iguria - Day 1 - Sestri Levante-Levanto
First day, first post. I’m mapping for Forehead-it Interreg project some 200 km - 125 mi of e-bike cycling route. In the next few days I will post some info and experiences.
If you are one of those “I can’t understand why people can even think about riding an e-bike”, well, you are in the wrong place and you will feed our bouce rate on Google Analytics. See you next life.
If you are interested in cycling tourism, if you have children and want to go on holiday by (e-)bike, if you like food&wine tasting but want to ride your bike as well, just keep on reading. I divided this long post in sections so that you can skip what is not interesting (shame on you if you skip a comma!).
How to get here
Train, train, and train again. Forget renting a car, it’s useless, expensive, and you will miss the most beautiful things to do and to see. Wherever your flight is landing find a way to get to Genoa or La Spezia train stations and then you will find plenty of cheap local trains (”Regionale” or “R” on the time schedule).
Even though they can be late think of how much time you would have spent looking for a spot to park your car, how much money you would have spent on gas, parking, health, how much noise and CO2 you would have produced.
I got here by train from Asti to Sestri Levante, one easy change in Genoa Piazza Principe, 2 hours and a half for €18,95.
Yesterday I googled “ebike rental sestri I raised” and I found Cicli Enrico, I booked in advance my ebike, the price is pretty average (€40 on the first day, then less, I spent €125 for 4 days). The guy is very welcoming, he has been running a bicycle shop for 15 years and a few years ago he started renting e-bikes.
The shop is easy-to-reach on foot both from Sestri Levante station (1,5 km - 0.93 mi) and from Riva Trigoso station (1,7 km - 1.06 mi).
This part of Italy has plenty of accomodation places and I won’t spend too much words on this topic. Since I decided to leave yesterday for today the only affordable place was a double room at Tigullio Camping & Resort, nothing fancy but it gives what it promises: free WiFi access, swimming pool, bar, restaurant(closed for refurbishing, will open next week, unlucky me). Extremely easy to reach from Riva Trigoso train station (1 km - 0.63 mi).
E-bike & GPS & equipment
Even though my job is renting e-bikes, I’m not so bike-techie. I asked for an e-bike to ride on asphalted roads and with an endurance of at least 50 km - 30 mi. I was given a Winora powered by Yamaha and I am completely happy with it (so far). I rode a little bit less than 50 km - 30 mi and I still have 40% battery.
In order to map the routes I’m using my smartphone (Fairphone 2, Android 6.0.1), I planned my route on Naviki on my laptop and I’m using it as a GPS navigator as smartphone app. It gives you the idea of where you are going and it records the track, you can download it in the most used formats (kml, gpx, ovl, tcx). When I will be back to the office I will share the tracks on a private BikeSquare platform and then they will end up on the official project platform.
I’ve been using my smartphone all day for IG stories (BTW follow me as @itaway1, now. Just do it!) and for GPS track recording and I used one battery and a half (I have a spare battery).
More useful things:
- Helmet, it’s not mandatory for 18+ years old, but it’s always better to wear it.
- Sunglasses, actually today it was a mix of cloudy and sunny, and most of the route was shady, but they are very useful.
- Water, 1 liter bottle was enough for me, I haven’t seen any fountain along the route, but you will find some bars at every village.
- Sunscreen, I hadn’t, my mistake. Lucky me I was on holiday in Lampedusa just a few weeks ago and my skin was almost ready for sun bathing.
- Bicylce lights and high visibility vest, I know, I know, you won’t ride your bike during the night but… guess what? There are some long tunnels and somebody want you to be visible (see the picture below).
- Bike shorts, when you ride an e-bike your bottom will always hurt before your legs, so buy a pair of shorts with padding right there where it’s needed.
My plan was riding more or less 95 km - 60 mi from Sestri I raisedto Porto Venere in 3 days. Today I rode 41 km - 26 mi of my plan (plus some kms when I was trying to get out of Sestri Levante). I covered Sestri Levante - Framura - Bonassola - Levanto. The route is based upon the Rete Ciclabile Ligure (Ligurian Cycling Network) available on the Geoportal (link in Italian) of the Regional Administration.
Part 1. Sestri Levante - Passo di Bracco
As soon as you get out of a Levante the road begins climbing uphill. You go from 1 meter above the sea level to 615 meters in 20 km. You always follow the SS1 Aurelia, which is in the collective consciousness of the average Italian people is the worst place to be by bike, it should be always packed with cars and lorries. I was wrong, I think I crossed nothing more than 30 cars in 2 and a half hours. You always go up and up and up. At the beginning you can find some vineyards.
Fun fact: I was pedalling uphill and I crossed two young women who were hiking and taking pictures of these vineyards (picture below). They were so impressed by my pace on that steep uphill that I couldn’t help admitting: “I’m cheating, this bike is electric”. They are from South Africa and they “definitely want to come back to visit Italy”.
Then you ride under shade-giving woods up to the Bracco pass (615 meters - 2018 feet). The sound of crickets is so loud all along the route, really relaxing.
Part 2. Passo di Bracco - Framura
A few kilometers more and then go down following the directions to Framura. When you see the train station follow the signals to the “marina” (small harbour) and then take the lift to get to the bicycle lane. If we were in a reasonable world the lift would have the size to fit, at least, one bike, but it’s not (video below).
Part 3. Framura - Bonassola - Levanto
This part is definitely my favourite one. I’m a train nerd and those six kilometers are a bike&pedestrian-only lane built where there once was a railway. There are some well-lighted tunnels, they are properly used by lots of people. You always find tons of bikes parked whenever you find a tiny beach or any spot for bathing.
Plus, since there were trains here, it’s completely flat (lazy me).
In a few minutes you get to Levanto where the bike lane suddenly ends in a so called black spot.
A post shared by Itaway (@itaway1) on Jul 12, 2017 at 8:40am PDT
The way back
I told you that I’m a train nerd and I already knew that the bikes don’t pay ticket for catching the trains so, at the end of my tour, I reached the Levanto train station and asked to prove my belief. When the man at the counter confirmed the free ticket I asked him where the bike coach would have been. He sardonically answered: “Who knows?”, then suddenly a memory came to his mind and added: “Usually the locomotive is on that side, so the bike coach shoud be on the opposite side”. Well done, guy. He was right.
Nevertheless it’s not so easy to put a 22 kgs e-bike on the train. Step free access is available neither to the platform, nor to the train, nor even inside the train. I needed to climb three steps and then hang my bike to some 2 meters high hooks (picture below).
Anyway the ticket from Levanto to Riva Trigoso is €3,60 and the journey lasts 25 minutes. Real bargain!
Pros & Cons
Like the Gilmore Girls I will give you a pros&cons list of my experience.
Most of them are already mentioned above.
- The uphill part of the route is mostly shady at noon.
- The SS1 Aurelia road is incredibly low trafficked in this area.
- The tunnels of the former railway are the best repurposing ever seen for cycling tourism.
- The e-bike is perfect for not-trained tourists who enjoy riding bicycles.
- Bikes don’t pay ticket on the trains.
- Along the SS1 Aurelia road there are lots of laybys and there is always rubbish on the ground. There are no trash bins as well, but this does not justify those a**holes throwing things along the road.
- There are no cycling signs at all. There are just a few boards describing the Framura-Bonassola-Levanto former railway.
- No step free access to trains and platforms.
Tomorrow I’m catching the train from Riva Trigoso to Levanto and I will ride towards Riomaggiore and then I will decide if I want to pedal further to Portovenere and La Spezia.
by Alberto Riva @herrufer