This post is a little late but I guarantee it’s worth the wait!
Late last September Colin and I returned to Italy to ride bikes again. This time we booked a self-guided tour through BikeTours.com with a local company in Umbria (Ecologico Tours). Our tour was 6 nights, each in a different hotel and our luggage was transferred for us each day while we rode. We rented gorgeous Wilier Triestina carbon fibre road bikes (I thought about bringing mine home with me) and navigated using a free iPhone app (Maps.me) that worked in airplane mode. The tour company gave us the routes and recommendations along the way and we were off and pedaling. Big love to Paulo from Ecologico Tours for setting us up with the bikes the first night, talking routes with us and generally being awesome and candid.
Each day we rode between 80-100kms and unfortunately I had to do it with a nasty sinus infection while taking some pretty strong antibiotics. I guess I didn’t “have” to do it but we’d been planning this trip for 3 years and I can be pretty stubborn. And it was a such gorgeous trip, despite the pain and discomfort.
I highly recommend going in shoulder season – barely any other tourists and everywhere was so sleepy and quiet. Seeing a country by bike is so wonderful – it slows you down to smell and hear and see a lot more than you would by car or train. And it makes the already amazing food mind-blowing because you’ve really earned it!
Our first night in Assisi. We walked through the gates into the old city the first evening and poked around.
Our first day on the road from Assisi to Torgiano. The routes were spectacular – side roads winding through valley bottoms and up steep hills to medieval mountain-top towns. Up to Montefalco – first big climb of the day. “City of Wine, City of Oil” View from the top This lunch was spectacular. Not only because we fell in love with the town but we managed to enjoy some local specialties. There was a festival of Black Celery happening so my dish was a lasagna made with “black” celery instead of noodles. Colin’s was wild boar ravioli and we finished with espressos and torte. Then we rode the rest of the day working it all off 😉
Our hotel in Torgiano – we were literally the only people there that night.
More amazing ravioli and rocket salad with chicken and Parmesan. Day two Torgiano to Lago Trasimeno. I love that there is potable water available everywhere from ancient water fountains.
Not actually smiling but grimacing. Took a wander around Trasimeno and ate more wild boar pasta – swoon.
I was feeling so rough we took advantage of a built-in optional rest day and hung out in Passignano Sul Trasimeno for a day. The sun came out and we hopped a ferry to one of the little islands in the lake. The island was overrun with pheasants! New work truck for Colin? The best use of Google Translate. Late lunch Italian-style followed by Orzo (roasted and ground barley run though an espresso machine) and a game of Cribbage. Day four – back on the road to Umbertide. This was, I think, my favourite day and one of the longest. We started with a beautiful, cool morning climb into the mountains away from the lake, descending into a valley and out again. Fast descents past forests and grazing sheep, through tiny towns and friendly locals always wanting to know where we were coming from and where we were headed. Then shaking their heads when we told them like we were insane! Haha! A celebratory San Pellegrino after using my horrendous Italian to borrow the cell phone of a little old man in a town with one single bar/cafe. I made a slightly panicky call our tour company to let them know we left our passports at the hotel that morning. Oops. Luckily the tour owner, Petra, was able to collect them with our luggage and bring them to our next hotel. This explains the crazed look on my face. Just before lunch we climbed up to the town of Cortona, just over the border into Tuscany.
Yes. I am wearing a fanny pack. In my defense it’s Arc’teryx so it doesn’t really count. It was actually the best thing ever – I filled it with a new Fuji XT-10 camera and a couple of tiny lenses and it was so light and easy to use! So much better than taking my giant Nikon and various lenses.Lunch; homemade spinach and truffle gnocchi and giant noodles in a simple tomato sauce.
My gorgeous bike. Also, the gorgeous leather handbag I fell in love with and had to buy. I came out of the store after spotting it and told Colin about it. And bless him, his response was, Get it – we’ll figure it out! Ha! So we carefully folded it, wrapped it in a bag around my handlebars, taped the hell out of it and I rode another 50kms to our next hotel. Totally worth it. Climbing up and away from Cortona then a killer, long descent for over 20kms.
Our place in Umbertide – an old restored farmhouse.
Wild boar, ravioli with black truffle, and super tender local steak.
Day five we rode from Umbertide to the medieval hill town of Gubbio and stopped in this little town for a lunch snack and break. I don’t remember the name of the place but we saw it as we rode towards it, peeled off the main road and climbed the crazy-steep cobblestones up to the town centre. It was so fun to explore and marvel at everything. And it was so quiet and sleepy everywhere we went – I loved it!
As we made our way through the mountains to Gubbio we followed an old Roman road with incredibly old Roman bridges. The history is hard to imagine. The town of Gubbio. Pasta with local mushrooms, wild boar and polenta, & pizza. Day six Gubbio back to Assisi – more rolling hills, sweaty climbs and fun descents. We had a tough time finding a good spot for lunch this day and ended up 5 kms out of our way in this town square because we refused to eat fast food. Hilariously the only place open was a little bar but the woman working there made us a kickass salad and three of the best tasting hot dogs I’ve ever had 🙂
To be completely honest this was taken moments before bursting into tears. The dizziness and exhaustion from the infection and antibiotics was taking its toll and I was reaching my breaking point. I’m so glad we did the trip but it was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve EVER done. It’s good to push yourself though right? Finally back at our hotel in Assisi with an Aperol Spritz and non-lycra clothing! Stay tuned for the second part of the trip; eating our way around Rome, Colin’s bike race and the Amalfi Coast! xo