The calories are climbing. But who’s counting? You are climbing, too, on a bike somewhere in Italy, burning up the road, gelato and pasta carbs as leisurely as you can.
Food -- and the pursuit thereof -- is a passion of Ciclismo Classico, the first company to launch small group guided bicycle tours in Italy 30 years ago.
Lauren Hefferon, founder and owner, recently asked her Ciclismo Classico guides in Italy about the gustatory delights guests can anticipate. Here are inner foodie-inspired sketches of specialties in four distinct regions.
Puglia, Basilicata, Campania, and Calabria
Pedaling Sea to Sea across the Italian peninsula is the scenery and gelato-driven Bike Across Southern Italy, part of the Giro del Gelato series, a six-day immersion (from $5,995 per person) in everything beautiful. The 2019 departures are Aug 27-Sep 7 and Sep 24-Oct 5. A tour of Matera, the famous city of stone, may be hard-pressed to compete with the fact that guests enjoy unlimited gelato (ice cream) daily, sampling flavors from some of the best artigianale gelateria (shops/stands offering artisanal ice cream). There are also demonstrations on how to create gelato and granita, a semi-frozen dessert usually made of fruits.
Cycling (an average of 39 miles daily) from Fano to Porto Ercole, the real Mediterranean diet emerges: pastas including tube-shaped paccheri, vermicelli with anchovies and wild fennel, linguine with lemon, spaghetti with clams and a 20th century creation, scialatielli; veggies; olive oil; fresh seafood; buffalo mozzarella, eggplant parmigiana and pizza! Also included:
- The constant perfume of orange and eucalyptus
- Amazing guided visits of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites
- “Old World” hospitality from Italian natives
- Breathtaking rides along the cliffs of the Cilento Coast
- Sampling freshly-made Mozzarella and fresh peperoncini
Guide Frank Yantorno treats his guests to a cooking class where wife and husband together show how to prepare their fresh produce. These may include home-made scialatielle (a short and thick version of linguini), a pretzel-shaped fried pizza and le fritte, (French fries) over which home-produced honey and rosemary are drizzled. For details see https://ciclismoclassico.com/tours/bike-across-southern-italy/
Tastes turn to love and gelato come spring. Enrico Pizzorni, guide, says Sicily (and southern Italy) have the best gelaterie (ice cream shops) in the world. Gelato was birthed here when Romans stored snow from Mt. Etna in caves to be delivered it to the rich who in turn mixed in fruits and honey, creating sorbet. Today suited business men enjoy gelato or granita in a brioche (a cool morning sandwich) on their way to work. Whipped cream, pistachios, almonds, ricotta, honey and lemon can also be folded in. Other infusions include rosemary, onion of Giarratana, Moscato (wine) and Aztec chocolate with hot pepper. On the Aeolian Islands flavors vary by season: watermelon, fig, prickly pear and peach.
Focacce, pizze, calzoni, pidoni, scacce, arancini, and panelle are among the salty or sweet snacks villages display. In Palazzolo Acreide, a tiny village the Greeks founded some 2500 years ago, is Corsino that serves state-of-the-art sweet pastries highlighting their locally treasured almonds and ricotta.
Guests bike some 28 miles a day on the 2019 nine-day La Bella Sicilia, from $5,695 per person: April 21-29, My 5-13, May 20-28, Sept. 15-23, Sept. 29-Oct 7, Oct. 13-21, Oct. 27-Nov. 4 and Nov. 10-18. For details see https://ciclismoclassico.com/tours/la-bella-sicilia/.
The charms that lie in Italy’s boot until recently have been largely ignored. But Ciclismo Classico has a soft spot in its heart for La Bella Puglia, a nine-day tour from $5,395 per person. Departures in 2019 are April 26-May 4, May 25-June 2, June 7-15, Sept. 6-14, Sept. 20-28, Oct. 4-12 and Nov. 2-10. Guests bike on average 39 miles a day exploring fertile valleys, the cone-shaped dwellings (trulli), cave dwellings (sassi) and villages perched on steep limestone hills. See: https://ciclismoclassico.com/tours/la-bella-puglia/
For guide Henrick Murphy this is a journey of the senses through orange groves and eucalyptus trees, sampling freshly made mozzarella and fresh pepperoncini and imbibing what he calls a “cycle-food bomb” of fava bean puree with cicoria (chicory) at a farm in Alberobello. A guest favorite is cime di rape (turnip tops) with orecchiette (little ears pasta).
In Puglia peasant traditions are still intact. The cuisine reflects roots born of necessity and sometimes scarcity. Seafood, olive oil, artichokes and dense bread are plentiful, as is the ubiquitous orecchiette with tomato sauce. One town is famous for its capocollo, a traditional dry-cured neck of pork, typically sliced very thin.
This region of the northern Apennines is a favorite of both Enrico and Henrick. Enrico’s passion for gelato is satisfied here with what he calls “killer fresh, fruit-based gelati. He can’t get enough of a hazelnut torrone (nougat) made from a secret recipe.
Added Henrick, “On the last day on our Piedmont: Barolo & Truffles trip we stop in to meet with honey producer Giuseppe Pitarresi who has been producing honey and various other related organic products since 1990. We are lucky enough to visit the hives and afterwards have a taste of il Re (the King) of energy boosters -- honey!” We’re zooming up those hills after that!”
The per person rate for this eight-day immersion into the food and wine of the Piedmont is from $5,195. Departure dates still available in 2019 are August 23-30, Sept. 20-27 and Oct. 4-11. Guests cycle an average of 35 miles daily, enroute enjoying:
- Sumptuous dinners at Enoclub in Alba and Schiavia in Acqui Terme;
- Introductions to vineyard-laden hillsides of world-famous local wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera with private wine tastings with local hosts and sommeliers;
- A meet-up with a truffle hunter and his dog for a lecture on truffles.
The Piedmont is considered Italy’s greatest single wine region. Piemontese cuisine blends northern Italian and French influences. Truffles and mushrooms are seasonal key players. Come autumn cyclists may sample Tartufo Bianco (white truffle) at Fiere del Tartufo (International Truffle Fair) in Alba, Moncalvo and Acqui Terme.
La cucina Piemontese is a mosaic of more than a thousand recipes from the diverse areas and tiny valleys. Two foodie experiences include cucinacasalinga, dishes made over generations at home. Young people are creating locande (inns) that serve authentic dishes with a slick, innovative presentation. See: https://ciclismoclassico.com/tours/piedmont-barolo-truffles/
For more food and wine themed tours from Ciclismo Classico see: https://ciclismoclassico.com/collections/food-wine-tours/
For a full listing of trips in Italy and across the globe with additional information, detailed itineraries, trip availability and reservations please contact Ciclismo Classico by phone: 800.866.7314 (US & Canada) or 781.646.3377 (outside of North America), or visit online: https://ciclismoclassico.com/.
About Ciclismo Classico
Small group sightseeing through Italy by bike was a new concept in 1989 when Ciclismo Classico burst onto the scene to become the first company in the world to specialize in active cycle tours of Italy. Leading this charge was Lauren Hefferon who established another world-first: a woman-owned bike tour company.
This company’s rallying cry then and now is “Pedal Your Passion!” Tours are led by native-born guides who on average have each served Ciclismo Classico clients in excess of 10 years. Daily rides are carefully blended with a variety of cultural and culinary experiences and served up as the Ciclismo Menu that includes musical evenings, language lessons, wine and beer tastings, personalized cycling clinics, cooking demonstrations and opportunities for spontaneous discovery and cross-cultural interaction. Guests are carefully matched with a tour style and pedaling pace perfect for them, then outfitted with a quintessentially Italian, high-performance Bianchi bike. Having now expanded beyond Italy to represent tour destinations worldwide, Ciclismo also offers hiking itineraries, private and custom trip planning, photo tours and the ease of touring by electric bike. Recognized by media icons such as National Geographic Traveler and Outside Magazine, Ciclismo Classico is widely considered to be one of the premier active travel companies in the world.