14 great roads in Italy (and some extras from the community)

Italy: country of contrasts. Snowy mountain roads, meandering coastal paths, sleepy country lanes, and grand engineering masterpieces: great Italian roads come in all shapes, sizes, and weather conditions.

Aah Italy! Country of tenderly sung arias, passionately gesticulated conversations, very affordable dough magic, and extraordinary countryside. For those who have not yet had the opportunity to discover the country, we’ve selected ten of our favourite roads in Italy for you to ride and savour. Mind you, these are not the best roads we’ve ever ridden - but scenery-wise, these are some (hidden) treats you wouldn’t want to miss. Enjoy!

Finish off the mix with a topping of rough-and-ready tarmac, and you have a playground best explored on adventure bike. But don't just stare at fantastic photography and wistfully gaze at road descriptions. You can use any of these roads in our very own Trip Planner. Get inspired and plan your next trip now for free.

SS38, Bormio – Passo Della Stelvio

Twisty, Technical, Terrifying


Location: Provincia di Sondrio, Italy
Length: 15km
View: 4/5
Surface: 2/5
Pleasure: 4/5

Think of Italy and its mountains, and the word ‘Stelvio’ pops up inevitably in the next sentence. At an elevation of 2.757 meters above sea level, it is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps - only just surpassed with 13 meters by the French Col de l’Iseran as highest of the Alps.

The famous side is the south side as it is featured on about every picture of the pass you find on the internet. And rightfully so, as it never ceases to amaze. The backside, coming from Bormio, is however also rather pretty - it might not be the best known, but for us motorcyclists it's the nicer side.

Imagine equally beautiful views, but with a lot less tourists and cyclists. Watch out for mountain goats crossing the road, though. When you arrive at the top, don't forget to have a sausage at Richard's stand. He's The Original!

P.S.: don’t plan your trip on the last weekend of August, or the first weekend of September, as the whole pass will be shut down for any traffic except for bicycles - during the annual Stelvio Bike Days. You’re very welcome.

See the SS38, Bormio – Passo Della Stelvio.
 


 

SS163, Amalfi Coast Road

Famous, Opulent, Jam-Packed


Location: Città Metropolitana di Napoli, Italy
Length: 43km
View: 4/5
Surface: 3/5
Pleasure: 4/5

Only visit the Amalfi coast in the shoulder seasons. Its world-renowned status as a classic coastal route makes it prey to traffic jams in high summer, but it is still a joy to ride when empty. The route is narrow and twisty, so expect peg grinding if you're on a cruiser.

See the SS163, Amalfi Coast Road.
 


 

SP86 Arischia - Fonte Cerreto

Scenic, curve after curve! 

Location: Provincia dell'Aquila, Italy
Length: 18km
View: 4/5
Surface: 3/5
Pleasure: 4/5

An astonishingly beautiful road which carves through Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga and lies in the shadow of the Gran Sasso massif. Well, not literally as it is sun-soaked for most of the day, but you get the point, right?

The park is one of the largest protected areas in Europe, and is defined by its very rocky landscape, which in winter times is covered by large amounts of snow and whipped by the unremitting wind. Riding up the SP86 from Arischia, you are being watched upon by the Corno Grande around every bend in the road - which isn’t so surprising, as it is the tallest peak on the Italian Peninsula (2.912 meters).

Prepare for 18 kilometers of ever-winding road on decent but far from perfect asphalt, which will treat you to marvellous scenery on both sides of the road shoulders. An ideal stretch to clear your head while the sun is setting.

See the SP86 Arischia - Fonte Cerreto.


 

SP10, Monte Terminillo

Switchbacks, Spaghetti Curves, Limestone Hills


Location: Lisciano, Italy
Length: 36km
View: 4/5
Surface: 2/5
Pleasure: 4/5

Limestone rocks of the western Appennines surround you on the SP10, south east of the city of Terni. Attempt this central Italian hillside pass on an adventure bike. The road surface on the Leonessa side was poor back in 2010, so ride it north to south and leave the best till last.

See the roadSP10, Monte Terminillo


 

SS103, Variante de Craco

Hills, Farmland, Bonkers Bridge


Location: Provincia di Matera, Italy
Length: 5km
View: 4/5
Surface: 2/5
Pleasure: 3/5

A bit of an oddball in this series. In fact, the five kilometers we’ve selected is merely a very short part of a road that is basically just a road. The oddity is hidden - well, in plain sight - in the exceptional piece of Italian engineering which lifts this road to a whole other level. Literally.

As where anywhere else in the world they would have just pulled a stretch of asphalt road through the surrounding fields, here they build a bridge which tilts the road above the valleys. Needless to say, visually it's great. So we will not complain.

Majestically sitting on top of the mountain, you can spot the sand-coloured ghost town of Craco, which might be worth your time for a detour. Just take the Strada Comunale Stigliano at the end of our road and twist your way up the mountain for a short visit to the ruins.

See the SS103, Variante de Craco.
 


 

SP251, Casteldelfino – Passo Del Angelo

Tight, Quiet, High


Location: Provincia di Cuneo, Italy
Length: 19km
View: 4/5
Surface: 3/5
Pleasure: 4/5

A slim single-track road in north-east Italy cuts over the French border to make the third highest pass in the Alps. Despite its headline altitude, it remains one of the more obscure Alpine routes. Good thing, too. It's best to ride Passo Del Angelo soon after it opens if you want snow-capped peaks like the ones here.

See the SP251, Casteldelfino – Passo Del Angelo.
 


 

SP51 – SP370, Cinque Terre

Famous, Coastal, Jam-Packed


Location: Provincia della Spezia, Italy
Length: 25km
View: 4/5
Surface: 3/5
Pleasure: 4/5

The Cinque Terre is a great National Park with the five colorful villages - cinque means five, remember - overlooking the sea. It is situated in the Liguria region of Italy, and comprises Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The road connecting those five is not the one we’ve picked for you, but it does pass by them in a very appealing way: twisting and turning in the mountains above the villages, looking over the Italian Riviera as you go. Brilliant bit of riding.

However, the area is really really busy because of the many tourists and they are currently looking into limiting the amount of visitors in the villages. So if you want to see it, better plan your ride outside of the summer season.

See the SP51 – SP370, Cinque Terre.
 


 

SS17bis, Fonte Cerreto – Campo Imperatore

Grasslands, Big Views, Switchbacks


Location: Provincia dell'Aquila, Italy
Length: 21km
View: 5/5
Surface: 3/5
Pleasure: 4/5

A gracefully swaying, 21 kilometer long stretch of asphalt, over and through mountainous pastures - with breathtakingly beautiful views over the Apennines in any direction.

Beware of the wild horses and sheep as you carve your way through the landscape, while passing by Italy’s oldest wintersport area, knowing that The American and The Name Of The Rose were shot in this area. Will treat you to one of the most stunning sunsets you’ve ever witnessed, if you’re willing to wait.

After that, you might want to consider going for a ‘castrato’ at a local restaurant, which is exactly what the name says: castrated lamb stew, with tomato, wine, herbs (not rarely with the expensive, but locally cultivated saffron), onions and celery. The intestines are roasted separately in an oven. Sounds appealing, right?

See the road SS17bis, Fonte Cerreto – Campo Imperatore.
 


 

SP638, Passo Giau

Monolithic, Spectacular, Single Track


Location: Provincia di Belluno, Italy
Length: 19km
View: 5/5
Surface: 3/5
Pleasure: 5/5

Jagged peaks of the Dolomites dominate your horizons on Passo Giau. The cracked and crazy peak of Gusela rises like a monolith over the pass restaurant, and a path leads over the moor to its base. Keep an eye out for cyclists on the road, and check the weather before you start out.

See the SP638, Passo Giau.
 


 

SS18, Maratea – Sapri

Coast, Sunset, Romance


Location: Provincia di Salerno, Italy
Length: 14km
View: 4/5
Surface: 3/5
Pleasure: 4/5

We admit, the SS18 from Maratea to Sapri is not the Amalfi coastline, but you might enjoy it even more because of the lack of tourists and the at least equally splendid seaside scenery.

The road we’ve pinned out takes you alongside the instep of The Boot, which is flanked by cypresses and stone pines at one side of the road, and the Mediterranean sea on the other, as it twists and turns to stay out of the reach of the incoming waves. If you’re in for a coffee stop, Cersuta - around halfway - might be the spot which can quench your thirst.

As a dish on the side there’s always the Cristo del Redentore road - Rio might be famous for its Cristo Redentor, but Maratea, little village on the coast of Potenza, also has one. And the road leading to it must have cost around ten times more to construct. Not the best road you’ll ever ride, but if you're around have a go at it! Hairpins galore and those seaside views… Mamma mia!

See the SS18, Maratea – Sapri.
 


 

Etna Middle Road – Via Catania

Quiet, Volcanic, Lava Gravel


Location: Provincia di Catania, Italy
Length: 16km
View: 4/5
Surface: 3/5
Pleasure: 3/5

Riding to Mount Etna on a visit to Sicily? Consider using this road instead of the well-known SP92. Here, you'll find fewer curves, but fewer buses too. Easily missed when exiting Nicolosi, turn right at the fork before the mausoleum and continue down Via San Nicola.

See the Etna Middle Road – Via Catania.


 

SP71, Chia Coastal Road

Wonderful coastal road.

Location: Provincia di Cagliari, Italy
Length: 23km
View: 5/5
Surface: 4/5
Pleasure: 4/5

We honestly believe there’s not a region we’ve visited which has more MD-roads so close to one another than on the island of Sardegna. Which makes it incredibly hard to pick a favourite - although the coastal road from Chia won’t be far off.

Starting of in the ancient village of Chia, which used to be an important Phoenician and then Roman centre named Bithia, you cut along the southern coastline for more than 20 kilometers, dissecting the emerald-green sea from its mountainous and covered in green counterpart on shore.

You will be gobsmacked by the sheer beauty of this part of the island. At the end of the road, turn right to Teulada and follow the SS195 - another stunning MD-road - back to Chia. Tip on the house: pay a visit to the magnificent seventeenth century coastal tower in Chia, built by the Spanish crown against the incursions of the Barbary pirates.

From the tower, overlooking the coast, there is access to a long stretch of sand interspersed with small coves framed by dense vegetation and lapped by an emerald-green sea, a true spectacle of nature that will remain forever in your heart. Whatever you do, don’t forget to bring your swimming gear and a towel.

See the SP71, Chia Coastal Road


 

SS125, Urzulei - Cala Gonone

 Ofthen in the clouds and in winter, yes, sometimes closed for the snow

Provincia di Nuoro, Italy - 25Km

To wrap it up, we’ve selected another one out of the Italian treasure chest called Sardegna: the SS125 from Urzulei to Cala Gonone. Arguably the best part of the fabulous SS125, because of the amazing views from up above the Park Forresta de Montes.

Road conditions leave a lot to wish for, but the fast winding mountain road and accompanying scenery make up for that manco instantly. Grab a coffee in one of the many bars in the Cala Gonone port, ride the road back and forth, and repeat - you’ll love it.

Do yourself a favor and check the weather forecasts before you head out there, as the upper part of the SS125 tends to be up in the clouds or fog if the weather is turning. You wouldn’t want to miss out on seeing this one, believe us.

See the SS125, Urzulei - Cala Gonone


 

Colle di Gran San Bernardo

Mountains, Snow, Smooth Surface


Location: Valle d'Aosta, Italy
Length: 20km
View: 5/5
Surface: 4/5
Pleasure: 4/5

Typically opening in the last days of May, the Great St Bernard Pass is one of the must-ride Alpine experiences. At 2469 metres, it's the third highest pass in Switzerland. But we think the Italian side takes the biscuit for most interesting ride. But be quick: it might close again in September.

See the Colle di Gran San Bernardo.

 


 

Roads from the Community

The Motorcycle Diaries community is forever adding new roads, pictures, and reviews to our atlas of great routes. It's thanks to these users that the site's content is always being updated with roads to discover and trips to ride. Becoming a member of the community is completely free. Here are a few of the roads that riders like you have shared on the site.

 

Central Sicily and Madonie

Historical, Twisty, Castle Views


Location: Provincia di Palermo, Italy
Length: 101km
View: 4/5
Surface: 3/5
Pleasure: 3/5

Visiting Sicily? Then factor this route into your trip. Roberto Puglisi has put together roads that take you through the bendiest areas of this volcanic island. Ride south-east to north-west for the best views of Madonie Regional Park.

See the Central Sicily and Madonie.
 


 

Passo San Marco

Solitary, Single Track, Closed in Winter


Location: Olmo Al Brembo, Italy
Length: 43km
View: 4/5
Surface: 3/5
Pleasure: 5/5

Thanks to Marco Baratta for uploading this 43km mountain pass just west of Lake Como. He marks it out as being a peaceful and reflective experience, although we're not sure how peaceful it would be on a Ducati Hypermotard!

See the Passo San Marco.
 


 

Translessinia

Nice and easy dirt-road

Location: Provincia di Verona, Italy
Length: 27km
View: 4/5
Surface: 2/5
Pleasure: 4/5

Another ‘odd man out’ in this shortlist is the 27 kilometer long Translessinia, which has the worst road surface of the ten roads we present you today. Not surprising, as it is to be ridden on gravel all the way through the Parco Naturale Regionale della Lessinia. Don’t worry though, every piece of this ‘strade bianchi’ is perfectly doable on normal road tyres.

Apart from the immaculate scenery, this area also contains interesting prehistoric and paleontological evidence as well as geological features which are unique, for instance the spectacular Ponte di Veja, the "Covolo" of Camposilvano, the suggestive rock city of the Valley of the Sphinxes and the terrifying chasm of the "Spluga della Preta".

To be enjoyed in all tranquility as not too many cars will dare to drive up here.

See the Translessinia

 

 


 

Do you know a great road in Italy?


Share your favourite roads with the Motorcycle Diaries community by adding them to our road atlas. Upload inspirational photos and a short description and you could be in with a chance of winning our monthly competition.

Each month we give away an Arai helmet, a set of Bridgestone tyres or a pair of REV'IT! gloves or boots to the users who submitted the best two roads that month. The author of each road wins either a set of Bridgestone tyres matching their bike, or a brand-new Arai helmet. This competition happens each and every month, so every month you have a new chance to win.

Get started here!

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