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  1. #1
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Terrain center of Italy

    I'm looking at a Topo map of Italy that I found online. It appears that Italy is flat as a pancake down the center with all terrain to the North and on the West and East coasts. I assume this is just lack of data for the center. Italy isn't really that flat in the center is it??

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    Senior Member marmotte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker
    I'm looking at a Topo map of Italy that I found online. It appears that Italy is flat as a pancake down the center with all terrain to the North and on the West and East coasts. I assume this is just lack of data for the center. Italy isn't really that flat in the center is it??
    Italy is NOT flat, as you assumed (with the exception of the Po plain in the North). But if you want to ride from Milano (Po plain) to Genova (Mediterrenean coast) for example, you have to cross the Ligurien Appenin, and there are regions like that everywhere.
    I would say, there are may roads that are steeper than the alpine roads I know.
    marmotte

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    the appenini mountain range crosses italy north to south, making it a sort of barrier between the west coast and the east coast.
    The area in the north, between the alpes and where the appenini start, is the flat plain.

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    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by saviourag
    the appenini mountain range crosses italy north to south, making it a sort of barrier between the west coast and the east coast.
    The area in the north, between the alpes and where the appenini start, is the flat plain.
    Sounds like you know something about the area we will be traveling. Our plan is to fly into Milan and then ride South to Pavia. From there a train to Genoa. The ride the coast South toward Pisa. What kind of climbs are we in for?

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    Senior Member dorkypants's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker
    Sounds like you know something about the area we will be traveling. Our plan is to fly into Milan and then ride South to Pavia. From there a train to Genoa. The ride the coast South toward Pisa. What kind of climbs are we in for?
    If you have Windows 2000 or XP or Mac OS X 10.3.9 or 10.4, you can run Google Earth (download from earth.google.com). Set the preferences to magnify altitude by 3x, then zoom in on the Italian coast from Genoa to Pisa. You'll see that the coast gives way pretty quickly to mountains until south of Viareggio, when the terrain opens up and flattens out through Pisa and Livorno.

    Between Milan and Pavia it should be pretty flat as both are in the Lombardy plain.

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    I rode that in reverse MANY years ago, so my memory is sketchy. I seem to recall that there were one or two fairly long climbs when the road moved inland, but it wasn't exceedingly difficult. I vaguely recall that it was a pretty road, but that there was fair bit of traffic, though not god-awful like it is between Genoa and the French border. Still, it wouldn't be my first choice for heading south from Genoa. I'd be more inclined to go via the interior. Yup, that would probably entail more climbing, but I suspect it would be prettier and have far less traffic.

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    I looked at a map of the region, and one thing that has changed since I biked on that route is that a parallel autostrada has been built. Hopefully that will siphen lots of traffic away from the old road. I have to admit that there isn't a real good alternative. So maybe it would be my first choice, after all.

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    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dorkypants
    If you have Windows 2000 or XP or Mac OS X 10.3.9 or 10.4, you can run Google Earth (download from earth.google.com). Set the preferences to magnify altitude by 3x, then zoom in on the Italian coast from Genoa to Pisa. You'll see that the coast gives way pretty quickly to mountains until south of Viareggio, when the terrain opens up and flattens out through Pisa and Livorno.

    Between Milan and Pavia it should be pretty flat as both are in the Lombardy plain.

    Yes I had Google Earth but had trouble picking out the mountains.

    Thanks for the tip on the 3X. It really helps. But I am still not sure if I am seeing correctly.

    It looks like I might be better heading East or South East first then South down the Eastern shore then maybe back West at some point. Does this sound like a better plan as far as avoiding mountains? This is a vacation and I don't want to kill myself. I have nothing to prove.

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    Senior Member dorkypants's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker
    It looks like I might be better heading East or South East first then South down the Eastern shore then maybe back West at some point. Does this sound like a better plan as far as avoiding mountains? This is a vacation and I don't want to kill myself. I have nothing to prove.
    If you mean E or SE from Pavia to the Adriatic coast and then back inland (to the Tyrrhenian coast on the west), it depends on where you want to finish. Below the Lombardy plain (along a line roughly through Parma, Modena, Bologna) any route across the peninsula is going to have to cross the Apennines, though they're not all of uniform difficulty.

    Personally I'm not fond of the flatlands. It's windy and/or you're riding through farmlands that all look about the same and are often pungent with agricultural odors (pig farms seem to stink the most), and there are more heavy trucks delivering cargo.

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    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Well farm lands are not a problem with me since a good part of my regular rides go through some pretty pungent areas.

    But the wind factor is a good point. Of course that assumes there will be wind on the days of our ride while in other areas the mountains will always be there.

    We already have plans to incorporate trains into our trip. Perhaps to get us over the rougher sections.


    I'm thinking maybe SE from Milan to Parma then a train or bus from Parma to La Spezia. The hills along the coast South of La Spezia don't look too bad besides it seems to flatten out pretty quickly.

  11. #11
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    I took a train from Milan to La Spezia, then rode down the coast to Livornio (via Pisa), then jumped a ferry to the islands. It is definitely a nice trip, but you could also just ride straight from Milan to La Spezia too.

    Koffee

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    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by koffee brown
    I took a train from Milan to La Spezia, then rode down the coast to Livornio (via Pisa), then jumped a ferry to the islands. It is definitely a nice trip, but you could also just ride straight from Milan to La Spezia too.

    Koffee

    Thanks for the tip Koffee. Are the islands worth seeing? Which islands did you see?


    There seem to be 3 stations in La Spezia:

    1. Centrale
    2. Main Station
    3. Migliarina


    Which should I go to? does it matter?

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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker
    Thanks for the tip Koffee. Are the islands worth seeing? Which islands did you see?


    There seem to be 3 stations in La Spezia:

    1. Centrale
    2. Main Station
    3. Migliarina


    Which should I go to? does it matter?
    I went to Sardinia. It is really a beautiful country, but have maps before you get there- I didn't have a map, and it made travelling through there difficult.

    For a day trip, you could go to Elba, which is also off Livornio. If you want something that's hilly and challenging, try Corsica.

    Koffee

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    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    It looks like Sardinia is 150+ miles from the mainland. I would think this would be an expensive ferry ticket. Is it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker
    It looks like Sardinia is 150+ miles from the mainland. I would think this would be an expensive ferry ticket. Is it?
    I don't think so. You can take Moby, which is pretty cheap. If you don't mind, you can sleep on deck for cheaper (probably under 20 bucks) and get into Sardinia at about 6am.

    Koffee

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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker
    It looks like I might be better heading East or South East first then South down the Eastern shore then maybe back West at some point. Does this sound like a better plan as far as avoiding mountains? This is a vacation and I don't want to kill myself. I have nothing to prove.
    I want to second what dorkypants wrote. I've toured in the following flat parts of Italy: coast between Genoa & France, Adriatic coast, & Po valley. I've also biked in the following non-flat regions of Italy: Dolomites, Alps, across the interior of the south from Bari to the Amalfi coast, & Tuscany. All of the non-flat areas were vastly more rewarding than any of the flat areas. You should ask yourself why you are going to Italy in the first place. The landscape, scenery, hilltop villages, & traffic volumes in the hilly parts of Italy all compare favorably to what you will find in the flat parts of Italy, IMO. No, you don't need to kill yourself. Take trains if you want to get up into the hills, then bike down to the coast. Then do it again in another region. But I fear that if you plan your route largely around avoiding all or most hills, you will ultimately be disappointed with the overall experience, and you will miss out on the best that Italy has to offer.

    I haven't yet biked on Sardinia or Sicily, but have heard favorable things about cycling on both islands. I have, however, biked on Corsica (which is a short ferry ride from Italy). Corsica is one of the best places for biking you will ever find. It's simply a gorgeous place. Fantastic scenery, excellent well-engineered roads, interesting culture, and pretty villages throughout. But like Italy, the only road which was boring and had high traffic volume was the only flat road on the island, which is along the east coast of Corsica. The rest of the island's roads are superb for cycling.

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