A self-guided bike tour in Italy is the perfect way to discover one of the world’s most beautiful countries.

But where to start with booking one?! There are a lot of options out there.

In this article we try and cut through the noise. We share six of Italy’s most beautiful regions and share six tours to tantalise! These self-guided tours are all operated by local Italian companies. We haven’t been on their tours ourselves, but we’ve met the owners and are happy to say that they’re all cycling experts we would trust our own trip with. Plus, their reviews are great.

So read on and get inspired for your next self-guided cycling holiday to the culinary capital of the world!

Part 1: Six of the best self-guided bike tours in Italy

Italy is a big place, so where should you start when planning a bike tour. In Part 2 below, we share some tips, including some questions to ask yourself when picking which region you want to ride in. Here, in Part 1, we start with the fun stuff – inspiration for the kind of unforgettable self-guided cycling trip in Italy that you’ll find yourself dreaming about for years after…

In case your knowledge of Italy’s regions is shakey, this map should help!

Map of Italy

Veneto and Trentino

Emilia Romagna

Tuscany

Campania

Basilicata and Puglia

Sardinia

Part 2: Practical things to know about self-guided bike tours in Italy

Is a self-guided bike tour for you?

If you’re interested in an Italian cycling vacation but find guided tours too expensive and going alone too risky, you might consider a self-guided tour.

Self-guided cycling holidays can generally be selected from a menu of tours that the company offers. These come with pre-planned routes and designated hotel stops. The tour company will handle booking your hotels and transferring your luggage between hotels. They can also arrange bike hire for you if you need it.

You will receive a detailed packet at the outset, containing daily route maps, usually in digital format but many companies can also provide physical copies for the old-school cyclists out there. These maps include clear turn-by-turn instructions, elevation profiles, and overall maps. Additionally, you can request GPX digital files for each day’s route if you prefer using a Garmin for navigation.

With the right operator, the routes will be well-thought out and designed to take in the best of the region. Guiliana from Cicloposse says, “opting for a local Italian operator on a bike tour in Italy ensures you get an authentic experience that makes it easy to discover hidden gems.”

Things to love about a self-guided bike tour

  1. All the admin hassle of hotel bookings and luggage transfer is dealt by someone else. You can also save time on route planning – which is particularly handy in Italy. Valeria from Genius Loci Travel points, out, “In Italy, unlike other European countries, there aren’t many specific signposted routes, which means route planning can be tricky.
  2. There’s usually much more flexibility with start dates and some companies will even tailor the routes to your requirements, for example providing extensions or shortcuts depending on how long you want to ride each day.
  3. You don’t need to wait for the group; you can ride to your speed and stop when you want
  4. If you have a problem, companies usually offer 24/7 telephone support.
  5. If you pick a local company, you can get the local’s experience. Anna from BikesPlus/Cycle Europe says “We know the area and the country, we personally test the services (including hotels, restaurants and experiences), and we create the best possible cycling routes and travel experience, as only a local can do.” Mauro from Bike Tour Sardinia echoes this. He says “We can organise meeting the centenarians or the shepherds, have a dinner with them at their houses or other truly memorable local experiences.”
  6. And finally, Michele from Bike Basilicata makes the point that “By choosing a local operator, you’re supporting the local economy and encouraging sustainable tourism practices. It’s a way to ensure your travel has a positive impact on the regions you visit.”

Key things to be aware of

  1. You won’t have a guide on hand, so you’ll need to be happy following a GPS route yourself and will be self-sufficient for sourcing meals and coffee stops. Normally, however, if you want suggestions, your tour company can share some favourite restaurants and coffee shops with you.
  2. You won’t have a support van accompanying you. This means that it’s up to you to reach the next hotel each day, regardless of whether you encounter unfavourable weather or run out of energy/inclination to ride. That said, self-guided tour companies will provide an emergency hotline, and in this case the tour company will assist you as much as they can. For example if you encounter bad weather or run out of energy, they may be able to suggest public transportation or organise a private taxi to pick you up.
  3. You’ll be expected to be able to do basic bike maintenance such as changing punctures.
  4. Self-guided tours usually have a minimum of just two travellers. This means that you probably won’t be riding in a group. So self-guided tours are great if you like independence and freedom but not so good if you’re looking for group comradery.

Planning your self-guided bike tour in Italy

Select the right region for you

Italy is a beautiful country full of stunning regions and fantastic food, but you’re going to need to select a particular region to visit. Here are some questions that should help you narrow down the choices.

  • What kind of terrain are you looking for? Flat and gentle or hilly and mountainous?
  • Do you prefer beautiful coastline and coastal towns or immersing yourself in the mountains?
  • Are you a food enthusiast looking to visit a pasta region or do you want to explore a wine region?
  • Are you looking to experience culture and history?
  • Are natural landscapes your priority or do you prefer urban life?
  • Are you after charming villages, picturesque towns or vibrant cities?
  • What level of accommodation do you like? Family-run B&Bs, boutique hotels or luxury hotels?

Best time to visit for cycling holidays in Italy

It’s very possible to cycle somewhere in Italy at any time of year. However, the best time to visit Italy is during spring and autumn. During these seasons, the temperatures are normally not too hot or too cold, the scenery is vibrant and (with a bit of luck) the weather should be ideal for cycling. 

Spring

In spring, many parts of the country start to warm up, ranging from around 15°C to 23°C . It’s still probably not short sleeves weather until at least late April. Around Easter, Italy gets busier, and prices increase. Be aware that in the high mountains in the north of Italy, many passes will still be covered by snow; often until mid-June. By that time though, much of the south will be gloriously warm. 

Summer

During the summer months, particularly July and August, temperatures are high, usually around 27°C, but often reaching over 31°C during the hottest part of the day. Visitor numbers are at their peak during this time and it’s worth noting that many Italians take the entire month of August off work. As a result, many businesses close, making the cities quieter.   

Autumn

Autumn brings a gradual cool down in temperatures. September is very pleasant (and popular!), with average temperatures around 25°C. October is also still popular in most parts of the country. You can expect autumnal colours and some sunny days, but also be prepared for wet weather. Towards the end of October, the season ends in many parts of the country, so be aware you may encounter closures.  

Winter

In winter, the temperatures in the south of Italy usually stay mild. However, northern Italy is typically wet and cold. Many of the mountain passes become blocked by snow and are best avoided.

Choose the duration of your trip

Those looking for a beginner cycling tour often start out with a cycling holiday that’s just a few days of cycling; perhaps 3-4 days. When you aren’t used to multiple days in the saddle, it’s a great idea to start out with this kind of length.

Once you’ve been bitten by the cycling bug, have done a weekend cycling trip and are eagerly planning your next cycling holiday, it’s time to look for something a bit longer. 7 day cycling holidays are probably the most popular length trips.

From there, the world is your oyster and many tour companies happily cater for 10 day, 14 day and even longer cycling tours and holidays throughout Italy.

If you’re looking for a group departure, you then need to find a company with dates to match. Or an operator that offers private departures.

Consider your fitness level and experience

When considering the length of your cycling tour and region you’re going to ride in, it’s important to also consider your fitness level.

Italy’s terrain varies enormously, from huge mountains to rolling hills, hilltop villages, dramatic coastline and easy-going riverside cycle routes. Your legs and lungs need to be up to the challenge if you’re going to take on the more vertical of these options!

During a guided bike tour, you can join the support van or shorten the ride, but on a self-guided bike tour this is usually not possible. To prepare, it’s a good idea to try riding on consecutive days and practice on the same type of bike you’ll be using during the tour. There are significant differences between riding mountain bikes, road bikes, and hybrid bikes.

Bear in mind the average distance and elevation gain you’ll encounter on the tour itinerary, and make sure to experience riding a similar distance before joining the tour.

Research cycling routes and itineraries

One of the great things about asking a local Italian company to plan your cycling holiday is that they are the experts on the routes in their area. They know them like the back of their hand and so can suggest routes that fit what you’re looking to achieve from your trip. Elisabetta from FunActive says “on a self-guided tour, we ensure you’re riding the best routes and getting the most exciting travel experience.”

If you are looking for a DIY tour in Italy, then it’s time to block out some time and dig into the detail in order to avoid the crowded towns and find the quiet roads and beautiful points of interest along your route. There are lots of route planning sites out there and we always suggest checking resources like Google Street View too. You can find more tips here.

You’ll also need to think about whether you’re going to carry your own luggage or arranging luggage transport.

Highway code and travel information

As ever, it’s a good idea to check current travel information before you book and travel. For UK visitors, the UK government travel information pages for Italy are here. You should also read and follow Italy’s highway code.

Tips for going on a self-guided tour in Italy

We asked our panel of Italy cycling experts for their top tips for planning a cycling holiday in Italy. Here’s what they said

  1. Elisabetta from FunActive: “It’s not all about the riding; don’t forget to make time for cultural stops and time to enjoy the food and wine!”
  2. Guiliana from Cicloposse: “Our top tip for anyone considering a bike tour is to thoroughly assess the difficulty level offered by the company and inquire about the specifics of the bikes provided. A crucial aspect of any bike tour is having access to high-quality bikes equipped with all the necessary gear. It’s essential to evaluate the company based on the information they provide about bike specifications and equipment. By doing this, you can ensure you pick a holiday that gives you an enjoyable and comfortable biking experience throughout your tour.”
  3. Anna from BikesPlus/Cycle Europe: “Search for less popular destinations for your Italy bike tour; you’ll be surprised by the marvellous treasures you’ll discover.”
  4. Valeria from Genius Loci Travel: “Find out where your operator is based before booking your trip. Are they based in the country themselves or are they reselling someone else’s trip? Because we live in the area and operator our own trips, our guests get the best experiences and can feel they are looked after every single day of their journey.”
  5. Mauro from Bike Tour Sardinia: “Have a look at the hotels, not considering just the stars but whether it’s family run and whether it offers something special.”

And finally!

We hope you have a wonderful time riding in Italy. In the comments below, do share your tips for cycling trips in Italy – and also if you’ve travelled with any of the operators mentioned above.

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Clare Dewey

Clare Dewey is a cyclist with a passion for travel. She set up epicroadrides.com in 2018 to help make it easy for cyclists to explore the world by bike. Today her mission is still inspiring cyclists to discover new places on two wheels – and doing what she can to make sure they have the best possible time while they’re there. Clare has visited 50+ destinations around the world, many of them by bike.

Last Reviewed: 28 February 2024

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