Five beautiful places to visit on the 2024 Giro d’Italia route

The 107th edition of the Giro d’Italia starts 4 May and promises to be an exciting race – not least because a certain Slovenian rider is on the start list. It begins in Turin and ends in Rome on a circuit that boasts the ancient Colosseum as a backdrop. But what about visiting Italy for non-professional riders, or cycling fans? Where is best to head to get a taste of the country but also enjoy some of the best roads? Let’s dive into it.

Perhaps not at the top of the list of famous places to visit in Italy, Oropa is one of the most storied places in Italian cycling heritage. This year it’s home to the finish of stage two with the line being crossed at the Santuario di Oropa.

This is a category one climb, at 11.8km and 6.2% average, and welcomes in tremendous views as well as the sanctuary itself at the top of the mountain. Cycling history buffs will remember the significance of the Oropa climb in 1999 when Marco Pantani demolished his rivals, even after suffering a mechanical at the foot of the mountain.

Beyond visiting the sanctuary – which in itself is an incredible landmark as the largest sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary within the Alps – the cuisine of the Oropa Valley is also not to be missed. The region is rich in cheeses, in particular ‘toma’ which is a semi-fat cheese. Fondue is also big here, with dishes such as the ‘fundua ‘d zeile’ most prevalent. That is, fresh toma melted in garden sorrel and egg.

 

 The finish town for stage nine is the populous coastal city of Napoli. World famous for two things, soccer and pizza, it may not be the first name that comes to a cyclist’s mind as a destination to ride bikes, but it’s certainly a fantastic location to refuel afterwards. Home of the simple, delicious pizza margherita – as well as a new wave of more complex and ‘gourmet’ options – in 2017 the “art of Neapolitan pizza-makers” was declared to be part of the intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO.

See also  Cycling Infrastructure: will councils be bold and actually get the job done?

To earn that cheesy, basilly reward you can consider a jaunt up the coastal road north out of Napoli, with views of the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west. Or you could ride up Mount Vesuvius, the extinct volcano that towers over the city to the south-east.

Lake Garda might not be home to any epic climbs during this year’s race, but it does play host to a 31.2km time trial along the southern edge of the lake, from Castiglione delle Stiviere to Desenzano del Garda. As a pretty flat course, it’ll be one for the specialist time trial riders, as well as their last chance to gain time before the mountains in the final week come calling.

The place itself is absolutely stunning, and there’s a reason it’s one of northern Italy’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s the largest lake in Italy, and is a popular place to visit in between Milan to the west, and Venice to the east. As you can imagine, fish is popular around these parts, with sardines and rainbow trout the two big hitters. Fresh egg pasta and polenta is also popular, drizzled with olive oil made from olives grown nearby.

 

The second to last stage of this year’s Giro takes in 184km of undulating terrain, shall we say. Interestingly, the stage sees the Monte Grappa category one climb ridden twice, with the stage eventually ending after a long descent into Bassano del Grappa. The Monte Grappa climb overlooks the Veneto plains, and will be a time to reflect on the members of the Italian resistance killed in the second world war during the German occupation.

See also  The Pandemic-Postponed Paris-Roubaix promises to be a cracker

Veneto is the region that includes Verona and Venice, two rather beautiful cities to explore. Venice is perhaps better known because of its lagoon waters and striking architecture, but that doesn’t mean Verona should be counted out of a trip. Fondly known as ‘Little Rome’, Verona houses many Roman antiquities as well as traditional dishes and good wine.

A typical Veronese and Veneto cuisine is that of risotto with tastasal. Tastasal means ‘taste the salt’ in the local dialect, and uses risotto made of minced pork, which has been salted and peppered. A dish you may already be familiar with is potato gnocchi, although you’re less likely to see it in a packet here than you are a chef making it from scratch in the kitchen. If you have a sweet tooth, then make sure to taste sfoglitaine di villafranca. This is a crumbly and sweet puff pastry made with eggs, flour, sugar, butter and a pinch of salt – with many intricate layers making up the final product.

 

The Stelvio Pass is one of the most famous roads in the world, it is popular among cyclists and drivers alike for its many switchbacks and is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps – and second highest of all the Alps (the first being France’s Col de l’Iseran).

This year, the stage it’s featured in doesn’t finish atop the mountain, instead, riders are treated to it quite early on in stage 16, after just 33km of racing. From there they continue into the valley and head along to Val Gardena, which in itself is famous for the 175km of ski slopes it houses. It’s also the day after the second rest day, so riders will really start to feel the effort in their legs as they head into the final week.

See also  Revealed: How much airlines charge to take your bike abroad

For amateurs, the Stelvio Pass is something of a bucket list climb. It’s 24km in length with an average of 7.6% gradient, which reaches almost 14% in places. There’s a total ascent of 1,832m which isn’t for the faint hearted. If it sounds like your cup of tea, then make sure to visit in late summer, as the pass gets closed to motorised traffic on the last Saturday of August or first Saturday of September every year, giving cyclists free domain.

If heading abroad to Italy with your bike sounds like something you’re keen to try (and let’s face it, who isn’t after those local recipe descriptions?) Then make sure you’re fully insured when you do so. From airlines losing your bike to accidental damage, we can cover it all with our specialist cycling insurance policies. Whether that’s home or abroad, why not grab a get a free quote from our website today? Give yourself and your bike peace of mind while you travel the globe atop two wheels.