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Pedalling to Portofino and the Cinque Terre — sea and mountains

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Pedalling to Portofino and the Cinque Terre — sea and mountains

Bike Touring Collection by Michele Pelacci

7

Tours

49:28 h

444 mi

54,775 ft

‘I found my love in Portofino / Perché nei sogni credo ancora / Lo strano gioco del destino / A Portofino m'ha preso il cuor’ (I found my love in Portofino / Because I still believe in dreams / The strange game of destiny / Portofino has taken my heart): so begins "Love in Portofino", a 1958 song written by Leo Chiosso and Fred Buscaglione, which became a classic of Italian music in the 1960s.

These lyrics already contain everything you need to know about this wonderful Ligurian village. And if these words have made you want to set off on an adventure to Portofino and the Cinque Terre, you’ve found the right Collection. However, you should know that ‘Pedalling to Portofino and the Cinque Terre’ is much more than a simple trip along the Ligurian coast: climbs in the Apennines of Piacenza, a brief detour to Piedmont, Tuscan marble quarries and gravel descents back to the province of Parma are all part of this incredible journey, as much as the beach at Monterosso or the views of the Cinque Terre.

In this Collection, you deliberately go for the effort: over 700 kilometres (435 mi), almost 17,000 metres (55,800 ft) of total elevation gain, and at least four climbs (Monte Barigazzo, Passo del Chiodo, Passo del Vestito and Passo dei Due Santi) that are as challenging as they are spectacular. Each Tour is about 100 kilometres (60 mi) long with 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) of elevation gain: if you’ve got good legs (and a lot of courage), you can consider combining two stages. Those who’ve already cycled along the Ligurian coast know: there’s not a metre of flat land; no straights. The roads run up and down a unique landscape, often overlooking the sea.

There is only one point in this Collection that would be better with a gravel bike: the descent from the Passo dei Due Santi, in the seventh and final stage. Although the rest of the Collection is suitable for a road bike, there are two reasons why I recommend you opt for a bike with more rugged tyres: the asphalt on the roads is often not in the best condition and the surface through many villages (for example in the square in Portofino and on the bridge in Pontremoli) is cobbled or paved. In any case, don’t have too high a tyre pressure.

This is an adventure that combines very touristy areas with quieter places, such as the Garfagnana or the Piacentino Apennines, that are anything but busy for much of the year. Travelling in Liguria in July and August risks a bit of traffic in some sections, as well as considerable difficulty in finding places to sleep. Camping is also difficult in Liguria, a region where everything is built on top of something else. My advice is to book accommodation well in advance.

The starting point for this unforgettable week is Fornovo di Taro, a municipality in the province of Parma which is very well connected to the provincial capital of Emilia-Romagna and the rest of the Apennines. As well as being on a bus route (timetable available here tep.pr.it/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/92_94-Linea-2525-Fornovo-Gaiano-Collecchio-Parma-1.pdf), Fornovo is a stop on the so-called Pontremolese railway, which links Parma to La Spezia. This train also stops in other municipalities touched by the Collection, such as Borgo Val di Taro, Pontremoli and Sarzana.

Few places in Italy and the world combine culinary, landscape and cultural-historical riches like Liguria. This Collection crosses a large part of the Riviera di Levante, from the Gulf of Tigullio to the Sarzana coast, and goes past the legendary Cinque Terre and the Gulf of Poets. Natural parks, marine reserves, food and wine specialities such as focaccia di Recco are just some of the wonders to be discovered.

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Pedalando verso Portofino e le Cinque Terre – una settimana tra mare e monti

444 mi

54,650 ft

54,650 ft

Last updated: May 3, 2022

Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Fornovo to Bedonia via Barigazzo — cycling towards Portofino and the Cinque Terre

    Difficult
    05:57
    60.2 mi
    10.1 mph
    7,600 ft
    6,425 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    The first stage of the Harvest begins at the Fornovo di Taro station, which is not an unforgettable town in terms of beauty, but being very well connected it constitutes a strategic starting point. Immediately after starting, leave the Taro Valley and enter the Ceno Valley. The road climbs gently for

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    by Michele Pelacci

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  • Difficult
    07:35
    61.8 mi
    8.2 mph
    8,200 ft
    7,700 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The second stage of this collection also presents a nice climb, a real challenge on asphalt: about a dozen kilometers after leaving Bedonia it skirts the Taro, in the locality of Pontestrambo it turns right and begins the ascent of Passo del Chiodo. The hardest point is located near the town of Alpe

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  • Difficult
    06:59
    60.9 mi
    8.7 mph
    7,125 ft
    9,225 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    It is difficult to think of two places as opposite as the start and finish of the third stage. As beautiful as they are both, Montebruno and Portofino represent the two extremes of this journey: on the one hand the severe beauty of a remote Apennine village, on the other the sparkle of the yachts docked

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    by Michele Pelacci

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  • Difficult
    08:31
    68.1 mi
    8.0 mph
    9,450 ft
    9,400 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The fourth stage of this collection is the one with the greatest positive difference in height. It is also the only entirely Ligurian stop and certainly the most beautiful for sea lovers. The binge in Liguria begins with the crossing of Rapallo, then Zoagli, Chiavari and Lavagna: all names that those

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    by Michele Pelacci

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  • Difficult
    07:30
    63.0 mi
    8.4 mph
    7,475 ft
    6,650 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Already at the beginning of this stage you have to say goodbye to the Cinque Terre: leave Riomaggiore behind and go downhill towards La Spezia. However, if you want to take a last look at this type of landscape, take a detour towards Porto Venere: with its Grotta Byron, the town opposite the Palmaria

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    by Michele Pelacci

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  • Difficult
    08:04
    69.2 mi
    8.6 mph
    7,925 ft
    8,050 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The road between two of the most important municipalities of Garfagnana, Castelnuovo and Piazza al Serchio, is not bad, but this is a collection that needs passion. In other words: more climbing is needed. In the locality of Poggio, just below Monte Capriola, stay on the central road to get to Lake Vagli

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    by Michele Pelacci

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  • Difficult
    04:54
    61.3 mi
    12.5 mph
    7,025 ft
    7,350 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    Being the last stage, Pontremoli-Fornovo is the one with the least altitude difference, although it maintains the rule of "at least 2,000 meters". To exit Pontremoli, take Via Valli di Zeri, pass under the highway and start getting lost in the woods. If you love hiking, in Giaredo you can go up the Gordana

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    by Michele Pelacci

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    444 mi
  • Duration
    49:28 h
  • Elevation
    54,775 ft

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Pedalling to Portofino and the Cinque Terre — sea and mountains

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