Road cycling in Emilia-Romagna

This region offers something for all levels of cyclist, from gentle terrain to epic climbs - as well as its rich heritage and gastronomic delights.

Emilia-Romagna is the food capital region of Italy and this large area has a mixture of terrain to suit all cycling abilities; flat, rolling and medium mountain climbs, quiet roads and stunning villages.

And that variety is a key part of its appeal - travelling by bike means you get to see the mountains of the Apennines and the plains of the River Po, not forgetting the Adriatic coast and cities of art and culture.

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Home to several Gran Fondo events, Romagna has produced many famous cyclists - like the late Marco Pantani - but also many local homegrown enthusiasts. Indeed it's the destination of many cycling clubs who choose it for their spring or autumn training, while triathletes also find it an ideal environment.

In May each year cyclists discover the birthplace of Pantani in the Nove Colli (Nine Hills), Italy’s oldest and biggest Gran Fondo which sees over 13,000 cyclists ride the same roads on which he trained, climbing nearly 3,000m in the process. The well-paved and almost traffic-free roads are widespread, and are ideally suited to cycling, with the curves of the descents and the gradients of the climbs sublime.

The hinterland offers interesting and rarely visited villages, gentle terrain and stunning views - if you are looking for places with particular natural charm and rich historical heritage, then this region has it in abundance - see the top five experiences below for more details.

Apart from the Nove Colli Gran Fondo, we've put together five suggested rides to try out which showcase the very best of the region. And there are more, many more. Other not-so-famous but very challenging climbs are the Barbotto and Monte Aqualone, where you get magnificent views of the Savio, dell'Alferello, the Tiber and Marecchia.

FOUR PASSES OF ROMAGNOLI

This route between Romagna and Tuscany, features three passes (Mandrioli, Prato alla Penna and Calla) which mark the geographical and political boundaries between the two regions.

This ride starts at Maciano, then heads to Villagrande of Montecopiolo and descends to Carpegna before the legendary Cippo climb which has featured in the Giro d'Italia on numerous occasions.

Ride to San Leo

Gola del Furlo

The difficulty is not with the beautiful climb to the top, it is with trying to get cyclists to leave this stunning hilltop village!

With just one road in and out and its arched entrance and cobbled street you are transported back to a time of tranquillity. The three different roads that lead to San Leo, which is world heritage listed, are equally beautiful with panoramic views located in places of great beauty.

Sant'Agata Feltria

Another wonderful day cycling the territory of the Valmarecchia. It starts from Rimini up along the national road 258, following this stunning river formed in the region of Tuscany.

After a stop in pretty Novafeltria and a series of ups and downs of varying difficulty, you arrive at Ponte Messa di Pennabilli, an ancient town which used to be two rival villages and is now popular in summer for its beautiful antiques market and festival of buskers. Continuing along the highway you will come across a sign for Petrella Guidi - a charming medieval village, stopped in time.

Mercato Saraceno

Romagna

An ancient village settled on the river Savio, originally a market village from around 1223, with its wooden bridge that crossed this mighty river and allowed travellers to cross, we are not far from another more ancient village of Sarsina, both on the river road to a natural terme town of Bagno da Romagna.

From the centre of this small town, we go to the main square, we leave the small church on the right, turn the corner and take the detour to the right of the Colle Barbotto. It's one of the toughest climbs in the region.

Verucchio

This route is certainly not monotonous, you will be accompanied by some good views, but also with some climbing, including the hills of Torriana, Monte Bello and Verucchio.

We start in one of the jewels of the Rimini region, that of Santarcangelo di Romagna, which steeped in history with its Sangiovese wine and mystery with the unknown Grottos. Its picturesque streets climb up to the Malatesta Fortress and aromas that rise from the many taverns tempt travellers with delicious local specialties.

We cross the Marecchia river at Ponte Verucchio and when in this area it's worth visiting the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Saiano which built on an outcrop of rock overlooking the valley and the river. From Saiano you head towards Verucchio and this beautiful ascent emerges in the centre of the small village where, inevitably, there is another Malatesta Fortress. In Piazza Malatesta is the perfect lunch stop, a small restaurant called "Italian Tipicità" - see more in the top five experiences below.

TOP 5 EXPERIENCES

1. San Marino

Visit the ancient Republic [pictured, right]; it is a beacon that extends its shadow over the entire coast, with the enchanting vision of Valmarecchia on one side and Conca Valley the other. This is a must do ride for any stay and the ancient walled city - untouched by the ravages of time or war - is testament to the people of San Marino. On any clear day the vistas from the number 1 tower extend to the horizon and beyond.

2. Amazing historical heritage

Sogliano, Roncofreddo, Longiano, Perticara and Santarcangelo are just some of the destinations that should not be missed during a cycling trip. These places can be found mostly in the foothills of the Apennines; they are around 300 metres in height and let you enjoy the magnificent panorama of Romagna.

3. Petrella Guidi

This is a charming medieval village which will blow your mind. It appears untouched by time and you'll pass through it on the Sant'Agata Feltria ride above.

4. Italian Tipicità restaurant in Verucchio

This makes a great lunch stop on the Verucchio ride. Maripia, owner of this amazing eatery, is renowned in this region as having the specialities that make Emilia-Romagna the food region it is.

5. Time off the bike

Relaxation, enjoyment and fun can be found in many villages of the region, with wine and cheese tasting taking place in small wineries or farmhouses, while in the spring and summer there are endless village festivities.

WHEN TO VISIT

Best times to go:

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April, May, June and September are the ideal time to explore by bike - the weather's usually excellent, but not too hot, and it's also relatively quiet.

Peak times in times of the heat and tourism are late July and all of August, while it can get very cold over Winter.

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