Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Touring
Reload this Page >

Which Would you Choose - Italy, Spain, France

Notices
Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

Which Would you Choose - Italy, Spain, France

Old 07-15-20, 07:07 PM
  #1  
m2244
Junior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 23
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 17 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Which Would you Choose - Italy, Spain, France

Hello,

We are thinking about doing a trip through one of these countries, anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks let's say. Which would you suggest based on beauty, moderate dufficulty level, and safety?

Italy, Spain, France, (any other suggestions in Europe)

Another way to ask this is, have you cycled through any of these countries? If so, which was your favorite?

Basically, we're just trying to get an idea for some areas to start researching. Thanks everyone.

**EDIT: I forgot, we're thinking small towns, not a great deal of traffic if possible.

Last edited by m2244; 07-15-20 at 07:23 PM.
m2244 is offline  
Old 07-15-20, 07:22 PM
  #2  
Davet
Licensed Bike Geek
 
Davet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Los Barriles, Baja Sur, Mexico
Posts: 1,290

Bikes: Kirk Terraplane, Serotta Ottrott, Spectrum Super Custom, Hampsten Carbon Leger Tournesol

Mentioned: 4 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 75 Post(s)
Liked 30 Times in 20 Posts
My top 3 countries, in no particular order, for thoroughly enjoyable cycling on lots of levels are Austria, Germany and Italy.
Davet is offline  
Old 07-16-20, 06:14 AM
  #3  
axolotl
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,852
Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 204 Post(s)
Liked 31 Times in 25 Posts
For me, France, hands down. France has a superb network of minor secondary roads with minimal traffic. Also quite a few canal trails. There are extremely varied landscapes and a greater choice of topographies than you'll find in Spain or Italy. It's easier to find campgrounds, little hotels, & restaurants in remote areas of France than in remote areas of the other 2 countries. Petty crime is a bigger problem in Spain than in Italy or France, though it exists in all 3 countries. Restaurant hours in Spain and shop opening hours in Spain can be problems. France has more areas (in the north, esp.) likely to be too wet, whereas Spain has more areas likely to be too hot. Topography overall is most difficult for cyclists in Italy. Another aspect to consider: Do you speak any French, Spanish, or Italian? If you speak one of them, it will add to your enjoyment in the respective country.
axolotl is offline  
Old 07-16-20, 06:57 AM
  #4  
jamawani 
Hooked on Touring
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Wyoming
Posts: 2,649
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 207 Post(s)
Liked 40 Times in 27 Posts
Je dois dire, aussi - la France.

The French country lanes are picture book - day after day.
Plus, French drivers are very courteous towards cyclists.
Little villages nicely spaced for lunch and overnight.
(Get your lunch items before the clock strikes 12:00, though.)

The Massif Central is a rugged remote region if you want tougher riding.
For western Europe, remarkably unpopulated and wild.
Medieval castles, forests, and deep gorges.

Beau Sťjour!
jamawani is offline  
Old 07-16-20, 07:34 AM
  #5  
raybo
Bike touring webrarian
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 1,943

Bikes: I tour on a Waterford Adventurecycle. It is a fabulous touring bike.

Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 67 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 19 Times in 10 Posts
Do you speak one of the languages of the countries you listed? If so, I would give preference to that country.

I've done many tours in Europe but have not done one in Spain. My impression of it is lots of arid countryside, which doesn't appeal to me.

As was said above, France has a varied geography and you can decide what kind of terrain you want to traverse. Eastern France has many gorges that are truly fabulous to ride. There is also much history, art, architecture and beaches. Not to mention, WWI and II battlefields and invasion beaches. As long as you're not a vegetarian, the food is good. If you want to camp, many French towns how municipal campgrounds that are inexpensive and well maintained.In 2008, I did month-long tour of France. Here is the detailed journal of that ride.

Personally, I prefer Italy. One reason is that I speak a bit of Italian. In addition, Northern Italy has a beautiful and varied terrain that includes lakes, rivers, valleys, and mountains. All of which I love to ride through. The food in Italy is fabulous, if you like Italian cuisine. Italians have much respect for bike riders and there are a number of bike paths throughout the country. Like France, there is much history, art, architecture and beaches. Also, Italians are a gregarious people who like to engage strangers. I've done several rides in Italy: Three weeks in Northern Italy, from Naples down to Sicily, from Bolzano and the Dolomites up into Austria, and from Florence, Italy up into France and Switzerland. A great information site for biking in Italy is https://italy-cycling-guide.info/

Another option is to ride through several European countries. With 6 weeks, you could start in Amsterdam, ride to Passau, jump on the Danube bike path and ride all the way to Vienna or even Budapest. I greatly enjoyed my ride from Amsterdam to Passau.

Europe is a fabulous place to ride. With a bit of planning, you should have no problem finding exactly what you are looking for.
raybo is offline  
Likes For raybo:
Old 07-16-20, 08:56 AM
  #6  
gauvins
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: QC Canada
Posts: 1,257

Bikes: Custom built LHT & Troll

Mentioned: 9 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 443 Post(s)
Liked 13 Times in 13 Posts
@raybo has a good point (i.e. language).

My preference would go towards France (I speak French fluently, have family there). If you do not speak French, you may want to consider Germany. While France has plenty of quiet country roads, Germany has (the best?) bike paths network. We cycled extensively both countries. Both are great cycling destinations. We are also familiar with Italy and Spain. Spain during summer can be *really* hot. Italy will test your legs (hilly). But great destinations nonetheless. You cannot go wrong, with the COVID caveat that'll motivate you to check conditions. I think I've read that Italy is reconsidering its open-border approach. Same in France. Situation in flux in Catalonia where nobody seem to know what is happening exactly.... Mixed reports from what I hear, with some tourists marvelling at sites that would otherwise be overcrowded. Interesting
gauvins is offline  
Old 07-16-20, 09:54 AM
  #7  
fietsbob
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: NW,Oregon Coast
Posts: 43,598

Bikes: 8

Mentioned: 197 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 7607 Post(s)
Liked 1,277 Times in 798 Posts
88 tour started in London. rode to Plymouth, took a ferry to Roscoff, in Brittany NW France .. then to Normandy, Paris Etc..

TGV & local rail to Bern CH Up Rhine to AMS then home to SFO from there..

AMS Airport has National rail Station underneath it to go to other cities if you wish ..
fietsbob is offline  
Old 07-16-20, 10:36 AM
  #8  
thumpism 
Bikes are okay, I guess.
 
thumpism's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Posts: 6,088

Bikes: Waterford Paramount Touring, Trek 510 city build, Giant CFM-2, Raleigh Sports 3-speeds in M23 & L23, Schwinn Cimarron oddball build, Marin Palisades Trail dropbar conversion, Nishiki Cresta GT

Mentioned: 49 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1753 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 488 Times in 349 Posts
"Every man has two countries, his own and France." You can find out who said that but it has an element of truth.

I'd have to say Spain for myself, having been to the others twice on two different trips.
thumpism is offline  
Old 07-16-20, 11:51 AM
  #9  
fourfa
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 121
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 48 Post(s)
Liked 26 Times in 18 Posts
I've toured in all three, enjoyed all three immensely. There's a lifetime of great riding in all three, even avoiding areas that don't suit you. Arid Spain in summer for instance, though I found arid inland areas on gravel farm roads to be lovely in November. And great food in all three, with varied and diverse local variations (this is as important to me as the pedaling).

Flip a coin, knowing that whatever you pick now you'll still have to visit the others on later tours. Seriously.

I wouldn't let lack of language skill deter you from any of the three (or any country anywhere for that matter). You need things, people want to sell you those things, commerce will always find a way if you approach with an open attitude and try your best to learn a little of the language. Conversations with locals happen organically along the way no matter what. And 6 weeks is plenty to get some basics in any language, if you make an effort and spend some evenings working through language books or apps

m2244 I do think you'll get more useful advice if you can outline the time frame, as July vs December will have very different specific recommendations.
fourfa is offline  
Old 07-16-20, 12:24 PM
  #10  
Doug64
Senior Member
 
Doug64's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Oregon
Posts: 5,857
Mentioned: 29 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 906 Post(s)
Liked 249 Times in 148 Posts
My wife and I have spent a total 7 months riding in Europe. We rode across Spain from Portugal and the Mediterranean Coast from Valencia to Barcelona. Spain was a good place to ride but we experienced 109 F (43C) temperatures in the southern part of the country, which made for some tough riding. Most businesses close down around noon, and sometime it was hard finding food before 7:00 pm. This is not an issue in tourist areas, and became less of a problem as we headed north.

We've cycled in France three times. France is also a good place to ride, but it can get hot there too. Jabawani's post describes our experience there. On our last tour we started in Paris to give our daughters a chance to experience a few days in the city. The ride from the airport into the city was exciting. Our friends in Paris advised us against riding out through the suburbs, and to take the train to a small village on the outskirts of the metro area. It is a good way to get a taste of the city without getting caught in the pandemonium. August is the month when things slow down, and half the nation goes on holiday. Campgrounds and lodging can be hard to find on weekends.

We have not toured in Italy. I don't have a good reason why, but I have never really wanted to ride there.

Between France and Spain, I'd say France would be the most interesting, especially if this is your first European tour. A good ride would be to start in Paris, ride over to the Rhine, ride north through part of Germany to Cologne, turn west heading for Maastricht, Netherlands, cross the short section of the Netherlands into Belgium, head westerly toward Brugge, turn north toward Amsterdam. This is a very flexible route and can be adjusted to meet your departure date. We did about 1500 miles with a few side trips. It was our daughters' first European tour and we let them dominate the route planning. Schiphol Airport is the most bike friendly airport I've ever seen. We've started all three of our tours in different parts of Europe, but finished them all in The Netherlands.

All our rides in Europe have been great experiences. Out of the 10 countries we rode through, Poland and the Czech Republic are my favorite countries. I think the political situation has changed in many European countries, and the experience of visiting some places may be different today. I talked to my wife about this, and she also said Poland was her favorite country. The people were wonderful, the little towns were great places to explore, we were mostly off the beaten track, and the roads were generally good. We don't remember seeing any other bike tourists in Poland.

Last edited by Doug64; 07-16-20 at 03:17 PM.
Doug64 is offline  
Likes For Doug64:
Old 07-16-20, 04:05 PM
  #11  
Steve B.
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: South shore, L.I., NY
Posts: 4,473

Bikes: Flyxii FR322, Cannondale Topstone, Miyata City Liner, Specialized Chisel

Mentioned: 16 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1653 Post(s)
Liked 364 Times in 255 Posts
All three have great cycling variety.

Food and wine is better in France and Italy, IMO. France marginally better for variety of food.

France is larger than Italy thus easier to wander before hitting water, has a larger road network.

I like France and would would recommend it, but love Italy, finding the people marginally nicer. I've been to Spain once, France 4 times, Italy 4 times.

West coast of Spain as well as Portugal would be the best choice if going to Spain.
Steve B. is offline  
Old 07-16-20, 04:48 PM
  #12  
fietsbob
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: NW,Oregon Coast
Posts: 43,598

Bikes: 8

Mentioned: 197 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 7607 Post(s)
Liked 1,277 Times in 798 Posts
I Am not happy in Hot Weather So I stay near the ocean ..
fietsbob is offline  
Old 07-16-20, 05:42 PM
  #13  
indyfabz
Senior Member
 
indyfabz's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 27,380
Mentioned: 193 Post(s)
Tagged: 1 Thread(s)
Quoted: 11646 Post(s)
Liked 3,463 Times in 1,850 Posts
Stay away from Southern Spain if you want moderate terrain. Definitely stay away in the summer if you donít want to roast. Ask me how I know about the former. See Dougís comment about the latter. Also be mindful of Semana Santa. Lots of competition for lodging/ camping. Ask me how I know. And yes, some restaurants in smaller towns donít open until late by American standards.
indyfabz is offline  
Old 07-16-20, 07:32 PM
  #14  
niknak
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Reno, NV
Posts: 756
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 74 Post(s)
Liked 8 Times in 7 Posts
In 2016 I spent five weeks in France and I think 3 weeks in Spain. Although Spain had its highlights, France was consistently fantastic. Here are the reasons to go to France:
  1. Huge network of quiet back roads makes planning on the fly easy
  2. Most villages have a public water fountain so you never have to worry about running out of water
  3. Most villages have at least a small market with excellent fresh produce, cheeses, bread, etc.
  4. The Vercors and Ardeche regions were amazing for cycling
  5. Most towns have a campground located usually near the heart of the town
  6. If you're so inclined, there are plenty of famous climbs featured in the Tour de France you can tackle
niknak is offline  
Old 07-17-20, 06:52 AM
  #15  
BobG
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: NH
Posts: 798
Mentioned: 7 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 205 Post(s)
Liked 28 Times in 23 Posts
Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
On our last tour we started in Paris to give our daughters a chance to experience a few days in the city. The ride from the airport into the city was exciting. Our friends in Paris advised us against riding out through the suburbs...
If you ever need to cycle from Charles de Gaulle airport into Paris there is a lovely canal bike path most of the way, the Canal de l'Ourcq ...



Once you find your way out of the airport mayhem head for the town of Tremblay-Vieux-Pays, continue to Tremblay-en-France and hop on the canal. It continues all the way to the Porte de Pantin at the city limits. I've sketched in the route in black ...


BobG is offline  
Old 07-19-20, 01:34 AM
  #16  
ciquta
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 19
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 7 Post(s)
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
Italy is a VERY territorial country, north and south are very different, esp when it comes to bike paths and respect of cyclist.
I rode in 10 countries and best experience I had are between northern Italy and Austria. Like a tour between Verona and Klagenfurt or Alpe Adria bike path... things like that.

France is also very good: good food, lot of culture, great bike heritage, nice bike paths. Maybe a little bit less vary than Italy. Some people say they're not very friendly but I always had nice experiences with them. Problem is they just can't speak English.. but you always find a way.
France is very big, twice as much as Italy.. it also depends where you go.


I'm Italian FWIW

Last edited by ciquta; 07-19-20 at 01:40 AM.
ciquta is offline  
Old 07-19-20, 12:13 PM
  #17  
Standalone 
The Drive Side is Within
 
Standalone's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: New Haven, CT, USA
Posts: 3,394

Bikes: Road, Cargo, Tandem, Etc.

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 118 Post(s)
Liked 32 Times in 23 Posts
Originally Posted by m2244 View Post
Hello,

We are thinking about doing a trip through one of these countries, anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks let's say. Which would you suggest based on beauty, moderate dufficulty level, and safety?

Italy, Spain, France, (any other suggestions in Europe)

Another way to ask this is, have you cycled through any of these countries? If so, which was your favorite?

Basically, we're just trying to get an idea for some areas to start researching. Thanks everyone.

**EDIT: I forgot, we're thinking small towns, not a great deal of traffic if possible.
Iíve hitchhiked the NW of France. Calais to Mont Ste. Michel. Normandy is beautiful.

The key to travel for me is speaking the language, and I speak conversational French pretty well. So France gets my biased vote!
__________________
The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley
Standalone is offline  
Old 07-19-20, 09:31 PM
  #18  
Doug64
Senior Member
 
Doug64's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Oregon
Posts: 5,857
Mentioned: 29 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 906 Post(s)
Liked 249 Times in 148 Posts
My experience touring in 10 countries, 11 if I count Iceland, is that knowing the language is not very important. Knowing a few words like good morning, hello, please, and thank you combined with a smile works wonders.

I asked a young server in a Spanish cafe when ordering coffee for "mas agua caliente por favor; and she said, " oh you want an Americano".

Last edited by Doug64; 07-20-20 at 01:37 PM.
Doug64 is offline  
Old 07-20-20, 02:44 PM
  #19  
gauvins
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: QC Canada
Posts: 1,257

Bikes: Custom built LHT & Troll

Mentioned: 9 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 443 Post(s)
Liked 13 Times in 13 Posts
Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
[snip ...] knowing the language is not very important. Knowing a few words like good morning, hello, please, and thank you combined with a smile works wonders [... snip]
True, wrt practical matters. I've traveled rather extensively and language never prevented me from eating, sleeping, etc. "Survival English" is widely understood and tools like Google Translate are useful if things get a little more complicated (e.g. a visit to a medical clinic). Still, not being to converse with the locals can be frustrating at times.
gauvins is offline  
Old 07-20-20, 03:23 PM
  #20  
fietsbob
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: NW,Oregon Coast
Posts: 43,598

Bikes: 8

Mentioned: 197 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 7607 Post(s)
Liked 1,277 Times in 798 Posts
Way Back in the Pre Cellphone send postcards back home, era,

In the well stocked German Deli ,
I Pointed to stuff in the glass display cabinet in front of me..

Many younger than I and some older, spoke English & often several other languages too..
fietsbob is offline  
Old 07-20-20, 04:55 PM
  #21  
Caretaker
Heretic
 
Caretaker's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Posts: 2,171

Bikes: Specialized Sirrus, Giant OCR3, Giant CRS3

Mentioned: 15 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1453 Post(s)
Liked 182 Times in 137 Posts
I've toured in France, Spain, Portugal and Sicily.

I recommend France because there's plenty of good quiet minor roads, good food and you're never too far from a village or campsite (in season). Best choice for some one who hasn't toured in Europe before.
Caretaker is offline  
Old 07-21-20, 11:21 AM
  #22  
fietsbob
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: NW,Oregon Coast
Posts: 43,598

Bikes: 8

Mentioned: 197 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 7607 Post(s)
Liked 1,277 Times in 798 Posts
Well Irish Republic, in the EU. does not have the issue those in the States do, which is No Tourist Visas being issued ..
fietsbob is offline  
Old 07-22-20, 07:30 AM
  #23  
TulsaJohn
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Tulsa, OK
Posts: 244

Bikes: Co-Motion Americano Rohloff, Thorn Nomad MkII, Robert Beckman Skakkit (FOR SALE), Santana Tandem, ICE Adventure FS

Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 53 Post(s)
Liked 5 Times in 3 Posts
Depends on what you are looking for.

I prefer France or northern Italy (and Switzerland & Austria) for scenery, France for lower traffic roads and cycle friendly road network, Italy or Spain for food (absolutely love Jamon Iberico), France for easy to access on bikes tourist sites, Spain for the Vuelta, and Spain for the pretty women.
TulsaJohn is offline  
Old 07-22-20, 10:07 AM
  #24  
Caretaker
Heretic
 
Caretaker's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Posts: 2,171

Bikes: Specialized Sirrus, Giant OCR3, Giant CRS3

Mentioned: 15 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1453 Post(s)
Liked 182 Times in 137 Posts
Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Well Irish Republic, in the EU. does not have the issue those in the States do, which is No Tourist Visas being issued ..
I live in the Irish Republic and at the moment unless you're coming from Italy and few other European countries with levels of C-19 below Ireland then you will be asked to give contact details and 'restrict your movements'for 14 days' after arriving.
The same applies to me if I go to France, Spain or Portugal after I return. I'm touring in Ireland this year but I'm not recommending non-residents to tour here.
Caretaker is offline  
Old 07-22-20, 09:03 PM
  #25  
greatscott
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Location: Indiana
Posts: 540

Bikes: 1984 Fuji Club, Suntour ARX; 2013 Lynskey Peloton, mostly 105 with Ultegra rear derailleur, Enve 2.0 fork; 2020 Masi Giramondo 700c, full Deore with TRP dual piston mech disk brakes

Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 287 Post(s)
Liked 54 Times in 50 Posts
France is out, they don't particular care for Americans; they're more formal in how they dress; if you need WiFi France is the best place for technology even in remote areas. If you're going there to participate in some sports, well France is the place for those sort of activities; France has the best food too but it will cost you;

Italy has just tons of tourists so it's always crowded, and the citizens that live in those areas are fed up with tourists, so they tend to put off tourists; go to a restaurant and ask for the check and it could take them an hour to bring it to you, they simply don't care, nor do they make any attempt to speak English. Lots of young children begging; cost to do anything there is astronomical.

So that leaves Spain, a quieter designation, want to serve their customers with really good service; Americans will find the English language is spoken there, the traffic is less congested, costs is the lowest of the three; they dress more casual and act more casual, they are a more relaxed people, but in that relax state they tend to talk a lot. Spain of the three is the worst for WIFI, you would be lucky to get any signal and when you do it's slow as molasses, but your in Spain, relax. The food isn't as good in Spain as the other two are but the food is cheaper.

Now obviously not all areas of Italy, for example, are going to be rude and busy, if you get away from the more touristy areas you will leave a lot of those issues behind in France or Italy. In Europe politeness wins the day, don't go there thinking you can shove your big broad American shoulders around, be polite and courteous...AT ALL TIMES!

Anyway, all of that is just my opinion, don't take it too seriously.
greatscott is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -

Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.