Wife and I just came back from a self-supported tandem tour of Central Italy. It was our first attempt at such a type of trip and it went well overall. Several cycling friends and forum members gave us valuable advice.
We flew into Rome, spent two days there and then caught the train to Orvieto.
Rome is a run down city, dirty, full of graffiti and trash, and run by burocrats that could not care less… that is our impression. On the other hand, the fountains, churches, roman ruins and Vatican City are magnificent and the people are warm and generous. The only riding we did in Rome in the first two days was when we moved the assembled tandem between hotels (the hotel we originally selected did not agree to keep our luggage for 8 days). The 2 mile ride across downtown Rome wasn’t bad but we did it very early in the morning.
Not all the trains let you bring a bike on board. The ones that do are a little slower and make frequent stops. You have to pay for the bike but the train fares in general are very reasonable. When we got off the train in Orvieto we were so anxious to finally ride the tandem that we loaded our panniers and attacked the 4 km straight up grade to the city center. It started raining and after ridding almost every coble-stone covered street enyoing the city and looking for Hotel Pichio we decided to give them a call and they told us that the hotel was near the train station at the base of the mountain. Oh well… we came down loaded and we were glad I had installed the rear disc brake on the traveling tandem for this trip. We were so glad we listened to a friend that suggested visiting Umbria. Orvieto was the nicest place we visited during the whole trip.
Since it was still early we did a 60 mile loop to Lago di Borcena. We tried to ride with a pack of local racers… did fine on the flats…. OK on the rollers…. lost them on the hills. Hey, a couple of those kids were younger than our older daughter… plus we wanted to save our legs.
The next day we did a 100 mile loop that included the towns of Colonnetta, Prato, Prodo, Todi, Lubriano, and almost Civita. We did not make it to Civita because of poor maps, rain, and day light. We were lucky almost all day because it did not rain on us except for the last 15 miles. We got in and out of Orvieto 5 different ways and we know that it sits at the bottom of a bowl. With that kind of downhill grade, rain and water on the road the disc brake came out with flying colors.
We left Orvieto loaded in route to Siena. It is only 80 miles, most of it rolling except for the climb out of Orvieto. Ridding with a loaded rig we were crussing at 15 MPH when our normal speed unloaded is above 20. Grades that we can do unloaded at 10-12 MPH we were strugling to do at 6 MPH. Can’t think of a better way to spend our 30TH anniversary.
In Siena we stayed at a nicer place. It is called Borgo Grondaie. It is not close to the city center but we think it is well worth recommending.
From Siena we did a 60 mile loop to Castellina in Chanti, Radda in Chanti, Gaiole in Chanti and Pianella. This was an easy, beautiful ride that we wouldn’t mind doing again.
From Siena we made our way to Lucca. This 80 mile ride was easier but not as enjoyable since we were going trough a more industrialized area of Tuscany. In contrast to Orvieto and Siena, which sit on a hill, Lucca is on flat land but it is fully surrounded by this huge wall that is about 2 miles long and has a bike path on top. A lot of bikes being used for transportation and sight seeing in Lucca but the same as in the reast of the places that we visited, automobiles and motorcycles rule.
We wanted to see Venece and to take a brake from the bike we took a day train trip. We did not enjoy the long train ride or Venece… just not our kind of town. Wife hurt a knee trying to catch a train in the way back.
From Lucca we were going to do a 100 mile loop but opted to do an 80 miler out and back ride along S12 to the town of Abetone. Anyone familiar with this road knows that it is a hard climb… we did not. Maybe we should have turned back when we reached the town of Cutigliano and the signs on the road said 13 km to the sky resort of Abetone, but the road became prettier and prettier and steeper at every turn. It was impossible to resist. On the way down we had to stop a couple of times because the disc brake was fading and the front rim was getting hot. This tandem is heavier than our regular tandem plus we were carrying a rack with extra tools and parts… we would say 15 to 20 lbs heavier overall.
The next day we were going to ride to Firenze and from there take the train back to Rome. Since the wife’s knee was still bothering her, we decided to catch the train to Firenze and then rode around down town for a couple of hours before getting on another train down to Rome. Firenze is a large city but it is friendlier to bikes than Rome and it has a nice bike path on both sides of the river. We liked Firenze.
We had one more day in Rome before heading back home and decided to take a day trip north and around Lago di Bracciano. This is a beautiful ride to do near Rome and we bet is done by a lot of Rome ridders on the weekend as this was a Thursday and we saw several packs and single ridders. Getting out of Rome along with what seemed a million other cars and motorized scooters was a little bit to much exiciment for the wife. We decided to ride the train back to Rome. The train station we arrived at was far from our hotel so we rode the tandem. It was actually not bad, we were about the only bike in the whole down town area and the only tandem to be sure. The only bad part is that the streets are in complete disrepair particularly near the coliseum; the drivers on the other hand gave us plenty a room and were courteous and understanding.
Thanks for reading
Last edited by cornucopia72; 10-08-07 at 11:37 AM.