Five places to visit when riding in Italy

As many of you will already know, Italy is a country of splendid contrasts.

From snowy mountain roads, meandering coastal paths, sleepy country lanes, and majestic engineering masterpieces: Italian roads come in all shapes, sizes, and weather conditions.

Instead of guiding you along the local MD-roads, we’ve opted to pick five POI’s - ‘points of interest’ - which might just lure you towards the former epicenter of the Roman empire. 

 

Sacra di San Michele

While some people believe you should stop at your peak, we believe you might as well use it as a perfect starting point. In this case The Sacra of San Michele, an ancient abbey built between 983 and 987 on the top of mount Pirchiriano.

The symbol par excellence of the Piedmont Region, this monument inspired the famous writer Umberto Eco to conceive his best-seller “Il nome della rosa” (The name of the rose).

From its towers, you can admire Turin and a breathtaking view of the Susa Valley. After worshipping the backdrop, we wouldn’t be surprised if you’re in for a ride in and through this sumptuous scenery.

Take for instance the neighboring Colle del Lys, the pass between the Val di Viù and Susa Valley.

Although being transformed into a winter sports destination when the first snowdrops out of the sky, the 30-kilometer long road connecting the above-mentioned valleys is endlessly winding, climbing and descending - and therefore is well worth your time and effort.

In a rather adventurous mood? Then the nearby Colle delle Finestre might offer just what you are looking for: a nice bit of gravely mountain roads. Well, a bit…

The road itself runs for tens of kilometers along the ridge that separates the Val Chisone and Susa valley and passes several mountain passes between both valleys including Colle dell'Assietta (2.474 m), Colle Blegier (2.381 m), Colle Costa Piana (2.313 m), Colle Bourget ( 2.299 m) and Col Basset (2.424 m) - needless to say you’ll make some altimeters, taking on this detour.

Cala di Pedra Longa

The truly stunning lagoon of Pedra Longa - Cala di Pedra Longa - lies about four kilometers east of the municipal area of Baunei, and 10 kilometers south of Cala Goloritze.

The beach - what’s in a name - has a rocky seashore, rendering it rather unsuitable for a relaxing day at the beach, but perfectly suitable for active adventurers who’d like to do some hiking, scuba fishing, scuba diving, or snorkeling with flippers to admire the underwater world.

The crystalline sea has a medium depth backdrop, which is characterized by the presence of rocky plateaus. Its fascinating color - somewhere between green and blue - gives it a rather magical touch, and makes it extra surprising that it almost never appears to be crowded.

Not even during the summer months. The Pedra Longa, or ‘tall stone’, got its name from the impressive calcareous pyramid made of limestone and dolomite that reaches up to 130 meters high above sea level. 

To get to the beach of Pedra Longa, just ride along the magnificent Strada Statale 125 towards Baunei.

At kilometer 153, just turn into the small paved road and proceed straight ahead along the pulchritudinous panoramic road, until you reach the rest area near the rock of Pedra Longa.

Park you bikes, grab your swimming suit and towel and descend the small path will lead you to the beach. Don't forget some refreshments, and enjoy it until sunset. A stunner. 

Orgosolo Street Art

If, besides enjoying an amazing ride throughout The Boot, you would like to explore the artistic side of Italy, then Orgosolo - located on the isle of Sardinia - may have just what you’re looking for.

No typical fresco’s in their original approach though, as the village serves as a canvas for murals and graffitis: around 150 of them are painted or sprayed on the walls of the houses and about every available spot in town.

The first ones were signed Dioniso - an art collective - and date back to 1969.

Since then many more pieces of art have been added, which makes the place well worth a visit. Especially for Motorcycle Diaries-aficionados, as even Ché is present... 

After your ‘cultural excursion’, we’d suggest to enjoy a glass of wine from the Cantina Sociale di Orgosolo. 

Rather take a ride? No worries then, as on Sardinia, the most ravishing of roads are never far away.

Only a few kilometers to the east, for instance, lies the MD Road from Urzulei towards Cala Gonone, a stretch of 25 kilometers which is arguably the best part of the fabulous SS125 - would you look at those amazing views from up above the Park Forresta de Montes?

To die for. Well, not literally, but you catch our drift.

Road conditions may leave a lot to wish for, but the fast winding mountain road and accompanying scenery make up for that manco instantly.

As Cala Gonone tends to be quite busy during summer months, you might want to check ‘the back entry’ we’ve found, a steep back-road leading you down towards the famous beach resort.

More fun and less tourists blocking your way with cars or campervans. 

Matera Old Center

Matera is one of those places that will always stay on your mind once you have visited, as it is unique for many different reasons.

For starters, this town in the Basilicata region has been inhabited continuously for about 35.000 years, making it one of the oldest cities in the world and one of the first places where people settled in prehistoric times in Italy.

Although that’s rather impressive, Matera might even be more known because of the cave houses - the so-called 'Sassi'.

These Sassi essentially form a kind of city below the city and are still inhabited to this day.

Well, some of them are, as most are being used as restaurants, musea, and shops.

No wonder Matera was the first place in Italy to be on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993. Not that its photogenicity had remained a secret to the film world: 

The Matera Sassi served as the backdrop for quite a number of movies: amongst them Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of Christ’ and ‘Ben Hur’.

But there’s another reason to visit the city, as - together with the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv - it has been named European Capital of Culture for 2019, which is not just a title: being the European Capital of Culture gives a city the opportunity to organize for a whole year a series of events with cultural interests and a pronounced pan-European character.

In short: go check it out this year!

If you fancy a bit of riding after your visit, we’d suggest you try a stretch of the nearby SS7 - which might be better known as the famous Via Appia.

While the road is famous and most people know it ends in Rome, few of them know it starts all the way in the south of Italy. The 34 kilometer part from Grassano towards Miglionico we’ve selected was resurfaced in 2008, which rendered it an amazing ride.

A must-try, as you’re around anyway!

Castel del Monte

The Puglia region in southern Italy, is a place which never ceases to amaze you with its splendor: peculiar cities, astonishing coastlines and a copious amount of majestic castles. 

Yet there is one castle that protrudes among all others, and that is talked about more than any other castle around: The Castel del Monte near Andria.

This octagonal castle from the medieval ages is valuable for a lot of different reasons, the most apparent being its very distinctive shape. 

The castle has eight octagonal towers, which also results in an octagonal map of the castle itself.

There are also theories that the structure was a worship of the relationship between humanity and God, since the octagon in the thirteenth century would have been a symbol of the unity of God and people. 

Furthermore, it served as backdrop for the movie 'The 9th Gate' with Johnny Depp, as well as being on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and you might even recognize it from the Italian eurocents (1 cent). Well worth a small detour. 

Want more inspiration in Italy?

Here are some previously published stories that you might enjoy!

 

Where next?

Explore the best roads & POI's around and plan your next trip based on those roads.

 


 

 

 

 

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