Cycling in Italy: “The Sweet Life” … on a Bike
Cycling in Italy…where do I begin? A few weeks ago, I was riding my bicycle and eating my way through the rolling hills of Tuscany with 9 cycling buddies, two bi-lingual tour guides and my dear cousin PierAngelo! My cousin operates a boutique cycling travel company that brings folks to Italy and shows them “La Dolce Vita” via the bicycle!
PierAngelo (who speaks very fluent English and Italian), is not only an avid cyclist, but a former 2-time US Paralympic Track Cycling Bronze & Silver Medalist. He was born and lived well over 2 decades in Italy and has resided in the US since. He has many relatives and business relations throughout the country, enabling him to design fantastic, authentic experiences for eager cycling travelers. I am thrilled and honored to share some highlights with you all right now.
BONUS: Watch the highlight video of our amazing experience:
Catering to the Traveling Cyclist
Riding in Italy is part outdoor adventure, part culinary exploration, part architectural discovery and a visual feast of incredible landscapes.Over the past 5 years, I’ve been fortunate to ride in a dozen different towns in three different regions of this amazing country. From the ultra pure Espresso, the delicately prepared prosciutto and cheese dishes, to the incredible pasta and pizzas, it’s a good thing we ride dozens of miles each day, SO WE CAN EAT AGAIN! LOL
Of course, after you eat and ride all day, you have to get some rest, so what better way to do that, but at a bike-friendly hotel. Garda Bike Hotel near the south end of Lake Garda and the amazing Lungomare Bike Hotel in Cesenatico, by the Adriatic coast to name a just a couple, are tailored to the cycling guests specific needs. Not only do these hotels have on-site bicycle storage and maintenance services, but they also offer 12 hour cycling laundry turnaround to get your kit dry by the morning. (Did I also mention that their in-house dining are fantastic as well?) Well, they are!
Multi-Talented Bike Guides
Their talented bike tour guides know the best places along the bike routes for food, drink and photos. They also know the safest routes to ride and how to avoid the tourist traps along the way. When I say “talented”, I’m serious. Not only did our tour guide Andrea, from Lungomare speak 4 languages, but he also coached junior development cyclists, some of which have gone on to win stages of the Giro d’Italia!
Over on the Tuscan side the country, we rode with Marcao Mosti and Rasa Mažeikytė from the bike shop and guide service Cicli Magnus. From Cinque Terre to Viareggio, Lucca to Pisa and even on to Florence, they have a solid grasp of navigating the Tuscan countryside! Aside from the rare “lost in translation” comments, all of the guides I’ve ridden with speak very decent English. Rasa is a former World Champion Track Cyclist, and Marcao has competed in both the Titan Desert (Morocco) and the Cape Epic just to name a coupleof events.
It’s ALWAYS About The Gelato
Traveling with someone who can translate directions, menus, interpret anecdotes about architecture or history and of course point out THE best Gelato spots in each town, is just icing on an already amazing trip. The bicycle is such a way of life, that no matter where you seem to be in Italy, you are welcome when you arrive on two wheels. I always felt comfortable going just about anywhere on our bikes. Whether cruising through shopping areas in historic villages, pulling over at tiny local cafés or rolling through wide-open architectural landmark plazas, bikes are welcome… almost expected.
Giro d’Italia – Up Close and Personal!
Of course, I can’t forget some of the absolute coolest moments of my last two cycling trips: Our Giro d’Italia experience! It’s so amazing to see how each town, from the largest metropolitan city centers to the tiniest village get into the spirit of the Giro. To these folks, having the Grio route pass through their village or town is like the Olympic circus arriving for a few days. From toddlers to Grandparents, pets to strollers, cafés to pubs..everyone seems to be wearing something pink, has a pink bicycle in the window or has decorated a car with pink ribbons. The energy and enthusiasm is palatable and the locals love sharing it with you. Pink banners adorn each town entrance and multiple stone walls along the route!
This year we climbed a “small” mountain, near the town of Montaione, then stood about 2 feet from the peloton as they came whizzing towards the crest to hit their descent. The experience of climbing part of a stage on the same day as the pros is like nothing you can experience in the US. As we pushed ourselves to the crest, I remember seeing all of the fans “chalk graffiti” on the pavement, rooting on current contenders and honoring old legends, like Fausto Coppi and Marco Pantani. It’s a rush as the fans have been camped out all morning along the mountain and they are cheering YOU on, yelling in various languages, but all with the same message “Go..! Go..! Go..!”
Always better with Friends
I’m often asked, “What is your favorite thing about cycling in Italy?” My answer is: All OF IT! There is so much to see and do when exploring the various cities, towns and even the littlest villages. Each time I’ve gone, the trips have ranked amongst some of the best experiences of my life.
Some of my most cherished moments are witnessing and sharing the experiences of my travel mates in our group. In fact on our last trip, my friend Eva, was so awestruck with the beauty around every corner that she became a human megaphone that only uttered one word “WOW….!” It was pretty darn cute to say the least seeing her smile! (Look for her in the video!)
It’s not about the bike…
My adventures traveling with other cyclists in Italy parallel the core mission of the Mobile Cyclist: Highlighting the best ways and places to enjoy bicycling in cities and towns across the country. I believe the greatest gift bicycling offers us is the freedom to explore new destinations, experience different cultures and connect with the excitement of our fellow cyclists along the way. So many elements of my time in that beautiful country have created lasting memories usually resulting in other asking “How Can I Go Next Time?”. Until next time, Ciao, Ciao…!