The Grand Départ of Tour de France 2024 will take place in Emilia-Romagna! Keep reading to discover the 3 stages, towns and villages visited, and plan cycling those roads for yourself!
Are you a cycling lover? Then for sure you’ll have heard that the Tour de France 2024 will start in Italy! The first three stages of the Grande Boucle will take place in north/central Italy, mainly in the Emilia-Romagna region.
Emilia-Romagna has a long sporting history, having been the birthplace of several famous athletes like the legendary cyclist Marco Pantani. In recent years, the region has become known as Italy’s Sport Valley, thanks to the abundance of sports facilities, support for sporting events of all kinds, and a healthy, active mindset in the local population.
This makes Emilia-Romagna the ideal place to combine sport and tourism – and cycling along the roads of the Tour de France is a great way to discover the region’s nature, culture, and food tradition while keeping fit at the same time.
And hey, if you’re free, you may even head to Emilia-Romagna at the end of June 2024 to actually see the Tour de France! Let’s have a look at the Tour de France Grand Départ in Emilia-Romagna, the three stages, and how to break them up if you wish to cycle but are not a pro!
What is the Grand Départ?
Cycling fans will know exactly what I mean, but otherwise, you may be confused by the fact that the Tour de France is actually starting in Italy. The start of the Tour de France is known as the “Grand Départ”, and it traditionally takes place in a different city every year, while the race generally ends in the same place – along the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
Since the 1950s, the Grand Départ has frequently been held outside France, both as a way to promote the race and to promote the host city/country to Tour de France viewers. For instance, the 2022 Tour started in Denmark, and the 2023 edition took off in the Spanish part of the Basque country.
2024 will be the first time the Grand Départ of the Tour de France will be in Italy. The year also marks 100 years since the first Italian victory of the Tour, Ottavio Bottecchia in 1924, and 10 years since the last, Vincenzo Nibali in 2014.
The itinerary of the first three stages was also chosen to honour three Italian cycling legends – Gino Bartali, Marco Pantani, and Fausto Coppi.
Grand Départ Tour de France 2024 – Practical Info
Dates to Remember
Even though the majority of the Grand Départ of the 2024 Tour de France will take place in Emilia-Romagna, the first stage will kick off in Florence, in the scenic Piazza Michelangelo.
The race headquarters and press centre will open on Wednesday, June 26th at the Florence Opera House (Teatro Musicale del Maggio Fiorentino). The following day, Thursday, June 27th, will be the official presentation of the 2024 teams and riders.
Stage 1 from Florence to Rimini will be two days later, on Saturday, June 29th; followed by stage 2 from Cesenatico to Bologna on Sunday, June 30th, and stage 3 from Piacenza to Torino on Monday, July 1st.
Then, the Tour de France will cross the border and continue across France, with the usual blend of time trial, sprint, and mountain stages. For the first time, the final stage won’t be on the Champs-Élysées, as the Paris Olympics are held at the same time. The Tour will end on the French Riviera, with a dreamy final sprint in Nice.
How to Follow the Tour de France 2024 in Emilia-Romagna
Would you like to see the Grande Boucle for yourself? There are three possibilities – watching the departure of a stage, the arrival, or choosing an intermediate point to see the cyclists ride by. For the intermediate option, it’s better to choose an uphill stretch, where riders slow down considerably, and they’re less likely to ride in a big group.
If you wish to follow the initial Tour de France stages, here’s our tip. Pick one of the Stage 1 climbs, like Barbotto or Montemaggio, and get there several hours before. It’s impossible to park so you’ll have to either walk or cycle up. Find a good spot, wait for your favourite cyclists to ride by, then see if you can drive to Rimini in time to see them cross the finish line.
The following day, head to Cesenatico bright and early and stake out a good spot to see the departure of stage 2 in the Pirata’s hometown. By doing so, you’ll be able to see the arrival of stage 1, the start of stage 2, and also see the cyclists battle up one of the iconic climbs of the Romagna Apennines.
Where to Stay
When talking about cycling in Romagna, there’s only one place to stay – Lungomare Bike Hotel, a 4-star hotel well located on the Cesenatico seafront, steps away from the beach and just a quick ride from the centre of Cesenatico, Pantani Museum and some of the most beautiful cycling routes in the hills.
Lungomare Bike Hotel is by far and away the best bike hotel I’ve ever stayed at. Dinner is served with cyclists in mind, with lots of carb-heavy options but also lighter dishes and plenty of fruit and veg. Breakfast includes a sweet and savoury buffet, and you can also have eggs freshly made and served to your table and even ask for Pantani’s favourite breakfast – white steamed rice, in case you were wondering.
The rooms are spacious, bright, and very quiet at night. The hotel also has a SPA to rest those weary bones after cycling, and a heated pool long enough to swim laps.
However, the real pride and joy of Lungomare Bike Hotel is the bike room, super secure and video-monitored, also including a workshop for small repairs and a wash station. No need to carry your bike up to the room, it can be left safely in the bike room overnight! There’s also a bike guide service, with cycling tours for different levels on offer every day.
Tour de France 2024 Stage 1 – Florence > Rimini (205 km)
The 2024 Tour de France will start in Piazza Michelangelo, the scenic square overlooking the Arno River and the centre of Florence. From there, the peloton will head out of the city to Ponte a Ema, past the Bartali Museum, in the house of great champion Gino Bartali.
After 50 km, the cyclists will cross the border into Emilia-Romagna at the Colla Tre Faggi, the first climb of the tour, 12,5 km at 5.1% average. The route then continues across the Apennines, passing through the Foreste Casentinesi National Park, and scenic towns and villages like Premilcuore, Bagno di Romagna, and Sarsina.
There will be two shorter climbs, Passo delle Forche and Spinello, before tackling the legendary Barbotto, one of the hardest climbs in the Apennines with 5.8 km at a 7.6% average, with 18% peaks. This will be followed by three other testing climbs – San Leo, Montemaggio and San Marino, heading to the tiny Republic of the same name.
From San Marino, it will be time for the fast descenders to show their skill as the route descends towards Rimini, the capital of the Romagna Riviera, marking the end of the stage after 205 km and 3800 meters elevation gain.
Stage 1 Highlights
- Premilcuore – a tiny village in a remote valley, along the Dante’s Way hiking/cycling trail
- Sarsina – scenic hilltop village and home to the Church of San Vicinio, starting point of the Cammino di San Vicinio, a hiking/cycling trail between the Tuscany and Romagna Apennines
- Barbotto – iconic Romagna climb and highlight of the Nove Colli, a Granfondo cycling race held in May every year
- San Leo – one of the most beautiful small towns in Emilia-Romagna, known for its medieval street plan and hilltop fortress
- San Marino – a landlocked microstate and the oldest Republic in the world, worth visiting for its scenic views, historic architecture and tax-free shopping.
Stage 1 Intermediate Stop
Unless you can hold your own against Pogi and Jonas, we don’t really recommend cycling the entirety of this stage (or any of the other Tour de France stages) in a single go.
You can break up the stage in half, staying in Bagno di Romagna, a town in the Apennines known for its thermal spas and for being a great base to visit the Foreste Casentinesi National Park, especially beautiful during the autumn season.
Tour de France 2024 Stage 2 – Cesenatico > Bologna (200 km)
Stage 1 will be characterized by long, hard climbs, whereas during stage 2 the climbs will be shorter, but no less testing with double-digit average gradient in many cases. Stage 2 will start in Cesenatico, the home and final resting place of the “Pirata” Marco Pantani, one of the most successful cyclists of all time who sadly left us way too soon.
The first 70 km of the stage are almost entirely flat, heading to the coastal towns of Cervia and Milano Marittima then cutting inland to Ravenna, Faenza, and the pretty village of Brisighella, before two short but steep climbs – Monticino, 2 km at 7.5% average, and Gallisterna, only 1.3 km but a real leg-breaker with 12.8% average gradient.
This will be followed by another flat stretch, crossing Imola, home to the 2020 Cycling World Championships. The peloton will then continue through the Colli Bolognesi, the hills surrounding Bologna. The final challenge will be two 18.5 km loops around the city including two ascents to San Luca, the hilltop Basilica lined with 666 arches, 1.9 km at 10.6%.
Stage 2 Highlights
- Cesenatico – don’t miss visiting the historic Porto Canale, Museo Pantani near the train station with the Pirata’s jerseys and bikes, and Museo della Marineria with historic fishing boats.
- Cervia – a coastal town known for its salt pans, active since Roman times, and wide sandy beaches along the Adriatic.
- Ravenna – worth visiting for its mosaic tradition, including 8 UNESCO-listed Byzantine mosaics and modern mosaic workshops.
- Brisighella – scenic village built on three gypsum hills, famous for its covered walkway ‘Via degli Asini’.
- San Luca – the most iconic landmark in Bologna, overlooking the city from the top of a hill. If you don’t have the legs to ride up double-digit stretches, do like the Bolognese do and walk up, along the porticoes leading up from the city centre.
Stage 2 Intermediate Stop
The 100 km halfway mark of this stage is in Imola, a town with plenty of accommodation options where you can also visit the famous race track.
If you choose to stay in Imola, it’s only a further 60 km to Bologna – there’s no need to ride the two loops around the city like the peloton will do, as Bologna is a busy city. Have an easy day on the saddle and spend the rest exploring non-touristy things to do in Bologna!
Tour de France 2024 Stage 3 – Piacenza > Torino (225 km)
The last Italian stage of the Tour de France 2024 will start in Piacenza, the northernmost town in Emilia-Romagna along the banks of the Po River. Unlike the previous two stages, best suited to climbers and puncheurs, this is one for the sprinters – a long but super fast stage, with only three minor climbs before the finish line in Turin.
From Piacenza, the peloton will cross into Lombardy and ride through the Oltrepò Pavese, a wine-growing region with scenic rolling hills. Then, it will be time to enter Piedmont in Tortona, the town where Fausto Coppi passed away prematurely in 1960. The Campionissimo was born nearby in the village of Castellania, and he is remembered in this stage with the first climb to the castle of Tortona, named ‘Cote de Tortone – Fausto Coppi’.
The stage then continues along the itinerary of the Milano-Sanremo through Alessandria and Castellazzo Bormida, before entering the beautiful Langhe region, known for its delicious wine and food tradition. From Alba, the unofficial capital of the Langhe region, it’s a further 60 km to the final sprint in Turin.
Stage 3 Highlights
- Piacenza – visit to see Palazzo Farnese and its museum and to try pisarei e fasò, a pasta dish you’ll only find here!
- Oltrepò Pavese – this offbeat wine-growing region is a true cycling paradise, with quiet streets and pleasant climbs. get in touch if you wish to explore more, as I know it very well and can share GPX maps.
- Alba and the Langhe – a foodie paradise, with lots of boutique wineries, pretty villages, and great restaurants.
- Turin – Italy’s first capital is worth at least 2 or 3 days, but on a quick visit don’t miss the Museo Egizio, the Mole Antonelliana and its beautiful squares, especially Piazza Castello and Piazza San Carlo.
Stage 3 Intermediate Stop
It’s a tough call to pick an intermediate stop for this section. The halfway point would be somewhere between Alessandria and Nizza Monferrato, but that would mean breezing through two really great cycling regions – the Oltrepò Pavese and the Langhe.
So, we recommend breaking up this stage into three sections, riding from Piacenza to Voghera through the Oltrepò hills rather than the boring flat road taken during Stage 3, then cycling from Voghera to Alba on day 2, and finally from Alba to Turin. Treat yourself to a nice dinner in Alba – if you’re visiting in September/October, remember it’s white truffle season!
This article was written following our participation to EMCC, the European Media Cycling Championship dedicated to the Tour de France 2024 Grand Départ.