June 10th - June 17th, 2017
September 23rd - September 30th, 2017
Flowers, palms, and Belle Epoque from Liguria to Monaco.
Tour designers: Andrea Marchesini
On this Magnifica cycling program we’re going off the beaten path, and for good reason. Between Cinque Terre and Portofino (east) and the French border (west), lies a thin, narrow, arch-shaped region that has the potential to become an adventure traveler’s favorite Italian destination. Liguria has an outdoor soul.
Aside from Cinque Terre, Liguria is not well known. The region has one of the highest population densities in the country and most people live in the coastal areas. While it is easy to think of Liguria as solely a coastal region, the territory has the Alpine mountain range just a few miles inland with several peaks over 5,000ft. When you Google Liguria you get overwhelmed with results for Cinque Terre. And while Cinque Terre is a hiking paradise, western Liguria is known in Italy as a great destination for cyclists thanks to its beautiful windy roads, stunning views, and mild weather.
Western Liguria is characterized by small resort towns such as Sanremo (yes, the one of the famous Milano-San Remo classic cycling race). We explore the gorgeous Riviera delle Palme (Palms Riviera) and Riviera dei Fiori (Flowers Riviera) - major destinations for Italian and European tourists since the early 1950s. This unique region is a beautiful maze of fortified medieval villages and small fishing towns with strong connections to the north and to Piedmont, and deep traditions of sailing, fishing, and trading on the Mediterranean Sea. Trading made Genoa one of the wealthiest places in the Mediterranean (and perhaps the world) between the XIII and XIV centuries.
Just when you get comfortable with Liguria, you’ll enter the French Riviera where a grand finale that takes us to Monte Carlo awaits. The Côte d'Azur has long been one of the great attractions for visitors to France, for the glamour, sunshine, beaches and sophistication of resorts such as Nice, Saint-Tropez and Cannes - a reputation that is well deserved. The Côte d'Azur is a lovely region to explore, with many lesser-known gems to discover among the more famous. We spend the last two days in this area but technically we do not finish in France. Monaco, being an independent principality, is not France. It is quite an extraordinary sight, seeing a small bay on the Mediterranean so completely crammed with highrise buildings, especially when seen from the cornice road above the city. Monaco has half the surface area of Central Park in New York and it is the richest country per capita in the world. Montecarlo, the luxury capital of the world and host city of the most famous F1 race circuit, has an interesting story that bridges fairytale and utopia. On the French side, we will tackle the notorious Col Madone, training ground of many cycling pros that call the French Riviera their home.
On this cycling tour you will encounter a fascinating coastline bustling with activity, scenic backroads, and many enchanting hamlets. History, art, culture and farming tradition are the elements of a week of stunning riding.
- Relax by the stunning beaches of Finale and Laigueglia
- Shopping in the Budello (tiny inner street), typical of the villages of the Ligurian Riviera
- Ride the coastal bike path from San Lorenzo to Sanremo
- Quench your thirst after a ride with delicious micro-brewed beers
- Discover Finale Ligure, Riviera’s outdoor capital and multifaceted medieval town
- Indulge in the thermal waters of Pigna
- Gran finale in Monaco
- Italy, the French Riviera, and Monaco in one tour
- Climb Col Madone and ride Milano - Sanremo final miles
- Two-night stay in luxurious Monte Carlo
- The Mediterranean diet prepared with the best Ligurian ingredients
- Delight in a wide variety of food from the area where the coast meets the Alps
- Sample lesser known but exquisite wines and visit Slow Food producers
- Learn about the rich history of Liguria and its key figures
- The history of Monaco and of Grace Kelly, the American Princess
- Ride and stop in 7 villages on the very special Prettiest Hamlets of Italy list
- Learn about and taste local extra virgin olive oil, which is the most delicate in Italy
- Savor authentic and exquisite Ligurian dinners at typical trattorias
Where: Finale Ligure
Ride: 15 mi or 24 km
Meals: L, D
You will be picked up at the airport and transported to Finale Ligure, a town with white sand beaches and lush mountains. The area has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era and important artifacts from the past are on view at the Civic Museum. Our hotel is located in the center of Finale Marina, just a few feet from the coast. By its elegant look you wouldn’t guess that it was a fish processing facility in 600’s! Finalborgo, the old part of Finale Ligure, dates back to medieval times in its actual shape, but every historical period and domination has left its mark and can be seen in the original architectural attributes, giving it a timeless feel. It has been recognized as one of the best-preserved hamlets in Italy.
Today’s warmup ride features a climb to Manie, a fertile high plane 920 ft above sea level. It is known for its agriculture: vineyards, olive trees, and fruit trees such as apricots and figs. The area known as Finalese extends around Finale from sea level up to 3280 ft. A series of steep valleys are surrounded by important rocky formations that have made Finale Ligure a world-renowned rock climbing destination. We’ll cycle the roads around the larger and smaller valleys that are abundant with mediterranean vegetation.
Dinner is at one of the best and most authentic Trattorias of Finalborgo.
Hotel: San Pietro Palace
Ride: 52/60 mi or 84/97 km
Meals: B, L, D
Today’s ride gains elevation via a steady climb up the Melogno Pass. This landmark is a fortification dating back to the Napoleon era. The road winds through a woodland filled with beech trees. Once we leave the busier coast, the secondary roads are almost unlimited and you can climb for several thousand feet. These peaks are actually the Ligurian Alps joining the Apennines and you’ll enjoy astonishing views from the top! In fact, every climb is rewarded with spectacular views. In Bardineto we will visit a local farmer and cheesemaker.
Our final destination of the day is Laigueglia, a charming seaside town that is very easy to visit on foot through its pedestrian strip that the locals call carrugio. A carrugio is a narrow alley where Ligurian coastal villages come alive with commercial activities, filled with bars and restaurants, and where Italian families leisurely spend their time when they are not sunbathing. We ride a loop that is the classic ride of local cyclists, featuring winding roads set among olive groves that have been cultivated into terraces in the mountain to compensate for the gradient of the slops.
Hotel: Hotel Splendid
Ride: 36/51 mi or 57/82 km
Meals: B, L, D
Today we head away from the coast and switch locations by cycling into the valleys and ridges heading east. The ride takes us climbing up a few passes with gentle grades, but expect some sudden steeper portions at times. The highest point will be by Passo del Ginestro (2221ft) where you will be rewarded with stunning panoramic views. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Corsica from the summit! We will stop at an olive oil producer for a visit and tasting. Ligurian olive oil is scarce in production but extremely high in quality. For riders wanting to do more, we have designed a beautiful loop of 18 miles and 1,800 ft of elevation gain. Our next hotel is Relais del Maro and it is an Albergo Diffuso, made up of dwellings distributed in the ancient village of the Maro. This type of accommodation is probably the best for charm and authenticity. This evening we’ll enjoy a delicious dinner at the local restaurant Censin Da Bea.
Hotel: Albergo Diffuso Relais del Maro
Where: San Remo
Ride: 45 mi or 72 km
Meals: B, L, D
Feel like one of the pros taking part in the Milano-Sanremo, one of the oldest (since 1907) and most prestigious races in Europe, on your ride today through Cipressa and Poggio. Our arrival in beautiful San Remo (the Italian capital of flower cultivation) will be the perfect ending to a fantastic ride! However, this ride wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Milano-San Remo museum. This museum is a rideable gallery that was once a railroad tunnel. It is a fantastic experience. Dinner will be preceded by a walking tour of Sanremo.
Hotel: Villa Sylva (alternative Nazionale Best Western)
Ride: 36 mi or 58 km
Meals: B, L, D
Today’s ride has three possible lengths with different elevation gains. You can decide with your guides which one will make your riding day the best yet. We will depart San Remo heading inland to Bajardo, Dolceacqua, and then Triora. Just upon leaving Sanremo, we’ll climb the infamous Poggio. Not an alpine climb by any means, but one where the dreams of Milano-Sanremo riders can become reality or be totally shattered. Triora is famous for its witch trials in the XVI century and is listed as one of the best hamlets in Italy; it is a magical place and we can take advantage of one of its local osterias for lunch before retracing our way back to our final destination: Grand Hotel Terme in Pigna. This area is called the Argentina Valley and it’s one of the best-kept secrets in Liguria. Our hotel in Pigna boasts a great outdoor pool (as well as an indoor one) with thermal waters that spring at 86F (30C). What better way to end a day of demanding, yet stunning riding in Liguria?
Hotel: Grande Hotel Terme - Pigna
Where: Monte Carlo
Ride: 50 mi or 80 km
Meals: B, L, D
It’s time to cross the border into France and to eventually enter the tiny country of Monaco, where we will spend the last two days of our tour. The ride starts by ascending the pristine Roya River Valley, and then deviates west to cross the Alps toward Sospel. You are now in France! Lunch is planned in Sospel (the Ligurian lunches unfortunately behind us). On the way to Monaco, we’ll stop in Menton, a charming seaside resort on the French Riviera. If time allows it, we will visit the Museum Cocteau -Collection Severin Wunderman (an American businessman of Belgian origin). We will pay a visit to a remarkable site before continuing on: Menton’s old castle cemetery. It is built atop the Colla Rogna hill, on the site of the old castle, above the old town.
The arrival in Monaco is breathtaking. It’s a rocky coastline only a few miles long with a cluster of high rises that are built inland just as far as the French border allows. The Princes Castle, Le Palais des Princes, reminds us that this is a country like no other. Our hotel is centrally located and affords a stunning view of the bay. We will explore Montecarlo with a guided tour before heading to dinner. You will learn about the pivotal role of the Casinò in the history of the Grimaldi Family. And of course the sad fairytale of the American Princess: Grace Kelly.
Where: Col de la Madone
Ride: 38 mi or 61 km
Meals: B, L, D
On our last ride we tackle Col de la Madone. This climb is used by many pro riders living in the French Riviera as a testing ground. But it was Lance Armstrong who made The Madone a legendary climb. The Texan used to frequent it in his preparation for the Tour de France. If he was able to set a good time, he knew he was ready to fight for victory at Le Tour de France.
The climb itself is quite consistent, with a couple of flat spots here and there and an average gradient of a little less than 7%. But it’s pretty easy to find a comfortable rhythm and tap away as you enjoy the views. If you’re the sort of rider that likes to stop and take photos, you’ll stop several times. But if you like to push yourself to the limit, the time to beat is 29 min 40 sec (Richie Porte – Team Sky).
Back in Montecarlo, we will have some free time to linger by the pool. Later in the afternoon we have a visit planned to Grimaldi Palace. A celebratory dinner awaits us in the old part of Monaco.
Hotel: Monte Carlo Bay Resort
Where: Monte Carlo
This morning we say good by, au revoir, and arrivederci. A group transfer will be arranged this morning to the Nice airport.
How to Get There
Airport/s - Nice, France (NCE)
Other transportation - Private transfer by Tourissimo from the airport to the first Hotel. Upon request, guests can be picked-up elsewhere (additional cost).
How to Depart
Airport/s - Nice, France (NCE)
Other transportation - Private transfer by Tourissimo from last hotel to the airport.
Recreational/Active/Athletic - Athletic: 40 to 65 mi a day along hilly terrain. Feel free to use the van for part of the day or on longer climbs.
In June, temperatures average 17C (63F) low / 23C (74F) max - precipitation probability 22%
In September, temperatures average 17C (63F) low / 24C (76F) max - precipitation probability 28%
Tour Program Cost (All Inclusive)
Tour price per person in double room is USD 4,650
Private room surcharge is USD 775
Please contact our office if:
- The tour you are interested in is scheduled to start within 90 days
- You would like to make this tour private
- You would like to choose your own dates
• Bikes equipped with Garmin GPS (choice Bianchi road carbon or hybrid; Ebike for an extra charge)
• Two professional tour guides throughout the program
• All accommodations
• All breakfasts, all lunches and all dinners
• Wine and beer with meals, coffee, cappuccino, and gelato stops
• Support vehicle during the tour and luggage transfer
• Shuttle at the beginning and at the end of the tour
• All activities mentioned in the day-by-day description
Info about food and wine, and Slow Food products