Hi, my name is Paul, I'm the "Web Guy" at FINDRA. I'm just back from a week's holiday mountain biking in Italy and Alex has asked me to share a few words about it.
If you're a mountain bike rider, the North East of Italy is paradise. There's a huge variety of trails, amazing food and wine, and they're even starting to have the odd decent beer (they pronounce IPA as "eepa"). What really sets the place off though is the people, they are brilliant hosts, I don't think I've ever met anyone from there who is even a little bit grumpy!
I'm pretty lucky to have managed a couple of trips to this corner of Italy in the last few months, most recently to Finale. We stayed in Finalborgo, part of the town that's a medieval village. It's as beautiful as you'd expect. The buildings are seeped in history, there are plenty of quirky little shops as well as great places to eat and drink (including my favourite restaurant, Quarto di Bue). If you take a short walk down to Finale Ligure you'll find a great beach if that's your bag, but there's a really good ice cream shop on the town square if you're more on my wavelength.
The whole town is geared up around the outdoors, mainly climbing and mountain biking, but there is plenty of hiking and watersports too. If you like nosing about in outdoors shops, you are in for a treat, I'm hoping we can have a FINDRA store out there one day!
What makes Finale a great place for mountain biking?
The riding around Finale is amazing. There's a huge variety of trails from seriously techy but fast trails like Mini Champerey to more natural back country trails, and everything in between. If you're happy riding most of the tracks at UK spots like "The Golfie" you'll have a ball.
Book shuttles and guides to save time
You won't see many people pedalling up in the area, the hills (and the trails) are too much. There are a few climbs away from the roads, but really you'd be better booking a single uplift and do a little tour of the area, starting up the hill at the NATO base for example, if you are keen to do some suffering. The standard thing to do is book a shuttle and guide. That way you get some expertise, you'll be taken somewhere good at lunchtime, and you won't waste any of your holiday pedalling up the wrong hill for an hour! A good guide won't take you down any trails you aren't going to be happy riding, and the best ones don't rattle off ahead of you at some crazy speed, so trying to chase them is great fun!
Bike tour guide companies in the Finale region
Most of the guiding companies contribute to the maintenance of the trails through the Finale Outdoor Region organisation. If you join, you get a card which works like a loyalty card accepted by local business who then contribute to the trails associations. We rode with Ride On Noli, and I can't recommend them highly enough, the guide was amazing and they have access to some areas the other tour companies don't. The Ride On guys work on the trails too, so we got the best insights on where to ride.
Tips to make the most of your Italy biking holiday
If this has got you interested in going yourself, here's some advice before you set off.
- The Finale Outdoor Region website is a great place to start planning, it's one of the things funded by the loyalty card scheme.
- One of our group rode his 29er hardtail on our trip, but I think he regretted his bike choice pretty quickly - I rode my Deviate Highlander, and I'd say that was perfect. I suggest you get your bike serviced before you go, and run DH tyres or inserts if you can, the trails are faster than here, I almost completely wore out a new rear tyre in a week.
- If you can get five or six of the friends you normally ride with, you're likely to get the tour to yourself, so you can set the pace.
- My last bit of advice is don't go in July or August, it's too hot and that's when the "normal" tourists are there.
We never went to Calice Ligure for ice cream once the whole week (IMHO, world's second-best ice cream shop) so we've booked to go back again to rectify this!
Thanks to our guides, Matteo and Alessandro, and also Ale @alecolombo_72, for taking the photo at the start of this blog post.
My last Bandcamp purchase is a lot more suitable for this blog than the usual un-listenable noise I like! I've just discovered Valerie June, and this is one of the standout tracks from "Pushing Against A Stone". Bonus that I get to share one of NPR's excellent "Tiny Desk" series of concerts.
John Snow's autobiography is a mix of adventure and insight, and I think almost every book I've read since has been influenced by this book.