Italian land and nature: The Apennines by Bike

Jun 17, 2016 494

WTI Magazine #80    2016 June 17
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The Apennine Mountains offer mountain bikers and cycle excursionists a wide range of choice when it comes to active itineraries and destinations. Whether on brief and easier trails with the family, or traveling longer, more complex routes, the enchanting natural scenery is a given. This route takes you for more than 700 kilometres through the chain of national parks along the Apennines of central Italy. The ride is fairly challenging – but not too challenging. It follows quiet roads wherever possible – although there are a couple of brief sections on busier roads.

The Apennines are the chain of mountains that run almost the whole length of Italy from Sicilia to northern Toscana. They are Italy's equivalent to north America's Great Divide (except you'd have to imagine north America with its mountains but without the Great Plains). As well as being the watershed, these were literally a great divide: until the coming of the railways it was quicker to sail from Ancona on the east coast to Rome on the west.

The Ligurian Apennines

Relaxing bike excursions can be had inland, near Tigullio and Lavagna, within the Ligurian chain of the Apennines. Here, paths unwind and lead to the base of Monte Ramaceto, just outside the Parco Naturale dell'Aveto, where off-beaten roads and gorgeous landscapes meet bright beeches and perfect, sun-kissed fields. If a birdwatcher is among your lot, he or she may be bewildered by the local variety, which includes around 60 protected species, among them the Golden eagle.

Tosco-Emilian Apennines National Park

Highly-marked and relatively-simple routes define much of this area. Lightweights may want to consider a 15-km (9.3 mi) tour at the feet of the peak known as Pietra di Bismàntova, symbolic rock of the Reggiano Apennines: begin in Castelnovo ne' Monti to then traverse several quaint local towns. Those thirsting for something a little more extensive, rather, can travel the same terrain (in Toano and Carpineti) that once belonged to 11th-Century noblewoman Matilda of Tuscany.

Otherwise, possibilities also lie between the Tuscan communities of Sassalbo (seat of the Park) and Camporàghena (in the Comune of Comano), or on the roads traversing the passes of Cerreto, Pradarena and Lagastrello, which separate Emilia Romagna from Tuscany, and whence one can see the two regions on either side at once.

The Marches, Umbria and Lazio Apennines

The tame climate, rich biodiversity and varying environments make these regions very intriguing as cycle tourism and cycle excursionism destinations. Many visitors not only prefer to see the Apennines of central Italy by bike, but go one further and alternate their travel with journeys by rail.

In Umbria, begin in Terni and work towards Dunarobba – marvel at the petrified forest – to Carsulae and its archaeological site, then on to Marmore Falls, Lake Piediluco and the cities of Amelia and Narni.
The Monti Sibillini are your go-to when in the Marches Region. Pick a cycle itinerary by theme (think art, culture, faith or oenogastronomy). Alternatively, one could visit the Monte Conero Regional Natural Park, setting off from Port Recanati and stopping in Numan and Sirolo before touching down in Massignano.

Finally, Lazio cannot but take anyone's breath away with its unforgettable panoramas; discover some of its natural beauty via the Monti Reatini, the Monti Cimini, and the lakes and nature reserves of Bolsena and Vico.

The Apennines of Abruzzo

Finally, the highest plateaus of Abruzzo National Park pass through such charming borghi as Pescasseroli and Opi, as well as quiet and mysterious sites like the Sanctuary on Monte Tranquillo, suspended at heights of 5,440 ft a.s.l.

One would do well to explore Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park by bike, taking one of the more panoramic trails, for instance, that running from Santo Stefano di Sessanio to Campo Imperatore, before descending to Assergi or Castelmonte (approx. 13 km or 8.1 mi long).

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