The 10 Best Places to Ride in Northern Italy
Northern Italy has a huge variety of mountain biking with dry, dusty trails that can be ridden year round. The terrain is amazing, the weather is good, there are spectacular views over the Mediterranean and it’s relatively inexpensive. Add to that the superb food and wine, and you could do far worse than heading to Italy for your next riding holiday.
The warm climate of the coastal region bordering France means there is year round riding and you can find yourself on dry trails even in December. Ride the legendary trails of San Remo and Finale Ligure that wind up through the mountains behind the coast, taking in vineyards, olive groves and ancient hilltop villages. The most pleasant time to organise a mountain biking holiday in this part of Italy is in the spring and autumn, as July and August can be stiflingly hot and packed with holiday makers.
Contrast this with the big mountain terrain of Lake Garda and the Dolomites region in the northeast. Here, bikeparks in resorts like Livigno and Val di Fassa provide uplifts and fun trails amidst spectacular scenery. You’ll generally get sunny days and cooler temperatures than down on the coast. Bikeparks tend to open from June to September.
Where to go mountain biking in Northern Italy
Liguria mountain biking
This coastal region bordering France to the west and Tuscany to the east encapsulates what Italy does best – classic singletrack surrounded by amazing scenery. The narrow strip of land is bordered by the Mediterranean sea, the Alps and the Apennines mountains. Some mountains rise above 2000 m and in San Remo and Finale Ligure you can ride trails overlooking the sea and finish up on the beach for a swim.
1. Mountain biking in San Remo
Located on the border with France, San Remo has masses of great downhill and enduro style riding in a spectacular setting. The year round mild climate and low rainfall make great conditions for mountain biking. The tracks are fast, rough and rocky, and some of the climbing is brutal, which is why some of the world’s best riders come here to train and test bikes. Don’t miss the world renowned 16 km descent from Mont Bignone to San Romolo.
Finale Ligure is a place of outstanding natural beauty on Italy’s Riviera di Pontente, roughly halfway between Genoa and the French border. The mountains behind the town are riddled with classic rocky Italian singletrack that can be ridden year round. Tracks wind down the moutainside to the sea and on a mid-travel bike you can really shred. The rocky natural trails are more suited to intermediate and advanced riders. Hire a guide to get the best out of the area.
Piedmont mountain biking
The Piedmont (Piemonte) region of the Italian Alps is the second largest of Italy’s regions after Sicily. It is surrounded on three sides by the Alps and has borders with France and Switzerland. Mountain biking hotspots include Sauze d’Oulx with its beautifully crafted flowing trails, Bardonecchia with lift access to excellent downhill and XC trails and Prato Nevoso, a well designed bike resort close to both Finale Ligure and San Remo.
3. Mountain biking in Sauze d’Oulx
Sauze d’Oulx in the Italian Alps is known more as a winter ski resort than a summer mountain bike destination. But, with big mountain scenery, quick access to the trails from the town and great riding in a compact area, there’s plenty to enjoy in Sauze. The resort’s mellow gradient lends itself well to mountain biking and the trails are beautifully crafted with floaty jumps and freeride features used to enhance the predominantly natural terrain.
4. Mountain biking in Bardonecchia
Bardonecchia’s location at the intersection of four valleys in the Italian Alps means there’s a huge amount of riding on offer. Two chairlifts and a gondola provide access to over 400 km of tracks covering a vertical drop of 1700 m. Cross country riders can access some good long rides if you don’t mind a bit of climbing, while downhillers have five or so black runs and some easier reds with manicured jumps and berms. Linking up red and black trails can give you a great top to bottom blast.
5. Mountain biking in Prato Nevoso
Prato Nevoso is a small ski resort above the Mediterranean coast, close to both Finale Ligure and San Remo, which makes it a great place to base yourself for a biking holiday. Two chairlifts take you from the village at 1480 m directly to the trails. Downhill riders will love the technical ‘Psycho Downhill’ track with its jumps, berms and rock gardens. Freeriders are well catered for with natural singletrack bolstered with northshore features that give the trails real flow.
Aosta Valley mountain biking
The Aosta Valley is one of the smallest, least populous and wealthiest regions in Italy. The excellent mountain biking around the unspoilt Gran Paradiso national park makes it a great destination for a riding holiday. Bordering France and Switzerland, it’s ideal if you plan on riding in other areas such as Chamonix, Verbier and Les Arcs. The nearest airports are Geneva and Turin.
6. Mountain biking in Pila
Pila is located near the beautiful Gran Paradiso national park, above the town of Aosta. There’s some challenging but excellent downhill and enduro riding, including the unmissable Pila to Aosta 8-km run. Pila has twice been host to the World Cup Downhill series and has, as a result, some fast and technical world-class tracks. There’s some good cross country riding too aimed mainly at beginner and intermediate riders who can take advantage of the chairlift to miss out some of the climbing.
Lombardy mountain biking
Lombardy, or Lombardia in Italian, is the most populous and wealthiest region in Italy. Head north from the region’s capital Milan and you’ll hit the Alpine foothills and the Italian Lakes, including Lake Garda, the largest in Italy. Continue north into the Italian Alps and you’ll reach one of Italy’s premier mountain biking spots – Livigno. Expect long days, big climbs and endless descents on some of the best singletrack in Europe.
7. Mountain biking in Livigno
Livigno is an old mountain town, 1815 m in altitude, set amongst the spectacular mountains of the Stelvio National Park in the Italian Alps. With over 1500 km of singletrack covering an area of over 10,000 square kilometres, Livigno should be a strong contender for your next summer mtb holiday. Access remote, exposed Alpine singletrack, technical forest switchbacks and ride over high mountain passes. Dip over the border into Switzerland for rockier, more technical terrain.
Trentino-South Tyrol mountain biking
Trentino and South Tyrol harbours some of Italy’s most spectacular mountain scenery and is the home of the Dolomites with their characteristically sheer limestone peaks. Ride the fun trails of the Val di Fassa bikepark, set against the spectacular backdrop of Marmolada which at 3343 m is the highest mountain in the Dolomites, or Lake Garda with its endless flowing singletrack regarded as some of the world’s best riding.
8. Mountain biking in Lake Garda
North Lake Garda with its endless flowing singletrack and lovely mild climate is widely regarded as having some of the world’s best riding. There’s no bikepark here as such, and the climbs are long and punishing but you’ll be rewarded with some of the best natural singletrack descents you’re ever likely to ride! Don’t miss the classic Sentiero 601 from Monte Altissimo with its 20 km descent into Torbole.
9. Mountain biking in Val di Fassa
Val di Fassa is a bikepark set amidst the jaw dropping scenery of the Dolomites. Base yourself in the ski resort of Canazei at the base of the Belvedere tracks and ride the quiet, sweeping trails and perfect loamy terrain in the wooded sections. Head down the valley to Pozza and Buffaure to ride more challenging downhill tracks. Val di Fassa is a beautiful and relaxed spot, make sure you stop from time to time to take in the stunning 360 degree panoramas.
Emilia-Romagna mountain biking
Over half the land mass of Emilia-Romagna is described as either mountainous or hilly and the region includes part of the Apennine Mountains which stretch for more than 300 km from north to south. One of the highest peaks in the range is Monte Cimone near the town of Sestola. This area has the best mountain biking in Emilia-Romagna and there are literally hundreds of kilometres of natural trails to explore predominantly aimed at XC and Enduro riders.
10. Mountain biking in Cimone
Monte Cimone is located in the heart of the Appinino Modenese on the Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany border, 80 km from Bologna. The whole of Monte Cimone is covered with trails and access is strightforward using the lifts and shuttles from the towns of Sestola and Montecreto. Epic cross-country loops are marked out on trail maps available from the Tourist Office. For downhillers, the bikepark is open from May to October with 20+ trails from green to black accessible from the main lift in Sestola.