I was extremely impressed by how rugged the French Alps was. In 2003, Lisa & I toured the Austrian and Swiss alps, in some cases riding the same roads, but France was so much harder. On some days we struggled to ride 80km, and it would turn out that in those 80km, we'd climbed nearly 3000m. For the same reasons, however, the network of roads in the French Alps makes for excellent choice in routes and roads, which makes the area worth a repeated visit. I can certainly understand why Jobst returns year after year to ride the same areas.
I didn't like Italy this time any more than I liked it in the previous trip. As Werner said, "As long as you're in the mountains, the Italians are OK, but once you're in the valleys..." It is very telling the Mike had no trouble whatsoever on the high alpine passes in France only to crash on a 100m hill in Italy with reckless, speeding Italian drivers. I will endeavour to stay as much away from the Italian plains from now on. Actually, I see no reason to visit Italy on a bike tour except to visit the Dolomites and the Italian Alps. If what I saw was typical Italian driving behavior, I can't imagine the rest of Italy as being worth visiting, no matter how pretty it is. I was also surprised to discover that Italy was more expensive than France.
As the cost estimates given in the trip report reflect: anybody who tries to tell you that Europe is an expensive place to visit is probably trying to prevent American tourists from driving the prices up. If you're bicycle touring, Europe is just as cheap as any place in America I've visited. The drivers are certainly more pleasant. There is also no reason to spend $200-$400 a day on a tour organizer if you are willing to carry your own lugguage: accomodations were plentiful --- except for the one day on Grosse Scheideegg, we always found accomodations where we wanted to stay, and we had plenty of flexibility to come and go as we pleased. Whenever we couldn't find a convenient restaurant for lunch, we always found a bakery or a grocery store instead. Do try to eat at the local restaurants and stay at hotels owned by families. They are good value, for one thing, and help prevent the Americanization of Europe. Do bring plenty of Endurolytes and nutrition bars, though, since bike shops are opened at inconvenient hours if you're touring, and even when they are open they don't seem to stock these staples of cycling fare.