Cycling in Italy.

Pelotome –
around Italy on a bicycle.

~ Two Pilgrims’ Progress – Elizabeth Rose Pennell (1886).

My Life and Times

by Jerome K. Jerome

From £4,75

October 1885 – published in U.S.A., Dec 1886, & U.K., Jan 1887.

Two Pilgrims’ Progress.

Following on from “A Canterbury Pilgrimage“, London-based American tricycling couple Elizabeth and Joseph Pennell had continued their journey from Canterbury to Florence, on their honeymoon in the summer of 1885, although had not yet put it into writing. Instead, they first chose to release the account of their third stage “from fair Florence to the eternal city of Rome: delivered under the similitude of a ride wherein is discovered the manner of their setting out, their dangerous journey, and safe arrival at the desired city; and behold they wrought a work on the wheels” in October and November 1885.

Originally serialised in The Century, it was then published in the U.S.A., before a British edition of the book appeared under the different name, “An Italian Pilgrimage,” and follows their route through Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio, from Florence to Lastra, Empoli, Certaldo, Poggibonsi, Siena, Buonconvento and the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore, San Quirico d’Orcia, Montepulciano, Castiglione del Lago, Cortona, Perugia, Assisi, San Giacomo, Terni, Narni, Civita Castellana, and Rome.

  • by Joseph and Elizabeth Rose Pennell.
  • Published by Roberts Brothers, Boston, Massachusetts, and by Seeley & Co., London.

Summer 1888 – Published May 1924.

Trips to Hell.

And other countries” was George Thayer’s 564 page insightful follow-up to his 1886 “Pedal and Path” ride across America. Aged 71 at the time of publication in 1924 – some four years before his death – it followed his many trips around every corner of the globe, mainly taken between 1912 and 1922 on foot, train and boat, however it also includes brief accounts of his bicycle rides in 1888 and 1897 through Britain, Europe and Canada.

Briefly detailing his Summer 1888 ride through northern Italy, on Lake Maggiore and from Intra to Pallanza, before heading “way up over the Simplon Pass into Switzerland again”. He returned in 1923 for a two month stay in Naples, visiting Pompeii. Pozzuoli, Rome, and Vesuvius, and comments on Mark Twain’s residency in Florence, having met the author on numerous occasions elsewhere in the world,

  • By George B. Thayer.
  • Published by Case, Lockwood & Brainard, Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A.

August 1888 – Published 1895.

From the Clyde to The Jordan.

Narrative of a bicycle journey” was the first illustrated account by a rider of a “modern day bicycle”, and followed Scottish clergyman Hugh Callan – the same author of “Wanderings on Wheel and on Foot Through Europe” – on his ride from Glasgow to Jerusalem, which had previously appeared seven years earlier as a more in depth series of articles in the Glasgow Herald – the Italian section published on 28th September and 6th October, 1888.

Charting the author’s progress on a “Singer” safety bicycle, he enters Bruneck, South Tyrol (now Italy), from Austria over the Brenner Pass – “well worth the climb” – on his way through “the Crownlands of Austria” and its “ever-changing degrees of races,” to “Krainburg, Carniola” (Kranj in modern day Slovenia).

  • By Hugh Callan.
  • Published by Blackie & Son, London.

April 1889 – Published 1890.

Round About The World on Bicycles.

“The pleasure tour of G.W. Burston and H.R. Stokes, Melbourne Bicycle Club, Australia,” follows George Burston and Harry Stokes on their 56-inch high-wheel bicycle journey around the world, setting off from Melbourne, on 1st November 1888, arriving back in Australia on the 14th December 1889.

The Italian section of their journey was chronicled in The Australasian, on 14th and 28th December 1889, and 18th January 1890.

Arriving at Catania, Sicily, at Easter 1889, on a steamer from Athens, they comment that “the streets are fine for cycling, being level and composed of lava from the volcano, which is beautifully smooth and deadens the sound of wheels,” before sailing “along the shore” to Messina, where they rode their “trusty bicycles some 40 miles round about the beautiful island,” and sailing on to Palermo. exploring the sights and taking “a walk up to the summit of Mount Pellegrino.”

Sailing on to Naples, they bribed a customs officer to let them bring their bicycles ashore and cycled on to Pompeii, from where they took a horse ride and hike up to the crater of Mount Vesuvius.

They then cycled north to Sant’Agata di Sessa, “through romantic gorges with castles and walled towns stuck on craggy sides, and then over flats cultivated with as great care and neatness as the Chinamen’s gardens,” to Terracina, Cisterna di Latina, “the large and imposing town of Velletri,” Albano Laziale – “noted for its pretty scenery,” – and “the ‘Eternal’ City, as Rome is called.”

Arrested and detained “for riding bicycles within the city,” they were bailed by an English speaking local and the following morning released with just a caution, having “infringed the law through ignorance.”

After a few days exploring Rome and the Vatican City, they continued their cycle to Monterosi, Viterbo, Montefiascone, “on to Lake Bolsena, and the town of the same name,” San Lorenzo Nuovo, and Acquapendente – “a most delightful spot on the mountain side,” – before making the “fearful climb” to Radicofani.

Now in Tuscany, they continued “climbing monstrous hills and running down them again,” to Siena and “the lovely city of Florence,” before crossing into Emilia-Romagna, where they started to climb the Apennines again to Bologna, “the land of the sausage”. “The task of crossing these mountains was very great, and even more difficult to describe,” taking 12 hours to cover 60 miles (97 km).

Crossing the Po river at Ferrara into Veneto, they caught a train from “Pandora” (Padua) to Venice. where they spent two days exploring and had new cycle suits made up, having “worked through two pairs of knickers each since starting.”

Back on the road, they cycled through Montebello Vicentino, San Bonifacio, San Martino Buon Albergo, and Verona, into Lombardy, passing Peschiera and Rivoltella on Lake Garda, Brescia, Gorgonzola (“partaking of a hearty lunch of the famous cheese of the place”) Milan – “the great centre of Northern Italy.” – and Como, “the beautiful town at the southern extremity of the Lake Como.”

Climbing Monte Olimpino “by a zig-zag road” , they unexpectedly found that their “Italian tour had terminated” and they were now entering Switzerland (at Chiasso).

  • by G.W. Burston and H.R. Stokes.
  • Published by George Robertson and Company, Melbourne, Australia “for private circulation only”


“At Brescia every night the military band plays in the main street, from which all save pedestrian traffic is stopped for an hour, and the people swarm out in myriads, and sit supping coffee or beer at the cafés, the streets being half covered with chairs and small tables.

One would think the whole population of 50,000 turned out.

The gorgeous attire of the military is alarming, but two simple cyclists in knickers attracted the largest share of attention.”

– G.W. Burston & H.R. Stokes, Round About The World on Bicycles, 1890.

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