Cycling itineraries: in this article we would like to suggest three different routes in Eastern Liguria to satisfy all sorts of excursionists. Get on your saddle between Santa Margherita and Sestri Levante, passing via the Portofino Mount, from a family outing to a mountain bike adventure on the Portofino Park paths, adding in a more “road” style ride too (still keeping in touch with nature, of course).
Why cycle in Liguria?
“The bicycle’s likableness derives from the fact that no invasion was ever made by bike”
I think that this quote by Didier Trochet is perfect to describe a means of transport which is by its very definition “green”, with zero environmental impact and yet allows us to travel quickly and get some exercise at the same time.
If we then unite the charm of the bicycle to a region like Liguria, an ecstatic essence of sea and mountains, well then the spiritual rapture that the two-wheeler provokes here is assured!
Let our bike itineraries inspire you:
Imagine yourself on your bike in Liguria, travelling along a sun-drenched road, the road dominating from above a bay kissed by pristine white surf. Suddenly, you turn off, heading onto a path in the middle of a green field, glistening with morning dew. You pause, because you could be confusing dream and reality – everything seems just perfect. But it really is perfect, because the cycling itineraries of Liguria are journeys where you discover wonder (find out more about the chances to explore the Outdoor side of Liguria with us).
Cycling is universal (also thanks to the e-bike)!
Anybody can take part in a ride across our beautiful region – you don’t need to have worn the pink jersey or have won the Tour de France. Liguria is a land with many different landscapes and it is just this characteristic that allows us to choose the cycling itineraries that are best suited to your ability and fitness level.
What is more, the advent of the E-bike, the electric bike or equipped with pedal assistance, opens up a lot more possibilities, even for the least active cyclist.
1 – A family ride – Santa Margherita Ligure, Villa Durazzo and Portofino
For this itinerary, the suggested starting point is our bike Hub in Via Maragliano 41 in Santa Margherita Ligure, where you can also rent bikes and E-bikes with all their accessories, including helmets. If you already have your own gear, you can park by the San Siro sports fields and start off from there.
It is an easy route, so traditional bikes are fine to use too, even for kids.
Villa Durazzo park is just a few hundred metres from our Hub and is both a green and pedestrian area, but bikes are allowed in. The splendid eighteenth-century Villa Durazzo – Centurione is well worth a visit, located in its dominating position over the quarter named Corte.
Once we exit the park, we will continue along the promenade towards the East and you can make a stop at the Piazza del Sole – a great chance to taste a piece of focaccia and enjoy the marvellous view over the gulf of Santa Margherita Ligure.
From here you can return westwards towards Hub or, if you are still energetic and would like to keep pedalling, continue on the panoramic road towards Portofino (which was destroyed by a sea storm in October 2018 and rebuilt in record time), taking extra care with the traffic and the narrow passages. Remember that normally in the village of Portofino bikes are not permitted, so be sure to check with a traffic warden.
After a coffee in the famous piazzetta you will be ready to come back. From April to October don’t miss a stop off in Niasca, where we have our water sports centre (where you can hire kayak, paddle boards or snorkeling gear).
2 – Nature and Adventure – by MTB on the Portofino Mount
One of the most famous bike itineraries for intermediate or expert riders, yet accessible for enthusiasts as well, thanks to the assistance provided by E-bikes (contact us to try our electric mountain bikes).
It’s a beautiful 20 km long circuit, with an important height difference, including an elevation gain of around 800 meters. Here are the regulations regarding the use of bikes in Portofino Park.
For this itinerary, once again we will depart from our HUB in Santa Margherita Ligure, this time equipped with a mountain bike, helmet and a good supply of water and snacks in our backpacks.
1st stretch: Panoramic ascent Santa Margherita – Portofino Kulm
We will start off pedaling uphill straight away, heading along Via San Lorenzo, a road open to traffic with a marvelous view over the Tigullio and Portofino gulfs. The ascent will take us on to the Via Aurelia di Ponente so that we can quickly reach the village of San Lorenzo della Costa.
We recommend a pit stop here at Adriano’s bar, next to the church devoted to San Lorenzo. After a long upward slope, an espresso is just what you need to get your energy levels back up.
Starting off once more, the ascent continues but here the road is gentler and once we have gone through the Ruta tunnel, we will find ourselves on the crest above Camogli in the Paradise Gulf (here we tell you about a road bike itinerary that continues from Ruta down to Camogli) . We will proceed along a turnoff on our left that rises towards Portofino Kulm, a grand hotel, protagonist of a bygone era.
The climb gets harder again as we are about to reach the summit of the Portofino Mount, or, to be more precise, the apex accessible to cars. The real peak is a few hundred metres above and requires a challenging uphill trek to reach it.
After not a small amount of effort, we will reach the great hotel. Sadly, Portofino Kulm is now closed and abandoned, but once upon a time was a holiday spot for the nobles and princes of half of Europe, as well as hosting poets, writers and many beautiful ladies. One of its most illustrious guests was Italian writer Gabriele D’annunzio who, not liking the foreign name that the hotel had, proposed changing “Kulm” with “Vetta”, or summit.
2° stretch: dirt track to Portofino
Now our outing gets decidedly more interesting. From the Kulm we will descend to Portofino by way of the paths that dominate the entire mount, going beyond Pietre Strette, Bocche and Olmi.
It’s a long, downhill dirt track, completely surrounded by the splendid nature of Portofino Park, a regional nature reserve. Along the way we will pass a couple of water fountains, so don’t worry if your water supply starts to become scarce.
With our MTB we will easily reach the tiny church of San Sebastiano, beautiful with its “risséu”, a sort of typical Genoese cobblestone mosaic that decorates church courtyards and the gardens of the ancient Ligurian manors. San Sebastiano is the ideal spot for a final break before going down to Portofino.
Once you reach the village, you will return to Santa Margherita Ligure by way of the coastal road.
3 – Road bike experience – Sestri Levante
The Tigullio gulf is shaped as a true amphitheatre facing the open sea, rich in extremely panoramic cycling routes. The gentle hills enviously embrace the gulf, each studded with villages and hamlets with their tiny churches, like an enormous nativity scene. The via Aurelia, built around two thousand years ago by the ancient Romans, borders the Gulf as if it were an artist’s drawing.
All roads lead to Rome as they say – the Aurelia really does! – but on this bike route we will limit ourselves to reaching Sestri Levante, around 30 km from Santa Margherita Ligure.
It is one of the most suitable bike itineraries for road bikes, but lovers of MTB too will certainly enjoy themselves, given the many uphills that there are in the first part. Personally I prefer to do this route on a mountain bike.
Here too you’ll need a helmet, one (or two, which would be better) water bottles and a few snacks.
1st stretch, Santa Margherita – Chiavari: it’s up and down, but worth it for the view!
Having left Santa Margherita Ligure, after a short uphill slope you will immediately behold a wonderful sight: the tiny fishing village of San Michele di Pagana. Coloured houses and splendid villas will accompany our ride towards Rapallo, which emerges shortly after, nestled in its valley. Rapallo is the largest city in the Tigullio area and is the sixth largest municipality in Liguria in terms of size. Founded by the ancient Romans and rich both in ancient and recent history, it certainly deserves to be visited.
We will continue on the Eastern via Aurelia towards Chiavari and here the more difficult uphills will start, always accompanied by a splendid view over the Gulf.
Before reaching Zoagli we have to pass through a long tunnel that is often poorly lit, so please take great care here.
Once we have left the tunnel, a descent overhanging sheer sea cliffs accompanies us towards Zoagli, a little village known for its vast labyrinth-like town square and its pretty seaside promenade.
The uphill is not far away and here you will certainly feel its effects; now the road becomes a series of ups and downs that cyclists call “leg breakers”. Speaking about cyclists, we will meet quite a few on this route as it is one of the most popular stretches with biking enthusiasts. Please do always try to stay in single file so as to keep safe.
2nd stretch, Chiavari – Sestri Levante: a lovely ride on the flat!
Once we have arrived in Chiavari, all we need to do is cross the city and steer towards Lavagna, from where a long straight stretch starts, parallel to the railway. A particular characteristic of the Ligurian railways is exactly this – it’s incredible position with an amazing sea view.
A few more turns of our wheels and we will have arrived at our destination, Sestri Levante, known as the city of the two seas because only a thin sliver of land separates its green peninsula from dry land. On the Tigullio gulf side there is the Baia delle Favole – the bay of fairy tales – whereas facing East, towards the Cinque Terre, is the poetic Baia del Silenzio, or bay of silence.
Sestri Levante is a pretty little town and certainly deserves a visit and here we will have a moment of relaxation before taking the train back to Santa Margherita Ligure.
In Liguria, the transportation of bicycles on regional trains is free and every train is equipped with a dedicated space suitable for bikes, usually found either at the start or end of the train.
Safe cycling itineraries:
The bicycle is a marvelous means of transport, both cheap and ecological, but let’s not forget that when we set out on the road there are always vehicles and pedestrians and we need to respect the highway code. So remember to always wear your regulation helmet, check or get other experts to check your brakes and the state of the tyres. Equip your bike with suitable lights and always carry a repair kit for the inner tube with you, or a replacement in case of a puncture.
Observe the rights of way and traffic lights and, if you are using a rental bike, do treat it as if it were yours.
Enjoy yourselves on the streets of beautiful Liguria!