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Italy, September 2018

Old 08-13-18, 06:14 PM
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Italy, September 2018

After a new false starts related to significant life events, my wife and I are finally making a cycling trip to Italy in September. She is a sometimes cyclist, but we have found a tour group that also does cooking classes so she will be happy on the days I am cycling or she can cycle depending on routes and her preferences. We are flying into Milan then taking a train the same day to Venice. After a day of recuperation, we will have 2.5 days to see some of the sights, then take a train fast train to Florence and then a Regional train to our destination in Tuscany. The cycling starts the next day for 8 days and then we head back to Florence for a night and then to Milan to fly out.

My wife and I have traveled a lot, but it has been many years since I have been to Italy. I know there are quite a few here who have been to Italy for general touring as well as cycling, so any comments or suggestions would be appreciated. My wife is mostly concerned about how casual or formal to dress (we will be in a relatively small village) in the evenings for meals and socializing. I am assuming it is relatively casual. We plan to hire a guide in Venice for a day and then just wander the other time we have there. For the short time we have in Florence, we plan to do some type of wine and food market tour to wrap things up for this trip.

We are trying to take only carry on size bags, but depending on how the packing goes, we may have to have one check bag and a couple carry-on bags. I plan to have all the essentials I need for cycling in a carry-on (shoes, helmet, pedals, glasses, computer, seat bag, cycling clothes, street clothes). My clothes plans are less complicated than hers: a couple pair long pants, shorts, 3 short sleeve shirts, 3 "nice" "t" shirts, slip on shoes, and cycling jerseys, bibs, socks, and a couple caps. I am renting a bike to keep the travel hassle to a minimum.

I will probably be the oldest in the group, but I am not too concerned about that. I have been riding and climbing enough to feel ready and I know how important it is to stay within my limits no matter what the group does. So, should be a fun time and my first ever cycling vacation.
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Old 08-14-18, 06:28 AM
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Was last in Italy in 2013. Italian Cycling Center for nearly two weeks. Setting was a small town outside of Bassano de Grappa in the Veneto region. Evening dress is generally casual, but I would bring at least one shirt with a collar. We had no reservations about stopping at cafes and restaurants for lunch/snacks in our cycling clothes. We even stopped at this one posh villa in Prosecco grape country. In one hallway there were photos of actress Sandra Bullock. She stayed there when visiting the area.

One of the fun parts about visiting Venice is wandering around on your own. Get a good guide book and decide what you want to see. When I was there again 2013 the GF (who had never been) and I took the vaporetta (boat bus) to the far end of the main island and meandered are way back to the train station. A guy who was at the Cycling Center and who usually rented a place there every summer recommended this place for lunch: Cà D'Oro alla Vedova. There is no web site, but you can find the address on Google Maps. It's at the end of a small alley. Hard to find, but worth it. The food was terrific. Thanks to sites like Trip Advisor, it has become popular with tourists, but a lot of local business people still go there for lunch. The pasta with sauce made with squid ink was divine and not something you will find many places. The calves liver with polenta was also terrific.

Wear long pants if you plan to visit churches. And I would bring a rain jacket.

Italian drivers may seem crazy, but most of them are highly skilled. (It's harder to get a license there than in the states.) Our host explained that drivers will expect you to follow the rules of the road. Things like yielding to vehicles that are already in roundabouts. Ride smartly and you shouldn't have any problems. I don't now about Tuscany, but where we were there we countless cyclists. Sunday is the big group ride day.
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Old 08-14-18, 07:07 AM
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Congratulations, that sounds like an awesome vacation!
My wife and I did a cycling tour of Sardegna in 2011 with the ABCycles company, and that remains one of the favorite experiences of our entire marriage (!) We hope to someday go back to Italy and ride the Amalfi Coast.
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Old 08-14-18, 12:17 PM
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We took a two week trip there a couple years ago. I loved all things Italian and am ready to return. We even rented cars and drove a good bit. It was quite an adventure interpreting road signs......
Reminder about no CO2 cartridges in case you were taking a tube kit.......

Venice-folks seem to either love it or hate it. I really loved it, just so unique. I hear there can be a strong smell in the hotter months so be warned. We visited a glass factory on a nearby Island (took a water taxi to it). Just don't handle the really fragile items like someone in my group did and let it slip through her fingers!! We had a little too much vino one night and took the water bus back to our hotel. It was very late and we missed our stop due to it being dark and the vino. The water bus stopped running where we got off (it was late) and it was an adventure getting back. You can actually walk most of Venice if you have the time and legs.

Florence was really nice-we stayed in the downtown area and were able to walk to the places we wanted to go. I love the food. I saw a number of cyclists, mostly south of Florence.

Their trains across Italy are really good to get around on. People were super friendly and helpful.

I didn't care for Milan......just a huge Metropolitan city....but we probably missed some of the touristy things. Wives did some shopping.

The Tuscany area was really nice and rural---would be some terrific cycling if you enjoyed hills. The Tuscan soup was incredible. All their food just seemed to have fresh ingredients.
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Old 08-14-18, 01:03 PM
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This wouldn’t happen to be a Cinghiale tour would it? I happen to have a lot of (good) experience with them.
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Old 08-14-18, 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Stevie47 View Post
This wouldn’t happen to be a Cinghiale tour would it? I happen to have a lot of (good) experience with them.
Indeed it is! Any comments, suggestions, experiences you can share would be very much appreciated. My wife is a casual cyclist and may do some biking, but her interests are with the cooking part of the tour. Again, anything you can offer would be much appreciated.

And, thanks for the other comments and suggestions. We have a short list of places to go in Venice and these are helpful suggestions!
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Old 08-15-18, 01:15 AM
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Take care of your valuables: passports, credit cards etc. Thieves are everywhere! Have a great trip.
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Old 08-15-18, 08:52 AM
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I did a Tuscany bike tour last year. It's different. They had a lot of wars BITD, all of the towns are on hilltops. So your day goes something like so....
Breakfast, screaming descent, flattish, lung busting ascent, new village walk around have coffee. Screaming descent, flattish, lung busting ascent, lunch, walk around another village. I'd go on, but I'm sure you get it.

Loved Italy so much went back for skiing in February. Overall, it's cheaper than Vermont. Around 1/4 what you would be spending in Switzerland.

Did the Baltics this year. Three countries 11 days. A bike is a great way to see things.
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Old 08-15-18, 08:54 AM
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Andy runs a good operation. There will be plenty for your wife to do. Particularly on this tour there are frequently non riding spouses. As far as dress, casual is fine. Italians do have a way of dressing casual and still looking stylish. Like most of life, success depends on attitude. If you look at it as a grand adventure, you won’t be disappointed.
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Old 08-15-18, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Stevie47 View Post
Andy runs a good operation. There will be plenty for your wife to do. Particularly on this tour there are frequently non riding spouses. As far as dress, casual is fine. Italians do have a way of dressing casual and still looking stylish. Like most of life, success depends on attitude. If you look at it as a grand adventure, you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks! My wife is creative and inventive so I assume she will have no trouble enjoying her time while I am cycling. She is curious though about the opportunities. I am curious about the cycling. I anticipate that it is much like NYCJohn170 describes above: " screaming descent, flattish, lung busting ascent, new village walk around have coffee. Screaming descent, flattish, lung busting ascent, lunch, walk around another village" then repeat the screaming descent, flattish, lung busing ascent routine. Any comments about the riding? I would guess that rides are somewhat tailored to the composition of the group, but I am curious what the range of rides is. I have done some hunting on Strava and it offers some insights, but I am curious about your experience with Andy's group.
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Old 08-15-18, 03:31 PM
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I rode Eroica in Tuscany a couple of years ago. It's simply a fabulous place for riding with lots of small towns with nice eateries, places to sip good inexpensive wine and medieval fortified hilltop castles and villages. As far as dress is concerned and as noted above, european casual is definitely not the same as what many americans consider to be casual (i.e. T-shirts and shorts). You can wear that stuff but you will stick out like a sore thumb (or an american tourist).

The only thing I might add is that your wife might want to have a rental car available if she's not going to ride since it's the countryside and small villages that are so enchanting whereas the trains generally only go to the large cities and towns.
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Old 08-15-18, 04:01 PM
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There’s not a lot of flat terrain in Italy, so of course there’s climbs, descents and in between. However, gut busting and screaming are only if you choose to ride that way. Most days have harder and easier options. I found that the beauty of the country is much better if I’m not constantly in the red zone. The rides are usually demanding but nothing crazy. My advice would be to chill, stop frequently to take photos, and enjoy the people, scenery, and food. Oh, and the gelato in Bolgeri!
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Old 08-16-18, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by NYCJohn170 View Post
I did a Tuscany bike tour last year. It's different. They had a lot of wars BITD, all of the towns are on hilltops. So your day goes something like so....
Breakfast, screaming descent, flattish, lung busting ascent, new village walk around have coffee. Screaming descent, flattish, lung busting ascent, lunch, walk around another village. I'd go on, but I'm sure you get it.
LOL! Reminds me of touring in Andalucía, Spain. I often dreaded looking at a map and seeing the road go through some small town. I would think "That thing is going to up*a really steep hill." Fortunately, in many cases the main roads now bypass small town centers so you don't have to climb into town if you don't want/need to. But not always. I remember seeing a sign showing a 12% grade into town. Another time I had to push the bike for a bit to get to the main plaza.
*
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Old 01-12-19, 05:10 PM
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Well I'm thinking of my first bike tour of Italy too. Between Andy's place and at about 1/2 price the Italian Cycle Center? Love all input from you guys that have "been there done that." My wife and I have been to Italy numerous times and love it. This is the first time for me cycling. BTW she is a non cyclist.
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Old 01-13-19, 10:03 AM
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The Hampsten Tour (Cycling and Cooking) is a first rate experience. My wife enjoyed herself, although she only did a couple days of very easy cycling. There are numerous less expensive options, including cycling hotels such as the Belvedere. Lucca, Florence, and other locations in tuscany offer options for cycling with places for local hire and guides if you want them. I considered those types of options, but in the end I wanted a trip where the riding experience would be fun, there would be non-cycling activities for my wife to enjoy, and the scenery would be pleasing. The Hampsten trip checked all those boxes and more for us. You really cannot go wrong with one of his tours, but there are certainly less expensive options, but you get what you pay for with Andy and Elaine and it is well worth the cost.
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Old 01-13-19, 12:14 PM
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It's after September 2018, but I'll add my thoughts anyway. Been a couple of years ago now, on my last visit to Rome. Or maybe my second to last visit? Can't get enough of the place. I rented a bicycle for a few days to get around Rome and visit some places off the tourist path. And to fulfill a childhood dream, which was to walk on Via Appia Antica, (Appian Way).

I found a bicycle one of the best ways to get around Rome, and to my relief, cars were very respectful of me out on the streets. My only close call was almost being squeezed between two buses. My own stupid fault. But the cars were fantastic. I asked the hotel front desk guy, who was a great help during the trip, and he said that car drivers were at one time bicyclists and realize how much they could hurt a cyclist on a bike, and thereby give them a wide berth. It was pretty simple to keep up with the flow of traffic most of the time.

Had a very minor issue when boarding the plane in the states. I hand carried my helmet and the boarding clerk wouldn't let me on because it was my third "carry on". So, I just flipped it onto the top of my head, and problem solved. Now I only had two carry on items, (wearing the third.)



The fulfillment of a childhood dream. To walk along Via Appia Antica.

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Old 01-16-19, 11:57 AM
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walk along Via Appia Antica
Very kewl!
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Old 01-16-19, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Ald1 View Post
Well I'm thinking of my first bike tour of Italy too. Between Andy's place and at about 1/2 price the Italian Cycle Center?.
I spent nearly two weeks at the ICC in 2013. I know the guy who owns it. We live close to each other. The guy pictured on the website is my friend Bart:

http://www.italiancycling.com/

Every body rides in that area. Sunday is traditional club ride day. We saw very large groups. Great riding. The place is close to the start of the climb to Monte Grappa. Good value, and the food is terrific. The area was, at one point, the Italian Front during WWI, so there is a lot of history, including a terrific WWI museum underneath a bar at the old bridge. And if you like to drink grappa and drink Prosecco, you will be in the right place. (One day we rode through Valdobiadenne, which is where Prosecco comes from.) You can also take a day trip to Venice on the train. The biggest drawback is that there is nothing in the small town to do at night. There are no evening busses between Borso del Grappa (where you stay) and Bassano del Grappa. You need to take a taxi if you want to go into town at night.

Let me know if you book. I can suggest some rides, including one to the Asiago Plateau.
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Old 01-17-19, 02:29 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
I spent nearly two weeks at the ICC in 2013. I know the guy who owns it. We live close to each other. The guy pictured on the website is my friend Bart:

http://www.italiancycling.com/

Every body rides in that area. Sunday is traditional club ride day. We saw very large groups. Great riding. The place is close to the start of the climb to Monte Grappa. Good value, and the food is terrific. The area was, at one point, the Italian Front during WWI, so there is a lot of history, including a terrific WWI museum underneath a bar at the old bridge. And if you like to drink grappa and drink Prosecco, you will be in the right place. (One day we rode through Valdobiadenne, which is where Prosecco comes from.) You can also take a day trip to Venice on the train. The biggest drawback is that there is nothing in the small town to do at night. There are no evening busses between Borso del Grappa (where you stay) and Bassano del Grappa. You need to take a taxi if you want to go into town at night.

Let me know if you book. I can suggest some rides, including one to the Asiago Plateau.
Thanks for the info. George P has been in touch to answer some questions. We have flown into Venice and rented a car before. Last year we stayed in the Lake Garda area and I used the hotel bikes for a morning ride! Taking mine this time. My wife is a non-cyclist and, I guess the decision,if we go to the ICC is the rent a car or not. Sounds like it might not be a bad idea. Do you know what their airport shuttle fee was? What time of year did you go? Thanks Again!
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Old 01-17-19, 06:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Ald1 View Post
I guess the decision,if we go to the ICC is the rent a car or not. Sounds like it might not be a bad idea. Do you know what their airport shuttle fee was? What time of year did you go? Thanks Again!
She's going to want a car. Can't remember how much the taxi costs. At the time, George had a deal with a driver. I'll bet he still does and can give you an idea of the cost. The guy was a hoot. He refused to take the freeway because of tolls. We took countless backroads, some of which were not much more than one lane wide. Guy drove like a bat out of hell, but he was very skilled, as most drivers in Italy are. (It's harder to get a license there than in the U.S.). We arrived May 24th. Nice time, but that year they were having their second coldest, wettest spring in history. From town you can look up and see the range were Monte Grappa is. One morning you could see fresh snow. One guy did the climb to Monte Gappa. He said it was cold and while the road was clear, there was about 6" of snow on the ground at the top.

The final stage of the Giro was started within riding distance so we went to see it. Here is Niboli riding passed:

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Old 01-19-19, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by metalheart44
After a new false starts related to significant life events, my wife and I are finally making a cycling trip to Italy in September.
My wife and I were there in August of 18 but unfortunately we didn't get the opportunity to do any riding. We're going back again but after looking at some of the countryside, I don't think she is going to want to do any cycling.
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