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What we did on our holiday*

We go cycling in Italy and – whaddya know? – it turns out nice

We didn’t mean to cycle 90-odd miles when we left the Hotel Belvedere but it was that kind of day. When Italy offers you a big ride in the sunshine, what can you do but get stuck in?

It was our second full day in northern Italy, and highlights included:

• Tough hills
• Swoopy switchback descents
• Walled towns
• A super-green gorge

First up was the ride to Urbino in the Marche region, 30-odd miles from our base in Riccione. Oh, hang on, we’re in Italy so that should be 50-odd kilometres from our base in Riccione.

If you’ve never been to Urbino, get yourself along there at some point. It’s the sort of place that people paint. It has got a wall around the edge for a start, and that has to be a good thing, and the architecture is stunning. Plus, it sits at the top of a big hill so by the time you get there you’ve earned your coffee (very reasonably priced, we thought, at €1.20 a go).

The area is hilly but not mountainous. You get quite a lot of climbs that are two or three miles long, a few climbs that are longer with a couple of dips along the way. The longest climb we did today was about seven miles although that included a bunch of flat bits and the gradient was generally pretty shallow.

We’d headed out with one of the ride groups from the Belvedere Hotel but they were heading more or less straight back from Urbino to Riccione whereas Dave had come up with a plan to check out the Furlo Gorge. One ultra-swoopy descent later and we were well on our way.

The gorge is spectacular and it has a Roman road running along the bottom so you get to ride right beside the Candigliano river. At one point most of the road has slipped into the water leaving enough room to get by on a bike but not enough for a car. That means you can gawp at the towering cliffs without having to worry about traffic. I guess you might want to worry about more of the road falling into the river, but at least you’re not going to be hassled by motorists.

Once we reached the end of the gorge it was time to start on the journey home. To be honest, we found some good roads and some not so good roads to ride back on, but that’s all part of the experience, isn’t it?

We replenished dwindling fuel reserves at a café somewhere along the way, filled up water bottles in Fano where Dave had his picture taken with Caesar Augustus. He built an arch at the entrance to the town in 2AD and it’s still there. That’s yer man Augustus, not Dave. Dave doesn’t know how to build arches.

Oh, and if you’re from Watford and you’ve seen signs saying your town is twinned with Pesaro, Italy, well, we passed through there today too on our way back up the coast. We didn’t have time to stop but if we go back later in the week we’ll say ‘hi’ from you.

All in, we did 92 miles with 1,750m climbing and laid waste to eight cappuccinos between us, two slices of blackcurrant tart, a couple of cheese and tomato pizzas, 10 Mars Bars and assorted soft drinks, plus a selection of flying insects on the descents.

As Mondays go, we'd say it was a good 'un.


*Actually, it's not a holiday, it's a business trip. Italy Week 2014 is in Italy from 4-11 October at the Belvedere Hotel in Riccione.

Visit the Italy Week page to find out what we’ve been getting up to

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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