It is hard not to like Italy. The food and Alps are amazing, and the washing machines have a setting for lingerie. I flew with my split-frame 29er and didn’t have to pay baggage fees. At first I was disappointed by how many of the ‘mountain bike trails’ were actually roads in the mountains, but then I discovered that the trails I wanted were ‘mulattiere,’ mule trails. They were a blast. I’ve never been a fan of spandex, but Alessio’s dad found a box of pink youth bike jerseys that were too funny to pass up.
I first considered this trip when I saw that my two favorite bands, Mogwai and Sigur Ros, were playing concerts in Verona Sept. 1 and 2. I made some climbing friends in Verona in 1999, and started scheming. Matteo Ottaviani’s schedule opened up and he was able to return to Verona (from NY) to visit his parents. Then a few weeks before the trip Alessio Ponza and his girlfriend broke up, so he spent his vacation biking with me instead of making out with his girlfriend.
Matteo was an incredible host in Verona. His parents fed me, washed my clothes, then fed me more. Roberto Marri showed us the local trails and all the girls that have crushes on him. When I needed a break from the city I took my bike to Lago di Garda, an 8$ train fare and pleasant 20 km bike path direct to Riva di Garda, a hub for mountain biking. After 1000+ meter climbs (and descents!) each day, I limped back to Verona. We loaded Alessio’s VW California Camper van, picked up Manuela, and drove to Val d’Aosta. We rode each day in the shadows of Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, returned to the van after dark, parked illegally, and cooked great food while listening to Sigur Ros on the stereo.
Basic Trail Beta (feel free to contact me if you want more details)
Verona: Surprisingly good trails just north of town- we needed Roberto Marri to find them. Grape Harvest was a nice time to be there.
Lessinia: No real singletrack, but nice ag-land roads and amazing gnocchi.
Lago di Garda: Touted as THE mountain bike destination in Italy, I think it is overrated. The roads are great, the views are great, but much of the ‘singletrack’ was glorified erosional disasters, and the other ‘trails’ were roads in one form or another. That said, the longest mule trail section was incredible, one of the best trails of the trip.
Cervino: My favorite loop. The trail was well engineered, especially the rock placement. We rode the eastern descent at dusk, watching the shadows grow behind the Matterhorn.
Pila: We rode the classic downhill trail from the resort to Aosta. The design and construction was very impressive. I’d love to watch some better riders launch the huge jumps and drops.
Val Ferret: Very nice rolling trails once you finish the climb.
Val Veny: We screwed up and went too far up valley, pushing the bikes up… and also down. We road the singletrack in the dark, so I was nervous and don’t remember it very well.
I loved my Gunnar 29er split-frame. I can fit it into a large duffle bag and avoid baggage penalties. It takes about an hour to build or take it apart for packing.