One could run through the alphabet and find phrases and descriptions - beginning with each of the 26 letters - that personify the wonderful country that is Italy. In an effort to bring this specialness to the fore, we have a delightful itinerary that is wholly Italian. The Regioni of Italy are comparable to the states in the U.S.A., and on the Italian Idyll we explore four: Toscana, Marche, Umbria and Abruzzo.
As with all Beach destinations, these offer tremendous terrain; scenery that truly does take the breath away; and riding opportunities incomparable elsewhere. To take maximum advantage of all that central Italy offers, this itinerary features many double overnights. These allow in-depth exploration, or riding each and every road that strikes your fancy.
Walk the streets of Florence
We begin with the heart of Italy - Tuscany (Toscana). All of Italy is beautiful, but this region surpasses all others in natural beauty. It is one of the most verdant areas with beech and fir woods, majestic and elegant cypress trees, and one hundred nature preserves. The rare scenic beauty is accompanied by a clear and unpolluted sea.
The Etruscans were among the earliest inhabitants of Europe. Tuscany has been the beneficiary of both Etruscan and Italian architecture, art, history, and civilization. Tuscany was the birthplace of the Renaissance, and as such, is home to the amazing villages, towns, and cities that provided the linkage between medieval man and modern man.
Nowhere is that link more apparent than in Florence where, on a guided walking tour, we will see first hand that art, architecture, and history abound. Stroll on the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest surviving bridge across the Arno, and shop for antiques, jewelry, crafts, and leather goods. Ending with our first group dinner in a lovely restaurant down a quaint stone street, your first day will leave your mind and your belly full.
Olive groves & vineyards
As modern men and women, we have the opportunity to ride, and ride we shall! Traffic in the cities and main roads is heavy and wearing. But away from the main valleys, dynamite little roads await. These tiny roads take time and reward you, the explorer, with a glimpse of Italy that is unforgettable in its timelessness.
These roads of Tuscany and Umbria take you through olive groves, spectacular mountains, medieval villages, and quiet countryside - and oh, the vineyards. The character of Italy is as complex and ingenious as the products of the grape. As if the incomparable Verdicchios, Valpolicellas, and Chianti Classicos weren't enough, consider how the Italians transform what's left of the grape into Balsamic vinegar. Decades of time and a little magic produce a substance sweet enough to be a dessert topping and prized enough to sell for more than $60 an ounce.
Visit a Sovereign Territory
And then on to San Marino! Now, this is a puzzlement. San Marino is in Italy, it is completely surrounded by Italy, but it is not Italian. A sovereign territory for 1,500 years, situated southwest of Rimini near the Adriatic coast, San Marino is the tiniest republic in Europe - just 23 square miles! Only the Vatican, comprised of just 0.5 sq. km., is smaller. San Marino is more than a dot on the "been there" map. It is central to good riding with both mountains and seacoast beckoning.
We touch the Marche more than once, with good reason. Seemingly a more 3-D version of Tuscany, the hills of the Marche are higher and the views are more expansive. We travel south at right angles to a majority of the valleys. Crest a range of hills and be treated to a wonderful view, again and again throughout the day! The economy of this peaceful area relies on service, agriculture, and artisans. Another delight for riders is the total lack of heavy industry, meaning that the roads have not been bloated and straightened to handle the burden of large vehicles. Rather, Marches roads faithfully follow the contours of the land.
Explore the streets of Assisi
Next comes Umbria and specifically, the village of Spello, just a few kilometers from Assisi, for our overnights. Each small village along the way is home to a castle, church, or museum that is indeed a must stop and admire location! Spello has Roman ruins, Baroque and Gothic churches, and a renowned fresco cycle depicting New Testament scenes.
Umbria consists of 8,456 square miles, 53% of which is mountainous, 41% hilly, and 6% flat (we have ways around that bit!). This Regioni contains great lakes, fast flowing rivers, and turbulent streams. Two deep valleys, the Umbria and Spoleto, are flat, serene, and laden with olive trees.
Situated in the exact geographical center of the Italian peninsula, Umbria was the crossroads for men, ideas, and cultures as well as the meeting place for the battling hordes from the north and south.
Dante was of the opinion that Umbria was the most violent place in all of Italy. In spite of the violence, or perhaps because of it, Umbria is also known as the land of saints - Francis, Clare, Benedict, Rita, and Valentine - to name but a few.
Ride the Gran Sasso range
A dip into Abruzzo takes us, once again, almost to the east coast of Italy. Abruzzo is sited in the highest and wildest portion of the Apennines. Three mighty mountain chains contain the highest peaks in the peninsula. The Gran Sasso range is the highest. Villages seem to cling to the cliffs for dear life. Farming is possible only in the valleys and 74,000 acres are devoted to the Parco Natzionale d'Ambruzzo where brown bear, chamois, wolf, and the golden eagle are still to be found. Here our double overnight has been arranged specifically to benefit the riders, for roads in the Gran Sasso offer some of the best riding in the entire country!
Each of the Regioni differs in great and grand detail from the others. You will note these variations as we travel from the east coast across the entire peninsula to the west coast and the busy harbor town of Porto Santo Stefano; then north through a different part of Tuscany to Siena and the last days of our Italian Idyll.
As you will find, from the sun-drenched coasts to the snow-clad peaks, Italy is a paradise for travelers. There is magic to be found in the antiquities: the magnificent museums, the art treasures, the architecture, the parks, gardens and streets, and food and wine that is nothing short of irresistible. And the people! Yes! In short, all of Italy is magical!
Here is an altitude track for one rider's version of the Italian Idyll.
|May 4 thru May 18, 2014||US $7,720||US $5,930|
|October 5 thru October 15, 2014||US $7,720||US $5,930|
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