The Alps, Security, Water & The Ciclopista Del Sole

Sounds like a new surrealist film? No, just a round-up of the topics that have fallen into my inbox this week. Read on to find out more…

I was wondering what crossing the alps was like? writes Henry Ulmann… Excellent! If you follow the Eurovelo 5 / Swiss National Route 3, you will cycle around Lake Lucerne and, up to Andermatt and then over the Gotthard Pass itself. The hardest bit is getting to Andermatt with some tortuous switch back roads. You can camp in Andermatt (head for the cable car entrance and the campsite is there on the other side of town). Andermatt to the pass is, by comparison an easy ride and will only take you an hour and a half. Coming down the other side, you have a choice between the old cobbled road and the new one. I took the old route and broke a spoke which was annoying so if you do the same check your bike before you set off!

Tom Whitlam writes; I emailed you earlier in the year in regard to the route. I have booked the flight now but am thinking of doing it backwards. I just had few questions about the trip itself: I’m planning to do the trip independently and wondered if you  ever wild camped? I didn’t wild camp; Western Europe is not that wild and I think you will find that most places you visit have a campsite, hostel or (perhaps at the last resort) a cheap hotel. If so, do you have any tips ( best places, where it is legal, did you put bike in tent, how to keep it secure) if not other options? Initially I was a little bit worried about the security of the bike but after a while became a lot more relaxed about the whole thing. I took a cable type lock with me (in addition to a D-lock) that I wrapped around the bike at night and also around the pole of my tent. If someone were to interfere with the bike, the tent would have been shaken. It never happened although if it had, I’m not quite sure what I would have done… When going through Italy did you encounter any toll roads? How did you face these? Do you pay the normal fee? I never came across any. I think you will find most toll roads in Europe (not sure where you are now) are only motorways so you can’t go on those anyway. In regards to getting a hold of water and food – I’m doing the trip in July, so it is going to be extremely hot, hence I will probably be drinking 4-6 litres day if not more. Is it quite easy to get water, did you just buy it from a shop etc? Good question! The best place to fill up (for free) is at a cemetery and you will pass lots of these en route. Never miss the opportunity to fill up your bottle at their tap which is usually at the gates to the graveyard. Please excuse any silly questions; I’m quite new to the whole idea of touring but can’t wait to get out there. They aren’t silly questions; they are the kind of questions I was asking before I cycled the route. And for the record, I still see myself as a newcomer to the whole touring business. Good luck!

Anne Prieels (from Belgium?) writes; I just found your web page and the soon to be road book for EV5! We are leaving Brussels by train on 27th August down to Italy (either Venise or Milano) with our bikes – yes it is possible! We are 6 (2 adults and 4 kids 7-10-12-14) and we plan to go down to Sicily, then continue to Africa.  We estimate it to 2 months (average with kids 30Km/day) We are trying to find out the nicest way (knowing we travel with kids) to go through Italy.  When I mentioned the EV5/7 or alternatives, a friend of mine, leaving in Rome told me the old pilgrim route was not usable by cyclist (small paths), but told me about the Ciclopista del Sole. I still can not find out if there is one map/guide detailing this route till the end. I see you have been digging into this to produce a book, do you think it could be ready by our departure?  How far are your with your chapters regarding Italy?  Do you go up to Napoli? could we get a draft version? Thanks a lot for your feed back.

Thanks for getting in touch Anne. You will find precious little information available about the cycle routes in Italy. The Via Francigena – the pilgrimage walking route – is, I imagine, not suitable for bikes (although it has been cycled – see this book by Paul Chinn). The routes on the Bicitalia map (click here to see it) are very aspirational. I did not find any route map or indeed any signs. I picked my way from town to town as I travelled south making the route up as I cycled. Which was no bad thing. The roads, especially in the south of Italy tended to be quiet and very nice for cycling. As far as my own book goes, I have just arrived in  northern Italy and am currently writing about my brief visit to Milan before I cycled along the canal to Pavia to stay with online contact Simone. Once I have finished the Italian part of the journey I am more than happy to email you what I have written but please bear in mind that my book is a personal story about my own trip with whimsical tales & sarcastic asides. It isn’t a ‘turn left, turn right’ kind of book. Read the sample chapters that I have so far put online to get a taste of things to come. And good luck with planning and then cycling your own route south. Where I stopped, you will continue… Bon voyage!

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  1. Dear Andrew,
    Thank you so much for your gems of knowledge and experience, and for sharing them so freely. I am spending some time in Italy currently and plan to cycle home on the Eurovelo5/Via Francigena starting mid July. I know there has been mention on a few posts from people cycling the route backwards (To England) but I haven’t managed to find any responses from you. Do you have any thoughts about going the other way or any further gems of wisdom. We haven’t done any cycle touring (but are keen commuter/leisure cyclists) before and are a mix of very nervous and quite excited. We’re 2 27 year old girls and plan to start in Lucca/Pisa and end in London.
    Thank you so much again for you blogging, I’m not sure I’d be doing it without all the information you’ve given.

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