Italy is a great place to ride and it has some of Europe’s best cycleways. There’s an awful lot of information out there but the trouble is that, even if you speak Italian, that information can be hard to find unless you know where to look. My aim for this site is to make it easier to research and plan a cycling trip in Italy.
With the site I hope to pass on what I’ve learnt from my travels and research, but that also means the site reflects the areas I know, and there are some very big gaps – especially in southern Italy. Please don’t take that to reflect where the best cycling is; it’s just that there’s so much to see and there’s only one of me. The site inevitably reflects my own style of travelling (and my budget). It also means that my choice of places to ride has been skewed in favour of areas where I can stay in campsites rather than hotels.
If I have the choice, I take cycleways rather than roads.
Almost all of the routes featured on this site are routes that I’ve ridden myself. The only exceptions are the Via Francigena (eurovelo 5) and parts of the eurovelo 7 and 8. And if you’re wondering, I’ve ridden them fully-loaded: I don’t carry cooking equipment, but I do carry an awful lot of junk. I’m not particularly fit (I know people do the humble-bragging thing, but trust me, I’m not) and I’m old enough that I occasionally think about buying an e-bike …
I rode the routes on the site over several summers. That means that some of the guides are now a few years old. I hope to re-do some of the routes, especially the more popular ones (or at least my favourites), but if you find something that’s out-of-date, please let me know.
Using the site
The routes are divided into sections: these are not daily stages. Everybody differs in their fitness and touring style. Bear in mind as well that if you are travelling through a mountainous area, the amount of climbing will be at least as important as the mileage.
The interactive maps will give a good idea of the route, but the downloadable GPS files are more detailed.
Guides in book form?
I’d love to be able to produce the guides in book form — either for eReaders or as print books. Maybe one day. In the meantime, I have done some work to improve the output if you want to print the guides for yourself. The printed version won’t include pictures but will include the map and altitude profile.
Altitude profiles and statistics
I don’t give figures for the overall amount of altitude gain. This is because it’s difficult to get an accurate measure. GPSes will record the altitude of a point, but normally this is to within three metres, and those three metres all add up. I ‘smooth’ the tracks to remove the small fluctuations, but deciding how much smoothing to use is a matter of guesswork.
If you reprocess a track through a website that automatically replaces the altitudes in the file, it will give you an even more inaccurate result, especially if you are following a track that runs through mountainous terrain. Barometric GPSes are better at calculating the overall amount of climbing, but they are inaccurate in their own way, and pretty much useless for producing an altitude profile.
If you are looking at the amount of climbing in order to plan the daily stages of a route, it’s probably best to do it the old-school way, by looking at the profile and using the highest and lowest points to calculate the altitude gain for a climb; then repeat until you’ve decided that that’s enough for one day.
GPS waypoints and POIs
The GPS downloads for many of the routes also include files with waypoints showing things like campsites, hotels, hostels, water. There’s also a download for with all of the POIs for Italy (as well as routes in neighbouring countries). There are instructions here on how to use these files.
This download uses a format that means that information about tens of thousands of POIs can be easily converted into a single compact file. This format is proprietary to Garmin and is only supported by Garmin GPSes (and even then only handheld GPSes support it completely). Unfortunately it isn’t practical for me to supply these files in other formats.
Place names and units
Through this site I use the Italian place names and not the English versions. This is mainly because every country has its own version of these place names, so using the Italian name seems the most neutral. In any event, if you plan on touring in Italy then one way or another you’ll need to learn the real names of places. In my lifetime I’ve learnt to use ‘Beijing’ instead of ‘Peking’ and ‘Mumbai’ instead of ‘Bombay’ so why don’t we do the same for Italian place names?
For place names in the German-speaking parts of Italy I use the German names, with the Italian names in brackets, and then the German name alone after that. Many of the Italian names are more-or-less arbitrary inventions that were imposed during the Mussolini era, but as they are used on many maps I need to use them to avoid confusion.
I have to hold up my hands to being completely consistent about this: things get particularly tricky when places, or passes, have names in three languages, and it also still feels more natural for me to use ‘Germany’ rather than ‘Deutschland’, or ‘Austria’ rather then Österreich.
I use kilometres and metres throughout the site. My apologies to people who are used to using the ‘imperial’ units. I grew up with miles, and yards and feet, not to mention furlongs and chains, but the metric system is so much simpler – especially when it comes to calculating gradients.