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The unexpected mountain – Ciclovia Parchi Calabria

Nicola Amadini

The unexpected mountain – Ciclovia Parchi Calabria

Bike Touring Collection by Nicola Amadini

10

days

2-5 h

/ day

349 mi

35,875 ft

36,675 ft

Located at the southern tip of the Italian peninsula, Calabria is one of the country's wildest and least populated regions. Bordered by hundreds of kilometres of sea (the Ionian Sea to the east and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west), it’s one of Italy's most mountainous regions and has a high level of biodiversity. The Apennine chain divides it in two from top to bottom. The proposed itinerary covers the entire region, following this mountain range and crossing the four parks that make it up: the Pollino, Sila, Serre and Aspromonte parks.

The 550-kilometre (340 mi) ‘Ciclovia Parchi Calabria’ (Calabria Parks Cycle Route) is entirely asphalted. It links small mountain villages that have suffered from intense depopulation over the years. This itinerary is part of an institutional project to promote the region through sustainable cycle tourism. It’s also a way of discovering the authenticity of the area as you pass through the forests of Calabria.

I've divided the route into ten stages to spread the 11,000 metres (36,000 ft) of positive altitude difference evenly. The Ciclovia Parchi Calabria can be ridden from spring to autumn. I would advise against the winter period, as snowfalls are frequent and temperatures are close to zero.

As more than half of the route is above 1,000 metres (3,000 ft), you should carry the necessary equipment to cope with rain and frequent thunderstorms.

The entire route is waymarked, but the signs are not always clear. Some signs point the way to the official route, even though they are not on it, which can be confusing.

In the small villages nestling in the mountains, the locals are very welcoming to visitors. Very attached to their land, they are keen to dispel negative preconceptions about their region by showing extraordinary kindness to outsiders.

Even if the towns are often far apart, you'll always find water points to fill your bottles. So don't worry if you don't see a single person or service for 30 kilometres (20 mi) or so.

To find out how to get to Ciclovia Parchi Calabria, visit the following website: cicloviaparchicalabria.it/en. It’s also useful for finding information on accommodation along the route.

The shade of immense forests will protect you from the sun for much of the route. This means you can cycle even during the hottest part of the day. However, be careful and take the necessary precautions in the event of very hot weather.

The starting point of the route is around 20 kilometres (12 mi) from several railway stations. The rest of the journey can be made by bus or directly by bike. For example, you can fly to Lamezia Terme, then take the bus to Cosenza, and finally cycle to Laino Borgo.

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Ciclovia Parchi Calabria – full route

343 mi

35,250 ft

36,125 ft

Last updated: September 23, 2023

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Tours

  1. Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Laino Borgo to Saracena – Ciclovia Parchi Calabria

    04:09
    33.7 mi
    8.1 mph
    4,250 ft
    3,175 ft
    Expert
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Your journey along the Parchi Calabria cycle path is about to begin, get ready to enter the Pollino park.

    

    Today's stage begins with a climb, which will be the steepest of the day. You will be in the best condition to face it.

    

    The first three kilometers make you gain altitude rapidly, while the rest of

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  2. 02:41
    24.6 mi
    9.2 mph
    2,450 ft
    3,250 ft
    Expert
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The second stage of the Calabria Parks Cycle Path is the shortest of the entire route, measuring only 40 kilometres. This gives you the best way to recover your energy and face the day with freshness.

    

    The start is downhill and the first seven kilometers run without the need to pedal, allowing you to prepare

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  4. 04:09
    37.1 mi
    9.0 mph
    3,300 ft
    2,200 ft
    Expert
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Leave the charming village of San Sosti behind you and begin the third stage of your journey along the Calabria Parks Cycle Path. The first kilometers of the day are very fast and flowing, with a favorable gradient that will allow you to proceed quickly.

    

    This stage could be considered as a transfer, since

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  5. 03:24
    27.1 mi
    8.0 mph
    3,375 ft
    1,400 ft
    Expert
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Get ready for an exciting challenge as you set out to climb the Sila and overcome 1,000 meters of altitude along a truly inspiring route!

    

    This stage is the wildest of the entire itinerary, as you cross a few inhabited centers and immerse yourself completely in the woods of the Sila National Park: a vast

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  6. 04:23
    40.5 mi
    9.2 mph
    3,425 ft
    3,500 ft
    Expert
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    After a tasty breakfast, start your day of cycling towards the south, and you will realize the immensity of the Sila National Park. Each pedal stroke confirms the greatness of this wonderful region.

    

    Along the way, you reach the highest point of the whole itinerary, located at over 1,600 meters above sea

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  7. 03:57
    35.8 mi
    9.1 mph
    3,850 ft
    6,100 ft
    Expert
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    After enjoying a hearty breakfast, everything is ready to start the final day of cycling in the Sila Park. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the woods and lush flora that characterize this region.

    

    Today's stage begins with a descent, giving you a splendid road that loses altitude with every meter for

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  8. 04:42
    40.3 mi
    8.6 mph
    4,725 ft
    4,925 ft
    Expert
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Wake up and have a nice hearty breakfast, because today a demanding challenge awaits you with almost 1,500 meters of positive difference in altitude to climb.

    

    This stage represents a transfer between the slopes of the Sila and the beginning of the suggestive Serre Regional Park. Halfway through the course

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  9. 03:30
    29.6 mi
    8.5 mph
    3,200 ft
    1,725 ft
    Expert
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today's stage is gentler than the previous one, even if the difference in height of the day is around 1,000 metres.

    

    Leave San Vito sull'Ionio and head towards the villages scattered in the Parco delle Serre. The climb to reach them is gentle and allows you to gain altitude without too much effort.

    

    I suggest

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  10. 05:09
    44.4 mi
    8.6 mph
    4,650 ft
    3,675 ft
    Expert
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today we enter the Aspromonte National Park!

    This stage is the most demanding compared to all the others contained in this collection, both in terms of length and elevation gain.

    

    The first few kilometers have a slight climb, which allows you to start overcoming part of the altitude difference required

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  11. 03:31
    35.5 mi
    10.1 mph
    2,650 ft
    6,725 ft
    Expert
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This is the tenth and final stage of the itinerary, which takes you south. Leave Rifugio Biancospino after a delicious breakfast and head towards the end of the mainland.

    

    The first kilometers allow you to warm up your legs with some easy ups and downs, to better face the first climb of the day.

    

    Today's

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    10
  • Distance
    349 mi
  • Duration
    39:34 h
  • Elevation
    35,875 ft36,675 ft

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