From the thrill of running on the Formula One track at Monza to the more visceral delights of some of the world’s greatest cities, Italian races boast both ancient and modern pleasures for the visiting runner. For the best pre-race carbo-loading in the world and architecture to die for – we’re thinking of the Romeo and Juliet Half – Italy has a wealth of breath-taking races. Here’s our top 10, selected by Runner’s World Italy’s Deputy Editor Vittorio Nava, to whet your appetite.
Rome Marathon (March)
2009 Date: March 22
Nowhere combines effortless charm, a seemingly untouched reminder of ancient civilisation and a thriving new metropolis as well as the city of Rome. The Italian capital’s marathon attracts thousands of international runners to its 15,000-strong field. The race starts at the world-famous Coliseum before following a course along ancient roads and uneven cobblestone streets, past classical monuments and lively piazzas crammed with enthusiastic supporters.
Race website: www.maratonadiroma.it
Stramilano Half-Marathon (April)2009 Date: April 5
The Stramilano Half in the northern Italian city of Milan is one of the world’s biggest half-marathons as well as an event dedicated to sport, health, solidarity and entertainment. A tradition in Milan since 1972, the race attracts around 50,000 runners every year to a single-lap course that starts at Piazza Castello, close to the city’s marble cathedral, Piazza Duoma, and finishes by the civic centre.
Race website: www.stramilano.it
Ecomaratona dei Marsi (May)2009 Date: tbc
This Italian trail marathon offers the opportunity to enjoy the valleys, mountains, parks and forests of the Abruzzo region. With roads accounting for only 15 per cent of the 26.2 miles, this race is a nature-lover’s dream and great challenge, with climbs rising from 913m to 1,713m above sea level. The marathon starts in the quiet town of Collelongo then heads to the Amplero Valley and up to Mount Annamunne, passing some interesting archaeological sites.
Race website: www.ecomaratonadeimarsi.it
100Km del Passatore (May)2009 Date: May 30
If you’ve indulged in too much pasta, this classic Italian ultra will give you the opportunity to burn some extra calories. The point-to-point 100K sees runners race from the historic city of Florence to Faenza – made famous by the manufacture of glazed earthenware pottery known as faience. The next race starts at 3pm on May 30, 2009 and features a 20-hour time limit so you should have time to enjoy some of the towns and villages the race passes through before the cut-off at 11am on May 31.
Race website: http://100km.dinamica.it
Cortina Dobbiaco Run (May)
2009 Date: May 31
This spectacular 30K point-to-point race though the Dolomite Mountains in Northern Italy celebrates its 10th staging in 2009. Last year 2,400 runners started the race at the popular ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo before following the route of an old railway line to the town of Dobbiaco. The hilly event, which also offers 11K and 5K races, follows a steady incline for the first 12K over bridges, through tunnels and past snow-peaked mountains before descending towards the Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Lake Dobbiaco before finally arriving at the town of Dobbiaco itself where enthusiastic supporters cheer you to the finish line.
Race website: www.cortina-dobbiacorun.it
International Lake Garda Marathon (September)
2009 Date: tbc
Despite being only two years old, this marathon is firmly established in the northern Italian racing calendar and continues to grow in popularity. Using the shores of stunning Lake Grada as a natural amphitheatre, the race starts in the attractive lake-side resort of Limone in the Lombardy region, crosses into the Trentino region through Riva del Garda, Arco and Torbole, before finishing in the Veneto region at Malcesine on the opposite shore of the lake.
Race website: www.lakegardamarathon.it
Mezza di Monza (September)
2009 Date: tbc
If you’re a Formula One fan, this half-marathon in Lombardy should give you a buzz. The race begins and ends on the official start line of the Italian Grand Prix and a time limit of two hours and 15 minutes means you’ll have to be speedy. As well as running on the Monza race track, the route takes runners along the tree-lined avenues of Monza Park and through the Villa Mirabello gardens past grand historical buildings such as the Cascina Casalta.
Race website: www.mezzadimonza.it
Romeo and Juliet Half-Marathon (October)
2009 Date: tbc
When Shakespeare published his play Romeo and Juliet in 1597 he probably didn’t expect the Italian tragedy to create so many spinoffs, including a half-marathon. The 13.1-mile race was launched in 2008 and passes some of the most beautiful monuments of the city of Verona as well as attracting enthusiastic support from the locals. The promise of a pasta party at the finish should help you to keep going if you didn’t carbo load well the night before.
Race website: www.maratoninagiuliettaromeo.it
Venice Marathon (October)
2008 Date: October 26
Even the ‘City of Water’ has a marathon for runners wanting to visit one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With registrations capped at 7,000, the Venice Marathon is an exclusive and extraordinary affair. The point-to-point course starts in the small town of Stra, close to magnificent 18th century mansion Villa Pisani, before crossing more than two-dozen bridges including a temporary floating bridge across the Grand Canal built especially for the race. A magnificent finish in St Mark’s Square does justice to the city’s historic grandeur.
Race website: www.venicemarathon.it
Florence Marathon (November)
2008 Date: November 30
Celebrating its silver jubilee this year, the next Florence Marathon is only weeks away. On November 30 thousands of athletes will take to the streets for Tuscany’s greatest sporting and cultural event. The flat, picturesque course starts with a gentle descent before passing the beautiful Piazza del Duoma, towards the central Piazza della Signoria, then over the famous Ponte Vecchio and on to the finishing line at Piazza Santa Croce. With wider streets than Rome, great views and plenty of cobblestones, you’ll have countless opportunities to appreciate magical Florence.
Race website: www.firenzemarathon.it