5 reasons why you should ride in Italy right now

Mat heads to Italy with Deanima Cicli and falls in love with the place all over again

by Mat Brett   February 25, 2014  

I’m not saying that cycling in northern Italy is perfect at this time of year, but it’s pretty close.

We get to ride in a lot of cool places here on road.cc, but Italy in the (just about) springtime takes some beating. I headed out for the weekend with new bike brand Deanima Cicli. Chances are that you’ve not heard of Deanima before. We’ll have exclusive news on their Gianni Pegoretti-built carbon road bike, including a First Ride, here on road.cc when they launch their website in a couple of weeks (you can follow them on Twitter already).

I went out to get the full story behind the brand, to see the bike being made and, of course, to ride it. We had an afternoon’s ride near Trento and a longer ride alongside Lake Como. Here are five reasons why you need to do something similar this spring…


1 The mountains

We did a couple of brilliant climbs. First up (literally), we headed from Lago di Caldonazzo to Compet. The Giro d’Italia will take riders up here on 29 May. We didn’t do a long ride, just a flatish warm up out to the start of the climb and then the ascent.

At 1,383m above sea level, Compet isn’t high by European standards, but it’s still 39m higher than the summit of Ben Nevis. You get hairpins, you get steep bits and not-so-steep bits, you get stunning views, you get tired… and there’s always something special about climbing up beyond the snow line. You boil on the way up, at the top you get a cup of coffee (see below) and sling on all the extra clothing you’ve managed to carry, and you freeze on the way down until you hit the warmer air. Perfect.

The last half mile or so through the trees was pretty sketchy because of melting snow on the road, and even more so on the way down, but that’s all part of the fun… as is seeing how fast you can rail the switchbacks.

The other climb we did was the famous Madonna del Ghisallo alongside Lake Como, a fixture of the Tour of Lombardy and often in the Giro d’Italia. At 754m, the pass isn’t that high but try explaining that to your legs and lungs on the way up. You love it and hate it at the same time. It’s one of those climbs you just need to do some time in your life, simple as that.


2 The lakes

Lake Como is stunning, Lake Garda is stunning, so’s Lake Maggiore and a whole bunch of other Italian lakes. Take your pick. You can’t go wrong, really. Cycling alongside them is good for your soul. Something like that, anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got some amazing scenery in the UK, but when it comes to vistas, Italy rocks. Cycling is easier when you have those views. And just better.


3 The cafés

The Italians are good at coffee, and we all know that cycling and coffee go hand in hand. If I had to pick fault, I’d say they could be a bit more generous in terms of quantity, but you can’t argue with the quality.

They’re also good at pretty much everything else food and drink related, of course – cake-type stuff, pasta, cheese, pizza, ice cream, wine… and it all has cool names.

Plus, all of this tastes better outside in the sun, especially once you have a few miles under your belt. Science has yet to prove why this is the case (the boffins are still arsing around with the Large Hadron Collider and stuff like that), but it’s true.

 

4 The sun

You couldn’t say that good weather is guaranteed in Italy at this time of year because it ain’t, but when the sun does come out to play you’re in for a treat.

Plus, although you might not like to admit it, everything is even better if you know that people back home are having to put up with drizzle, storms, sleet, blizzards or whatever. Sorry, but that’s just the way these things work.

 

5 Italy gets cycling

God knows, I’m not religious and I’m sure as hell not Catholic, but any country that reveres cycling enough to have a chapel dedicated to La Madonna del Ghisallo, the Patron Saint of Cycling, is good enough for me. It’s at the top of the Ghisallo climb, of course.

There are busts of heroes of the sport like Alfredo Binda, Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali outside, and an incredible amount of cycling history inside. The chapel would make a whole feature in itself.

You won’t necessarily be treated perfectly as a cyclist in Italy but – and I know this is a gross generalisation – Italians get cycling. Maybe I’m being a bit of an idealist here, but that’s the way I read it, anyway.

 

Look out for our story and a First Ride of the Deanima bike here on road.cc in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, here’s a pic of what to expect…

27 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

"If I had to pick fault, I’d say they could be a bit more generous in terms of quantity"

Quality not quantity that's what coffee is all about. It is such a sad thing to see all the people in Costa and Starbucks drinking a pint of hot milk with a shot of espresso in it.

posted by dreamlx10 [134 posts]
25th February 2014 - 21:00

like this
Like (48)

Where are these Starbucks that put actual espresso in their brown tinted milk offerings? I've yet to find one.

posted by Nick T [762 posts]
25th February 2014 - 21:16

like this
Like (34)

Some great shots there by the way, it looks totally stunning. I'll have to get some plans in place for 2015 I think, cheers Mat.

posted by Nick T [762 posts]
25th February 2014 - 21:20

like this
Like (29)

I love this country, if i ever leave these shores to move abroad it will be to Italy.

The people, the countryside, the food basically everything is superb.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2674 posts]
25th February 2014 - 21:23

like this
Like (34)

Seriously, a decent small Italian espresso should give you enough caffeine to get up a few thousand metres!

Other recommended areas include Piemonte near the border with France - your chance to do some epic Tour and Giro climbs. Or, for those that like more food than exercise, a leisurely pedal along the San Remo cycle way (with cafes and restaurants minutes from the track) - well worth doing.

Just avoid August.

Luminosity's picture

posted by Luminosity [62 posts]
25th February 2014 - 21:23

like this
Like (28)

From Tuscany drop down into Umbria and the rolling roads just go on forever and they are really quiet even in the summer (with no pot holes either).

The last 2 times i've been there the roads were filled with cyclists and everyone gives them space....bliss.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2674 posts]
25th February 2014 - 21:32

like this
Like (25)

dreamlx10 wrote:
Quality not quantity that's what coffee is all about.

Nah, I'll have quality and quantity, thanks. A thimbleful is no good to man nor beast. The Italians need to man-up and get a proper amount of caffeine down 'em, not the half measures they've been getting away with for years.

posted by Mat Brett [1821 posts]
25th February 2014 - 22:53

like this
Like (30)

I'm privileged enough to be riding the entire length of Italy this summer, North West to South East. I can't begin to explain how much I'm looking forward to it. More so following this article.

posted by ajmarshal1 [260 posts]
25th February 2014 - 22:54

like this
Like (31)

There seems to be some mistake...

Mike-Myers-So-i-married-an-axe-murderer.jpg

posted by Nick T [762 posts]
25th February 2014 - 23:01

like this
Like (26)

Lovely article on a beautiful country. I never need an excuse to go back but by god your article persuade me to get back there !

posted by arfa [446 posts]
25th February 2014 - 23:25

like this
Like (33)

Quote:
God knows I’m not religious

Heaven forbid.

Quote:
and I’m sure as hell not Catholic

I don't think that's necessarily worse. (Anyway, there's a Campag groupset on that bike - the sign of a follower of the One True Faith.)

Noli porcum linguere

captain_slog's picture

posted by captain_slog [263 posts]
25th February 2014 - 23:56

like this
Like (32)

I've had no holidays from work since August and I'm getting pretty much sick to the back teeth of being in this country, so why, oh, why did I click on this bloody article?

I hate you all.

Also, those DeAnima tops look smart as well.

Pah.

Meh.

*Flicks the Vs at screen and sulks*

posted by farrell [1305 posts]
26th February 2014 - 0:32

like this
Like (32)

stumps wrote:
I love this country, if i ever leave these shores to move abroad it will be to Italy.

The people, the countryside, the food basically everything is superb.

+1
My wife and I spent a couple of weeks cycling in Italy last summer and it was nothing short of idyllic. The roads were quiet in the region where we stayed, but when you did encounter a car they were patient and gave you acres of space. My wife seemed to be a bit of a curiosity (a woman on a bike?) but in no way negative; just plenty of shouts of encouragement, particularly from the old ladies sat outside their houses just watching the world go by.
Going back this summer and can't wait.

posted by pwake [280 posts]
26th February 2014 - 3:58

like this
Like (30)

Having watched the episode of Top Gear where they have a 'race' down Lake Como, the road looked like a nightmare. Worst advert for cycling that stretch I could think of. Did you follow the same route or a different one?

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [437 posts]
26th February 2014 - 9:36

like this
Like (28)

You mean when they drove along the main lakeside road through a a town? I'd imagine that would be a busy road generally, just like between Windermere and Ambleside. Not too many cols along the waterfront generally either.

posted by Nick T [762 posts]
26th February 2014 - 10:05

like this
Like (28)

..off in May with my group, going from Nice to Pisa....quite looking forward to it! Big Grin

posted by Deswahriff [11 posts]
26th February 2014 - 11:17

like this
Like (26)

Five reasons why you should ride in Italy, one reason why you should work for road.cc. Super jealous Sad

posted by Jonny_Trousers [75 posts]
26th February 2014 - 11:53

like this
Like (35)

Must've happened while I was away from cycling for a while, because in my day you drank tea, and lots of it. Don't get me wrong, coffee's alright, but there's just far too much snobbery involved! Wink

seven's picture

posted by seven [98 posts]
26th February 2014 - 12:38

like this
Like (27)

Do agree it looks great, especially compared to this winters soggy efforts here. My experience of Italian cycling is confined to further south though, Rome across to Ancona, and my experiences of the drivers and the road quality is pretty different. Italian drivers seem to need to get past whatever is in front of them, regardless of if there's anywhere to go, and the road surfaces were generally pretty awful. I know cycling is a passion in Italy - so car drivers aren't especially inconsiderate to cyclists, they're inconsiderate to everyone else on the road, and it was pretty intimidating at times. Maybe things are better further north, but that experience last year means it's France and Mallorca for me this year.

Zermattjohn's picture

posted by Zermattjohn [60 posts]
26th February 2014 - 12:44

like this
Like (25)

Wonderful cycling in Italy, particularly thorugh the Dolomites, but I've been to Umbria for a week in February and the weather was grim; very cold, very wet and even a bit of snow. Lovely roads, but the sun definitely does not always shine!

posted by kcr [58 posts]
26th February 2014 - 13:02

like this
Like (20)

Hmmm. I watched the Giro last year. Italian spring weather didn't look all that idyllic to me...

Grizzerly

posted by Grizzerly [115 posts]
26th February 2014 - 13:32

like this
Like (17)

Pretty sure I would cycle in Italy ANYTIME although I would prefer to avoid the snow

posted by jarredscycling [436 posts]
27th February 2014 - 15:43

like this
Like (19)

I want to go to Italy so bad. Also, Cafe Nero > Starbucks, Costa. Actual proper coffee.

posted by J90 [75 posts]
28th February 2014 - 21:17

like this
Like (18)

Glad someone's given Caffé Nero a shout. "Best espresso this side of Milan", they say (of themselves). And they ain't far wrong! Great post, by the way! Applause

Fran the Man

posted by Fran The Man [61 posts]
1st March 2014 - 8:12

like this
Like (20)

The climb to Panarotta was used for the mountain time trial in the 1988 Giro. My Dad came from the town at the bottom, unfortunately I can't afford to visit but if you can you should!

posted by mmag1 [8 posts]
4th March 2014 - 12:05

like this
Like (14)

Do you honestly get paid to do this... really!!! Crying Crying Applause

ps, skiied italy loads of times & i'm a heavy proper coffee drinker, agree they need to man up over there & serve bigger cups & i take mine straight black none of this milky silky glupy crap & make it a bit hotter too!

but back to the point - paid to do this, you can't be !! Sick

posted by bfslxo [118 posts]
10th March 2014 - 13:30

like this
Like (14)

stumps wrote:
I love this country, if i ever leave these shores to move abroad it will be to Italy.

The people, the countryside, the food basically everything is superb.

It is a great country. But its economy is broken and the level of bureaucracy involved in getting anything done is hugely frustrating. I love going to Italy but I think living there would drive me nuts.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
14th March 2014 - 16:38

like this
Like (14)