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Bike trip through Italy

Discussion in 'EMEA' started by fly1981, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. fly1981

    fly1981 Adventurer

    Apr 28, 2011
    Good day ladies and gents,

    I am planning a bike trip through Italy sometime in the next 6 months. As I am from South Africa, I am not familiar with the country. I have found a place to rent a bmw 1200 gs, I'd like the trip to be about 2 weeks long. If any of you have any advise for me regarding potential route, accomodation or just general information, and you are willing to share it with me, I'd appreciate it.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. carrotnc

    carrotnc n00b

    Jun 16, 2008
    Never ridden a bike in Italy, so this is all car-based info. Peak travel season is end of July through first part of September. Prices go up, crowds are intense at typical tourist destinations. If there's something in particular you'd like to see, then make sure it's open on the days you'll be in the area -- some places close during the week, especially museums.

    Avoid riding through the middle of large towns as they have "permit" traffic only -- if you're not supposed to be there you'll be fined by mail, I've paid 80 Euro fine plus another 60 Euro service fee for tracking me down. These areas are identified as ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitado) and typically are inside the major ring road around downtown. If your hotel is inside the ZTL then you are permitted to drive in the ZTL if your hotel registers your vehicle with the authorities.

    The Ducati factory in Bologna offers tours and it's worth it if you're in the area. Get to see the machines put together and then the museum as well. Costs 10 Euro and you need to schedule in advance. By luck I was there when the Diavel was first rolled out, and got to see it in blackout paint and the regular red version too. Figure two hours at a minimum. They're located at:
    Ducati Motor Holding
    Via Antonio Cavalieri Ducati 3
    40132 Bologna - Italy

    On weekends the large delivery trucks (tractor trailers, lorries, HGV) are not allowed to drive (with a few exceptions) from 3pm Saturday until 10pm Sunday. Rest of the time you'll be sharing the road with larger vehicles. Toll roads are common and I think worth the expense for the time & fuel they save. Backups are common if you try to drive toward the coast on Friday afternoon, or back to the central cities after the weekend. And morning commuter traffic can be heavy around the large cities. Motorways/interstates have service plazas with fuel and food. Cities have independent fuel stations too, more toward the outer ring.

    Food is great most anywhere, but avoid places overlooking a tourist filled plaza, they have higher prices and lower quality. Eating in Italy is an "experience" and the sooner you accept that and enjoy it, the better your trip will be. Once you sit down, the table is yours for the evening, nobody will push you to get out. They are masters of the Slow Food Movement.

    Any place labelled "trattoria" is family-owned and mostly family-staffed. They have a community reputation to maintain so the low cost food is very high in quality; will specialize in comfort foods. May have random hours and few English-speaking staff; menu mainly limited to what's freshly available in the market that day.
    If you want a coffee do as the locals and take it at the bar; it's half price compared to table service.

    Agritourismo -- agricultural tourisim, like a bed & breakfast but MUCH better; can also be used for just the restaurant. Foods are organic (they call it biological) and by law a certain percentage has to be produced within a narrow radius of the farm. Most will have their own vineyard and olive orchards, as well as a kitchen garden and nearby cheese producers. Combination of local ingredients will surprise you at how well it goes together.

    Route: the southern Alps are beautiful but foothill towns will have a decidedly German atmosphere. If in the Alps and the weather turns bad, you can always take a tunnel through to the northern face where it's likely clear weather.
    The spine of mountains running northwest from Florence is a phenomenal area and I'd love to ride it. That section and the area around Lake Garda up by the Alps really just call for two wheels.
  3. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

    Jul 17, 2003
    Sterling, Virginia, USA
    Where is your base point in Italy (Rome, Milano?) and what do you want to see or ride.

    I go for the roads and the Dolomite Alps.
  4. rasmukri

    rasmukri n00b

    Dec 30, 2012
    for places to stay try couchsurfing.org or www.hostelworld.com
    couch surfing is free so as long as you are comfortable with staying at some strangers house then cool.
    otherwise hostels are cheep and not too shabby and you get to meet with fellow travelers and such.
    As far as Italy as said before you have to watch out for the ZTL areas they aren't a joke you get a ticket going in and another ticket going out. The Italians have a warped view on things ie: they think Italy is the greatest country ever and all should bow down to their glory. And they eat lunch until about 1400 and dinner doesn't start until about 2000 its odd but you get used to it. And the pizza is freaking awesome it is the one thing they have got going for them.
  5. RTLover

    RTLover Long timer

    Nov 1, 2009
    West-central France
    As Michael J said, the Dolomites are terrific. I actually prefer them to a lot of the Alps. Tuscany isn't that challenging on a bike but the countryside is fabulous. I always recommend that people who are not familiar with their destination get some good maps beforehand, both paper and electronic. http://www.viamichelin.co.uk/

    The Italians have a good outlook on life. Not too fast, not too organized. Generally, they're friendly and they love a good laugh.They, like any other peoples, have had their turn in the sun but they still have an appreciation for art, music, and especially for food. Without a doubt some of the best in the world. Why would they not take long lunches and/or dinners?
  6. andydj31

    andydj31 In Techno we trust...

    Jan 21, 2008
    Near Venice Italy
    If you need a help for a Dolomiti ride... I could be your guide for a saturday/sunday trip... :-) Tell me more o less when you are in Italy.
  7. Steveman

    Steveman Been here awhile

    Sep 14, 2011
    Most things have been said alreday. Just a few more hints and thoughts and one correction. The absolut tourist peak is not June or July, its August. Especially the week with 15 August, which is for the Italian something like the most important day of the year. Everything with legs and wheels is out and running either to the mountains or to the beaches. Most tourists in Italy at this time are Italians. Additional the 15 August is a national holiday for some of the sorrounding countries like Switzerland, Germany and also we Austrians are heading south that day. Many Swiss, Germans and Austrians get to Italy for a long weekend in this specific week. So try to avoid it or be prepared to see crowded mountain roads jammed with trailers, caravans, motorhomes and probably 5 million bicyclists riding side by side making the jams even worse. Only in China I've seen more bycicles....

    Best riding area are the Dolomites and northern Italy in general. From there you can go to Austria (very, very nice roads), Slovenia, Croatia which all offer noumerous mountain roads and many places worth to look at closer.
    There is much more Police in Austria than in Italy but the fines and fees are far less. Our cops are not as cool as the Italians who just have a heart for fast and loud vehicles of all kind. Always depends if you catch a nice guy or asshole. Very, very good chances to meet nice cops in Italy and Austria, 100% ashole cops in Switzerland and most expensive fines and most severe punishments there. So go slow, these guys have strange laws (a bike is considered as weapon once exceeding certain speeds!!!!). I'd avoid going to Switzerland aslthough they have dreamlike mountains, but are in general not too friendly to foreigners. If you have the chance to visit countries next to Italy I recommend France, Austria and Slovenia and Croatia (although this requires to go through Slovenia).,

    Dolomites, for me the best by far but I am an Italy fan since decades so others may see that different. Another good place, one of the best in Europe is Savona. Its further in the west an not too far from French border. If you like gravel roads and endless offroad trails this is the place to go. You can try to ride the Ligurian Mountain Border Road. (check ADVR Forum Riding>Day Trippin> Ligurian Border Ridge Road).

    All the best
  8. dalbertini

    dalbertini RidetheDolomites

    Feb 9, 2007
    Italy - Dolomites
    Hello fly1981,
    If you are in the Dolomites area and you need cheap accommodation and motorcycles rentals please visit:


    Please let me know if you need more information!

  9. ttr

    ttr Been here awhile

    Jun 7, 2011
    Rome, Italy
    Many right things have been said. But please note that usually by bike you are allowed to get in the ZTL areas. For sure in Rome you are allowed.

    As you drive a bmw1200gs I can make a tour with you in the region Abruzzo (Saturday only)

    Have a nice trip
  10. missoulamike

    missoulamike Been here awhile

    Feb 2, 2011
    Yup, Missoula (Montana)
    Am starting to look at a similar trip spring 2014. Find a good bike rental place for your BMW 1200? Thanks!