Thoughts on Cycling in Puglia

I’m back home now, busy working on planning my summer bike trip to France. My birthday cycling trip to Puglia was everything I had hoped it would be–great people, great adventures, incredible food and wine, and great weather except for one day.  As wonderful as everything was on the trip, the experience did make me appreciate the incredible recreational bicycling network that’s being developed in France.  While car-free bike paths and well-marked routes may not be a big deal for serious biking enthusiasts who cover 100+ miles a day on road bikes, they are a big deal for recreational cyclists who are biking for fun and adventure, many times with families and carrying their own gear.

While a lot of our bike journey was mostly on quiet agricultural roads, part of the trip was on very busy roads with very little shoulder for safe riding.  Many years ago, this was the only choice available to recreational cyclists anywhere, thus there were very few of them.  It’s only been since the birth of voie verte, veloroute and Eurovelo that recreational cyclists have had a safe place to ride alone or with their families.  Unfortunately at this point in time, there just aren’t many car-free roads in Italy.

Italy is behind other European countries in the development of dedicated, marked bike routes for recreational cyclists.  Perhaps it’s because they are so busy trying to fund excavation of all the ruins like Egnazia.  Whatever the reason, the limited number of safe bike paths will continue to limit the number of recreational cyclists traveling there.  Riding with a large group is always an option.

There are plenty of guided bike tour options for Italy if you are willing to spend $500+ day per person for your trip.  On a guided tour, all of the route navigation is done for you, bikes are provided, backup is there for you when you get lost, and you have a ride if the rolling terrain becomes too much for you. We actually met a family on our plane who were on their way to a guided tour in Sicily, three people at $550/day per person plus airfare. For most of us, spending this kind of money on a bicycling trip isn’t an option.

Italy is one of my favorite European destinations, but as a recreational cyclist, France will still be my number one cycling destination.

Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way....by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.

  1. We are planning a bike trip to Puglia in June. Does anyone know where to obtain maps of the best cycling routes? Thanks.

    1. Dear Barbara,

      I’m assuming that you have read my posts about biking in Puglia. For as incredible of an area as it is, there is very little information on regional biking available from the regional tourism office. There is a website, but it does not have any bike route information or maps. The best suggestion that I can give you is to buy the Michelin map of the region, and use Bikely at the following address: http://www.bikely.com/listpaths/srchkey/Puglia/country/119/region/2250 or even better, http://www.bikemap.net, and do a search for bike routes in Puglia. On Bikemap.net you can also do a keyword search for routes near the towns of Monopoli, Conversano, Alberobello, Ostuni, Lecce and Otranto. That should pretty much give you an idea of the routes in the area.

      There is also a ride that goes along the southern coast that I have read about, but I personally do not know anyone who has done the ride. Depending on the time of year, the traffic could be oppressive, and the winds daunting. Our favorite part of our trip was from Martina Franca to Ostuni, several days biking in and around Ostuni, and then the ride up the coast to Polignano a Mare. We biked there in March so there were no crowds and the scenery was spectacular.

      Unlike France, there was no biking on car free bike paths but there were many agricultural roads that we used that were very low traffic, safe and perfect for recreational cyclists.

      I hope that this information helps, and please let me know if you have any other questions!

      Maggie LaCoste

    2. Hi Jerry!
      Thanks so much for the note and the information on biking in Puglia! I definitely agree with you that biking in the region is an adventure, different than anywhere else that I have ever biked. If I make it back there some day, I will definitely be in touch with you!

      Maggie