Nice to Pisa on a bike

Old Jun 29th, 2017, 10:00 AM
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Nice to Pisa on a bike

Firstly thanks to everyone who gave me advice on this trip. Due to work commitments it was all a bit last minute so little planning and lots of rush rush. This was

1) an opportunity to test bike mapping tools (mymaps, not only plans bike rides for you, it also allows routes to be brought in from other sources see 3)
2) a chance to see how the Euro 8 bike route was getting on. Europe has a whole load of long distance cycle ways linking everything up, but both France and especially Italy are very late in completing their sections
3) testing of http://italy-cycling-guide.info/cycleways-cycle-routes/
4) a chance to learn more Italian
5) a chance to use AirBnB for the first time

The route is to ride the large arc that sits between Nice and Pisa in Tuscany following the coast all the way along. For us the airports can be reached from Leeds easily and June is before the tourist season goes mad in Italy but after the Monaco Grand Prix.

However a few days before we set off Mrs Bilbo came down with a bad back, which could have stopped the whole thing though she soldiered on.

We tend to travel as light as possible so wrap the bikes up in giant plastic bags fly to our start and take as little baggage as possible planning to wash clothes as we go. Looking back our average cost per night's accomodation is E60 while meals can range from E20 to E55 for two.
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Old Jun 29th, 2017, 10:02 AM
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Advice here http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-the-coast.cfm
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Old Jun 29th, 2017, 11:31 AM
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I'm riding pillion - hope i don't hold you up!
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Old Jun 29th, 2017, 11:56 AM
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Lovely part of the world. I'm looking forward to reading more!
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Old Jun 29th, 2017, 03:05 PM
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Interested to see if you found this a scenic route. Sounds wonderful...
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Old Jun 29th, 2017, 03:12 PM
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Can't wait to read this...
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Old Jun 30th, 2017, 12:04 AM
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Day 1: Rising early we cycle at 14C to Leeds Braford Airport, break the bikes apart and check in. Trouble is that jet2.com have changed their rules and now all bikes must go in boxes, “please, please” etc seems to work (but we have been warned..)

A nice easy flight and we arrive in Nice, where we re-assemble the things, clean our hands and cycle up the Euro 8 on the the sea front “Promenade des Anglais” apart from it being hot 25C+ it is fine and we ride into Nice to a Ibis next to the station for the night.

With the museums closing fast we visited some of the old parks up in the hills above Nice, filled with cloisters and roman ruins, plus a female guard at the Matisse who mumbled the worst French I had ever heard and would not let us in. Still the Jardin du Monastère de Cimiez is fantastic, very beautifully laid out with fine views to the sea.

We ate in the old port, with a Chinese woman and her Chihuahua who tried to attach herself to us.

The next few days sees us cycling through a series of bays with elevated headlands at the end of each. The bays will always hold a series of low rise hotels, a bunch of beach front bathing areas (private and public) and loads of restaurants, ice cream shops, tatoo parlours and the usual stuff you find in beach holiday towns.

Those towns with the odd little port also have the opportunity to house very expensive yachts and, hidden away, the docks where expensive yachts go to die. I'll try to avoid describing this repetative detail and just mention the highlights. Euro 8 has not really arrived on the coast yet, though there are couple of long cycle paths, the majority of the path will need people and things to get out of the way in an organised fashion. The road traffic is really not bad, however there is a regular stream of concrete trucks heading to Monaco which are depressing.

I'd like to note now that the sea is very blue, the sky is blue and there are flowers everywhere on the first part of this journey. When it hits Italy it will be called the Riviera dei fiori for a reason and the flowers are at their peak in June.
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Old Jun 30th, 2017, 09:41 AM
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Day 2: we rose early to ride east. The roads are not great as the land is very twisted and curved while Mrs B's back stopped us riding in the hills. Still we pressed on into Monaco, which is a bit of a dump, concrete and building sites everywhere, the ruins of the GrandPrix litter the place, still the market in the Place des Armes was fantastic if far too expensive. Getting out of Monaco proved especially difficult as many of the roads stop close to the border but we finally manage it making it to our second Ibis in Menton (showed a couple of Americans how to book in by computer) we dined in a Brittany Crepe place, though other local restaurants also looked good.

Day 3: We enter Italy and the first of a series of hair-raising tunnels. A less than comfortable experience but we meet lots of riders, either little old ladies or groups of three old men and a daughter out for training rides, all take the tunnels in their stride. We finally get to Sanremo (named after one of the founders of Rome and the town is famous for a singing competition every year). Here we stayed in Gioberti Rooms, which has lovely rooms. If you want a meal with a character then dine at Cantine Sanremesi. The owner (into his 80s I'd guess) runs a Focacciaria with other food. All good but customer service has yet enter his vocab, he either likes your face or not.
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Old Jun 30th, 2017, 09:44 AM
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Hi all,
sundried, the view early on in the route is amazing. You just get bored of the sun, the blue etc, but as you get onto the Riviera proper it becomes "Italians and their beaches", which is a little dull. (only the occasional building worth looking at, while... how do you choose a restaurant when most are the same) Certainly even dull bits of Tuscany away from the sea were just so much nicer.
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Old Jul 1st, 2017, 04:32 AM
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Day 4: Getting to Imperia was relatively easy and we found the little pension of Albergo Costa hidden down a side road. No english spoken, fantastic. Imperia itself had a slight charm and a menu del giorno for E10 including wine. With the weekend coming up we book into AirBnB for the next 2 days.

Day 5 & 6: The day is very hot so hot that my mobile phone keeps conking out which makes route planning a bit tricky as we leave the coast to ride out of the busy medievel city of Albenga, our Airbnb is the second floor of a family home just out of town and our host is wonderful. More to the point she has a washing machine and gives us some detergent “detersivo”, we drink beers from the supermarket as the machine cleans our filthy clothes.

Next day we visit Albenga which is delightful, has three of its main walls still standing and nice little traditional shops all the way through. We manage to get a seat at one of the local's restaurants “Ristorante Puppo” for lunch. E28 for two course with wine for two, all cooked in front of us. The town has a ancient monuments walk which entertain us for a bit before the heat hits us and we need to retreat to our base.
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Old Jul 1st, 2017, 08:17 AM
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I'm hanging onto the back, trying not to feel sick going through all those tunnels.
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Old Jul 1st, 2017, 08:34 AM
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I admire you, but have no intention of trying to emulate you!
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Old Jul 2nd, 2017, 01:18 AM
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thanks thursday, ann light as a feather
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Old Jul 2nd, 2017, 04:57 AM
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Hope you saw the mosaics in Albenga. If you are bicycling it doesn't make sense to be a shopper but the food in the markets in Albenga is remarkable No doubt you saw the river and half-sunken bridge of Albenga. The flood plain soil of Albenga is very fertile, and the fruits and vegetables are great.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2017, 06:07 AM
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Yes we walked the bridge, the mosaics, were ok, I've visited a lot over the years and this Year Sicily. I think Albenga was a high point of the trip.


In terms of shopping we were in AirBnB so picked up a few bits andd pieces to heat up
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Old Jul 2nd, 2017, 11:20 PM
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Bilbo some years ago we tried to drive the coast road heading west from Noli. Didn't get very far because it was very slow going and not nearly as scenic as we thought it would be.

Looks like we will really enjoy our 4 days in Nice and surrounds. Thanks for the mini report on that area.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2017, 02:56 AM
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Thanks sundried, if you do hire bikes the Euro8 goes west of Nice a fair way and there is a bike path up one of the local river valleys that looks good and easy.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2017, 08:44 AM
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Day 7: Sunday is a gentle riding day, end up in Hotel Savoia in Finale Lugure. A slightly tatty hotel placed amongst some of the best restaurants, shops and icecream shops in the town. We were a little tired and had a slight error.

The key box behind the receptionist finished on the left with 15 above the 29. The receptionist handed the key and said it was on the second floor. Brain says “must be 29”. Mrs Bilbo joins me and we enter the lift, she says “but 29 is on the ground floor”, we exit the lift, walk to 29 and find the room slightly open and clean.

We shower and sleep, to be woken by a key in the door. I dress quickly and my Italian improves enough to apologise etc etc. Yes we had to change rooms and the receptionist had to change the sheets in room 29...

Day 8: but next morning we had breakfast on the top floor of the hotel with great views of the sea, wonderful. The route today meant that we had to climb high above the sea, watch dolphins in the bay and tour some great short bike paths (where the old railway line has been converted).

We visit Noli our second walled city (more fruit and bread shopping in the market makes my day) and we pass by Savona which is a dump.

We end up in Albissola Marina and Hotel Europa, a large suite. Only trouble is the two aircons are on full power. I can't find how to turn it off, but we manage to get one of the aircon units to drive towards 26C while the other drives towards 18C... After a sleep we find a very short stick in one of the cupboards which must be there to turn off the [email protected]@n things.

Not a bad little place after that, hidden behind all this seaside tatt is often an interesting place to visit. Albissola Marina has a long history in ceramics with some on-going factories in town and various artisan shops.
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Old Jul 4th, 2017, 03:39 AM
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Day 9 &10: I have ridden some nasty places but I have to admit that Genova/Genoa is tatty, badly designed and full of traffic. They are starting to build the odd bicycle path which will be lovely, one day, but now it is very scary and the road into town goes on for at least 10km. Even here we pull into a cafe and the staff make us up a sandwich from the freshest ingredients.

The old port centre of Genova is “interesting”, the area down by the docks is flat and waiting for ferry users to embark or disembark, the area away from the docks is steep, tightly packed and well... like Damascus. We stay at Albergo Posta in the depth of the old city, the staff are really great and we spend a couple of days finding local restaurants and researching how to do this the next bit of the journey. Still the good news is the local streets are packed with laundrettes. Plus we find a working TI (no really) and get to eat in a local's restaurant, so much so that we get the golden seats in one.

Mrs B's back means that cycling through the Cinque Terra was not going to work. We looked at catching a boat along the coast but they don't start until July. We then looked at trains. We are presented with a problem... due to pressure in the CT bikes are offically not carried on the trains in June-August.. With a bit a gentle pressure we bought tickets for an early train with the hope that walkers will not insist we get off the train. We then explore how to get bikes to the platform (two levels down).

Day 11:

In the morning, we get up early, ride to the station and descend to the sub-platform, finding the usual 3 old men and a daughter with their bikes, they show us where to get on, help us load them and tell us not to worry. They prove to be right and the train is empty apart from loads of cyclists going to the start of the CT and riding back to Genova. The journey through the CT is green and pretty, with plenty of Graffiti (35% youth unemployment aided by degrees taking up to 6 years) and we arrive in La Spezia and a B&B La Perla di Golfo up three floors in an apartment building far too early, luckily the owner lets us in.

Since we are here very early we do a boat trip back into the Cinque Terra. It is pretty and with the sun, the heat and the blue sky really not a bad way to spend a day. I have a general view that tourist information office hide from me, in La Spezia, we find the first one on the map “sorry not for La Spezia”, the second one “closed a couple of years ago and no map to the new one” then walking through town we see it, I take a photo of it as proof and we enter, very helpful on how to get out of La Spezia, we exit, we think of a last question and turn to go back, “it's shut”.

Still we also find a good quality map of the region between la Spezia and Tuscany. This could be tricky as the land is very folded and steep so spend some time choosing a route.

Day 11 & 12:
Following the TI provided map and our own detailed one we head up to a col, to be stopped by two old guys who explain that while there should be a route where we were going there was not.... So we follow their advice and ride up in Arcola which turns out to be a little gem hidden away on a hillside. The local food shop makes up sandwiches and then sends us to a viewing platform near a 5 sided tower to eat lunch. The town seems to have suffered greatly under the fascists and the graveyard is large for such a small village but so pretty.

We head down to the planes and a busy road Marina di Carrara. Here we stay with Roberto at Villa Acero for two nights. The place is a marble fest (it is Carrara) with a lovely garden but the rooms have seen better days, still Roberto makes up for it.

Mrs B is feeling better while I'm struggling with enthusiasm so she drags me off to “Luni” a famous roman town (unknown at TI) who have to ring them up to see if they are open. Luni is empty and very hot with depressed staff sprawling around and only opening the Ampitheatre when no one is there. Despite that I like the place, clearly the Carrara of its day. Then, after a short lunch (E5 one course and beer) we have a shower and go to the Carrara marble museum which is completely empty apart from two bored staff.

For the first night we ate locally but on night two we ate at the fantastic amazingly cheap Osteria Gloria which we had to blag our way into. Roberto told me latter that the place is always full and that getting in at the weekend was special.
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Old Jul 4th, 2017, 03:43 AM
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Day 13: We now need to get to Pisa for our flight home and choose a route up in the hills to get there. Our path took us along miles of beach resorts which we ride especially slowly as cars and pedestrians are all over the place with no care for their or our safety. Everyone is driving slowly but acting stupid while the official bike path goes all over the shop.

Eventually after much frustration we head inland and curve around the lake of Massaciuccoli meeting all kinds of “country folk”, model aircraft flyers and dog agility training parties finally getting to Massarossa via a little bike path including an Iris field being plowed up by wild boar piglets and get to stay in a renovated little B&B called La Coccinella and supper at a nearby restaurant.

Day 14 is the ride into Pisa, we drift past the Roman ruins of Massaciuccoli which, being Monday, are shut but since the museum is all glass we get a good look at everything. Then very quiet roads to St Giuliano Terme. As we ride up the TI closes. I walk into the Gelateria to hear, “are you open?” being shouted from the next shop and a very grumpy may sell me ice cream.

After a short pausa when I discover a swim at the Terme costs a mere E38 a person. We ride into Pisa an find our AirBnB “Greenhome” which is 500 metres from the airport. Our host is a slighly scarey looking guy but perfectly pleasant for all that. The place is perfect, we know Pisa well and this is a lovely residential area, with good bars and shops all around.

We go out to the local bar to get cardboard (to cover our bike) and then wine at the local bar, run by mine host's brother (it turns out) and next door to some very good mussels in spaghetti.

Final day, after a quick breakfast, we ride to the airport, pack up and come back to Leeds, from where we ride home.


Lessons learnt:

The best ice cream comes from ones with signs that say “gelato artigianale” and “fare in casa” or “produzione propria”.

Apart from weekends, June hotels can be booked in the morning for the evening. If booking for the weekend you need to get it done by Thursday night.

You normally can get a sandwich or similar in any bar.

Italian supermarkets are really badly designed and they don't think of customers much.

AirBnB, works ok, you have to take on board the renter as well as the accomodation.

Euro 8 velo route will not be complete in the next 10 years, but when it is it will be very special blended with terrifying.

Mymaps worked fine, data files are very small so my little phone was not overwhelmed.

Away from 4 star hotels there were many places where English is not spoken so I got plenty of practice.

Only for two nights did the lack of aircon cause any problems and one of these we resolved, one night with aircon was almost a disaster.
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