Mountain biking in Liguria: coasting along the Italian Riviera

With its gentle, sunny climate and backdrop of the Alps and Mediterranean, the Italian province of Liguria is blessed with an exceptional environment. Naturally, tourism of the outdoorsy sort is actively promoted, with an accent on mountain biking. Three of the region’s prime cycling spots are presented below.

While Liguria is one of Italy’s smallest regions, it is also one of the most sought after, thanks to the many resort towns which dapple the coast. With Genoa as its capital, Liguria reaches up to Vintimille on the French border, and over to the port of La Spezia at the gates of Tuscany. The ‘Italian Riviera’ has good weather going for it, obviously - the climate is ideal for growing almonds, olives, lemons, grapes and, of course, flowers - but its finest feature is its exceptional position between the Alps and the Mediterranean. A land of plenty which looks to attract visitors during the low season, Liguria entices ramblers and bike enthusiasts with miles of fabulous trails across its parks and natural sites.

Mountain bikers are specially targeted, as they are sure to enjoy the steep inclines and dry, marked trails which are practicable year-round. Cyclists can pedal from one ‘single-track trail’ to the next until they’ve reached one of the magnificent panoramic views of the Mediterranean which are so emblematic of the region.

From the Maritime Alps to Cinque Terre…

Seasoned mountain bikers will favour the alpine slopes of the Alpi del mare, the Maritime Alps. This region of the province of Imperia, situated between the French border and the Piedmont, lets cyclists climb to an altitude of 1,500m (nearly 5,000 ft) in less than forty kilometres (25 mi) before a complete descent all the way to the sea, passing through great prairies and magnificent wooded areas along the way.

Clever planning requires you to be driven to the Arroscia Valley at the foot of Mont Sacarello, the high point of the Ligurian Alps. Once you’re up top, the heady thrill of the descent is all yours - presuming you don’t mind a few tough uphill stretches from one mountain to the next! Reserved for the most experienced cyclists.

Finale Ligure, south of Savone, is more accessible and every bit as beautiful. This is where the 24 Hours of Finale MTB competition is held every year, with over a thousand cyclists assembling in order to confront the devilishly divine trails of this coastal resort town. The area boasts a veritable multitude of marked tracks.

Finally, the third spot is far to the south, in the wonderful Cinque Terre Natural Park, on the edge of the Spezia. This natural site’s five villages have been built into the mountains overlooking the Mediterranean. The best way to discover the park is to take a train, then walk - or better yet, pedal.

One of the most beautiful trails leaves from Monte Bardellone, situated just above Monterosso Al Mare, Cinque Terre’s westernmost village. You’ll enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the nature park and the ancient village towers.

Then, a trail along the ridges will lead you along one of the park’s most beautiful ‘singletracks’ (trail n°1) with an exceptional view of the rocky coastline and terraced vineyards. There’s a progressive descent as far as Riomaggiore.

Once you’re in the village, we recommend that you curb your bicycle and walk the enchanting via dell Amore, a narrow path carved into the rock between Riomaggiore and the Manarola fishing village which offers one of the peninsula’s most spectacular vistas.

Practical information

Regione Liguria
Via D'Annunzio 2/78, 19º piano
16121 Genova Italie
Based in Genoa, Regione Liguria publish a guide of 15 circuits for cyclists and ramblers. Available gratis at tourist offices or as a .pdf file (look for ‘info material and brochures’ on their website).

The 24h of Finale MTB Competition
This 24 hour relay race is battled out in May. Festivities take place non-stop during 3 days - a very popular ‘round-the-clock happening.

The author

Frédéric Millet

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The tourist attractions mentioned

Riviera Ligure Riviera Ligure
Riviera Ligure