Acre, sprinting along the sea
The first stage starts from the captivating village of Rocca Imperiale Marina, not far from Policoro and the Metaponto plant that was part of Magna Graecia. It is the most northerly centre in Calabria and is famous for its PGI lemons. Before you leave, also make a journey to Rocca Imperiale, the village perched with its houses in tiers around the fortress.
Follow the coast along the SS106 to the Sibari plain, where stopping to visit the interesting Sibaritide Archaeological Museum is always worthwhile. Then moving inland, head straight for the Sila massif. This is where the climb begins. The first stage concludes in Acri, at an altitude of 1041 metres.
San Giovanni in Fiore, capital of Sila
The second day begins with a series of somewhat gentler climbs than the previous day. You will be happy to have left behind the steepest slope. The trail runs through the centre of the Sila National Park and borders Lake Cecita, the largest lake on the Sila plateau at 1143 metres.
Today's destination is San Giovanni in Fiore, regarded as the capital of Sila. The gradients here are significant but the scenery will reward you. The town owes its foundation to a monastic community, and is an active religious centre in Calabria, thanks to the presence of the Florense Abbey, built in Romanesque style with a Gothic portal. The crypt containing the urn with the remains of Joachim of Fiore is located at the high altar. Don't forget to taste the celebrated Sila cold cuts, capocollo and soppressata.
Catanzaro, downhill at breakneck speed
Leave San Giovanni in Fiore and head south towards Lake Ampollino, flanking the shore overlooked by Villaggio Palumbo, a well-known Calabrian ski resort. Get ready for the long, breathtaking descent that will take you from the dense forests of Sila to Catanzaro.
On the city’s outskirts you can find the remains of the ancient Magna Graecia and later Roman city of Skylletion, home of Cassiodorus. The Isthmus of Catanzaro is the narrowest strip of land in Italy.
The centre is packed with churches, squares and stately palaces. Catanzaro is also known as the “city of bridges” because of the many viaducts that connect the various districts. At the table, look out for chilli peppers, they can be found in almost all traditional dishes. And it is a real local delight.
Siderno, cycling by the sea
A few kilometres by bike and you're at the sea, at Catanzaro Lido. When you reach the Gulf of Squillace on the Costa degli Aranci, slow right down and take in the view. The central part of the coastline is full of white granite headlands that form caves with fascinating seabeds full of colourful fish.
Stop for a swim in Copanello on the beach at Caminia or visit one of the villages along the coast, like Stilo, where there is a small Byzantine church. Today's stage is all flat, so make the most of the sea journey to Siderno.
Canolo Nuova in Aspromonte
The ascent of Aspromonte to the Zomaro plateau is challenging but is punctuated by counter-slope sections that will give you a chance to catch your breath. After Agnana village, the climb continues steadily with gradients of up to 10% before and after the village of Canolo Vecchio. It is the most tiring part of the trip, but is also among the most beautiful for the amazing landscapes you will cross.
Stop to taste the local bread in Canolo, called pane di jermanu. This is the geological site known as the Southern Dolomites with three 100-metre-high rock towers, the Zagaria Caves and the southernmost peat bog in Europe. One more push to Canolo Nuova to stop at one of the typical restaurants.
Villa San Giovanni, the toe of the boot
From Canolo Nuova, at a height of 900 metres, the route runs along the entire ridge of Alto Aspromonte, bordering the most notable peaks: Monte Scorda, Monte Misafùmera, Monte Fistocchìo. At the foot of Monte Scorda you will cross the Piani di Zervò with the village built in 1924 to house the Sanatorio Antitubercolare: the good mountain air was a panacea for the sick.
This street is also called “road of the two seas” because from the ridge you can see the coasts of the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas. Finally, we take the descent towards Gambarie d'Aspromonte, the only ski resort in the Aspromonte massif and a starting point for great excursions on foot or by bicycle. The most fascinating path is the one that leads to the Amendolea waterfalls with three jumps that form crystal-clear lakes. Stop in Gambarie for some lunch and taste the local pecorino cheese. The rest of the journey is all downhill until Villa San Giovanni, the toe of the Boot.