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  1. #1
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    Anyone ever tour Italy?

    Hi Everyone-
    My friends and I want to go to Europe after we graduate from college this year, and, since we are all cyclists, we decided on doing a bike tour of Italy. Has anyone ever done one, whether guided through an agency or by yourselves? We'd like to do it by ourselves so we could go at our own pace and such. We'd also like to do a 10-14 day tour, preferrably hotel to hotel or hostel to hostel. I'd appreciate any help I can get. Thanks everyone
    MD

  2. #2
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    Yeah, I toured Italy by bike.

    It's great fun. I would recommend getting the maps brand new before you go. I think they're made by Touring Club Italiano. The maps are easy to read and mark which roads bikes aren't allowed on.

    I have never done a tour, nor will I ever do one. It would suck (in my opinion) to see a beautiful country and have someone else's opinion decreed to you like an edict as to what they considered to be worthwhile. Touring by bike, you're going to see everything- don't make the mistake of hanging with yourselves and not interacting with the locals. Touring by bike is a great way to stop and meet people and chat with them and get to know the country more intimately.

    I know this is going to sound risky, but I wouldn't make reservations. You may not know how long it's going to take to get from point A to point B, or you just may love a place so much that you decide to stick around longer. Don't avoid going to the big, popular cities, but my suggestion would be to stay in a smaller city and day trip to the bigger ones. For example, I wanted to go to the opera in Verona, so I stayed in Vicenza and day tripped to Verona, Padova, and Venice. Oh- bonus. Campy's factory is in Vicenza. I wouldn't have known that if I'd stayed in Verona!

    Hostel to hostel is difficult. In the summer, the hostels are packed, and they're not clean, though there are exceptions. I've stayed in some hostels in Italy that are so clean you could eat off the floors, but most of them are packed full of college students and/or recent grads who are immature American brats with agendas on how many countries they can squeeze into their itiniary in 6 weeks. I found those people distasteful. Some hostels have a limit as to how many days you can stay there. Still other hostels are too inconveniently located for it to be of any use. If you are travelling with a group, it would be cheaper for you to stay at a hotel, and with the privacy, you'll be able to kick back, wash up, and enjoy the town without hassles like curfews, being locked out of the hostel between 9am- 5pm, bad (no, make that TERRIBLE) breakfasts, and loud roommates when you're really tired after a long, gruelling ride and just want to get some sleep!

    Hostels tend to be a rip off anyway. Thirty bucks for a bunk bed, dirty shower with hair clogging the drains and sink, rude and loud bunkmates, and lockouts between 9am- 5pm? Nah. You all can get a hotel cheaper.

    Koffee

  3. #3
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    Here's a sneak preview of some of the great stuff you're going to see....

    Koffee

  4. #4
    Two Tired Traveler
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    I just toured southern Italy a month ago. I second everything Koffee just said, except hostels aren't usually that bad. If you're going in the summer, be ready for all the bad hostel experiences she told you about, but if you can wait until late September/early October, you'll have better weather, fewer crowds, and overall a cheaper and easier trip.

    If you can afford it, try staying at Agriturismo places, at least once in a while. For 20-40 euro you'll get good food that's often organic, interesting company, and a quiet, beautiful placed to sleep that's off the beaten path.

    Talk to the locals every chance you get, even if you're just reading from a phrasebook. Italians are amazingly friendly and generous, and they'll show you things you otherwise never would have seen. (this is less true in the big, touristy cities like Rome and Florence, which is another reason to take Koffee's advice and stay in small towns.)

    If you google the name of a town you want to visit, you'll find websites with a lot of information, including local festivals and places to eat and sleep. Even if the site is in Italian, you can still use the maps, and the photos will help you decide whether or not to go there.

    A few places to see around Tuscany/Lazio/Umbria: Calcata, Bomarzo, Orvieto, Ariccia.

    If you want to see Florence, Fiesole is a cheap, tranquil town just 8 miles north. You can see the Duomo from there. It's a good place to base yourself if you can handle the steep uphill climb.

    If you're going south, don't miss these places: Minturno, Bagni Mondragone, Amalfi and the surrounding coast(if you're on the westside); Trani, Lecce, Otranto (east coast); Alberobello, Gravina, Matera (inland).

    Look for "Pro Loca" headquarters in the small towns. These are clubs established to preserve and promote local culture, and the members will always make sure you have a great time when you visit their region.

    One caveat: There are a lot of pickpockets and scams in big cities, especially Rome and Naples. Keep an eye out, especially on the subway. Outside the cities, this will almost never happen to you, and people will often go out of their way to make you happy and safe.

    Have a great trip, and email me if you want info about Rome (I lived there for 3 1/2 years).

  5. #5
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    A month ago, staying in those hostels would be decently ok. But now? They'd be packed until the end of summer, and it's just not worth it if you can find a small pensione or albergho to stay in. I stayed in a albergho for one night (40 bucks per person) and paid slightly more (there were two of us) than if we'd stayed at the hostel (24 bucks per person). And you know those breakfasts they serve at the hostels are one step up from trash, yet the breakfast that came with the hotel was a huge buffet of a large variety of foods- and you could go back as many times as you want... AND it had a balcony.

    Koffee

  6. #6
    kipuka explorer bkrownd's Avatar
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    Go a bit off-season during spring or fall. Just don't go in January/February - miserable cold rain is not good for bike touring. Also there's a month where half the country goes on vacation, which sucks - probably August. Watch out for rip-off artists of all sorts, but don't let them ruin your visit. I'd love to go back sometime - Rome, Amalfi, Sorrento, Siena, so much history to see...
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    The lady above gives the best advice
    I did a short loop from Milan to the Val D'Osta, far NW Italy last year and if the rest if Italy is anything similar to what I enjoyed, it has to be cyclist heaven.10 days riding, hiking and climbing. At times I think I'm living in the wrong part of the world

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    It's been a long time, but my wife and I crossed N. Italy in 1989 unsupported. Part of a 1&1/2 month 6 country tour.Biggest tip? Pay attention to time of year and prevailing winds as they changes.
    We went east to west in June with 25mph head winds almost the entire way! Not fun with 35+lb's of luggage.

    jens5

  9. #9
    Punk Rock Lives Roughstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjdwyer23
    Hi Everyone-
    My friends and I want to go to Europe after we graduate from college this year, and, since we are all cyclists, we decided on doing a bike tour of Italy. Has anyone ever done one, whether guided through an agency or by yourselves? We'd like to do it by ourselves so we could go at our own pace and such. We'd also like to do a 10-14 day tour, preferrably hotel to hotel or hostel to hostel. I'd appreciate any help I can get. Thanks everyone

    I have toured the ALPINE region of Italy many times. It is well worth it. The Dolomitenstrasse, as its name suggests, follows the dolomites, a very beautiful subsection of the alps where a yellow/pinkish dolomite mineral in the rocks has an almost brandywine red color in the late evening sun. Yes it will be crowded but I never had any problem camping. I avoid hostels since they are overrun with school groups and refugees from the latest bus or train that came in at the station.

    roughstuff
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  10. #10
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    Thanks for the great advice everyone, can anyone email me an example of an itinerary? Thanks again
    MD

  11. #11
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    My advice? Pick a start point and bring a map for that region. Then go out and ride, and don't worry about schedules. Italy has its own schedule, and you will soon learn from the strikes and the breaks they take in the middle of the day that it's nearly impossible to schedule what to do. Besides, you never know how much you're going to like a place and want to stay. My example with Verona- I really wanted to stay in Verona, but I literally stumbled onto Vicenza and ended up staying there about a week and just taking my bike out for day trips to towns in the region. I ended up in Sardinia and that was a shocker... I suddenly decided to hop a ferry with my bike and ended up on an island paradise for four days. I also made a sudden decision to hop into Greece from Bari, and faster than I could even think, I was huddled on a boat with two Canadians I'd accidentally met and mistook for two other Canadians, and we were having a great adventure headed out to Athens!

    If you want to do the north, fly into Milan. If you want the middle region, fly into Florence. If you want to do the southern end, fly into Rome.

    Koffee

  12. #12
    kipuka explorer bkrownd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by koffee brown
    Italy has its own schedule, and you will soon learn from the strikes and the breaks they take in the middle of the day that it's nearly impossible to schedule what to do.
    Ain't it? I remember after flying into Rome the first time, tired and hungry, we had missed the normal meal hour and had to walk for over an hour trying to find a decent place to eat that wasn't just stale "snack bar" sandwiches. In Rome. Ugh! Italy can drive you up the wall. Also, never attempt to ride a train at Easter.
    Last edited by bkrownd; 06-13-05 at 10:37 PM.
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  13. #13
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    Is there a route that woudl take us down the eastern coastline? We'd like to do something like this so we could hit some beaches, then maybe take a ferry to an island and do some riding. What do you all think? Thanks again

    Matt
    MD

  14. #14
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    try one of the many cycling books on italy - I have these two and they have lots of routes, though only one through route designed for a week-plus tour. check them out at a book store:
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...books&n=507846

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...e&s=books&st=*

    Lonely planet is written better.

  15. #15
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    two other routes I found:

    http://www.cycletourist.com/Rome_to_Florence/

    http://home.wanadoo.nl/moh/index.html
    this one's in dutch, but looks like a great ride - tuscany, sardinia and corsica. so awesome (try using google translate to read in english.)

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjdwyer23
    Is there a route that woudl take us down the eastern coastline? We'd like to do something like this so we could hit some beaches, then maybe take a ferry to an island and do some riding. What do you all think? Thanks again

    Matt
    You can ride down the west side of Italy and then take a ferry into Corsica, Elba or Sardinia. Elba is the easiest island to hit, and they have great biking and hiking trails there.

    Koffee

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