10 - 14 day trip. Where should we start? Guided or self guided? Where do we get bikes?
10 - 14 day trip. Where should we start? Guided or self guided? Where do we get bikes?
First, my experience of Italy is limited to an 8 day tour of Western Sicily staying in B&Bs I did with a friend. We did it in April and we had some rain but quite a lot of sunshine also. Generally, the countryside in the South is greener in Spring than in the Summer. I wouldn't do the same trip in July or August. Far too hot for me.
You don't give a lot of information on yourself but I'm sensing inexperience and if I'm right I'd suggest a guided tour especially if you can afford it. Plenty of tour companies online who will supply bikes, book accomodation and suggest itinary or supply guide.
Whatever you decide on, the best of luck.
History is the future
You might add some more preferences, such as: How important is it to hit well-known sights to see? What time of year (summer may be too hot in central and southern Italy; early Spring and late Fall too cold in northern Italy)? Do you prefer mountains, or flat rides? How far are you willing to travel from an airport with international flights? What kind of bikes are you expecting (medium-quality hybrids vs. high-end carbon-everything road bikes)? If you're crazy for seafood it wouldn't make sense to go to some land-locked place, but if you detest fish and seafood, don't go to an island. Do you want to camp, stay in 5-star hotels? etc., etc.
Disclaimer: I do fully-supported hotel-based tours in Piedmont (Piemonte) http://www.agile-compass.com
We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
Italy is a big place. With world-class offerings of any kind of bicycling you can imagine.
Lots of ideas in this book
Cycling Italy, by Gelber (Lonely Planet) (rumored to be back in print?)
We never exactly follow what they say, but usually it's a helpful starting point.
We've done bike rides all around Italy. So if you say more about what riding you do in your home country, and what you like and don't like, we could give some suggestions for Italy.
Our strategy in Italy is the same as our riding on roads in the northeast U.S. -- we have our own bike, we have a car, we have a place to sleep. If we're riding in a new place, we plot our route (or download off Bikely.com) as a "track" (with some alternate tracks) for our GPS with City Navigator Europe map software. We drive to the start of our route, get our bike out, mostly follow our Garmin 60CSx GPS (with a paper maps as backup, mobile GSM or G3 phone,and list of taxi phone numbers we got from the net) - wander off differently when it pleases us, finish back at our car, drive back to our sleeping place.
Also like in the U.S., we do not bike every day. Some days we drive to a city and walk around. Some days go hiking or do a via ferrata climb in the mountains.
Renting and operating a car in Italy seems expensive -- until you compare with the cost of the organized bicycle tours targeted to Americans.
dorkypants hotel is in the midst of some pretty terrain with a variety of riding (near some routes mentioned in the Cycling Italy book) -- though I never met him or stayed there. Nice thing about the "bike hotel" idea is that you have some identified local support, often don't have to the cost and worry of driving a car, and you have a feel of "really getting to know" a particular area -- though some hotels will arrange van rides to bicycling (and non-bicycling) a little farther away.
Veneto - Südtirol - Trentino Alto Adige: That's the region (northeast Italy) we keep coming back to, after seeing lots of other regions. The vineyards + orchards of the gentle Adige valley, surrounded by high cliffs, with roads thru amazing spires of the Dolomites nearby. The mix of Italian and German-speaking (sometimes we get there by flying into Munich). Access south to the Venice and surrounding flat delta, between the foothills and Lake Garda.
We often stay at a "bike hotel" in the valley - which specializes in mountain biking. But we've never done a mountain bike ride there. Over the years I've accumulated my own guide to road bike rides near Termeno.
organized guided tours -- Everyone I've talked to who's done one with a good company has been happy. Deals with the problems of: finding riding partners, obtaining bike + tools and handling problems, planning routes, deciding what to do each day, booking expensive hotels + restaurants. Our reasons for [I]not[\I] going with organized tours: (a) We don't go to Italy so we can spend lots of time hanging out with other Americans; (b) Tour group + orgnanization insulates from "raw" encounters with real Italian life; (c) They can't handle the range of freedom and quick response we've gotten accustomed to in Europe; (d) The awesome amount of money we've saved over lots of trips to Europe not using them.
People do successully fly to Europe with their own unmodified "regular" bikes. Usually there is some sort of hassle with storing a box.
Rental: Works great if you find what you want where you want it. Doesn't work if you don't. The Web helps, but advertising of bike rentals in English for lots of places in Italy has not so easy to find. I've done lots of very fun days of riding on "low end" rental bikes in Europe. Nevertheless, buying
my own Bike Friday bike which I could disassemble into a normal airline suitcase is one of the best life decisions I ever made. There's more options available now for travel bikes. If you think you're going to fly for bicycling trips more than a couple of times, get one.
Last edited by Ken Roberts; 07-01-10 at 11:39 AM. Reason: fix a couple words
Places for road-bicycling in Italy:
flat riding -- Most of Italy has hills. Europe has other countries for "flat". I think the main gentle area of Italy is the lower Po valley in the north from around Milan to around Venice -- even has canals. Lonely Planet Cycling Italy has several routes for riding there. I'm not much into flat riding, and once Sharon found out we could handle some roads in the Dolomites on our tandem, she hasn't either -- so somebody else must know better.I once checked out some roads between Venice + Padua, seemed pleasant enough, but the main advantage is that it's near the unique city of Venice (which is not for bicycling in the main area, though I've thought of trying something with ferry boats among the lagoon islands).farmland + vineyards -- There's lots of this. But I'm not a good judge of it because Sharon and I live near lots of great farmland riding around the Hudson valley of NY and parts of PA, so we find much of it in Italy disadvantaged because it doesn't have animals like cows + horses (which some other regions of Europe deliver). OK I've seen farm animals in Sicily -- something that makes me interested to go back there.
The Adige river valley which extends north from roughly Verona had some gentle terrain (esp. for one-way rides: not necessarily easy to put together a loop which avoids climbing up onto side of valley).
Given that, the area around dorkypants hotel is fine. Sharon + I have had some pleasant rides with orchards or maize or vineyards in the Veneto foothills. Favorite of mine is Val di Non (apple country) by the "cheaters" start riding cable-car to top, then finish on the "wine road" looking over the vineyards of the Adige valley.
Water -- Sharon + I love riding alongside water:
- Lake Como, SW leg is great for this, combine with ferry ride -- if can handle a big climb, visit Madonna di Ghisallo. (but I'm not sure what other great riding nearby to link with it: more of the SE leg of the lake? -- or combine with sightseeing in Milan an hour's train-ride south?).
- West half of Elba island. If you feel you must visit Tuscany, figure out a way to do part of Elba (hilly).
- Amalfi coast between Sorrento + Salerno. Amazing seaside ride, but I don't know how to connect it with other riding, or even what other nice riding is in the same region. Perhaps best to combine it with hiking and sightseeing, and might need some cleverness to set up the logisitics of the ride itself.
If you really want to get into climbing mountain roads in Italy, the best guide I know is quaeldich.de
- Dolomites in NE Italy are special because they look great even without snow on them. Most scenery in the shortest distance is the Sella Ronda. There's other spectacular climbs + passes around: e.g. extend to Passo Giau + Falzarego. And E of Corrtina, around Misurina + the steep climb to the Auronzo hut stand out.
- Stelvio pass / Stilfserjoch: The climbing up the more famous E side is kinda monotonous, you do it for the views -- so do it on a clear day. Better in June soon after it opens (because more white snow for contrast). Though it's big enough to justify climbing up and just going back down the same way, I like making a loop of it.
- Mont Blanc / Val Ferret: Great views of the highest peaks in Europe from around Courmayeur and the valley NE above it (? Might be possible to take train or bus high into Val Ferret, then ride mostly downhill back to Courmayeur, or even Aosta?). A great adventure is is to continue NE over the Col du Grand Ferret pass (carrying + dirt, possible snow) into Switzerland, down to Orsieres, then return on road (sometimes high-traffic) over Col du Grand St Bernard pass into Italy down to Aosta.
- W of Cuneo in range of dorkypants hotel, one of the descents of the south side of Sempeyre pass is very amazing (and normally not recommended due to rock-fall danger)
Hope other riders will share some of their own favorites.
Last edited by Ken Roberts; 07-01-10 at 01:31 PM. Reason: fix a couple words
I ride every day appx 22 miles and on weekends usually 30 - 50 miles. Hills are not a problem but I certainly do not want to do mountains for 8 days. I appreciate your input and will continue to research. I am thinking now that 5-7 day biking and then 5 - 7 days of scuba diving. Any diving experience in Italy?