Getting the most out of your trip

Published on:  | Last updated: 7 April 2018

Be streetwise

Pick your roads with care — don’t just leave if it to autorouting software. Look for the less-obvious roads.

Look for the old road: in many cases, new roads have been built as faster altern­atives to older roads or to bypass villages on the way … leaving the old road as a quieter and more inter­esting alternative 

Be curious

The Italian road system is very efficient: it does its job of routing traffic around towns. But that means that if you want to see the most inter­esting places you need to be prepared not to go with the flow — to turn off the main road and take a detour.

Go to places you’ve never heard of

Yes the big tourist cities like Rome, Firenze, Venezia are full of treasures, but if you’re a touring cyclist it can often be the little towns and cities that have the most to offer.

Focus on where you are: not where you’ve going

I’ve met people on the road who’ve been so preoc­cupied with getting to Roma that they’ve bypassed, or ignored all the inter­esting places on the way.

Plan to be flexible

If you’ve only got a week or two of holiday it’s tempting to plan a schedule that means you’re on the road every day. But sometimes things go wrong: you have a major mechanical problem, or you get food poisoning, or even the weather is truly miserable and you fancy a duvet day. It’s worth building spare day or two into your plans.

Take a break

There’s nothing in the Touring Cyclist’s Book of Rules that says you can’t, every now and again, stop somewhere for a couple of nights and treat yourself to a rest day, or a day when you can ride without your luggage.

Eat food and drink wine you’ve never heard of

One of the features of Italy is the local speci­al­ities you’ll find only in one area or town: there’s nothing to stop you having your favourite pizza if the mood takes you, but look out for the dishes you won’t see at home

The same goes for wine: Italy has hundreds of wine-growing areas producing wines that you almost certainly won’t see at home outside of a specialist wine shop. Make the most of it. 

Learn a few words of Italian

No you don’t have to spend years studying. And English is widely spoken. But making the effort learning a few words always helps. A handful: Buongiorno/Buonasera (Good morning/Good day and Good evening/Good afternoon), Ciao, Arriverderci, per favore, grazie, will get you a long way.

Be courteous

This is where that handful of Italian words you’ve just learnt come in. In Italy, little courtesies are appre­ciated. Saying ‘buongiorno’ to the barista before you order your coffee won’t kill you.

Have a head for heights

Italy can be very hilly — when you’re planning your trip also take the amount of climbing into account. Sometimes the amount of climbing can be the deciding factor — not how many miles

Don’t underestimate the heat

Italy in mid-Summer can get seriously hot. If you come from somewhere where temper­atures rarely go above 30 degrees you’re probably thinking ‘great bring it on’ but you can have too much of a good thing. A big climb in temper­atures in the upper thirties is really not much fun (riding on the flat can be a bit easier as you generate a bit of a breeze as you ride). If you’re planning on cycling in the hottest months, then start early and finish early. The summer mornings are my favourite time of the day. Start at 7am, and you can put in a good days ride and still stop for lunch.

Alternatively head for the mountains July and August are the best times to ride in the mountains. For every 1000 metres of altitude, the temper­atures are about 6 degrees less — the margin between comfortably warm and hot. 

Keep a sense of perspective

It won’t all be wonderful. The bar-owner who doesn’t seem partic­u­larly friendly may be preoc­cupied with how he’s going to pay the rent at the end of the month. It’s probably not you (although if you’ve ignored the ‘be courteous’ bit, then it may indeed be you). 

Occasionally you may be given bad food or bad service (or both). Complain. Or walk out. Or put up with it. But don’t let it get to you. 

Get in touch

Please get in touch if you find any errors in the information, or if there’s anything, good or bad, that you’d want other cyclists to know.

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