Cycle racing has a huge following, and Italy has a long record of producing world-class riders. The ‘Tour of Italy’ ( Giro d’Italia), Italy’s answer to the Tour de France and one of the world’s most prestigious cycling races, has been held annually since 1909, interrupted only by the two World Wars. The race is held in May and attracts large crowds along the route.
At local level, cycling clubs can frequently be seen touring and racing throughout the country, especially at the weekends, the brightly-clad riders seemingly oblivious to the gradients and the baking sun. `
However, it’s noticeable that groups are almost exclusively male, despite the fact that cycling is popular among women and there’s also a women’s Giro d’Italia, which follows a route in the north of over 1,200km (745mi) in June to July each year.
For those with lesser ambitions, the largest area of flat land in Italy is the Po delta in the north, which provides an ideal area for cycling and is noted for its stunning scenery. Most towns have specialist cycling shops that sell or hire out bicycles and provide spares, assistance and advice about routes and local cycling clubs. In mountainous regions mountain-bikers often use a cable car to to the top of a mountain, from where they take a ‘leisurely’ ride back down.
The price of a basic bicycle starts at around €120 and for a mountain bike at some €250, although prices are much higher for racing models, which can run to €1,500 or more (top Italian makes include Bianchi and Campagnolo).
Shop around and compare prices and features. If you’re after a standard bicycle, you could try large supermarkets and hypermarkets, where prices are generally lower than in specialist shops. Bikes should be fitted with an anti-theft device such as a steel cable or chain with a lock, as bicycle theft is rife in Italy.
Bicycle hire (rental) is available in many towns and resorts, although it isn’t always obvious where to go (ask at the local tourist or information office).
Hire costs vary according to the model, a basic cycle starting at around €15 per day and a good mountain bike costing €35 or more per day.
For further information about cycling contact the Italian Cycling Federation, Federazione Ciclistica Italiana (www.federciclismo.it).
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Italy. Click here to get a copy now.