Here is a short version of the Italian bike trip taken for our 10th anniversary in March/April 07. I thought it important to get something up here fast, because if I don’t, I may never get anything posted, given the live of a busy parent and professional.
The trip goal was to explore several areas of Tuscany by bike, taking our time and sampling lots of local food and color along the way. We used our modified Downtube Folding bikes for the trip (someday I hope to do a post about all the little modifications we’ve made to the bikes to improve them). This allowed us to pack the bikes into suitcases that are airline legal (such as the Samsonite F’Lite pictured below), or nearly enough so that there was no extra charge for bringing them. Here are two pictures of the bikes and suitcases:
Our itinerary was 10 days, starting from Florence and ambling around through the hill country, then a bit of time at the coast, carrying all our gear and doing everything on our own. We had the luxury of going before the tourist season, so it was easy to arrange accommodations at the last minute, and things were pretty inexpensive compared to normal prices for Italy. We used Lonely Planet’s Cycling Italy as the primary guide for bike trips, and though we did several of the routes, we also did some ad-hoc routes that worked out just fine. The book is pretty good, though I’d say with a fully loaded folding bike, the hills of Tuscany were a bit more of a challenge than indicated by the guide. Their “moderate” rides are probably correctly labeled for an unloaded touring/racing bike with a fit rider, but are pushing that category for our situation. We found that about 60k of Tuscan hills (along with some stops for sightseeing) was our limit for a day with the loaded folding bikes.
Bike Setup and Gear
On my bike, I had a rear seatpost rack made by Topeak that carried two panniers: an old Madden pack on the right, and anArkel Overdesigns Commuter bag with the computer suspension removed (this is an awesome pack!). I packed light, wanting to stay under the 20lb limit for this rack. I was carrying some clothes, a spare folding tire, and a first aid kit in the bags – that’s all. I also had a cheapo front touring bag from Performance Bike to carry camera, toiletries, snacks, and etc. This bag worked great, but has one huge design deficiency, in that it has no attachment points whatsoever for any kind of shoulder strap. This made carrying it off the bike a huge pain. Given how well the other features of the bag are designed, this seems like a huge oversight. In addition to these bags, I carried a backpack for “overflow”, which was mostly empty at the beginning of the trip. I would then fill it up with groceries or other items we acquired while travelling. It was also very handy for the days of pedaling without gear for carrying the day’s supplies. Oh yeah, also I had attached to my seat the carrying bag for the bike. This was useful for folding the bike up for transport on a train or ferry without paying the extra “bike charge”.
Day 1, Florence
Day 1 we did a lot of tourist stuff like climbing the “dome”.
We also biked up to Piazza Michelangelo, a good (but short) grunt up a hill near town, that gives a great view of the city:
We stayed at Ostello Archi Rossi, a Hostel in the heart of Florence. Though it made us feel a bit old staying there, it was a really nice way to stay in Florence on a budget. The people were friendly, rooms were clean, and the free breakfast was quite good for the price.