Starting today in Belfast and ending in just under a month in the Italian city of Trieste, the Giro d’Italia is one of the toughest cycling races in the world. One of the big three ‘Grand Tours’ alongside the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana, it’s a gruelling start to the cycling season. The Giro d’Italia starts outside Italy every other year, and this year is the turn of the Northern Irish capital to host the Grande Partenza (Big Start).
Those holidaying in Belfast might catch the opportunity to see the first stage of the event, which begins with a time trial, followed by a 128km leg which takes in the Giant’s Causeway, the Glens of Antrim, Armagh and then continues into Dublin. A carnival atmosphere is promised along the Irish leg of the route, so visit girostart2014.com to check out the best places to watch the race.
The rest of the race takes place in Italy, starting in Bari before moving up past Rome and on to Modena, and building to a gruelling finale in the Italian mountains before the finish in Trieste.
One benefit for spectators of this epic race is the opportunity to view the riders as they travel through some of the most picturesque countryside in the world. If you fancy glimpsing the main pack from a spot with a view, why not opt for a holiday on the Amalfi Coast, which should see riders passing through on May 15th. The race is set to travel along the west coast of Italy, passing through Salerno and the outskirts of Naples.
Around May 18th the race will travel from Lugo, just outside Ravenna, and then pass through the city of Bologna. Not as crowded as some of Italy’s other cities, Bologna has some great cultural highlights and is well worth including in an itinerary for any holiday to Italy.
After this, the race travels through Italy’s culinary region, taking in Modena (famous for its production of balsamic vinegar) and then Parma, where of course the local speciality is its divine prosciutto ham. Both towns offer the opportunity to visit factories where these delicacies are produced and stock up on gifts for home.
Head to the Italian Riviera around May 21st and you’ll get to see the race travelling close to Portofino with its gloriously picturesque pastel painted houses surrounding the harbour, and through Genoa, with its pretty seaside villas and busy port.
Finally the race heads north to the Alps for its most gruelling stages, including the notorious Stelvio Pass – one of the world’s most photographed roads and the second highest road in the Alps. It also features the Zoncolan, which is the steepest climb the riders will have to complete – reaching 25% gradient in places! For both these stages the atmosphere is set to be electric, with crowds lining the winding alpine roads and jostling for the best view of the pink jersey.