Cycling Through Italy With an MP3 Guide


When you’re the kind of traveler who wants to get off the beaten path in Italy and have a certain degree of independence, it helps to have a guardian angel around to make sure you don’t get lost. Because there’s a difference between finding charm in undiscovered Italy and losing your way entirely. One is fun, the other is decidedly not.

Writer Rachel Escott cycled through Umbria recently, and she wasn’t alone – even when she was by herself. The tour she took came with not only a bike rental and luggage transfers, but also with a little MP3 player which had videos on it that gave morning pep talks before a day’s ride, explained different sights along the way, and provided direction when necessary. The combination of written directions with video clips to accompany them are enough to put even the most navigation-challenged traveler at ease. And because you’ve got all the instructions you need with you at all times, you can take your time along the route.

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There’s just something about video, rather than photographs or words, that can make a place real. Escott says:

Unlike a guidebook, these videos managed to bring to life the character of the area and its people, and gave me a personal welcome to the country. … And although small and sometimes hard to see in bright sun, the sharpness of the screens made me feel Giovanni [the video tour guide] was an old friend by the end of the holiday. So when a video introduced me to a smiling Alessia Uccellini, architect, chef and co-owner of the Locanda Il Giglio restaurant in Sansepolcro, I didn’t hesitate to stride up and start chatting about her ambitions when we met in person.

Cycling trips through Italy are very popular, as the slower pace allows travelers to see the countryside much more clearly than looking out the window of a speeding car would. Not only that, but the roads these tours generally take are the smaller, lesser used ones, which help you – quite literally – get off the main tourist path and see parts of Italy you might never see otherwise.

If you’re interested in an active tour of Italy, here’s an Italy: Hike, Bike and Raft trip that will make sure you expend enough energy during the day that you’ll have no guilt about all those plates of pasta you have for dinner. And you’ll sleep well, too.

Photo by: will_cyclist