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Cycling in Italy

by Peter

The watchtower of Crotone

The watchtower of Crotone

My bicycle had brought me first to Cuneo in north Italy where I descended from the Alps into Italy. Then I followed the Italian coast from Genoa to Lerici into the central parts of Italy. Pisa, Lucca, Florence and Siena had been fantastic. It was like cycling in a live open air museum.

Here you will find many old towns build on hills tops, complete with city walls. In one of them I arrived on a Sunday afternoon. The old men of the town had gathered at the town square in front of the church. They were sitting in the shades of the trees and enjoying the Sunday rest. I felt almost an intruder by being there.

Rome followed and I cycled right through the city center passing the Coliseum and the Senate.

I had left Rome on my way to the south. The road I chose to follow the coast to Palermo and Naples (Napoli). Naples had a very chaotic atmosphere itself, very different from more northern cities I had seen and I loved it.

I had passed the Temple of Hera, built around 550 BCE in Paestum. Seen Pompei too. But by now I arrived in areas where fewer travelers visit. The idea was to visit a friend in Cozenza, then cross the Italian "boot" to Catanzaro Lido and from there travel again along the coastline to Brindisi and leave Italy to Corfu (Greece) by boat.

But I had to cross the mountains. Although it's only 135 km from Cozenza to Catanzaro and the road never goes too high it was a killing day. There were three climbs to 900 meter altitude but altitude is seldom a problem when cycling in Italy. The roads can be quite steep and it was like that here too. But the latter part of this journey was reasonable flat. It was quiet and very beautiful, a recommended area to explore in Italy.

I stayed a few nights in Catanzaro, visiting friends and explored a little of the surrounding before I moved north following the coastline. The roads here are reasonable flat with a climb here and there but it was mostly the wind that made it hard.

Few people take the time to visit the old watch tower in Crotone, stay a night in Taranto, which has the feel of an old pirate town (as I noted in my diary). I had now arrived in a different landscape. It was emptier, flatter too.

My goal was to reach the southern point here at Castrignano del Capo, all the way down in the heel of the Italian boot and then back to Lecce (where baroque becomes grotesque!). Lecce was very nice, far less touristic then I had expected, maybe because it is so far down in Italy. With it's little streets and old buildings; Lecce too, felt like an open air museum.

Finally I made it to Brindisi, which was a disappointment. The town seemed to be filled with clubs and discos and had very little atmosphere.

I recommend using a bicycle in Italy. The country is well suited for cycling, in fact, many Italians ride touring and racing bikes. On Sundays you can see plenty of groups touring and racing through the countryside. Many have excellent bicycles and flashy outfits (especially compared to mine!)

But Italy is not cheap, even camping can be an expensive experience especially in the touristy areas. Outside the main tourist trails, you find cheap camp sites, and if you cook yourself you can keep the cost quite low. But the main reason to cycle is that you have much more to explore. You will see more of this amazing county, meet amazing people.

One of the great things about cycling in Italy is that you will find almost everywhere bicycle shops. This reduces the need to bring a lot of spare materials. And Italians are always happy to help you out.

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