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Biking in Italy–the sad truth and the happy implications

OK, this has bummed me out as much as it has a lot of you. After looking at the euro vs. dollar exchange rates, seeing how much touring Italy by bicycle is going to cost right now, and considering some interesting and exciting business prospects I have right now despite the general economic doom and gloom, I've decided to postpone this trip for at least a year.

If you still want to go, drop me a line and I can give you a lot of advice from personal experience touring southern Italy and Rome, especially. And there's more.

via Appia gravinaq fountain

If you're not from the United States, this is a great time to visit our country. Everything will be unusually cheap, and the people will be really nice to you. I'll be blatant. We need your tourist euros and other currency.

I shouldn't have to say this, but if you're in the USA and facing financial hardships, your bike can be a fun and healthy way to stay out of the mess. It's much cheaper to buy, power, and maintain a bike than a car, and it's a great way to cut corners, especially if it doubles as your workout.

Speaking of workouts, I'm going to be posting a lot more in the future about the benefits of bike exercise, and also a total body workout to keep your arms, shoulders, and core up to par with your legs and cardio, which are probably already rock solid if you're biking even moderately.

I also have a surprise this coming summer that should be a huge benefit to travelers anywhere in the world, whether or not you travel by bicycle. So keep in touch.

As I post this, oil is $100 a barrel. Gasoline is still half what it costs in Italy, probably because of some irrational taxation/subsidy patterns on both sides of the globe. We're living in interesting times, and that can seem like a curse but often be a blessing.

I'm just months away from my 40th birthday, and I had planned to bicycle around the Mediterranean sea as a present to myself. Now it looks like I'll have to put it off for a few years but it's not over yet. If I keep in shape I could probably still do it when I'm 50, and I don't give up.

Don't you give up either. Your bicycle can be cure for so many problems that plague the world today--global warming, pollution, peak oil, economic excess, poverty, even a lot of health problems and crisis.

I long for easier, happier days, such as, for example, the way things were ten years ago. But we cannot choose the times we live in. As Gandalf said, "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

Enjoy these big hills that can only lead to easier times in the future. Ride swift and free, and remember it's all about the journey. In fact, you don't even know the final destination.

4 thoughts on “Biking in Italy–the sad truth and the happy implications

  1. Steven Galea

    Hi !! my name is steve and have been riding half my life !! i love it . i ride 15 kms to work every day and have not owned a car in 8 years !! i don't need a car or want one . I am a documentary photographer ,and have just come back from a 3 year trip traveling and living in eastern europe the UK and the mediterranean , Malta and Italy (rome i spent allot of time ) !! i am half Maltese. and am planning a trip to cycle the whole of Malta and clock wise around southern Italy !!! I am traveling with my best friend and travel writer mark. we have traveled together many times but never by bike !!
    So we would be very thank full for any advice and of corse , your personal experiences and prices of things and all the equipment that we would need , that would help us plan for this amazing trip !! . thanx again and hope to hear from you very soon !! Steve

  2. Jacob

    Steven, it sounds like you're already familiar with the Mediterranean and experienced with biking, so the best advice is just go for it! The only equipment your really need is biking gear, tools, and spare parts (bring extra chain links and spokes). If you're planning to camp, you'll need a tent and a sleeping bag (and possibly a small stove) but it's really a lot simpler than you'd expect.
    I use Ortlieb panniers and I recommned this if you can afford them, but almost anything will work. (In the past I've made my own panniers out of milk crates, plastic bins, and old bags.)
    A few tour notes: Most of southern Italy is flat and easy to ride, except for when you go over the Apennines (be ready for a few rough days). Some really interesting towns to visit: Gravina in Puglia, Matera, Aquilonia, Trani, and Venosa. If you're interested in history/Archeology, go to the archeological site in Aeclanum and talk to Roberto--he'll tell you about a lot of interesting places that are hidden in the surrounding countryside. There's a lot of bad traffic around Capua and Brindisi. (In Rome, but you can avoid most of the traffic by going through the Appia Antica park)
    There's no point in telling you too many details, because the surprises and discoveries are the best part of these trips.
    As far as prices, EVERYTHING in Europe seems expensive to Americans right now, but prices are generally lower in southern Italy. Hotels cost 40 euros or more, but on the coast there are lots of campgrounds where you'll pay less than 10 euros, or you can "stealth camp" for free (Most Italians are very friendly, and they don't mind if you pitch a tent for the night). If you buy your food in stores, it will cost a lot less than restaurants. I like to alternate camping/hotels and I only go to restaurants in the small towns (where the food is better and cheaper and the people are friendly). I usually spend 20 to 80 euros a day, depending on where I sleep and eat.
    Good luck! You're going to have an amazing time!

  3. bill

    Hello, my name is bill and I'll be leaving on August 8th for Rome. I plan on biking to to Brindisi from Rome, and then taking the ferry to Patras, and riding to Athens. I have never biked anywhere outside of the U.S. and was curious about how to find campgrounds. If you have any information I would appreciate it. Thanks -Baz8318@aol.com

  4. Jacob

    Hi Bill--In Italy the best way to find campgrounds is to buy a guide called "Tutto Camping" that you can usually find in a news stand or bookstore. Better yet, just Google the name of a town you'll be passing through and the word "camping" (for example, "Venosa camping" and you'll find sites.
    Once you're on the road, most of the smaller towns in Italy have an organization called "Pro Loca" that's kind of like an folksy chamber of commerce. Ask them about campgrounds and if they can't help you, then more often than not they'll invite you to pitch your tent in a nearby field, or even the town square! One time they called the Mayor, who authorized them to open up an abandoned school and turn on the hot water heater so I could shower.
    I don't have experience biking through Greece but it's probably a similar situation.
    It always helps if you speak the language, even if you just carry a phrase book and say "Thank-you." But you can almost always find someone who speaks English, even in the smallest villages, and they're usually glad to have the chance to practice English, and eager to help you out.

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