ob Farley is one of four sons to Andrew and Susie. Together, the Farley family has skied with Inspired ITALY on three occasions, so we were more than happy to entrust Rob with one of our eBikes for his Umbria, Tuscany & Lazio adventure.
Wild Camping & Tuscan Fields
With typically low levels of planning, I had just brought a sleeping bag for the nights, so no tent or roll mat, relying on the Italian summer nights to be dry and warm, as they luckily were.
I arrived in Cortona with little idea what to expect from the eBike. After being greeted by Timâs lovely wife Louise on the platform I was escorted to a nearby cafe to be given the run-down on the eBike, its impressive navigation system and, of course, how to use the electric assistance. Soon, after being given the brief, I was off on my adventure, weaving between Tuscan fields in the sun.
Views from an Ancient Roman Legend
The afternoon was a relaxed, with excellent progress made both in my cycling, as well as with a seemingly infinite podcast line up, easing past Lake Trasimeno into Umbria and up to Panicale, a little village with fantastic views over the surrounding countryside.
My first checkpoint was Montegabbione, a charming little hilltop village, and I aimed to get there for the first night. However, I made a number of navigational mistakes, climbing a increasingly rocky path up a hill that definitely could have been avoided. I reached what seemed to be the peak, but kept climbing and climbing and the path got narrower and narrower, before turning into a dried up little stream, at which point I decided to get off and push. Navigation was never my forte, after all. After about 40 minutes of pushing the fully loaded bike up this steep rocky path I finally found the peak, and was rewarded for my efforts with a view that seemed straight out of an ancient Roman legend, just as dusk was falling.
Jam Sandwiches & Chocolate
I was struggling to find my way off this hill and back onto proper roads and while the cool of the evening was very welcome indeed, the sun was going down, so it was time to call it a day. After a supper of jam sandwiches and chocolate, I set up my sleeping bag and got as comfortable as I could by the side of the path.
1 Minute Later
The rest of the day was easy progress, mainly downhill and on good roads, passing through small hill villages, occasionally finding a castle or a stunning view. After passing through tiny villages like Pianello and Ficulle, I had a lunch of peaches, bananas and sandwiches. By 5:30pm I had found Orvieto, a fascinating town, elevated on a giant slab of rock, with an incredible cathedral with unique stripes in the brickwork. I visited the Fortezza Albornoz, the Duomo, and the Museum of Architecture, which showed the ancient history of Orvieto as a manufacturer of clay and glazed goods. This would be the site of a lucky escape: I decided to go up the bell tower to see the remarkable view over the surrounding countryside (and it was mind blowing!) However, I had gone in with 10 minutes to closing time, and was so enraptured with the view that I came down 10 minutes after, only to find all the lights turned off, and even worse, all the doors locked. I could hear voices the other side though, so I called out, and fortunately the shop gift shop workers were just leaving. “1 minute later,” they said, “and we would be gone, and you would be stuck up there.” A close shave. Valuing my freedom, I made my way back down to the campsite.
Day 3 - "All Reason Departs"
The next morning involved a quick visit to the stunning view of Civita de Bagnoregio, another beautiful town on a hill. I’m told that in these towns were built this way in the time of city states, so that marauding barbarians and Florentines could not attack the towns as effectively. I then cycled on to Bomarzo to see the famous Park of Monsters, a bizarre and intriguing park, decorated with terrifying statues constructed in the 16th century. It was the brainchild of a grief-stricken prince who returned from a long and bloody war having been held hostage only for his wife to die. The inscription on the one pictured reads “all reason departs,” suggesting that the horrors of war played a big role in inspiring the statues.
From there, with time to spare, I made my way towards my final destination, Viterbo. Upon finding the prices of the hostels a little high, I decided to wild camp once more in the hills, allowing myself to cycle down quickly the next morning to get the train back to Cortona to finish my cycling trip.
Take advantage of the potential of the eBike
When I first picked up the eBike from Tim, I had my concerns about running out of battery and being stuck with no power, so I wanted to be sure I could use the bike without power if it came to that. Soon, however, these fears were assuaged. After two days of cycling with it off most of the time and using the lowest mode to help with hills, I realised I had not used up more than 20% in one day, and was not taking advantage of the potential of the eBike. In hindsight, this approach was more as a challenge to myself than anything else: if I could cycle without assistance, why use battery?
The eBike is Flexible
However, on my third day of cycling I deciding to use the power of the battery more liberally, to great effect, and found that I needn’t have feared running down the battery. The supplementary boost when approaching and climbing any sized hill was very welcome after two days of regular cycling with full panniers.
What this taught me was that fundamentally, the eBike is flexible. The cycling can be made as easy or hard as you would like it to be: if you are one for stubbornly cycling without assistance simply because you can, like me, or whether you would prefer to have a more civilised, less sweaty ride, taking the time to appreciate the gorgeous Italian scenery, that is also possible. I have no difficulty believing retirees who haven’t cycled in years can manage with the eBike just as well as a 21 year old.
eBikes in Italy - Flexible and Fun to Ride
Overall my experience with the eBike (and indeed of Italy) was very positive. It is flexible and fun to ride, and the thrill of shooting up a stretch of hill that would otherwise set you back half an hour or and hour and take the wind out of your sails was extremely satisfying, leaving more time to enjoy the luscious Italian countryside or indeed the rural restaurants and vineyards if that’s more your scene!
You get to see the scenery with the time and leisure of walking, but travel with ease.
Thanks so much to Tim and Inspired ITALY for giving me the opportunity to use the eBike, and to see the Italian countryside close up and personal!
Below we have included Rob's route and statistics.
The Bosch eBike Connect System is one of the most user friendly and comprehensive bike computers with GPS available.
Each day show route using the map overlay, altitude graph and general statistics.