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My wife and I are avid cyclists and are looking at doing a vacation in Italy this September. We're interested in doing some kind of a bike tour. We're looking to spend 6-12 days over there and are interested in hearing suggestions on places to ride, tour companies, etc. We're not really interest in following the Giro around - looking for less crowds and more scenic routes. We're not really looking to rough it, either - so camping/full loaded touring is out.

A few specific questions:
- Is it worth shipping our bikes over or do most of the tour companies offer decent rentals?

- There seem to be 2 levels of tours - fully guided and basic support (ex: give you the route and drive your luggage to the hotel). Any opinions on which is better?

- Any 'must see' routes? I've spent time in Tuscany/Florence/Venice/Rome in the past, but have no other experience with Italy.

Thanks!
 

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aka Zonic Man
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Holy crap! I posted a big long reply to this and it got zapped! Bummer.

Anyhow, to answer you questions:

--Bring your own bike. Should be still better then the "best" rentals and fit better too.

--Hampsten Tours Click on "tours". I met up with these guys while I was there last sept. and they seemed like great people who run a nice tour.

--Zi Martino and Ciclosport Great hotel and LBS in a beautiful area of Tuscany, pretty close to everything, great rural area...highly recommended. There are tons of rides around that area, great wine tasting/olive oil, etc.

--My trip from last year. Italy Riding

If you have any questions, PM me or Email me. I'll try to answer them. But remember this: STAY flexible or get that way. (In terms of time, where you want to go, what you want to do.) Don't try to plan too much or pack too much in. Just stay "fluid". You'll be happier that way.

Florence and Rome (and Milan for that matter) are great if you are an art history major or an art buff, otherwise, spend a day at most. We couldn't wait to get out of the cities and get into the country where it was quieter and more peaceful, and you could get more italian culture.

Portofino is overrated. It's damn uppity. I suggest Viareggio or Lido di Camaore on the coast from Lucca about 1.5 hours north of Florence for more "upscale" and cooler area with nicer people. Portofino/Santa Margharita Ligure is prettier though.
 

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Haven't been, but know which one I'll go with

A workmate went with the Italian Cycling Center and really enjoyed it. They're located in the North, the Veneto region, and do daily rides from the hotel and back. Routes, located near the Dolomites, looked great to me, as well as the low-key atmosphere. Lower costs didn't hurt either!

http://www.italiancycling.com/
 

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Daylight Fading
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Check out this month's CycleSport (p. 126)

There are a dozen or so outfits to contact. Trek Travel, Andy Hampsten's group, etc..

BT
 

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Power Napper
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Second vote on the Italian Cycling Center.

A couple I ride with every Sunday go here as regularly as their savings account will allow. At least 4 trips so far.They give it VERY high marks. Being based in one place and not having to unpack/repack every day or two is a plus. But you wouldn't be able to cover a large part of the country if seeing a lot is important to you. My friends usually go for 2-3 weeks and spend a few days traveling somewhere else as a short break from riding. The Italian Cycling Center is for people who want to focus on riding, and the guides are more coaches and instructors than tour guides. They have learned a lot that has really improved their cycling over the years.
 

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I rode across Umbria and the Marches last summer and loved it, great riding, brought my own bike and was glad I did. Did a supported tour for the first time, but found it was not really my style, am going back to loaded self-supported touring this year. There is some good info on touring in general at http://www.homestead.com/bicycletouring/Touring_Tours.html and reviews of some companies that offer tours in Italy at http://www.biketour-reviews.com/
 

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Nice trip!

I get over to Italy about 6-10 times a year. Mostly Milano as we have an office there but also on holidays. Nice that you've got a cycling mad partner too.
 

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My wife and I did the Hampsten tour for our honeymoon in September 2000. I'd highly recommend it. Many of the others have you riding some crap rental bike that you'd never consider riding at home. Plus, many have 12 mile days. We wanted a little more.

It was the best vacation of my life. e-mail me if you have questions ([email protected]).
 
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