What can we say about Italy? History abounds, graffiti is the national pastime, it is dirty and almost everyone smokes. There are no rules to ban smoking in restaurants although hotels had non-smoking rooms.
We found the Italians to be loud and gregarious but also quite reserved. We were told that most Italians do not speak English, even in high tourist areas. However, if we greeted them with Buongiorno, or Buonasera, we got a big smile and helpful service. Along the border area of Austria, the Italians spoke German.
We discovered that although there is supposed to be a Eurovelo Route with the appropriate signage, sometimes the local route took precedence and the Eurovelo signage disappears. We followed the R3C and the Alpe di Aria.
Along the coast from La Spezia towards Rome there are fewer dedicated cycling routes. Although along the coast there were dedicated cycling paths for campers going to the beach areas. We opted to take the train from Bibbona as we were constantly getting misplaced trying to find the Eurovelo routes or other cycling routes.
There are lots of campsites in Italy. However, on the coast they are mainly for week-long stays and very few had spots for touring cyclists. Some of them had four-day minimum stays, which didn’t help us at all. There are also a lot of youth hostels, which were reasonably priced but varied tremendously in quality and cleanliness.
We eventually opted for hotels, (instead of camping) which broke the budget. However, it was nice after the heat of the day to cool off in a room with air-conditioning.
We ticked off all the major tourist places in Italy, including Venice, Cinque Terra, Pisa, Rome and Pompei. We also had a brief stop in Parma, which had a good Tourist Information Office who gave me maps for some nice cycling areas.
The area around Bibbona was lovely (Tuscany), again with some good cycling roads, if you weren’t fully loaded touring cyclists.
The Italians are cycling fans (in the north) and generally gave us space. As we got further south the drivers were more impatient.
We didn’t have the opportunity to stay with any Italians (through warmshowers) or have a chat with them about their political situation.
There is a lot of tourist money going into Italy. We could not see where that money is being spent on infrastructure, the buildings are crumbling and the roads are appalling.
We found the train system was excellent in Italy and we could get our bikes on local trains. There were times when we might have a longer lay-over in a Town because we had to take local trains, instead of the high-speed or intercity trains. However, there appeared to be at least one or two trains a day that we could take our bikes.
We enjoyed Italy, once we had stopped cycling.