Bike trips offer a solution to over toursim in Rome
While the eternal city is preparing for the great event of the Jubilee 2025, the Sabina region of Lazio dedicates their beautiful journey for cyclists, from Assisi to Saint Peter's, to visitors looking for fresh experiences.
Millions of tourists travel to the Italian Capital every year to marvel at the monuments and churches spread throughout the chaotic city because, despite its faults, it offers unparalleled beauty.
The number of tourists arriving daily in Rome has accelerated beyond pre - pandemic numbers, so much so that the destination has been saturated to a point of over tourism.
Efforts are being made to respond to the demand and diversify the offers for tourists that come to Rome, in order to mitigate the negative effects of over tourism.
The unique and unforgettable heritage of historical, artistic, archaeological, naturalistic and gastronomic excellence that Lazio and neighboring regions proudly present will surely charm tourists from around the world.
One such option is the territory that played a large part in Rome's rich history. Sabina is a region dotted with small, picturesque medieval villages in between the lush hills that overlook the expanse of the Tiber valley.
Among the many initiatives put in place by local associations and administrations to intercept tourist flows destined for the Italian Capital, there is one that was inspired by the occasion of the previous Jubilee in 2015.
The idea was born from the experience of a cyclist and traveler and embraces both the theme of water and the name of Francis that unites the Pope of Rome and the Saint of Assisi.Rome and Assisi, the two world capitals of Christianity are united by "Assisi-Rome Via dell'Acqua," a journey that blends nature, history, art, archaeology and food and wine.
An itinerary that runs mostly along Umbrian and Latium waterways and connects the Spoletana valley, the Nera valley and the Tiber valley in a unique route that can be traveled by bicycle, on foot and for long stretches even on horseback.
These are the features of the Assisi to Rome Via dell'Acqua:
- 254 Kilometers
- 8 UNESCO sites
- 7 Abbeys
- 3 Archaeological sites
- 4 Sites of Community Interest
- 2 Former historic railways
- 2 Nature oases
- 10 Cities of art
- 8 Rivers and Streams
- The highest waterfall in Europe
- The 2 capitals of Christianity in Italy
- 25 Train stations for intermodal train+bike exchange
From Assisi to Rome (and Fiumicino) by bike along the Via dell'Acqua
(translation of an article by Manlio Pisu and published by Sole24Ore)
It is one of the finest bicycle touring routes in central Italy, capable of satisfying even the most discerning palates: from Assisi to Rome by bicycle with the rustle of water in your ear along 250km of paths between Umbria and Lazio that separate the two centers of Christianity.This is the Via dell'Acqua, a route that winds along the course of the Topino, Clitunno, Nera and Tiber rivers.
The combination of ingredients is unique: nature, history, art, landscapes, villages, spirituality, food and wine, adventure and a bit of hard work, but just a pinch.Photo Credit: Enrico Spetrino / Shutterstock.com
The degree of difficulty of the route is medium- low. The road surface is good, with well-maintained dirt tracks or asphalt. The uphill elevation gain (2100 meters in all) is surmountable even for untrained legs.
Add to this the fact that the route is well connected by rail (Assisi is an hour and twenty train ride from Rome with the possibility of loading bikes), and it becomes clear that the Via dell'Acqua, either as a whole or in individual sections, has the potential to establish itself as a best seller in the domestic and international bicycle tourism market.
From the Drava to the Nera
The project was created from the bottom up from the initiative of Alessandro Marrone, a lifelong cyclist. In 2013 he was cycling on vacation on the Drava cycle route from Val Pusteria (South Tyrol) to the Danube.
"Is it possible," he wondered, "that in central Italy nothing similar can be done? From there began a journey that led the "founder" of the Via dell'Acqua (The Waterway) from his hometown of Stimigliano in Sabina to "connect" and "stitch together" eight different cycle routes in Umbria and Lazio, eventually turning them into a single inter-regional route.
Today, the Via dell' Acqua is a mostly complete work, easily navigable even for inexperienced cyclists. While it is suitable for mountain bikes, e-bikes and gravel bikes, it is not recommended for road bikes.
There is a small, as yet unfished part: some (short) stretches of bicycle path are missing, from Marmore Falls to Terni and from Fiano Romano to Labaro, on the outskirts of the capital.The signage on the ground is decent until the Marmore. Then it is lacking or entirely absent.But, guiding the cyclist along the entire route is a very reliable Gpx track that can be downloaded for free. It can be accessed on a bike navigator (like Garmin) or even on a smartphone. By following the map, you will not get lost.Certainly, however, those who want to undertake this path should know that the route is, yes, beautiful, but far from the quality standards of cycling infrastructure north of the Alps.
The Umbrian Valley
Assisi's Art Nouveau-style train station can be the starting point for a multi-day cycle tour. But the ride can also be configured as a day or weekend excursion, moving from one of the many stations on the Rome-Perugia line.
Just off the train in Assisi, the cyclist finds himself immersed in the spiritual atmosphere that characterizes the town of the Saint.Photo Credit: Complexli / Shutterstock.comJust a few meters from the station, believers can win an indulgence from sins with a visit to the 33 C.E. chapel of the Portiuncula in the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli.From there it is worth climbing to Assisi on the slopes of Mount Subasio. Giotto's pictorial cycles decorating the walls of the Basilica of St. Francis (a Unesco site) leave you speechless. The village is enchanting, full of spirituality and pilgrims from all over the world.
Descending from the village, we begin to pedal into the wide Umbrian Valley. First stop in Cannara, where the small but valuable municipal museum holds great surprises. The all-flat pedaling along the waters of the Topino brings us to Bevagna, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.From there we pick up the path toward Spoleto. Our gaze rests on the hills of Montefalco and the Sagrantino vineyards, on Trevi and Pissignano. A small detour that is obligatory is to the Clitunno springs, the small lake of crystal- clear spring water at the bottom of the valley, sung in poetry from Virgil onward. A few meters from there is the small Lombard temple (a Unesco site). The first leg may end in Spoleto, another jewel of Umbria and another Unesco site - the church of San Salvatore.
The Spoleto - Norcia Path
From Spoleto begins one of the most evocative and adventurous sections of the Via dell'Acqua. It is the old railway, now decommissioned, from Spoleto to Norcia, active between 1926 and 1968.
A masterpiece of railway engineering from the 1920s, the track climbs up a slight incline, drawing several helical loops, to overcome the approximately 300-meter drop to the Caprareccia pass.
The pitch blackness of the tunnels gives the route a hint of adventure. In the tunnels the temperature plummets. A good flashlight is essential.
From the pitch black of the tunnels we return to the bright green of the Valnerina. The first village that pops up is Sant'Anatolia di Narco on the Nera, a tributary of the Tiber. There you take the Nera Greenway bike path. Along the river, the rustle of the current is music in the ears of the pedestrian. In quick succession are the villages of Scheggino, Ferentillo and Arrone.
A short detour takes you up to Umbriano, the abandoned village that gives Umbria its name, and the abbey of San Pietro in Valle, now converted into a small charming hotel.Descending further, the Nera reserves one of its most impressive spectacles: the Marmore Falls, the artificial waterfall created by the Romans in the 3rd century B.C. by diverting the waters of the Velino River to drain the marshy basin of Rieti and obtain arable land to be allotted to legionnaires at the end of their service in a sort of ante litteram welfare system. It is a place beloved by Lord Byron, one of the protagonists of the eighteenth-nineteenth-century Grand Tour of the Peninsula: Narni, Corot and the Augustus Bridge.
From Narni on down, the Nera again gives its best. Beneath the town that inspired C.S. Lewis for his Chronicles of Narnia stand the imposing ruins of Augustus' bridge (27 B.C.).
Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, a mid-nineteenth-century French landscape painter, was so fascinated by it that he depicted the ruins in more than twenty paintings, scattered throughout France.
At Stifone, in the Nera gorges, topped by the abbey of San Cassiano, the river takes on emerald green and cobalt blue colors.The route then slopes down into the Tiber valley to Orte, passing the lake of San Liberato (ornithological oasis) and the archaeological site of Ocriculum.
The Tiber Valley
At Orte the Nera flows into the Tiber. Here the landscape opens up. The ride speeds through the Sabina.In the background is the unmistakable profile of Monte Soratte. Rome is a stone's throw away.
The Tevere- Farfa nature oasis and the archaeological site of Lucus Feroniae are the last attractions before entering the metropolitan area, where at Labaro you take the Castel Giubileo bike path to St. Peter's.
- Vatican Museums open late on Friday and Saturday nights
- In Italy, the Dante Train traces poet’s journey from Florence to Ravenna
The Regina Ciclarum - Finis Terrae
For those who still have strength in their legs, the route can be extended to the mouth of the Tiber at Fiumicino. Just follow the Regina Ciclarum, a new bicycle path that leads from the center of the capital to the Tyrrhenian Sea.Photo Credit: Sergio Di Pasquale Luci / Shutterstock.comTo end on a high note, the ancient Roman port of Claudius and that of Trajan, with its (for the time) futuristic hexagonal basin, unique in the world. Then a mix of fried fish and calamari on the port- canal of Fiumicino. Happy pedaling!
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