I’m back home now, busy working on planning my summer bike trip to France. My birthday cycling trip to Puglia was everything I had hoped it would be–great people, great adventures, incredible food and wine, and great weather except for one day. As wonderful as everything was on the trip, the experience did make me appreciate the incredible recreational bicycling network that’s being developed in France. While car-free bike paths and well-marked routes may not be a big deal for serious biking enthusiasts who cover 100+ miles a day on road bikes, they are a big deal for recreational cyclists who are biking for fun and adventure, many times with families and carrying their own gear.
While a lot of our bike journey was mostly on quiet agricultural roads, part of the trip was on very busy roads with very little shoulder for safe riding. Many years ago, this was the only choice available to recreational cyclists anywhere, thus there were very few of them. It’s only been since the birth of voie verte, veloroute and Eurovelo that recreational cyclists have had a safe place to ride alone or with their families. Unfortunately at this point in time, there just aren’t many car-free roads in Italy.
Italy is behind other European countries in the development of dedicated, marked bike routes for recreational cyclists. Perhaps it’s because they are so busy trying to fund excavation of all the ruins like Egnazia. Whatever the reason, the limited number of safe bike paths will continue to limit the number of recreational cyclists traveling there. Riding with a large group is always an option.
There are plenty of guided bike tour options for Italy if you are willing to spend $500+ day per person for your trip. On a guided tour, all of the route navigation is done for you, bikes are provided, backup is there for you when you get lost, and you have a ride if the rolling terrain becomes too much for you. We actually met a family on our plane who were on their way to a guided tour in Sicily, three people at $550/day per person plus airfare. For most of us, spending this kind of money on a bicycling trip isn’t an option.
Italy is one of my favorite European destinations, but as a recreational cyclist, France will still be my number one cycling destination.