. This one presents us a slope which is about 25%. There’s no choice, we have to push a little more. A Fiat Multipla, 4 wheel drive, forces us to move away from the road for a few seconds. We let it have a clear path. It too has to fight against gravity. Only in Italy you can really see that…


After the struggle, we discover our first panorama on the city of Florence. The silhouette of the city is similar to a postcard of Italy. We throw ourselves with all our might in this descent of about 15 kilometers which brings us in the Tuscan capital, happy to find a beautiful road to bike and to see the landscapes passing quickly with peaks up to 65 km/h.

As soon as we arrived in Firenze (Florence), we were struck by the architecture of the place, an emblem of the Renaissance. Despite the unbearable tourist saturation on the streets, we still took the time to have a look at the unchanging Duomo. Singular in its neo-gothic form and its extravagant colors, we immortalize the moment. Before the sun declines completely, we enjoy a Spritz on the terrace. Here the ears are unfortunately fed only by French, German, English or Spanish so to remind ourselves of Italy we decide to offer ourselves typical truffle ravioli and an excellent gelato (ice cream in Italian) which will turn out to be the best of the whole stay (not surprising when you know that it is here that this refreshing delicacy was invented).

© Fabien Leduc – Abicyclette Voyages

San Gimignano for a little rest

We did not linger any longer in this crowded city and left the next day for the Tuscan countryside. On the horizon, the hills, all adorned with cypress and olive trees, undulate proudly. After each turn, a panorama worthy of the most beautiful postcards, amazes us. Tuscany undeniably has an outrageous charm. By bike, we enjoy the more or less steep slopes which offer as much effort as sliding sensations. We are still 25 km from the goal but already we can see, perched on the heights, the magnificent village of San Gimignano. We reach it for lunch.

Tuscany undeniably has an outrageous charm

After 400 kilometers, it is here, in San Gimignano, that we decide to take a rest. We temporarily leave our cycling shorts for our summer clothes. We take advantage of the small shaded brick streets and climb to the top of the towers that dominate the area. San Gimignano is rather quiet in early September. So we take the opportunity to wash some clothes and to write a few words about these first days on the bike and the thousand and one emotions that we feel. We refuel with a little trip to the famous world champion ice cream shop. Yes, here it is also a sport.

To fully enjoy these postcard landscapes of Tuscany by bike, we highly recommend this cycling tour from Florence to Pisa that crosses the most beautiful villages of the region.

On the Italian Paris-Roubaix

In a few hours, 1 day and 2 nights, legs and calves are like new. From San Gimignano we get back in the saddle and head for Siena. We ride through a land of cycling that has become famous in a few years thanks to the Strade Bianche, a spectacular professional cycling race that takes place every year in early March. The Italian Paris-Roubaix in a way.

© Fabien Leduc – Abicyclette Voyages

The Strade Bianchi

The Strade Bianche are the white stony roads that cross the region from one side to the other, connecting all the villas and agricultural plots to the road network. With the emergence of the Gravel cycling (which can be translated as a MTB sport practice). The bike is close to a road bike with wider all-purpose tires. The bikes we are using for this trip in Italy are Gravels that we have equipped with wide road tires in anticipation of these so-called gravel passages and for the comfort they provide over long distances). These unpaved roads are likely to remain unpaved so as not to spoil anything of this spectacular race. Thousands of cyclists from all over the world now come to enjoy these Italian tracks all year round.

Since all roads lead to Rome, we might as well choose the most beautiful ones.


Before reaching the famous Piazza del Campo in Siena, we had our first taste of the Strade Bianche. A treat for Fabien, for whom it is a semblance of Paris-Roubaix, a race he loves so much. For Mélissa, the apprehension of losing the grip in these dusty roads requires more concentration. This mythical and bucolic route leads us to the beautiful city of Siena. These small circular cobbled streets lead us unmistakably to the Piazza del Campo where the finish of the cycling classic is judged.

This square is also famous for its Palio competitions, the ancient horse races that see teams formed by neighborhoods compete in the city. Represented by an animal standard, the teams have erected plaques in the streets of their neighborhoods to remind them all year long to whom the inhabitants have pledged their allegiance here. It is a more modern form of horses that this day has a nice surprise in store for us with a parade of old Fiat 500s that, in addition to the historic buildings of the city, give, even more, the impression of a jump in time. Closing our eyes, the typical horn takes us back to the 50s.

© Fabien Leduc – Abicyclette Voyages

Southern Tuscany

One cornetto (Italian croissant, often filled) and a cappuccino later, we are back in the saddle, pedaling along the Strade Bianche to cross Tuscany by bike. Several dozen kilometers lay between us from our next stop, the perched village of Montalcino. Much quieter, this town is the gateway to a more mountainous landscape than the south of Tuscany displays. We feast on local specialties on the terrace. Around us, hikers on foot. Tourism is no longer the mass tourism of Florence or San Gimignano and it feels good.

Tuscan town
© Fabien Leduc – Abicyclette Voyages

On the slopes of a volcano

From the village of Seggiano, Fabien returns to the roads of a previous stay, spent harvesting olives to extract their nectar. On these beautiful mountain roads lined with chestnut trees, the last arduous kilometers to Castel Del Piano are nonetheless very pleasant since they are lulled by a magnificent setting sun. We are warmly welcomed by Cristiano, in a family apartment, similar to a mountain chalet. We immediately feel very comfortable there and we already regret not to spend a few more nights there. But we intend to take full advantage of the beautiful evening that is offered to us. Indeed, the village is in effervescence. It welcomes for the occasion the famous Palio, a race event in the form of equestrian joust where the 4 districts of the city compete. We do not shun our enjoyment and we prolong our stroll in the heart of the small medieval streets. We reach a small promontory, hidden, which overhangs the valley. The glowing sunset we witnessed that evening was unforgettable.

All roads lead to Rome…

Today’s program looks like a stage of the Giro d’Italia! The stage starts with the ascent of Monte Amiata. A volcano that dominates the center of Italy. The road is paved and lined with oak and chestnut trees. The slope is gentle and rather regular. This does not prevent Fabien from having some difficulties to follow Melissa’s energetic rhythm, very active since the departure from Milano. We climb quietly to the summit which culminates at 1670 meters of altitude. The leafy forest where are scattered beautiful chaos of granite rock is charming and reminds us of our beautiful Brittany. It covers the whole Monte Amiata which consequently does not offer any panorama at its summit. The ascent is therefore only for the pleasure of the effort!

We feel privileged to be able to ride here, to put our wheels in those of the Roman chariots that passed through here 2000 years ago.

© Mélissa Plaza – Abicyclette Voyages

Fueling in Italy

After a well-deserved pit stop at the high altitude restaurant, we start a descent of almost 40 kilometers in the direction of the lake of Bolsena. We reach without much effort the beautiful village of Sorano built on the side of a cliff in a narrow gorge. After lunch the descent continues to the lake of Bolsena, where we decide to spend the night. It will take a second day to reach the Italian capital.

To the rhythm of the lakes. We leave the lake of Bolsena to reach the volcanic lake of Vico, then the beautiful lake of Braciano. Arriving at Trevignano Romano, we discover a very beautiful place, the Bistrot 8e9, where we have lunch in terrace, the eyes oscillating between our plates and the landscape offered by the lake at our feet. A moment as exquisite as it is unexpected.

Castle of Rome, Tiber bank
© Fabien Leduc – Abicyclette Voyages

Eternal life

Since all roads lead to Rome, we might as well choose the most beautiful ones. We sneak in to try to avoid a maximum of traffic. A local cyclist takes us in his wheel during some kilometers while the traffic intensifies in the approach of the eternal city. We enter the city of the 7 hills where we found a nice apartment for the night, just a few steps from the beautiful historical districts. All evening, we wander through the lively streets of Roma, from the Vatican to the Treviso Fountain and the Piazza di Monte Citorio.

Cyclist on the Via Appia, ancient paved road
© Mélissa Plaza – Abicyclette Voyages

Encountering the sea again

In the early morning, we leave, not without regret, Rome behind us to reach the coast. After the crossing of the hot and mountainous interior, the desire for a swim is in the air. The stage starts with an ancient route on the via Appia. Some kilometers on a paved way (Fabien is giddy, Mélissa is shaken), set of colonnades, palaces and collapsed villas of the Roman Empire. We feel privileged to be able to ride here, to put our wheels in those of the Roman chariots that passed through here 2000 years ago.

On the road to Naples

We go up towards the lake of Albano and the road, although beautiful, proves to be very (too) circulating. We drive in single file, fighting against the wind and squeezing to the side to avoid an accident. For the first time, we feel in danger on the road. The heavy trucks do not welcome us here and make us aware of it. The drivers do not care about what is coming in front of them to overtake. This gives us a few great scares. We don’t insist and get off as soon as possible to join some less direct but safer roads. As we approach the seaside, the last few kilometers to Sperlonga, our stopover town, are a bit more pleasant. A two-day stopover in this seaside resort where we enjoy the Thurean Sea, adds a taste of vacation to our adventure. Very close to Naples, we eat there the best pizzas of our stay. Which goes to show, even for the great classics of Italian cuisine, there remains an ancestral inimitable know-how!

Is Puglia still far away?

A few more kilometers of coastline, until the pretty port of Formia. Then, we find again, not without joy, the small mountain roads that we like to climb and to roll down by bike so much. On the way, we take the time to pick the few fresh figs that we see from their trees nestled on the edge. We ride quietly to Campagnola, which reminds us of the famous Italian brand of derailleurs and bicycle wheels (based in Vicenza, northern Italy, Campagnolo was the Rolls Royce of bicycle parts in the late 80s and 90s). In the middle of a succession of hairpins, we ride along fast and playful hilly roads where we get some great sensations. When we arrive in the valley, we cross the Autostrada del Sol and a restaurant is finally open to us. It is a highway restaurant, but the foccacia and mozzarella, produced in the adjacent factory, are a treat. We have just entered the region of Campania, territory of designation of origin and production of the famous mozzarella. Along the Volturno river, a flat road at the bottom of the valley allows us to reach Telese Terme without difficulty. We decided to bypass Naples to avoid the traffic. We will probably come back by other ways, another trip, another time.

Matera by night, ancient village
© Mélissa Plaza – Abicyclette Voyages

Matera, bright and surprising

Before leaving Telese Terme, we count the days separating us from our train ride from Puglia to Milan/Paris/Rennes. The results are clear, there is not much time left if you want to enjoy both the unique landscapes that Puglia has to offer and a few days of rest to conclude this cycling holiday. So we decide to cycle through the vineyard to Benevento station, from where we take a train to Bari. Then by a 70km link, we reach the city of Matera, a must in southern Italy, and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful ancient cities. Fortunately, we kept some energy to survey this luminous and steep city, located on the hillside. It is full of troglodyte houses, museums, monuments and beautiful churches. Matera is dazzling, day and night. The promise of Puglia was already inscribed in its whiteness.

The Istria Valley by bike

After a night in this city of light, we push the pedals on a twelfth stage that should bring us to Puglia, the end of our stay. But this region, which forms the heel of the Italian boot, is big and long. Considering the number of days left, we decided to concentrate on the Istria Valley, leaving aside the tip of the heel, Salento, for a next cycling adventure. Indeed, we would have needed almost a week to be able to go down to Lecce and Leuca. This will be the opportunity to come back for a more complete tour of Puglia by bike.

white alley village of Apulia cyclist
© Fabien Leduc – Abicyclette Voyages


This last itinerant stage takes us through the Istria Valley to the town of Martina Franca where our delightful host Francesca awaits us. On the way, we stop for lunch in Alberobello and a coffee in Locorotondo, two beautiful towns, all dressed in white, which are the historical archetype of the municipalities of the region. Francesca, our hostess for the next five days, welcomes us as we have never been welcomed before. Her house is made up of trulli, dry-stone huts with corbelled roofs (typical of Puglia) and is a true haven of peace. Each trullo is tastefully furnished and the garden, planted among olive trees, is a corner of paradise. We spend a memorable stay, sweet and relaxing, crowned by an exquisite candlelight dinner that we will remember.

During these few days, we continue our discovery of Puglia by bike. First of all, we pedal to the white city of Ostuni. The Istria Valley offers a landscape quite simply sumptuous and moreover incomparable to all the other regions of Italy. The small roads make us meander with delight between the olive trees and other fruit trees. Beautiful stone walls delimit the plots of land and the trulli stand proudly everywhere. Once again, we fuelourselves with the wild figs found here and there.

Milano Station
© Fabien Leduc – Abicyclette Voyages

TrenItalia, train & bike

Reassured, we boarded the interregional train in Taranto, in direction of the Adriatic coast. A train that, from Monopoly takes us to Raven, crosses the Po plain through Bologna, Modena and Parma… sweet memories of the beginning of our journey. We arrived in Milan at dusk. For one night, we still enjoy Italy. Tomorrow we will be back in Paris, then in our beautiful Brittany. Italy by bike, it’s a nice gift… within reach thanks to the train. TrenItalia offers you the possibility to travel with your bike disassembled and placed in a bag. The interregional train has a spacious bicycle rack. You can read our article about travelling by bike on a train.

Italy by bike, is a nice gift Because there are some promises that we don’t regret. And Italy is definitely one of them!

Bikepacking GPS light
© Fabien Leduc – Abicyclette Voyages

Italy by bike from North to South with the GPS TwoNav Cross

Once again, TwoNav’s GPS proved to be a great ally, safe and comfortable to orientate ourselves in the Italian countryside and select the best routes. Adapted daily to our progress and strengths, our routes were then loaded into the devices. The Komoot and applications allowed us to retrace our route while refining our reading of Italian cartography by evaluating the different qualities of the surface.

With the Cross, the Catalan brand offers a truly successful GPS that follows us on all our adventures. We also offer it on our cycling trips.

© Fabien Leduc – Abicyclette Voyages