Cyclotourism in Apulia: six cycle paths cross the region

by | Oct 9, 2021 | Apulian News

Puglia, a land of extraordinary beauty, is crisscrossed throughout its entire extension by countless cycle paths, as it is a land of fervent cycling tourism. There are six official FIAB cycle paths that lead from northern Italy to Puglia, crossing the region in its entirety.

The Adriatic bike route, which takes its name from the sea that runs along one side of the region, runs along the entire coast, reaching the southernmost tip of the heel of the boot, touching Santa Maria di Leuca and intersecting with the Apulian Aqueduct bike route, one of the most famous in Italy. At this point it intersects with another cycle route, the one that follows the historic paths of the Via Romea-Francigena, which crosses the entire hinterland and then ends on the coast of Brindisi. More recently created is the Alta Murgia cycle route. The Bourbon cycle route, on the other hand, connects Naples with Bari. To the north of Puglia, the Apennines cycle route is characterized as one of the longest national routes, which connects the highlands to the parks of the peninsula, leading up to the Gargano National Park. In addition to these, there are other “less official” routes available to cyclists, which combine national cycle paths and cycle-pedestrian routes that follow in the wake of ancient sheep tracks.

These “special roads” are paths specially designed for those who want to make a journey of discovery of the region moving only and exclusively on the pedals. Apulia is characterized in its beauty and thanks to the mild and pleasant climate as an ideal region to discover on two wheels. Precisely for this reason, cycling tourism has taken hold in recent years.

For those who want to discover the entire extraordinariness of this region by bike, it is a land still partly wrapped in the healthiness of the air, in the naturalness of its landscapes. There are therefore several routes available to lovers of cycling, we list the most interesting from the cultural point of view.

ROUTES AND VIDEOS


Daunian Mountains

A short distance from the border between Molise and Puglia, the Adriatic cycle route leads to Fortore. The territory in these places testifies to the atavistic conflict between man and nature. Here, natural paths have been purposely left to allow animals to move comfortably following the ways of nature. From the valley of Fortore, one crosses a path rich in poplars and willows. The naturalistic value of these ecological connections is high, allowing you to breathe deeply. Along the Francigena cycle route, used by men in ancient times to reach Rome, we meet Accadia, a small town in the province of Foggia, a precious historical and architectural testimony of ancient civilization. Abandoned village after the earthquake, it represents a historical testimony of the ancient peasant civilization. It is the setting for various musical and cultural events that are held periodically. Paved streets and intricate paths make even more interesting moments in this village made of houses clinging to the mountain.

Gargano Promontory

Leaving from the Adriatic cycleway, on this route we meet Torre Mileto, of Aragonese origin, guarding against the continuous enemy incursions from the sea. At the foot of Torre Mileto three cannons recovered from the sea, dating back to 1600. A short distance away, on the shores of the lake, 25 km away is the town of Lesina, a small village with just over 6000 inhabitants. A fascinating footbridge over the lake, allows you to reach San Clemente, the archaeological site that preserves the ruins of an ancient Roman villa dating back to the second century AD. From here you reach the hairpin bends climbing the Gargano, the most challenging part of the route. The coast is high and rocky, with alternating cliffs, caves and other enchanting phenomena such as the famous “Grotta Sfondata” whose overhanging wall has collapsed as a result of karst. The fatigue is soon rewarded by the extraordinary beauty of the landscape: this route climbs the Gargano offering a fascinating breathtaking view overlooking the sea rich in cliffs, caves and typical karst landscapes. Cavities, stacks, natural arches such as that of San Felice, are characteristic elements of the area. Suspended between land and sea the trabucchi, evidence of an ancient fishing method, now in disuse.

Tavoliere of Apulia

The cycle route of the Apennines takes you through a fascinating middle ground, between Torre Maggiore and the Sub Apennines of Dauno, immersed in an articulated agricultural mosaic with large vineyards and vast wheat fields and occasional orchards. The Gargano promontory on the opposite side dominates the view and offers an enchanting view of San Severo. Descending curves and carriers of the promontory, the Adriatic cycle route leads on flat and straight roads near the oasis of Lake Salso, coastal area with large expansion tanks and basins made during the reclamation carried out during the reform of the table. Annually the territory is characterized from the passage of approximately two hundred species of birds and represents one of the humid zones to greater interest of the Mediterranean basin. To the borders with the oasis the marshy swamps of the Frattarolo swamp are characterized as the basin of expansion of the Candelaro torrent. The bicycle path of the Saline drags instead towards a landscape of salt and water that frames the landscape with colors of great charm including white and red fused together in contrast to the green of the narrow and elongated coastal gardens, delimiting the famous Saline of Margherita di Savoia. The area is frequented by the elegant pink flamingos, whose flight enhances the white coloration of their famous plumage due to the small crustaceans they constantly feed on, contributing to the coloration of the waters of the same salt pans.

Ofanto Valley

After travelling along the coasts of Apulia for about 250 km, the Adriatic cycle route leads to the mouth of the Ofanto river, where the pylons of the cableway tell of the historic transport of salt between the salt pans of Margherita and Barletta. This landscape testifies to the importance of the reclamation and canalization activities carried out over time that allowed the development of intensive agriculture alternating with strips of uncontaminated land. The Borboni cycle route connects Naples with Bari, running along provincial and municipal roads. In this route we meet the Locone dam of relevant naturalistic value, with suggestive colors at dusk. To make from contour pine forests of anthropogenic origin, alternating with herbaceous vegetation low shrubs and formations of Mediterranean scrub. Continuing on the same cycleway you discover the town of Minervino, outpost of the Murgia on the eastern side, also called “the balcony of the Murge”. Going along the cycleway at sunset you can enjoy the suggestive view of the town.

Central Apulia

From the cycleway of the Bourbons to 11 km from the city of Bari, we meet the site of San Felice in Balsignano, an ancient ecclesiastical settlement near the city of Modugno, which retains the original perimeter structure made of dry stone. The two-level building offers towers with a rectangular base surrounding the church of Santa Maria di Costantinopoli, with outside instead the church of San Felice in Balsignano. In these surroundings a small agglomeration of houses with the contiguous church, the porch and the rustic open-air oven plunges into a time long gone. Halfway along its route in Puglia, the bike route reaches San Vito near Polignano a Mare, with the nearby Tower of San Vito built around mid-1500. Nearby quarries for the extraction of stone for the construction of the abbey and other buildings of Polignano. Among ancient churches and olive groves you will reach small villages to be discovered.

Alta Murgia

The project cycleway Alta Murgia includes several bike routes including the path that leads to the necropolis of San Magno. Here there are about a hundred tombs of megalithic construction. The necropolis dates back to the Bronze Age and it is covered by the steppe grassland of the area which extends for about 2 square kilometers. A short distance from the necropolis is the small church Neviera of San Magno, surrounded by dry stone walls, which is the arrival point of another cycle path of the park. Coming from Basilicata, the Francigena cycle route reaches a place surrounded by the reservoir of Serra del Colle. This artificial lake bars the course of the Basentello torrent, collecting its waters to satisfy the water needs for agriculture in the area. The lacustrine environment formed by the reservoir has created a series of favorable habitats for different species of fauna and flora. Continuing south for about 16 km the Francigena cycleway reaches Gravina in Puglia. Located on the banks of a deep crevasse characterized by the presence of a rocky habitat composed of hypogeal units with characteristic man-made structures including churches, aqueducts and passages. Behind the Gravina is the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, built at the end of the 11th century.

Itria Valley

After the city of Bari, the Adriatic cycle route reaches Brindisi intersecting sections of the consular Via Traina. Along a coastal route you cross a landscape rich in historical sites of inestimable value such as the archaeological area of Egnatia, developed around the remains of the Via Traiana, around which gravitate civil dwellings and public works. From here you reach a unique and enchanting landscape where the millenary olive groves, wind for several kilometers inside the countryside and lead up to the coast and its jagged coastline rich in vegetation on which stands Torre Pozzelle. Typical of the embattled coast, the sandy coves alternate with low cliffs while among the green herbaceous and shrubby plants several paths create an evocative and colorful labyrinth that runs around the coastal tower. Along the aqueduct cycle path you pedal through the long grassy paths that cover the streets of the aqueduct built in 1906 to solve the various drought problems of the region. Immersed in the green of the typical oaks you reach the beaten earth paths, surrounded by the typical trullo buildings of the Itria Valley. Ancient constructions scattered in a slightly undulating territory, where depressions and hills alternate. In these places the karst is manifested by the chasm of Monte Pagano, the highest depth of the Murge Basse.

Tarantino Ionic Arc

At a distance of 220 km from its entry into Apulian territory, the Francigena cycle route leads to the territory of Mottola, which immediately opens onto ravines with suggestive traces of rock settlements. Here we find some of the most spectacular ravines of the Ionic arc, the Gravina di Petruscio, a deep fluvial incision in which it is possible to admire suggestive rock settlements dug into the sides of the rock. The village of Petruscio with its deep historical stratification, is an ancient medieval village still recognizable even if over time reconquered by natural vegetation, then made unsafe by the collapses with terraced houses on several floors communicating with each other connected by a network of roads. It included caves inhabited by both men and animals, productive complexes including churches, common houses, warehouses and cisterns. Travelling another 35km, the Francigena cycle route crosses the city of Taranto taking us to the Mar Piccolo, with the Vela oasis, a naturalistic park of the city of Taranto. Surrounded by the thick pine forest on the shores, there is a rich flora composed of species accustomed to living in brackish environments. that coexist in close contact creating between them and the water suggestive drawings of various shapes and colors. This vegetation offers a valuable habitat for different species of birds both sedentary and migratory. The small church of San Demetrio watches over the artificial lake.

Tavoliere Salentino

Following the Apulian aqueduct for 500 km along the Adriatic cycleway, we meet Roca, a coastal locality counted among the Marines of Melendugno, in the province of Lecce. Continuing on we reach where nature and man have shaped the cliffs, such as the cave Poesia Grande with its crystal clear waters is among the ten most beautiful natural pools in the world. On it watches over the statue of Santa Maria di Roca, positioned high on a column. To the north, inland you can breathe an air of ancient flavor, for the presence of the archaeological area that precedes the imposing tower of Roca Vecchia, built in the fourteenth century. About ten kilometers further south along the Adriatic coast are the Alimini lakes. The Alimini Grande extends for over two and a half kilometers and is followed by the Alimini Piccolo. The two lakes are connected by the Lustritto canal, a tongue of water which crosses the area. The two lakes are custodians of two different habitats for different species characteristic of the area.

Serre Salentine

Less than 50 km away from its terminus, the Adriatic cycle track reaches the vicinity of Otranto and leads to the fascinating colors of the bauxite quarry, which encloses a small lake inside. Its intense emerald green color contrasts with the outline of the landscape, of deep red. Never subjected to interventions of environmental protection, nature has however been able to regain possession of its spaces. Towards the interior, instead, the Acquedotto cycleway reaches the area near the Serre Salentine, hilly elevations characterized by the presence of numerous terraces favorable to agriculture. After traveling along the coast of the entire region, the Adriatic and the Aqueduct cycle routes rejoin the southern region of Puglia. Santa Maria di Leuca is a renowned tourist resort, a fraction of the municipality of Castrignano del Capo. Behind the port a staircase with a waterfall, represents the terminal part of the Apulian aqueduct. From the height of its 48 meters to dominate the whole nineteenth-century lighthouse that can illuminate 27 miles of water. The underlying sanctuary called Maria de finibus terrae represents one of the most suggestive points of the region.

THE ADRIATIC CYCLEWAY

There are therefore several cycle routes available to lovers of cycling and cycling tourism, each of which offers incredible views and scenery, to be experienced in the rediscovery of places, landscapes and cultural or religious destinations.

Two lovers on a bicycle do not cross the city, they pass through it like a cloud, on pedals of wind. (Didier Tronchet)

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