Monthly Archives: April 2012

Stove/Fuel Choice for Italy

In Italy, we hope to cut our costs down somewhat by cooking as many of our meals as possible. But, the availability of stove fuels is somewhat different that North America, meaning that choosing a stove is a little hard. White gas (camping fuel), and the standard EN417-threaded butane canisters so plentiful here are quite scant in most of Europe – Italy included. Across the pond, Campingaz’ dominance in the market means that its own proprietary canisters are ubiquitous throughout much of the continent, to the chagrin of many tourists, who won’t have much luck finding EN417 butane canisters for their stoves in all but the largest cities in Italy.*

*Update: We have completed our tour of Italy, and in fact did not have too much difficulty locating the EN417-threaded canisters.  We purchased our refill at an odd little “Liquigas” shop in Siena, a chain which appears to be unique to Italy. There are more of these shops, and so our advice would be to start the search there. The cylindrical, hairspray-type bayonet canister were no where to be found in the country whatsoever.

I, myself, am not a fan of the Campingaz canister system nor their stoves, which are relatively heavy and seem (to me) to be of inferior fit-and-finish to many MSR, Snow Peak, and Primus stoves. While MSR offers the Superfly stove which can fit both the EN417 and Campingaz canisters, it also happens to be fairly heavy and large – not something I’d want for travelling light. So, I broke down and ordered a stove that has consistently been praised for its light wight and compactness, performance, durability + quality of build, and simmering ability: the Snow Peak GigaPower SS Stove. But, you can’t have everything: the GigaPower runs only on the EN417 canisters.

Snow Peak GigaPower butane stove

In one of my earlier posts, I talked about cutting costs by using a butane can refill tool; you can top-off a used canister with one of the spray-paint shaped bayonet cans available in most hardware/grocery stores. In Italy, these cans are also supposedly common, and so I plan on finding one GigaPower canister in the camping stores of Firenze (Florence) where we fly in, and then continuing to refill that can as we travel on through the small hill-towns of Tuscany.

Another helpful tip for tourists: if you are willing to pay a small premium, many plumbing shops/hardware stores in Italian cities sell the EN417-threaded canisters for brazing torches, which can be used in a pinch.

Revised Italian Itinerary

*Watch for updates on this page.

The Italian cycling trip has changed quite significantly in the second rendition. Now, we will be avoiding the western oceanfront and heading through the heartland of Italy: Central Tuscany. The stops include  Firenze (Florence), where we’ll be flying in, followed by cycling through the great Italian hill towns of San Gimignano,  Volterra, Siena, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Orvieto and Viterbo. From Viterbo, the rest of the inter-city transit will be done by train; we head to Rome through the Ferrovie Regionale (regional railway), then Pompei and Napoli (Naples).

Some Sights:

Map

View Cycling Italy in a larger map

Itinerary

May:
     31. Depart from Toronto, Flight to Firenze (Florence)
June

  1. Arrive Firenze –> A few sights, then sleep off the jet-lag
  2. All Day Firenze
  3. More Firenze
  4. To San Gimignano (47km)
  5. To Volterra (27.5km)
  6. To Siena (48.5km)
  7. All Day Siena 
  8. To Montalcino (36km)
  9. To Montepulciano (37km)
  10. To Orvieto (64.6km)
  11. To Viterbo (42km)
  12. To Roma (Morning Train)
  13. Roma
  14. Roma
  15. To Pompei (Morning Train)
  16. Pompei
  17. To Napoli (Afternoon Train)
  18. Napoli, Flight to Toronto

More Trip Deliberations

It looks as if the entire itinerary  of the Italy Trip may be changed. I’m one who loves the countryside, but a trip with few sights won’t be that exciting. The cycling portion of the trip I had planned skirts the seaside of Tuscany and a bit of Lazio, hitting the small towns and countryside. No big sights to see, aside from San Gimignano, and Pisa, in the first 150km of the trip. It would have been primarily about enjoying the Italian countryside – which is admittedly far more beautiful, hilly and varied than most of Southern Ontario.

My fears of less-than-optimal trip planning were confirmed when I pulled some Rick Steves guidebooks off the shelves of my local library.

I was expecting the small towns to at least have a few sights, but apart from 2 or 3 Etruscan tomb museums, there aren`t too many impressive sights to see. I’m sad at learning that my many hours of meticulous kilometer-by-kilometer trip planning hadn’t taken into account the other sights of Tuscany; Hill towns of Tuscany are apparently overlooked often enough, but are beautiful, and seem to have more than enough enchanting history and architecture to be great places to visit. The only hill town currently on the itinerary is the medieval fortified settlement of San Gimignano. Maybe a few more towns will make their way on to the trip list, as I re-route the planned trip. But although I may be making changes, it all comes down to elevation – if the hills are too steep, the route may remain the same, and skip over these areas (sadly).