The Downhill World Cup and the World Enduro Series don’t keep coming back to northern Italy for no reason.
Between the Dolomites to the east and the Alps to the west, the north offers as much trail diversity as anywhere in the world, whether you’re looking to send it downhill, escape into the forests or keep things flowy, there's something for everyone who loves to mountain bike, and the views will take your breath away.
Looking for where to start? We’ve teamed up with Green & Blue, a new initiative set up to promote adventure sports in the region, to give you a bit more information and highlight some of the best trails in Northern Italy.
1) Explore Endless Trails Bordering France and Switzerland in Piemonte
Piemonte is the second largest region in Italy. It is the “door" to the Western Italian Alps and borders both France and Switzerland. The whole region offers a wide range of sport opportunities including spectacular mountain bike routes, at all levels, in every type of environment and with top quality of services such as bike hotels, bike rentals and guides.
The Alpine resort of Bardonecchia is a true paradise for bikers and sport lovers, who can try their hand at a number of disciplines such as mountain bike, downhill, free ride and cross country. Two chairlifts and a gondola provide access to over 400km of tracks from an altitude of 1300 meters up to 3000 meters. Two Junior Parks make of Bardonecchia a perfect family friendly destination. We’d also recommend some of the shorter rides though. The Sentiero Paradiso is a route with some notable climbs but a lot of fun descent. The drop overall is 409m from start to finish, and it’s an incredibly panoramic route.
Sauze d’Oulx is a great area for freeriding and jump lines. The huge mountains on view from the trails will leave you staring on in disbelief. Just make sure you concentrate if you’re about to hit a kicker.
2) Ride From The Dolomites Down To Venice In Veneto
80 percent of the bicycle industry in Italy is based in the Veneto, and 29% of the entire place is mountainous terrain. This is an area that is big on bikes.
There are four main routes around Veneto. The Lake Garda – Venice route focuses on art. L’Anello del Veneto route is a trip which provides beautiful views of both water and land. La Via del Mare takes you along the Adriatic coast, and the Dolomites – Venice route provides the most spectacular views of all, taking you right through the famous mountain range.
The region also has a programme for seven day trips which allow cyclists to take in all of the above at a steady pace. One of the best has to be the Heart of the Dolomites bike tour. The route explores a range of mountain passes as well as offering up some sensational gastronomic options.
3) Explore 1000km of Stunning Trails in Emilia Romagna
The majority of the Emilia-Romagna region is either hills or mountains. It’s an area which includes part of the Apennine Mountains, one of the highest peaks of which is Monte Cimone on the Tuscan border.
Cimone offers a lot of great riding, although the trails in the area are largely aimed at cross-country and enduro riders. The trails are mostly natural but there are a few built-up features in there to bridge the gaps, and they’re also lift-assisted, giving you the best of both worlds.
Huge cross-country loops are a speciality of the area. There’s more than 1,000km of stunning XC trails and terrain in Cimone, and there’s a new trail, White Shark, which you can ride down from the highest point of the uplifts, Pian Cavallaro. Have your camera at the ready.
4) Ride in the Shadow of the Matterhorn in Valle D’Aosta
Cervinia offers a brilliant mix of park-style trails and natural, flowy mountain bike lines. It’s home to the Maxi-Avalanche each year, a race which starts on the snow of the 10,000ft high Plateau Rosa glacier and descends the whole way back down to the village at around 3,500ft, taking in four seasons of terrain and trail along the way. With the Matterhorn – or ‘Monte Cervino’ – dominating the backdrop of the route, you won’t be forgetting it quickly.
Pila in Aosta, near Gran Paradiso national park in the Aosta Valley, will also be a destination well known by any particularly keen downhill riders. It’s hosted the UCI Downhill World Cup Series twice and is full of technical challenges, not least the stunning 11km descent from the top of the mountain to the valley floor.
The La Thuile MTB Natural Trail Area, location of the fourth stage of the Enduro World Series 2017, extends over a vast area which starts at 2,600 meters above sea level at the foot of the Chaz Dura peaks and descends more than 1,200 meters to the village of La Thuile, a total of 220 km of accessible track and trails, some of which are open during the winter season for fatbikes.
5) Head to the Stelvio National Park in Lombardia
Lombardia is renowned for the road cycling and in particular, for Stelvio Pass, but if you head there for the mountain biking we’d recommend going to Livigno, where you’ll find over 1,500km of singletrack reaching 1,815m high in the Stelvio National Park.
That huge trail map spans out over an enormous 10,000 square kilometres. And you really get everything you could ask for somewhere or other within the trails network – whether that’s exposed mountain runs and views, switchback trails, forests or more technical riding.
The Sentiero Valtellina is a great hybrid trail combining a smooth, flowy ride with technical sections and quick turns to keep you sharp on your feet (or saddle, as it were). The trail weaves between forests and clearings and really is a great hidden gem. It’s one of those all-out charge moments which reminds you exactly why you love mountain biking.
6) Ride From Trails Back Through History In Friuli Venezia Giulia
Friuli is a playground for anyone who loves adventure sports. The Friulian Dolomites are themselves a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the diversity of the trails they offer are just as impressive as the views themselves (well… almost. The views are very impressive).
Mountain biking is available, as in all of the above, for downhill, enduro and cross-country riding. Some of the trails even cross national borders. The Alpe Adria cycle route takes you from Salzburg in Austria to the Adriatic Sea in Grado. Perfect if you want to add a bit of time in the ocean to your mountain bike trip.
The Alpe Adria trail will take you into the green forests of the Prealpi Giulie Natural Park, and when you’re not on the trails you’ll find yourself mixing history with stunning scenery. You’ll pass through historic cities and see the Venetian squares and palaces of Udine, the fortress town of Palmanova and the beautiful Aquileia – a Roman colony dating back to 181BC.
7) Ride The Enduro World Tour’s Favourite Spot In Liguria
Finale Ligure is often touted as one of the best mountain bike destinations on the planet. When you get there, it’s not hard to see why. The place is filled with trails of all variety and for every skill level – it’s as welcoming for cross-country enthusiasts as it is for lovers of singletrail. Hence why it’s one of the most hotly anticipated stops on the Enduro World Series pretty much every year. Right on the coast of Italy, the town of Finale Ligure is charming in itself. But move a little into the mainland and you’ll find yourself right in the mountains – 1400m above sea level and with more than 400km of the world’s best trails at your fingertips.
The Neanderthal Trail is also worth noting down. It’s actually built on a trail which was inhabited in prehistoric times and flows into an old toboggan run which is a whole lot of fun.
You certainly won’t be short of options though in Finale Ligure, but if you do want to see more of Liguria, San Remo on the French border is also great for mountain biking, with a range of downhill and enduro trails including the famous descent from Mont Bignone to San Romolo.