10 of the best stops on the Giro d’Italia, Italy’s answer to the Tour de France

While the Tour de France hogs all the attention, Italy’s own bike race, the Giro d’Italia, has been quietly creeping onto people’s radars. You don’t have to be a cycling fan to appreciate the beauty of the route’s stops, which cover some of Italy’s most appealing cities.

Here’s a guide to this year’s top spots in the race, which runs from 11 May to 2 June.

Bologna (11-12 May)

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Bologna has that near-perfect combination of superior food – some of the best in Italy – glorious architecture and an ambience that hasn’t been spoilt by too many tourists. Match your pace to that of the Bolognesi as you stroll along 40km of porticos past medieval and Renaissance architecture and into Piazza Maggiore. Then dive into the maze of medieval market stalls in Quadrilatero before following the route of the cyclists all the way out to the sanctuary of San Luca.

Where to stay: Hotel Metropolitan has modern rooms and a romantic roof garden just off Via dell’Indipendenza. Doubles from €135, B&B.

Just 20km south of Rome is Frascati, one of the 17 towns that make up Castelli Romani, surrounded by the Alban hills. When not touring the town’s wineries and tasting the crisp white wine that’s made here, explore the Ville Tuscolane, the stately villas built during the late Renaissance and early baroque periods. Many are scattered around the vast, sprawling Parco del Tuscolo, which also harbours an ancient Roman theatre.

Where to stay: Set in Parco del Tuscolo, Villa Tuscolana Park Hotel has comfortable, traditional rooms, sweeping countryside views and an outdoor pool. Doubles from €94, B&B.

Vasto (17 May)

Parts of Italy’s Adriatic coast can be a bit monotonous, but the town of Vasto in Abruzzo stands out. Overlooking the sea is its historic upper town, with Renaissance palaces and its main Piazza Rossetti (named after native poet Gabriele, father of Christina and Dante Gabriel). Head down to the sandy beach and look out for wonderfully wonky trabocchi, large wooden contraptions set up for catching fish.

Where to stay: Residenza Amblingh is a beautiful little boutique hotel in an 18th-century mansion with views of the Adriatic. Doubles from €109, B&B.

Ravenna (21 May)

This former capital of the Western Roman Empire has a compelling Byzantine legacy among its eight Unesco-listed sights – the countless mosaics that cover the interior of the sixth-century Basilica di San Vitale. Even if you’re not a history buff, the laid-back cafés in the ochre and terracotta Piazza del Popolo will win you over. 

Where to stay: M Club is a cosy B&B just a few seconds from the basilica. Doubles from €90, B&B.

Modena (21 May)

The birthplace of Pavarotti, Ferrari and the world’s best vinegar is a joy to explore, particularly its medieval centre crowned by a wondrous Romanesque cathedral. Once you’ve been truly awed by the Duomo in Piazza Grande, give your senses another kick with a visit to the food stalls of the Mercato Albinelli. They’ll set you up for Modena’s exceptional dining scene. As befits the capital of so-called Motor Valley, it’s home to the futuristic Enzo Ferrari Museum.

Where to stay: Vittorio Veneto 25 has six stylish rooms designed by local artists in an early 20th-century villa. Doubles from €127, room only.

Courmayeur (25 May)

One of the Aosta Valley’s premier ski resorts is just as much fun once the snow melts. Mont Blanc looms over the town, offering hikes for all levels. For a less strenuous but still exciting way to get the best views, take the Skyway Monte Bianco cable car, which reaches the air-thinning height of 3,462m. 

Where to stay: Hotel Berthod has traditional rooms, most with balconies, in the centre of town. Doubles from €95, B&B.

Como (26 May)

This ancient town in the south-western corner of Lake Como is a genial place to take in the beauty of the surrounding mountains and lively lakeside life. The Gothic-Renaissance Duomo is one of the most impressive in Italy, and the town also has a funicular that takes you up to Brunate for fabulous views of the lake.

Where to stay: Palace Hotel offers old-world glamour overlooking the lake. Doubles from €200, room only.

Commezzadura (29 May)

Set in the Val di Sole, this mountain commune is neatly sandwiched between the Stelvio National Park and the Adamello Brenta Natural Park. That means knock-out views courtesy of the majestic Dolomites, and mountain bikers can tackle some of the toughest tracks on the World Cup circuit. If that sounds too much like hard work, take the Dolomiti Express train up to the top and then cycle downhill. 

Where to stay: Monroc has modern, streamlined rooms with wooden interiors and balconies, plus a spa. Doubles from €135, half-board.

Treviso (31 May)

Visitors to Venice tend to use Treviso’s airport as a cheap transport option and rarely, if ever, set foot in this overlooked city. Within its 16th-century walls there’s an enchanting little network of canals as well as the River Sile and the buzzing Piazza dei Signori. Don’t miss Canale Cagnan, with its own fish market sitting on a little island in the canal.

Where to stay: The comfortable rooms at Relais San Nicolo have all been creatively furnished in the style of a different city. Doubles from €110, B&B.

Verona (2 June)

The Giro d’Italia ends with an exciting time trial on the World Cup Torricelle circuit before finishing in dramatic fashion in Piazza Bra in front of the remarkably well-preserved Verona Arena. Once the cycling circus packs up, that’s your cue to explore Verona’s Roman, medieval and Renaissance sights on both sides of the River Adige, including the ancient Roman theatre and the 14th-century Domus Mercatorum. Much of Verona’s pleasure comes from wandering through its historic squares, including Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza Dei Signori. Diehard romantics can always join the crowds at the Casa di Giulietta in front of that balcony.

Where to stay: Le Suite di Giulietta has elegant rooms, some of which have views of Casa di Giulietta’s balcony. Doubles from €140, room only.

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