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Cycling Via Francigena: Aosta to Parma

Cycling Via Francigena: Aosta to Parma

Overview

Cycling the Via Francigena pilgrimage route is one of the best ways to experience the unique towns, culture and landscapes of Northern Italy. The first part of the route takes you from the snowy peaks of Grand St Bernard to the fertile Pianura Padana plain, cycling throughout the rolling Piedmont hills and the river valleys of the Lombardy region. This section will introduce you to Italy’s Alps, scenic cycling roads, medieval castles, and cosy villages, where you will be able to enjoy the local cuisine and cultural sites. The trip is suitable for both beginner and intermediate cyclists, as the daily sections are on secondary roads with minimal elevation gain. You will be able to enjoy the surrounding fairy tale landscapes without being bothered by intensive traffic or exhausting climbs.

Highlights

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Aosta

The journey starts in Aosta, a Roman town located in a valley surrounded by mountains. Here you can contemplate the medieval city in the silence of the cloisters of Sant’Orso, or visit the impressive Roman theatre. To end the day, we recommend you take a walk through the centre’s alleys, admiring the high mountain peaks over the houses’ roofs.

Day 2: Saint Bernard Pass to Aosta | 40 km

Today a private transfer will take you to the jagged peaks of the Great Saint Bernard Pass, where Saint Bernard built the first pilgrim hospice: from here, you will descend to Aosta along a panoramic road with breath-taking views, pedalling first on a State Road and then through orchards and woods, crossing enchanting villages such as Saint Rhemy and Etroubles.  

  • Cycling for the day: 40 km, ↑105 m ↓1210 m
  • Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Aosta (Hotel Cecchin or similar)

Day 3: Aosta to Verres | 55 km

The itinerary continues across the valley floor, on the cycle path going along the River Dora, through castles and vineyards. Along the way, you will get to the enchanting Saint Germain castle, with its imposing Midday tower that used to defend the noble De Mongioveto family. From here, the itinerary continues to Verrès through breath-taking views.  

  • Cycling for the day: 50 km, ↑230 m ↓450 m
  • Accommodation: 3-star countryside hotel in Verres (Relais St. Gilles or similar)

Day 4: Verres to Roppolo | 40 km

Entering Piedmont, the alpine scenery gives way to the gentle Piedmont hills, as ascents and elevation gains become less and less challenging. You will switch from wood trails to typical towns such as Ivrea, with its nice old town centre and the tall tower of Santo Stefano. Continuing the ride you arrive close to the imposing Serra of Ivrea, the biggest European drift, until the nice village of Roppolo where a cosy, family-run bed and breakfast awaits you.

Day 5: Roppolo to Vercelli | 40 km

Today you enter an area of rice fields, which gets flooded from March till May, creating a fascinating landscape. The section is easy and enjoyable. You will visit the Bosco della Participanza (Wood of Community), whose name originates from the fact that the locals have been taking care of the wood together. We highly recommend you try the local Panissa dish.

  • Cycling for the day: 40 km, ↑35 m ↓205 m
  • Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Vercelli (Hotel Matteotti or similar)

Day 6: Vercelli to Vigevano | 55 km

Crossing the fertile plains of the Po river valley, you leave Piedmont, entering the Lombardy region. During the renaissance, Duke Ludovico Sforza ruled this land, and it is said he commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to design Vigevano’s beautiful central square. Get to know the locals as you relax at one of the outdoor terraces on the square. Today’s ride is flat and relaxing, giving you enough time to visit the picturesque town.

  • Cycling for the day: 55 km, ↑40 m ↓65 m
  • Accommodation: guesthouse in Vigevano (Locanda San Bernardo or similar)

Day 7: Vigevano to Pavia | 45 km

The greenway of the Ticino River, among the most important in Italy, will let you immerse yourself in wild nature, and if the weather is good, you may even sunbathe on the beaches or meadows near the river. You then leave the river to visit the Certosa di Pavia, a beautiful monastic complex built in the XIVth century. Before arriving at your accommodation in Pavia, one of the “pearls” of Via Francigena, we suggest you end your journey with a nice visit to the wonderful historic centre and discovering the young soul of the city with an aperitif in Piazza della Vittoria.

  • Cycling for the day: 45 km, ↑55 m ↓45 m
  • Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Pavia (Hotel Excelsior or similar)

Day 8: Pavia to Piacenza | 75 km

This section takes you through the flood plain of the basso Pavese, with its typical terraces. You reach the ford of Sigerico, the “transitum Padi”, where walking pilgrims are transported to the other bank: the cycling itinerary allows you to cycle along the river Po until Piacenza, entering the gate to Emilia Romagna, a land of great hospitality famous for its food and wine delicacies. Here you will be able to taste the famous charcuterie, washed down with a glass of  Gutturnio wine, and pass through the Porta del Paradiso to discover the Romanesque interiors of the Basilica.

  • Cycling for the day: 75 km, ↑115 m ↓120 m
  • Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Piacenza (Euro Hotel or similar)

Day 9: Piacenza to Parma | 100 km

Today’s longer but quiet, flat section leads you to Parma. Along the way, do not miss a visit to the Cistercian abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba, where you can stand for a few minutes, enjoying the silence of the cloisters or admiring the carved wooden interiors of the church. The ride continues among the Parma hills, at the footsteps of the Tuscan mountains, until arriving at the final point of your trip: Parma, the Italian province boasting the largest number of PDO and PGI gastronomic products and a great place to celebrate the end of your trip. 

  • Cycling for the day: 100 km, ↑65 m ↓310 m
  • Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Parma (Hotel Torino or similar)

Day 10: Departure

The trip ends after breakfast, unless you have booked extra nights or another section of the Via Francigena. 

What to Expect

Accommodation

Standard accommodation for this trip is in selected 3-star hotels in the larger towns, cosy, friendly B&Bs in the smaller villages, all in twin/double en-suite rooms. All places have been carefully hand-picked by us, and their quality is regularly monitored. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.

Click to view default hotels

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal or higher value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Breakfast is included each morning. When no restaurant is available on the route, lunches and snacks can either be bought from local shops, or packed lunch can be pre-ordered from your hotel the night before. Dinner is available either from the restaurant in your accommodation or in the town where you stay overnight.

Difficulty & terrain

The rides follow mostly well-asphalted country and secondary roads. Near larger towns, you can expect a bit more traffic. Average daily distances vary between 40 km and 75 km (the longest day is 100 km) with very low elevation gain (maximum 370 m per day). The trip is suitable for regular cyclists who have an active lifestyle (read more about difficulty grades). Once you arrive at your first hotel, you will receive a detailed information package, including a destination manual, route notes, and maps. Before the start date, you will also be sent GPS tracks, which you can load on any Garmin device or smartphone application that you are used to working with.

When to go

This trip is available from the beginning of April until the end of October, departing on any day of the week (subject to availability). During May, June, September and October in Piedmont, you are most likely to experience good weather with pleasant average temperatures of 20°C – 25°C. July is the driest and the hottest month with an average daily temperature of 27°C. Spring and autumn are magical in the famous wine-growing zones with a rainbow of colours reflecting off every hill and valley. Wine harvest in September and October is an ideal time to visit and taste the wines and drink in the atmosphere. Lombardy enjoys a classic continental climate – warm to hot in summer, cool to cold in the winter, with lovely seasons bookending them – autumn is colourful and cool; spring is also colourful and relatively warm. The most popular time to visit is in the summer, and you can generally enjoy temperatures 21°C – 26°C during the summer months. This is also when you’ll find large numbers of travellers. If you want to enjoy Lombardy without plenty of other tourists, head here in the autumn.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

Our recommended arrival/departure airport for this holiday is TurinMilan Malpensa and Milan Linate airports are also an alternative.

By train or bus

Arrival in Aosta: From any airport, get to the closest railway station. Torino, Milano and Geneva are all connected to Aosta by train (not direct).

Departure from Parma: You can reach Torino, Milano and Geneva by train. Check train timetables here.

Inclusions

Included

  • 9 nights in selected B&Bs and hotels
  • 9 breakfasts
  • Private transfer from Aosta to Great St Bernard Pass on Day 2
  • Luggage transfer on all cycling days
  • A detailed information pack, route notes and maps with tracks on
  • 24/7 phone support by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches and dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Bike rental
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Local tourist tax & entry fees (payable on the spot)
  • Personal expenses
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘Included’ in the programme

Options, extras & supplements

  • Supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room / single use of a double room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Bike rental, including bike assembly, delivery to Aosta, theft insurance, disassembly and collection from Parma
  • Extra nights

Bike rental

In case you would like to rent a bike from us, we can offer you a standard trekking bike, road-bike or E-bike. All our bikes are equipped with a front bag with a map holder and odometer. Additional panniers are bookable upon request.

Sample models: Kalkhoff Endeavour 27, Wilier Cento 1 Hybrid, Kalkhoff Endeavour 27 5B. 9G

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