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Diary of Bike Across Italy: One Guest's Account

Posted by Ciclismo Classico

Wondering what it's really like to go on a European bike tour? Ciclismo Classico super-alum Matt M. shared his thoughts during his Bike Across Italy tour last June. Matt's eye for photography, passion for riding, and determined spirit shine through as he recounts the first six days of the 11-day journey from the Adriatic to the Mediterranean with Top Guides Marcello Bonini and Andrea Vitali.


Day 1

Pesaro (20 miles): Met up with our group today and after bike fittings and an intro lunch, took off on our warm-up ride. The ride took us up into the headlands overlooking the Adriatic for some terrific views. We capped off the day with one of those multi-part Italian dinners, and since we're on the coast, it was more seafood and less pasta, but much wine.



Day 2
Pesaro to Urbino (38 miles): 38 miles might sound like a modest day of cycling, but today we were introduced to the hilltop towns of Le March. With nearly 5,000 feet of climbing, this was no breeze in the saddle.

Urbino is quite the interesting place. We visited the Palazzo Ducales, considered the finest example of a Renaissance palace. It was built by the duke Frederico Montefeltro, who, though a mercenary, accumulated great collections of arts and books. Over the ensuing centuries, his collections were ransacked by everyone from the Pope to Napoleon. Many of those works reside today in Paris and Florence.

Urbino is also interesting, because over one-third of its population are college students from all over Europe. It is quite a lively place on a Friday night. As I write this, Blondie is blaring over the piazza loudspeakers.
european bike tour
Day 3
Urbino to Genga (44 miles): Today we rode further, but with fewer hills, it made for a substantially easier ride. We left the hilltop villages behind, and cycled into the foothills of the Apennines. Very pleasant riding with light traffic, mild temps, and nice scenery. Tomorrow we cross into the more historically important region of Umbria, which will be the backdrop for most of the rest of the tour.
european bike tour
Day 4
Genga to Gubbio (40 miles): Today was a remarkable day from start to finish. Our ride was challenging as we crossed the Apennines (Italy's 'continental divide'), but our route took us over its lowest pass: 2,300 feet. There was great mountain scenery, nonetheless. To start the day, we visited the Grotto di Frasassi, the most spectacular cavern I've ever seen. There were many rooms, some with ceilings over 400 feet high, and others with stalagmites growing out of shimmering pools. Curiously, it's considered a 'sister' cavern with the Karchner Cavern south of Tucson, for you Arizonans.

We arrived in Gubbio mid-afternoon, a medieval city originally built by the Romans. We rode this very unusual stand-up gondola up to the church of Saint Ubaldo, and had magnificent views of the Umbrian countryside. The church serves as the finish line of sorts to an annual festival race in which three teams carry 600-pound 'ceri' up the switchbacks of a 1,000-foot mountain.

Finally, we returned from dinner to a music festival in the main square right outside our hotel. It's why I'm not finishing this post until 11:30 pm. The music is still going, but I really don't mind a bit.
Day 5
Gubbio to Spello (40 miles): Once again, what today's route lacked in distance, was made up for in climbing. I would hesitate to even call the roads today secondary roads—more like marginal back roads with bumpy surfaces (Morgan Territory, anyone?) and very steep, though short, grades (evokes memories of Kings Ridge). Add it up, over 3,500 feet of uphill. Upside... little traffic and great views.
Once in Spello, we had a special treat: a cooking demo from chef Marco, who prepared our dinner tonight. It was excellent, save for the risotto, which was way too rich for me.



Day 6
Spello (0 miles): A very opportune rest day in Spello. We started with a walking tour in Assisi, including a visit to the great basilica of St. Francis. Didn't know the basilica actually includes two grand cathedrals, one Romanesque, the other Gothic, built on top of each other. Then we visited a small family-owned winery for a tasting and delicious Italian snacks.

Here's another interesting factoid I learned today that ties together cycling, Assisi, and the Holocaust. Gino Bartoli was a great Italian champion (2-time Tour de France winner). During the war years, he would claim to be out on training rides, but in reality, he was carrying forged identification papers rolled up in the bicycle frame tubes to Jews hidden out in convents in Assisi and other places. Many were saved.



Curious about this trip? It's one of our most popular bike tours in Italy—find out more about this coast-to-coast cycling adventure.



All photos courtesy of Matthew M.

bike across italy

Written by Ciclismo Classico

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