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Planning 10 days in Italy: Solo or Organized Tour?

Old 10-01-23, 10:46 PM
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Planning 10 days in Italy: Solo or Organized Tour?

I'm hoping to do a 10-or-so day tour in Italy in May 2024. Thinking Umbria or Tuscany. Hotels, credit card tour kind of thing.

I'm torn with whether to just do it solo - choose some cities to bed in and explore on my own by bike. I am comfortable doing that in the U.S. (I'm from Pennsylvania). I've done a handful of tours on my own Ė e.g., the San Juan Islands Ė and it's comfortable to me and I enjoy it. I've never done it overseas though. Not sure if it's naive of me to expect to be able to pull it off so easily in Italy.

I'm not averse to doing it thru a touring company either. Luggage transfer, bikes provided, accommodations, etc., would make it convienient.

A complicating factor is my wife and a good friend of ours would like to do this with me, but neither bicycles. I'm finding it not easy to coordinate a sightseeing vacation on foot for them and by bike for me. It's like trying to plan two vacations and then coordinate them. Ugh. I've checked with some bike touring companies and haven't found any that work with a non-bicycling partner.

Would love any suggestions or tips or ideas to help me figure this out.

Thanks in advance,
Tesgin
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Old 10-02-23, 03:44 AM
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Buy a travel book. The Rough Guide series is great. Donít know if itís still around. Pick an area with interesting sights for them to see and good cycling. Plan a route around that. They can rent a car and do their thing while you ride. Perk is that they can carry your gear.
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Old 10-02-23, 06:21 AM
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are you planning a point-to-point tour or one (or more) hub-n-spoke tours?

if only ten days or so, should be easy enough to pick a couple cities connected by train, 2-3 days ride apart.

fly to italia, spend a few days in city #1 with your wife 'n friend. one day sightseeing with them, a couple days riding in the surrounding countryside.

take a couple days to cycle to city #2, while they take the train.

repeat in city #2.

advantage, you only have to make two hotel reservations for three. you'll only need find lodging on the road for one night.
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Old 10-02-23, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Buy a travel book. The Rough Guide series is great. Donít know if itís still around. Pick an area with interesting sights for them to see and good cycling. Plan a route around that. They can rent a car and do their thing while you ride. Perk is that they can carry your gear.
Nice. Not familiar with Rough Guide. I'll try to find it and post back.
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Old 10-02-23, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Tesgin
Nice. Not familiar with Rough Guide. I'll try to find it and post back.
A long time ago I used to one for Andalucia to help me plan a 7-week tour there. Very useful as it covered lots of small places, and the reviews were frank. If a hotel or restaurant or town sucked, it said so.

Here is the one for Italy:

The Rough Guide to Italy | Rough Guides

They might have ones for regions of the country.

Oh. Look. Tuscany and Umbria:

The Rough Guide to Tuscany & Umbria | Rough Guides
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Old 10-02-23, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores
are you planning a point-to-point tour or one (or more) hub-n-spoke tours?

if only ten days or so, should be easy enough to pick a couple cities connected by train, 2-3 days ride apart.

fly to italia, spend a few days in city #1 with your wife 'n friend. one day sightseeing with them, a couple days riding in the surrounding countryside.

take a couple days to cycle to city #2, while they take the train.

repeat in city #2.

advantage, you only have to make two hotel reservations for three. you'll only need find lodging on the road for one night.
Yeah, I haven't decided. Leaning toward hub-n-spoke. Thinking of maybe three cities. Definitely Florence would be one. Any suggestions for others? Interested in Umbria too. Maybe Perugia? Would welcome thoughts about Sienna. Sounds like a beautiful city, but a friend of mine (non-bicyclist) said it was extremely crowded and trafficky, narrow streets. She didn't recommend it for a bike stop. she didn't care for it as a non-cyclist. Thoughts?
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Old 10-02-23, 10:05 AM
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i wouldn't want to tour inside the cities.
research italian trains, especially the local commuter runs.

have a base in the big city. early morning before the rush, take a train to an outlying area and spend the day in the countryside, ending up early evening either in the same town/village, or another town/village on the commuter train line. after the go home rush, take the train with your bike back to the big city.

i'd do two large cities as the endpoints, with a smaller town or village in between. in that case all three of you can spend a few days in a small town in the countryside, and at least one day rent bikes for the other two.
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Old 10-02-23, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
A long time ago I used to one for Andalucia to help me plan a 7-week tour there. Very useful as it covered lots of small places, and the reviews were frank. If a hotel or restaurant or town sucked, it said so.

Here is the one for Italy:

The Rough Guide to Italy | Rough Guides

They might have ones for regions of the country.

Oh. Look. Tuscany and Umbria:

The Rough Guide to Tuscany & Umbria | Rough Guides
Thank you for this! Just ordered it! Comes with a digital download too.
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Old 10-02-23, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Tesgin
Thank you for this! Just ordered it! Comes with a digital download too.
Also check to see if Michelin has maps for regions of Italy. They make some great maps of Europe. I spent much of a winter reading through the Rough Guide with their map of Andalucia in front of me. Figured out what I wanted to see and highlighted roads on the map. Often used the smallest roads when possible. At the time anyway, the more scenic roads had green lines next to them. Wish I could have also used RWGPS to get a better idea of grades, but it didnít exist back then. Whenever I decided to alter my plans, Iíd whip out the map.
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Old 10-03-23, 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Also check to see if Michelin has maps for regions of Italy. They make some great maps of Europe. I spent much of a winter reading through the Rough Guide with their map of Andalucia in front of me. Figured out what I wanted to see and highlighted roads on the map. Often used the smallest roads when possible. At the time anyway, the more scenic roads had green lines next to them. Wish I could have also used RWGPS to get a better idea of grades, but it didnít exist back then. Whenever I decided to alter my plans, Iíd whip out the map.
Totally. Yes, RWGPS is amazing.
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Old 10-03-23, 10:06 PM
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Don’t forget to leverage the heat map feature which indicates roads commonly used by cyclists and the use street view to determine suitability. Haven’t bought a guide book for over a decade, use the internet for my research.
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Old 10-03-23, 10:20 PM
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Ride to your destinations while the other folks take trains or a rental car. Italy has a vast rail system, not to mention Flix bus. You get your riding in and they have the dolce vita.
There may even be an outfitter who will organize your trip and transport the non riders. It won't be cheap.
Tuscany is saturated with bike tour organizers, so choose wisely. A very popular route is called the 'eroica'
As a solo traveller, you may need to do self guided or join a group

Last edited by MarcusT; 10-03-23 at 10:25 PM.
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Old 10-04-23, 10:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Tesgin
Yeah, I haven't decided. Leaning toward hub-n-spoke. Thinking of maybe three cities. Definitely Florence would be one. Any suggestions for others? Interested in Umbria too. Maybe Perugia? Would welcome thoughts about Sienna. Sounds like a beautiful city, but a friend of mine (non-bicyclist) said it was extremely crowded and trafficy, narrow streets. She didn't recommend it for a bike stop. she didn't care for it as a non-cyclist. Thoughts?
I would skip Perugia, it is very congested with narrow streets. Gubbio and Assisi are beautiful cities. Skip Norcia, they are still rebuilding from the earthquake. Siena is also quite nice, I would avoid festival time (horse races) it can be more crowded than a NYC subway.
Tuscany and Umbria are both beautiful regions it's hard to go wrong
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Old 10-09-23, 07:52 AM
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Oh, this is great. Very helpful. Thnx, Marcus.
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Old 10-09-23, 08:06 AM
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Originally Posted by MarcusT
Ride to your destinations while the other folks take trains or a rental car. Italy has a vast rail system, not to mention Flix bus. You get your riding in and they have the dolce vita.
There may even be an outfitter who will organize your trip and transport the non riders. It won't be cheap.
Tuscany is saturated with bike tour organizers, so choose wisely. A very popular route is called the 'eroica'
As a solo traveller, you may need to do self guided or join a group
Thnx for this, Marcus. I think I'm leaning toward doing a week with my wife and friend, non-cycling, regular touring and sightseeing, and then after that a solo/self-guided tour.

Wondering if you or anyone else would have any thoughts on either of these self-guided tours, and/or organizers? IDK either of the companies, but both seem reputable, get good reviews. Thoughts?

Bike Across Tuscany - Lucca to Florence Crossing the Heart of Tuscany - (CycleEurope bike tours)

The Best of Umbria and Tuscany (Assissi to Siena, Van Gogh Tours)
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Old 10-09-23, 09:19 AM
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I would stay with companies that are based in the are you are riding. They know the cities,hotels and restaurants better than non-Italians. Leading to the next requirement, to be a properly licensed tour operator
I am partial to this company. I have not used them yet,but they answer my inquiries in a timely manner and their group tours tend to sell out quickly. Their website does not have an english option, perhaps you can contact them directly
https://www.viaggiareinbici.it/
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Old 10-16-23, 01:14 PM
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I'm just finishing up 3 weeks of individual credit card touring in Italy, plus a few days in Rome.. This was intended mainly as a tour of Sardinia, but I expected to have 7-10 days afterwards for touring elsewhere in Italy. Years ago I had toured and mostly camped in other parts of Italy including Tuscany, but never in Umbria or Lazio. Ultimately I ended up spending 13 days on Sardinia and I will have had 8 days in Lazio & Umbria. Today was the 1st day that hasn't been unseasonably hot. Mid-80s F, upper 20s C most of the trip. No rain until a few drops this afternoon.

I had a paper guidebook for Sardinia (Lonely Planet) and a 1:200,000 map. I used google maps for some navigation esp, within towns, and also to know how much altitude change there would be on a potential route. However, Google maps once directed me to a staircase in a hilly medieval village on Sardinia. Sardinia is mountainous, and I'm no longer absolutely loving climbing like I used to when I was a young lad. Since your questions aren't about Sardinia, all I'll add is that the west coast had the best cycling imo. The first 25 km north of Olbia (the town on the NE coast where I arrived by ferry) were frightening. Heavy traffic, no alternative road, and no shoulder.

I arrived back on mainland Italy in Civitavecchia (a port near Rome) with no paper map and just a Lonely Planet Guide to Italy on my tablet thanks to my local library. I probably should have bought an eCopy of the Rough Guide to T & U. My library had it but it was checked out.

Anyway, I managed to put together a nice route with Google maps. I was able to buy a Touring Club Italiano 1:200,000 paper map of Umbria e Marche after 2 days of riding. Looking up stuff on TripAdvisor has been very helpful. Because this is not high season anywhere I'm going on this trip except for Rome where high season never ends, I haven't booked rooms in advance, except for Rome. I've explored and biked past lots of pretty hill towns or walled towns not mentioned in guidebooks.

Most regional trains in Italy take bikes for a 3.50 Euro fee. The "Trenit!" phone app is easy to use. The "check-in" function on the eTickets doesn't seem to work, but that hasn't been an issue.

As for the riding and towns, those first 2 days of riding in northern Lazio into Umbria at Orvieto were wonderful. I loved the landscape there, which was quite different from drier and rockier Sardinia. A significant climb to get from Marta to Orvieto. Biking around the northern half of Bolsena lake avoids a big climb. A short portion along the lake is unpaved. Orvieto, BTW, is fabulous and it's easy to stay at the base of the giant rock which is Orvieto, and take the quick funicular up and back down.

As for Perugia, I absolutely loved the town, my favorite of this trip. However, the historic center is quite a climb, and there's a lot of sprawl surrounding the historic center. I biked/pushed up to the stunning historic center and got a room there and spent 2 wonderful days there.

The problem with Assisi is that it's high above the surrounding area with no funicular to get up there like Orvieto, or accommodations at the base like Orvieto. Sad to say I decided to admire it from a distance. So sue me.

From there on to Spoleto , yet another lovely hill town. It was mostly pleasant riding, and the climb wasn't a killer at the end. Stayed in the historic center and was glad I did.

Umbria has some bike routes connecting Lake Trasimeno to Perugia, Perugia to Assisi, and Assisi to Spoleto. I was not impressed at all with these routes. The unpaved parts were sometimes awful. Signage was good until it wasn't. The paved parts were mostly not dedicated paths but roads shared with traffic.

A brief train ride and some biking to Narni where I wisely dumped my panniers at a small hotel and biked up to the medieval Narni, which was unexpectedly delightful. It felt great to ride without my panniers. I hadn't heard of Narni but it and the surrounding area were well known to landscape painters like Turner and Corot.

From there to Viterbo, a mostly pretty walled city which miraculously is not on top of a massive hill.

I'll soon take a train back to Rome and fly home in a few days. I've done this trip on my Bike Friday folder. Friends in Rome are storing its suitcase for me.

I might not be able to answer any questions until next weekend.
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Old 10-16-23, 01:44 PM
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One thing that I've noticed with both bicycle and motorcycle touring is that if you join a tour group, you mostly meet and interact with folks in your tour group. When you travel alone, you meet more local folks. I can be introverted at times but I still prefer the latter.
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Old 10-16-23, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by john m flores
One thing that I've noticed with both bicycle and motorcycle touring is that if you join a tour group, you mostly meet and interact with folks in your tour group. When you travel alone, you meet more local folks. I can be introverted at times but I still prefer the latter.
Iím the same. When I crossed the country with 12 other people, I think people saw us as more self-sufficient. When the tour was over, I rode home from Maine over a period of maybe 3 weeks. I was offered much more ďhospitalityĒ during that leg of the journey. One woman at a campground offered me about 1/3 of a pie she had baked in her RV. Another time, two families forced me to come to their site and made me eat hot dogs and drink a couple of beers.
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Old 10-17-23, 03:38 PM
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I always thought the entire point of bike touring was that you could ride where you want, do what you want.

Joining a tour group would be defeating the point. You might as well sit on a tour bus and be done with it.
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Old 10-17-23, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Yan
I always thought the entire point of bike touring was that you could ride where you want, do what you want.

Joining a tour group would be defeating the point. You might as well sit on a tour bus and be done with it.
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Old 10-18-23, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Yan
I always thought the entire point of bike touring was that you could ride where you want, do what you want.

Joining a tour group would be defeating the point. You might as well sit on a tour bus and be done with it.
The op mentioned 10 days of riding in Italy and an organized tour or self guided with luggage service would be an excellent option. I am on my second month long tour this year so I get the enjoyment of a fully self supported tour however I also really enjoy a trip where I donít have to lug all my crap everywhere. Just a light bike excellent roads and organized route is a fantastic way to spend 10 days of riding.

Nothing takes the fun out of epic place to ride like the Dolomites, Pyrenees or Andalusia than hauling a loaded touring rig up and down those hills. One of my best trips ever was a supported London to Barcelona long days no luggage an awesome time.
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Old 10-18-23, 03:26 PM
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One way is to recruit your family members to act as your luggage chauffeurs. There isn't much luggage on a credit card tour anyway, just a bit of clothes. One pannier would do it. But the OP doesn't seem to want to compromise with his wife on planning.

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Old 10-18-23, 05:27 PM
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Does anybody in your group speak Italian? That will help some.

It has been a few decades since I was in Italy. However, my experience was that English was fine in the big tourist cities (Rome, Pisa, Venice, Florence, Milan, Bologna, etc). However, if you get out into the smaller cities, you will have to improvise a bit.

Now, some of that could have changed recently.

Now, there are very good trains and buses in Italy. So, you could plan a trip so that your companions would take a public train or bus to the destination, say within 50 miles, and you would ride your bike there.

I'm not quite sure why you picked Umbria. There is Perugia, and the University for Strangers... (Oh, Stranieri, or Foreigners).

A little side trip to Assisi would be fun. Learn about San Francesco.

I accidentally bumped into some odd Roman ruins on a hillside just north of Terni (by bicycle). There was an old Roman road with the deepest ruts I've ever seen worn into solid granite.

Lago Trasimeno was interesting. I'm sure I swam in it but I'm trying to remember whether the water looked clean.


In Tuscany, one can certainly spend a couple of days in Florence.

I don't really remember spending much in the areas surrounding Florence.

I spent a lot of time in and around Parma. The PO valley is very flat, so you can really make tracks by bicycle. However, at the time there weren't many people that I encountered that spoke English there. I think I went to every castle within about 50 miles of Parma, of which there were quite a few, each one unique.

Perhaps the most famous was Canossa, but also one of the least preserved ones.

None of my traveling was with a tour group. Some places would have organized tours. Others would essentially give a private tour.

If you are interesting in Italian or Renaissance art, then it would be worthwhile to do a little research before you go.
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Old 10-21-23, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Yan
I always thought the entire point of bike touring was that you could ride where you want, do what you want.

Joining a tour group would be defeating the point. You might as well sit on a tour bus and be done with it.
Not everyone thinks like you
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