Italy cycle resources?

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Re: Italy cycle resources?

Postby iviehoff » Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:44 am

Sweep wrote:
Vorpal wrote:They don't show all minor roads, but you're unlikely to get lost following them. .


Being an awkward sod i am rather wedded to the idea of maps showing the roads i am afraid. And on a bike it's the minor roads I am interested in. If not actually lost I have ended up having to turn back and add extra miles as a result of following TCI maps and their equivelents in Sardinia. Usually as a result of trhing to second guess the mapmakers and the lie of the land.


In addition to liking maps that show the roads that exist, I also like them to be correct in the way they show them joining together. If there are two successive forks in a road, then it is helpful if they are shown in the correct order or you end up going down the wrong road. If a turning is after a village when it is shown on the map as before a village, then you leave the village in the wrong direction and wonder where your road is. If you go along a road and find a fork when the map shows a single road, you don't know whether to go left or right. This is my experience of using TCI 1:200,000 maps. Going 4km down a big hill to come to a dead end is bad enough when you are in a car, it is soul-destroying when you are on a bike. A couple of times we went up some small road towards some sight we were trying to find, and found such a dense network of unmapped small roads it would have required an extensive exploration to try and find what we were looking for.

There was this town with a very narrow high street which had been made 1-way, and once you committed yourself to going down it, there was a return route of about 8km to get back to the other end of it. We ended up going around that circuit twice to try and find the correct way out of town that was so inaccurately represented on the map - of course in that case on the bike you would only have to walk back the 500m 1-way section.

If someone finds Italy adequately mapped, it is because they are content to travel the main roads. I'm not.
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Re: Italy cycle resources?

Postby Vorpal » Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:56 am

I tend to navigate in Italy mostly by a combination of junction signposts and a list of towns. I mean that rather than looking for a specific road from a mapped route, I plan the route, and then look for the town and village names on signposts, and follow those. I will check that I'm not headed for a main route or autostrada route, or something, and occasionally have to check the map when signposts are missing, or I am not sure where I am, but except for those, I don't do much map reading. I don't always follow exactly the route I have planned, but this method has generally gotten me where I was going.

While I have followed roads that led nowhere a couple of times, and taken longer routes than necessary, I can't say that I've had any experiences where I lost hours to a wrong turn or missed road, or anything. Maybe it was just dumb luck.

Maybe if I'd had better maps when I was there, I would have used the maps more. :D
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
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Re: Italy cycle resources?

Postby Jezrant » Thu Aug 07, 2014 12:33 pm

I've traveled around Italy extensively over the past forty years, lived in Tuscany for a while, and speak the language pretty well. The mapping and signposting can drive you nuts, especially on the backroads in the countryside just about anywhere in Italy. Forget GPS, and asking locals for directions can at times be just as maddening with their vague, misleading, confusing and sometimes simply wrong information. This reminds me of an insightful and amusing book by Tim Parks ostensibly about the Italian railways. The last chapter, about trying to get to Otranto by train, is hilarious. He ends the book with some wise advice that applies just as well to touring the country by bike. You really just have to go with the flow in Italy. :)
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Re: Italy cycle resources?

Postby Sweep » Thu Aug 07, 2014 3:17 pm

ah iviehoff.

yes your memories of using Italian TCI and other Italian 200,000 maps mirrors mine - restricted to Sardinia I stress.

I agree totally about the poor representation. At times only maybe but I expect maps to be accurate.

As you imply, at least if the representation is correct you have a chance of figuring things out.

This is what I referred to with "trying to second-guess the mapmakers" - it's my impression that most of the mapping is based on a very very similar limited data set.

But sometimes the presentation/representation is different.

So when cycling in sardinia I often have 3 separate 200,00 maps in my backpack.

At junctions I can then be sometimes be spotted by bemused locals looking at three separate maps to try to enter their various mindsets.

It's not unusual for me to find myself at a junction I expect to have 3 exits to find 4 or 5.

Then I have to try to figure out, between the three maps, which ones the map makers have decided to show on the map.

I have quite often chosen the one that appears to be going in the right direction only to find that the road runs out across a field.

How mad is that?

I also find that there is a lack of landmarks/features marked on the maps. If more were marked you could perhaps figure out sooner that you are on the right/wrong road.

Interesting post from jezrant as someone who has lived in Italy.

I know what you mean about signage.

It is getting better gradually but I have memories of being nackered on a ride once and not being able to figure out which exit to take from a village. And there were only two. Sometimes (again in Sardinia I stress) the sign at a town exit will point to a quite bizarre not terribly local place. Again you have to start mind-reading.

In Sardinia they often seem to lack a sign for straight on to a town - they just have stocks of left and right. This can make things very unclear indeed (more sitting down to commune with the mind of the great map/signwriter in the sky) - I think that now and again, to make it clear that they mean straight on they have used a right arrow on the left hand side of the road and a left arrow on the right hand side, but how efficent is that?

There is something of a "shortage" of numbered roads in Sardinia for inevitable reasons to do with the topography, but with regular research I am gradually learning the smaller unmarked roads. It is possible to go a pretty long distance on these across country. Once you know where they are.

Don't worry about Mr Miller's putdown iviehoff.

I would commend his web page to anyone but such is his apparent defensiveness about Italy, at times almost vicious, that I have at least twice asked if he has any Italian family links or blood. But never had an answer

I would by the way commend Sardinian cycling to folk. But not in July or August.

Am in the process of planning a route London to Rome but will be using GPS/OSM to find the quiet roads.
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Re: Italy cycle resources?

Postby mnichols » Thu Aug 07, 2014 9:11 pm

I'm not sure why people are having problems with GPS? As per my previous post I used a Garmin 800 to Navigate top to bottom (Innsbruck to the Toe then back to Rome), and Venice to Nice (over the top). I did my route planning in advance using ridewithgps.com, downloaded my route to my garmin and followed it everyday

It got my from door to door of all my accommodation stops without any problems including right through the center of some big places like Rome, Florence, Sienna, Modena, Bologna, Merano, Regio, Allesandria,Tirano, Savona, San Remo, etc. I actually tried to avoid Naples but didn't realise how big it was and got caught in the busy suberbs. Cycled around Milan - I was staying directly above and heading directly below but took a wide detour
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Re: Italy cycle resources?

Postby Jezrant » Thu Aug 07, 2014 10:53 pm

GPS usually works fine in Italy on most of the the roads you see on the Touring 1:200,000 maps. Results are much less reliable on the smaller backroads in the countryside, especially the unpaved ones. In some regions there are quite a lot of little roads like these that are really lovely. In Tuscany, for example, they go through vineyards and olive groves and have very little traffic. But you will quickly get lost trying to navigate on them with a GPS.
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Re: Italy cycle resources?

Postby Sweep » Fri Aug 08, 2014 9:39 am

Jezrant wrote:n some regions there are quite a lot of little roads like these that are really lovely. In Tuscany, for example, they go through vineyards and olive groves and have very little traffic. But you will quickly get lost trying to navigate on them with a GPS.


Yes I have been on some of those wonderful unmarked roads through olive groves etc in Sardinia jezrant - sometimes by bike and sometimes by car (the original Panda was particularly good for those many many roads the TCI didn't think to mark - quite good ground clearance).

I find the GPS useful as an additional resource for the 3 maps [ :) ] - more data to balance/mind read.

OSM doesn'r show many many roads in Sardinia but at least I can often see that I am heading towards a marked road or a town/village. Particularly good for me as I have an appalling sense of direction.

(always assuming of course that the road doesn't stop/end up on the edge of a ditch/dry river bed/just lead to a farm/agricultural building)

I have never got to grips with inputting data to OSM but I have the beginning and start of a fair few of these Sardinian roads marked on my GPS so that I can find them again.

I suppose one advantage of all this somewhat poor mapping is that the determined can find some nice quiet places where even a lot of cyclists won't have got to, and a nice olive grove in which to lay your head.

Maybe we should all pray that the TCI continues to thrive/be adopted as the gold/yellow standard.
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Re: Italy cycle resources?

Postby Jezrant » Fri Aug 08, 2014 10:08 am

On the strade sterrate or so-called strade bianche "white roads" I use more detailed maps than the Touring 1:200,000 and occasionally a compass (!), but even the 1:25,000 maps in Italy are notoriously unreliable (the Swiss and French topographical maps in the Alps, for example, are more accurate and easier to read than the Italian one; you can compare them where they overlap).
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Re: Italy cycle resources?

Postby Sweep » Fri Aug 08, 2014 10:22 am

Interesting jezrant.

I didn't know that 25,000 maps were generally available - though after your on-the-ground knowledge of them I'll give them a miss - will stick to my TCI/one or two other maps/free tourist maps/GPS/follow the stars.

I can see TCI becoming obsolete pretty soon for anything but as a "get me home" map - as I said above OSM stll has massive gaps in Sardinia but in those areas where the OSM mappers have been out the maps are already far superior to anything you can generally buy.

Best map of Sardinia is German but you still have problems finding many of the very interesting ruins/nuraghe. Besy way to find many is to go online and find folk's GPS-co-ordinated pics.

Time to ride all those strade bianche before they are all properly mapped/invaded I suppose.

If by any chance you have any favourite ones I'd be happy to learn about them, as I'm sure would many other forumites.
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Re: Italy cycle resources?

Postby Jezrant » Fri Aug 08, 2014 12:09 pm

Personally, I prefer using paper maps (and a compass when necessary) but I can see the advantages of a Garmin et al. The 1:25,000 IGM maps cover the Alps, but Kompass do a few 1:50,000 maps for other popular regions like Tuscany. Personally, I think it would be a tedious affair trying to work out a long-distance route linking up strade bianche, as they form a dense network of relatively short routes, but it's easy enough to include bits of them into a tour, e.g. the unpaved sections of the Eroica as an obvious and well-documented example. Riding them on a loaded touring bike might not be everyone's cup of tea, though. They're hard work and slow-going, but when I'm cycle-touring, I'm usually not in a rush to get from A to B. :)

BTW, for anyone looking for more detailed maps than the 1:200,000:

for the 1:50,000 maps, see
http://www.kompass-italia.it/
and select “carte turistiche” and then the region (e.g. Tuscany)

for the 1:25,000 maps including Tuscany, see
http://www.edizionimultigraphic.it
and select “carte turistiche e dei sentieri”, the region and then the scale
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Re: Italy cycle resources?

Postby mnichols » Fri Aug 08, 2014 2:57 pm

I can see why you would think that the route planning for a GPS might be tedious, it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I treat it as part of the adventure. It's probably not that dissimilar to the prep that others do with maps

I'm planning a Canada to Mexico trip at the moment, and I enjoy the whole process: buying the books, reading articles, chatting on forums, drawing my route on the computer, researching the accommodation and finding out about the places that I will be travelling through. I tend to do my planning on the long winters evenings and use the summer for cycling. It keeps me happy and entertained in the winter month, and it gives me something positive to look forward to.

I love cycling through towns and villages that I've seen months before as picture on my computer, or as an article in a magazine and watching them come to life.

We have maps as well, and will sometimes abandon the pre-planned route if someone recommends a better one on the way, or we just see an interesting turning or hill.

The important thing to remember is that the GPS is just a map on a different media - electronic rather than paper and you can use them in the same way
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Re: Italy cycle resources?

Postby Jezrant » Fri Aug 08, 2014 3:50 pm

Probably didn't make that clear. What's tedious is not route-planning for a GPS but trying to plan a long-distance route linking up strade bianche. It can be done, and maybe someone has already done it, but it would be a tedious job because the strade bianche is a dense network of relatively short stretches of unpaved roads, most of which is not joined up. Take, again, the route of the Eroica for example. More than half of the long route is on paved roads. The strade bianche sections are relatively short and discontinuous. :)
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