Ten reasons is actually too little, but it's a great place to start. We want to share with you a bit of Ciclismo Classico island history, stories, facts, and anecdotes that blend together to recount our original footprints in Italy—tales of the first Ciclismo Classico exploratory bike tours that began in the Mediterranean Islands of Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. Check out our top 10 reasons to love our island bike tours.
Number 1: When it comes to the Mediterranean islands, we put them on the cycling map.
It all started back in 1983, when Director of Ciclismo Classico Lauren Hefferon cycled with fully-loaded bikes around the island of Sicily with a girlfriend. A few years later, she developed trips there, met local guide Paolo Nicolosi, and began running special invite-only trips including a unique "baptism tour" whereby her first son, Lorenzo was baptized in a tiny village church in Calabria. Likewise, Lauren cycled with panniers around the island of Sardinia, camping, exploring, and developing tours along the way. Lauren sentimentally recalls eating freshly made, warm ricotta in Sicily one morning for breakfast and a local Sardo mamma insisting on dressing her up in a traditional Sardinian wedding dress. All experiences that weave a story about how Ciclismo Classico started cycling the Mediterranean islands–blazing trails and setting the pace, as usual.
Lauren Hefferon, cycling through Sicily, c.1983
Number 2: Our guides are native islanders.
Our great actor, cook, and singer Paolo Nicolosi reigns the Ciclismo Classico world of trips in Sicily. Paolo Nicolosi is our “King” of Sicily. Born and raised in Catania, he knows the island like no one else–and the island knows him! “I am Sicilian and will always remain so,” he says proudly. Long-time American guide Gabriel Del Rossi has lived in Sicily for years, married into a Sicilian family and his local accent and dialect is more pronounced than his in-laws, making him fully integrated and a great cyclist and storyteller. In Sardinia, we are proud to work with Renato Matta our expert, impassioned cycling guide, born in the tiny village of San Sperate, near Cagliari. He loves to show off his complex, magical home–Sardegna.
Number 3: We know all the best beaches.
With 1,149 miles of coastline in Sardinia and both Sicily and Corsica boasting 620 miles of coastline, we’ve got it covered when it comes to the best beaches on the islands. Local contacts and guides keep up to date on the most remote, top secret (and most difficult to get to!) beaches on the islands. Just ask and we shall tell!
Number 4: We’ve got the inside island foodie scoop, with recipes to boot.
From coastal seafood to freshly baked breads, olives, roasted suckling pig, cheeses and desserts–the distinctive flavors of the islands are not just Italian in origin but a complete mix and hybrid of various historical influences. Starting with the Phoenicians and followed by Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Moors, and Spanish, among others, the islands have been occupied by nearly every Mediterranean power for more than 2,500 years, until they became part of Italy in 1861. It's amazing to see how much ingredients, recipes, and methods of cooking vary from village to village, region to region, island to island.
Number 5: We love escaping and exploring ancient worlds.
Calling all history buffs! Sardinia, Sicily, and Corsica: three intriguing islands–each uniquely different and owning their own histories. It’s as if the water that separates them from the mainland from which they are politically connected is an insurmountable truth. We endeavor to understand why.
Nuraghi in Sardinia
Number 6: Arts, crafts & music unlike anything you’ve heard before.
Art, artisans, crafts––we love it all. Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica are all brimming with gorgeous objects of art, masterful artisans and well, amazing music, around every corner. We like to share as much of this richness as we can with you. Being in the same room with and hearing the canto a tenores (throat singers) in Sardinia will give you goosebumps. We promise!
Canto a Tenores
Number 7: Bread and cheese: Sicily and Sardinia.
If you ask Italians to name a food from Sardinia, most will probably answer the sheep's cheese, pecorino (pecora is Italian for sheep). The shepherds of Sardinia have raised the process of cheese making to an art. They have been making cheese for 5000 years and Sardinia now makes 80% of Italy's pecorino. Stay tuned as further on we’ll discuss the infamous casu marzu cheese. And of course, in Sicily Ragusano DOP cheese is made from the full fat or intero milk of the Modicana (from the village of Modica) breed of cows; the spicy “forgotten” cheese Tuma Persa is produced in the hills outside of Palermo. And so on and so on. In Sardinia alone there are more than 200 different types of bread. One of the most famous is the carasau known also by the name carta da musica (music paper), because it is so thin. And, then there's the chestnut bread of Corsica. Wow!
Sicilian Tuma Persa cheese.
Number 8: We know our vino, island style.
The island wines are not as well known as they should be, with Sicily most likely leading the way of late. Since the 1970s, thanks to aid from the European Community and in response to a growing demand for good wines from visiting tourists, many wine producers in the islands have focused on improving the quality of their vintages. One of Italy's most important indigenous varieties is the Nero d’avola found in Sicily. Sardinia’s best known red grape is Cannonau, a relative of the Granacha grape that originally came from Spain. Corsica features it’s Patrimonio wine, not to be missed as it comes in reds and rosè.
Number 9: Our guests tell us why they love our island tours.
Stay tuned for more sharing, future testimonials, storytelling, trip experiences, journal excerpts, and guide recollections. All testimony to a collection of fantastic island tours.
Number 10: Love a great party too? We're all over island festivals.
From tiny village patron saint food festivals (called a sagra) to the big winter Carnevale, the islands certainly do things quite differently and interpret these festivals in a much different way than they do on the mainland. We love to crash these parties (or quietly attend) while on tour–whenever and however the stars are aligned.
Find out more about our popular Mediterranean Island Hopping bike tour.