Southern Italy 'Coast-to-Coast' Bike Challenge - from Puglia to the Cilento - BRPC
Cycling across southern Italy, through the real ‘Mezzogiorno’: Puglia, Basilicata & the Cilento National Park
8 – day road cycling tour with different bases in charming hotels & agriturismo’s
A great week of biking through southern Italy’s less-travelled but breathtaking regions. This tour, full of pleasant surprises, zigzags along an intriguing route through Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria showing the real ‘Mezzogiorno’.
Southern Italy’s natural beauty, ancient culture, deeply-rooted local traditions, genuine Mediterranean food and above all the warmth and hospitality of its people, will capture you and leave you with an unforgettable feeling. There are many good reasons to visit this area. Some come for the beauty of its olive groves carpeted with wild-flowers or the odd charm of its trulli. Italians seek out orecchiette, artichokes, wild asparagus and red peppers, knowing that the hot sun, dry soil, and salty breezes make for intense flavour. As cyclists to this undiscovered region of Italy, we’ll enjoy all the above and more – along some of the quietest roads Italy has to offer.
Expect a rewarding ride every day – and along with the ride you’ll experience the ‘real Italy’, with intimate insights into southern Italian life every day. You’ll cycle through areas and villages which, not without reason, have been nominated ‘World Heritage’ by UNESCO: the wonderful towns of Alberobello and Matera, the Cilento National Park, but also many other ‘minor’ sites.
The tour starts in Puglia, the south-eastern part of the Italian peninsula. Mostly of its territory is flat, which makes it the less mountainous region of Italy. Your accommodation here is located in the beautiful town of Monopoli. Much of the region’s interior is covered by olive groves, interspersed with orchards and other crops. If you have only seen small olive groves before, the endless ‘forests’ of olive trees come as a surprising sight. Although the area is dry with low rainfall, the people here like to grow large quantities of fruit and vegetables, and their cuisine is rich in local products like beans, chicory and broccoli.
On your second day you cycle in western direction towards perhaps Italy’s least known region, the Basilicata. Here you can feast your eyes on the vast cultivated fields, natural preserves, strange rock formations, and tiny ancient towns. Your first accommodation here is in Matera, the city of stone, one of Italy’s most intriguing cities, partly built underground. A stay in Matera is a unique experience! Do not forget to go for an after dinner stroll, when the city looks like a mysterious Christmas crèche. In Matera you’ll need the time to visit, but you can also make a great ride through the intriguing landscape of the ‘Murge’, the canyons of southern Italy.
The next day, leaving Matera, you head South-East for a full immersion in the ‘Deep South’. First you head for the small town of Pisticci. Then you cycle on towards the abandoned town of Craco, once a monastic centre, a feudal town and centre of education with a university, castle, church, and plazas, now a complete ghost town. You stay a night in the small town of Aliano, one of the most interesting villages of the area. From this moment on the Tour becomes more challenging, as it begins your journey through the Central Apennines, which you’ll have to cross to end on the Tyrrhenian coast. You’ll make a great ride in the shadow of the Pollino mountains and overnight in the nice village of Rotonda. Then you continue towards the coast at Maratea, but first you’ll climb to the top of Mount San Biagio, with the Statue of the Christ of Maratea, a 22-meter high statue overlooking the entire stretch of coastline. The beautiful coastal road from Maratea into the southern part of Campania is a beautiful conclusion of this Southern Italy Biking Tour.
Please note: this is a moderate to hard tour for which experience with road cycling and a good general physical condition are necessary to make your travel experience enjoyable. Average cycling times: approx. 5-7 hours each day.
Day 1 Arrival in Monopoli
Arrival in Bari and transfer to your beautiful hotel in the historical heart of Monopoli, a stunning whitewashed seaside village. After settling in our rooms we start to check our bicycles, do a briefing, and perhaps make a short ride (we recommend towards the beautiful village of Polignano). At night you can have dinner in one of the nice nearby restaurants (or eat at the fine restaurant on the premises of the hotel) and perhaps go for an evening stroll through the old town and along the old harbour.
Hotel – Monopoli – BB
Day 2 From Monopoli to Matera
Today we start with a flat ride along the coast. Then we turn inland, and tackle a few ascents, heading for beautiful Alberobello, a UNESCO world heritage site, in the heart of the Itria Valley, a karstic depression filled with thousands of olive trees and many so-called ‘trulli’, odd cone shaped white washed buildings. A first ‘warm-up climb’ brings us onto the large rolling plateau, where we will be cycling through fields of fennel and ancient stands of olive trees. Now we are really entering in the heart of the ‘Land of Trulli’, the concentration of these curious buildings becomes higher and higher, culminating in Alberobello, the capital town of the Trulli, where there even is a church in this shape. We’ll take our time for a coffee and a short stroll here, before cycling on to beautiful Noci and then Gioia del Colle. The last part of the route goes through open fields, en route to the amazing city of Matera, one of the most extraordinary spots on Earth. Matera, on UNESCO’s official World Heritage List, is famous for its so-called ‘Sassi’ (which literally means ‘stones’) style of housing. These cave dwellings were carved out of the stone sides of the cliffs and tell of a time when there were few options for the poor citizens of the region. Most caves were inhabited until last century. We ride the last few through this amazing scenery of small streets and squares, caves, rock churches and cellars, to our centrally located hotel in Matera, right in the heart of the ‘Sassi’. After settling in at your hotel you have some free time to wander around or have an ‘aperitivo’ in one of the beautiful squares or already go for dinner in one of the fine restaurants. But the best has yet to come: the evening walk through the Sassi is simply stunning!
Hotel – Matera – BB
Distance: 70 miles (112 km.). Elevation: + 1240 m./- 800 m.
Day 3 Matera Roundtrip
Today we make a beautiful roundtrip from Matera, to explore its surroundings, a large plateau, divided by several canyons, in which many cave dwellings and cave churches can be found. For this reason the area is now a protected area known as the ‘Park of the Cave Churches’. We first cycle in southern direction. You will ride through rolling hills, skirting the Park of Rock Churches, an amazing landscape, a veritable natural wonder – a series of ravines created by the erosive powers of rainwater. Already from far away you will notice the beautiful hilltop town of Montescaglioso, home of a powerful and prestigious abbey which once controlled a huge swath of surrounding land. The major climb into Montescaglioso is worth it for the opportunity to visit this enchanting little village where time seems to have stopped. Here we’ll have a short biscuit stop and a look around – a visit to the Benedictine Abbey is a must! Then we will get on our bikes again and swing through the small village of Ginosa – a smaller version of Matera with a very similar cave dwelling quarter. Then we pedal all together on to our lunch spot: Laterza – where we visit a local bakery to sample the famous ‘Pane di Laterza’. After lunch we head back to Matera, but not without a stop on the plateau at the opposite side of Matera’s canyon. From the Belvedere here we have some stunning views on the city, which is only a short stretch away.
After a drink we ride the last few kilometers back to our hotel in Matera, right in the heart of the ‘Sassi’. Now you are free to relax and have time to explore. This will be our the shortest ride of all the tour because we want to be sure to have enough time to wonder around the old city of Matera on your own. You are free to choose from the wide selection of restaurants and pizzerias to for your evening meal tonight. There are many typical restaurants, only a short stroll from our hotel.
Hotel – Matera – BB
Distance: 47 miles (75 km.). Elevation: + 1236 m./- 1239 m.
Day 4 Matera – Aliano
Today our ride will be over 62 miles (100 km). We start with an easy downhill section through the fields, towards the hilltop town of Bernalda, a charming village, where the origins of Francis Ford Coppola lay (he recently opened a beautiful hotel here). After the climb to the centre we deserve a short rest and a drink, after which we spin down into the valley of the Basento River. Past the white village of Pisticci, we then continue to Craco, an abandoned medieval village set in a stunning location. The settlement occupies a rock formation above the surrounding hills with its architecture neatly built into the landscape. Perched strategically on top of a 400 meter (1,300 ft) high cliff, overlooking, this ghost town provides panoramic views of the arid countryside of southern Italy. Our final destination for today is Aliano, right in the middle of the Lucan Apennines, in an area characterised by strange limestone hills, known as ‘calanchi’. Clinged on a hill, in an awesome position, Aliano, during the Fascist Regime, was used as detention zone for the Regime’s dissidents. The writer/painter Carlo Levi, known for his book ‘Christ stopped at Eboli’ spent many years here. Perhaps you still have the energy to visit his museum and go for a stroll around the village. In the evening, you eat at a great local restaurant.
Hotel – Aliano – BB
Distance: 68 miles (110 km.). Elevation: + 1634 m./- 1481 m.
Day 5 Aliano to Rotonda
Today we will make a great ride through the authentic ‘Deep South’ of Italy, an area virtually unknown to most travellers, but which yet offers some amazing scenery. The first 10 km. go down through the unreal landscape of the ‘calanchi’, with some scattered houses and half-abandoned villages. Perhaps a short stop at the small Alianello is worth it. Then we continue for a few hours through a pleasant, rolling landscape. We pass the big lake at Senise, and then already see the imposing silhouette of the Pollino Massive, the high mountains on the border between Basilicata and Calabria. We climb up to almost a 1000 m. here, following a stunning winding road through the villages of San Severino, Viggianello and finally Rotonda, a beautiful medieval village where we will stay in a great hotel in the heart of town. We’ll eat in a local restaurant, based on local specialties.
Hotel – Rotonda – BB
Distance: 59 miles (95 km.). Elevation: + 1713 m./- 1664 m.
Day 6 Rotonda to Maratea
Today we head down for the Tyrrhenian Sea, but first we’ll tackle a few minor climbs, to reach the village of Mormanno. From here it is one amazing ride down to the sea, perhaps the most scenic ride of the entire region. Following the canyon of the River Lao we’ll arrive in the charming village of Papasidero, a good spot for a coffee break. Then we continue along the river Lao, and we’ll reach the beautifully located village of San Domenico Talao. From here we can opt to cycle down to the seaside resort of Scalea, or in alternative ride directly to the charming village of San Nicola. A winding road will bring us down to the seashore here, in front of the island of Dino. We’ll have lunch on the beach and those who want can go for a swim. We then continue in northern direction and cross the border between Calabria and Basilicata. We cycle along the stunning coastal road in the direction of beautiful Maratea, our final destination for today. The ride will end in the heart of the charming old town, where we’ll stay in a beautifully restored old convent. Those who want can make a last effort and ride up to the Statue of the Christ of Maratea, second only to the Christ of Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, situated on Mt. San Biagio, at 600 m above sea level. This is arguably the most scenic spot of the whole region, with an exceptional 360° view of the coast and inland mountains.
Hotel – Maratea – BB
Distance: 56 miles (90 km.). Elevation: + 1850 m./- 2098 m.
Day 7 Maratea to Scario
Today we continue to follow the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea in northern direction, cycling across the border, into Campania along a beautiful road high above the cliffs of the rocky coastline. At Sapri, the first village of Campania, the coast becomes flatter and those who want an easy day can opt to follow the coast for another 10 km. to reach charming Scario, our destination for tonight. But it is worth it to discover part of the area immediately inland from Sapri, among the most scenic, authentic areas of southern Italy. We’ll cycle up to the village of Torraca, and then on to Tortorella, towering high above two beautiful canyons. A few kilometres further we’ll arrive in Casaletto Spartano, which boasts one of the most beautiful waterfalls of the area, locally known as the ‘Capelli di Venere’ (Venus hair). At lunch time we arrive in Morigerati, where we can have a great lunch in the town square. After lunch we continue through the rolling hills for another while, but then end the day with a great descend towards the Gulf of Policastro. We end our trip in beautiful Scario.
Hotel – Scario – HB
Distance: 56 miles (90 km.). Elevation: + 1924 m./- 2240 m.
Day 8 Departure from Scario
The tour ends today after breakfast in Scario (unless you book an extension). A short private transfer takes you to the train station of Policastro, from where you can easily travel on to Salerno or Naples. A taxi transfer to other destinations can be arranged on request.
ACCOMMODATION & MEALS
All nights are spent in beautiful, characteristic hotels or agriturismo’s (generally 3-star). All rooms have en-suite facilities. Dinners are included on all nights except for the last one at Paestum.
No picnic lunches are included in the tour price, but these can be prepared for you by the accommodation holders, or materials for picnics can be purchased in the villages where you will be passing through.
• Accommodation (7 nights).
• Meals: 7 breakfasts, 3 dinners
• Extensive route notes, with description of the route & tourist information
• Maps at 1 : 50.000 scale (or better) ; GPS tracks (optional)
• 24/24 h local assistance
• Luggage transport
• Private transfers as specified
N.B. For those who transport their own luggage (E-bikes/hybrid bikes only) a discount is available.
• Departure taxes & Visas
• Travel Insurance
• Drinks and meals not mentioned in the itinerary
• Optional additional tours or activities
• Items of personal nature
• Bicycle rental (high quality road racing bikes. You may want to bring your own saddle and pedals)
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
Moderate (3): Moderately hard rides (to road cycling standards) with inevitably several climbs, some of which can be quite long and strenuous. All roads are well paved and mostly quiet with little traffic except for some short stretches. Extensions or shortcuts are possible on most days.
Fitness: Experience with road cycling and a good general physical condition are necessary to make your travel experience enjoyable. You should be able to cycle for several hours a day and long distances also in hot dry weather conditions.
ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE
Arrival: The tour starts in MONOPOLI which can easily be reached by train from either Bari or Brindisi, both cities with an international airport. From Rome (and many other cities) Bari, and thus Monopoli, can easily be reached.
Departure: The tour ends in SCARIO, in the southern Cilento. A short transfer can bring you to the local train station from where Salerno and Naples are easily reachable.
N.B. For those who transport their own luggage (E-bikes/hybrid bikes only) a discount is available.
|You can book this tour with a minimum of 1 person.|
|There are a very limited number of available places on these dates. Immediate booking is recommended.|
|Availability and prices on request.|
- Prices are per person and based on the season within which the first night of the tour falls.
- Prices are based on 2 people sharing double or twin accommodation. Single rooms (double rooms – single) are available on most trips however the supplements listed apply.
- If you are travelling alone then on some trips (which include taxi transfers) a ‘Solo Traveller Supplement’ will be applied instead of the normal single supplement.
- Prices are expressed in Euro’s. There will never be a currency surcharge.
- Actual exchange rates: GB £ - US $ - CAN $ - CHF - DKK - SEK - NOK - Other currencies.
This tour is only an example of a possible ‘Coast-to-Coast’ bike route from Puglia to Campania. It shows you some of the best parts of unknown southern Italy – but there are many perhaps equally beautiful areas to be discovered. This tour can therefore be adapted to your wishes and special interests.
It is possible to make a longer loop through the Basilicata, spend more time in the Cilento National Park, which offers infinite possibilities for some great bike challenges, and of course you can ride the famous Amalfi Coast. We strongly recommend to extend the tour with a few days (cycling) along the stunning Cilento Coastline – and perhaps on to Amalfi.
We also offer a tour which directly brings you from Puglia to the Amalfi Coast.
You can also book extra nights in beautiful places, such as Matera or Monopoli, or at the end of the tour to spend a few days at the beach. This tour can be used as a framework to create a personalised tour, longer or shorter, or with fewer different accomodations. Details and prices on request.
This tour is offered as a self-guided tour. It is however possible to organise this – or a similar, personalised tour, as a group tour, including a guide and a support vehicle. Also partly supported (only for the most challenging stretches) tours are available on request. Please contact us.
For small groups discounts are available.
It is possible to extend your tour with a few days at Salerno, along the beautiful Costiera Amalfitana or at Naples. Details and prices on request. Extra cycling and/or sightseeing options can be provided!
It is possible to book an upgrade in some of the places en route. Details and prices on request.