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Cycling tourism

Riding your bike from Milan to Sanremo

Nothing is missing along this itinerary inspired by a great cycling classic: from the city overlooked by the Madonnina to the Riviera dei Fiori.

10 October 2022

3 minutes

The history is calling, the soil with its delicious fruits is calling, the unforgettable sports exploits are calling. 

It is a world-famous race that marked the history of cycling. We are talking about Milan-Sanremo, a 293Km course, hence a totally unpredictable competition. Anyone of the professional riders lined up at the start can take the victory. But the amateurs who do not have any competitive ambitions can experience it in another way. They can pick a section of the very long route and combine their ride with some cultural visit or wine-tasting. There is plenty of tips. Let’s have a look. 

1. In Pavia, where you breathe the history

From the Velodromo Vigorelli in Milan, the course heads directly south. A few kilometres into the route the Certosa di Pavia, a monastery in both the Gothic and Renaissance styles with a renown sculpted marble façade, welcomes you to the city lying along the Ticino banks. Those who feel like getting off the saddle, can spend some time at the Basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro, one of the most renowned medieval landmarks in Lombardy. A historical note: the church displays the remains of Saint Augustin, and in 1115, Frederick Barbarossa was crowned King of Italy there. Not far, the Visconti Castle is worth a visit. It is another city jewel that hosts the Civic Museums, including the Risorgimento Museum and the Pinacoteca Malaspina. A short walk towards the river and you find yourself in Piazza della Vittoria, an open air ‘lounge’ surrounded by small restaurants, cafés, and Palazzo del Broletto – a marvelous example of medieval architecture and the oldest one in Lombardy (dating back to the 12th century).

2. In Upper Monferrato, embraced by scenting vineyards

As you are pedaling southbound, past Voghera, the Po valley gives room to the hills of the Apennines. Then, you reach Ovada that heralds with its narrow alleys the ‘nobler’ coastal destinations. There is however another reason to halt in this town: its rich culinary and wine tradition based on local produces. After all, we are in Upper Monferrato, land of wines (just two mention two: Barbera del Monferrato DOC and Dolcetto di Ovada DOC), truffles and mushrooms. A warning: it is not an ideal lunch before tackling the next sector of the race that becomes testing. Here the route climbs up to the Turchino Pass, 532m of altitude. While the elevation gain is not so demanding (346 metres), the 25 kilometres of ascent risk undermining your body strength. If you decide to deal with it, let the memory of a cycling exploit drive you – in 1946 Fausto Coppi pulled away on this very climb and crossed the finish solo.

3. Along the Riviera di Ponente, between the sea and the hills

From the Turchino the fast-running descent onto Genoa Voltri flattens out along the West coast and the course runs through iconic tourism towns in Liguria: Varazze, Albenga, Imperia, San Lorenzo al Mare. If you turn your eyes to the hillside overlooking the sea, you might feel like veer to the mountains. If this is the case, let yourself be tempted and steer off the official itinerary. You will ride on roads nested between cliffs overlooking the coastline, woods of umbrella pines and centuries-old olive trees, natural terraces with panoramic vistas. If you’d rather continue along the Milan-Sanremo course, just know that you are about to deal with the toughest section of the race. Three famous Capi await you: Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta, three promontories that wrote the history of this race. And then the course takes in two climbs: the Cipressa (over 5.6km, with an average gradient of 4.1) and the Poggio di Sanremo, with 9km to go: a 3.7km ramp with an average gradient less than 4 percent and maximum 8 percent. Mind the technically testing descent. You will ride on asphalt switchback road, narrow at points, and with twists and turns that require caution. In Sanremo, as the very final part of the course unfolds, you can drop your guard and stretch your legs, possibly by going for a walk in the old town, the so called “Pigna”, and stopping by at the Regina Elena gardens to enjoy a view of the sea.


By RCS Sport editorial staff.

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