“The romantic home of cycling.” Such a genius description of Italy on one cycling blog I saw long time ago. I really do find something quite romantic about Italy and I have a sort of a love affair with it. And all of the country’s parts. Then, while reading about a historic cycle ride Emilio De Marchi, I came across this beautiful video; I was sold! The next cycling trip had to include Altamarca Treviggiana – the land of Prosecco. But we wanted to go to Tuscany as well… So we started planning, and come June, we were on our way to Treviso.
We weren’t taking our bikes, it was much easier to hire bikes over there. It’s easier logistically, and it gave us more freedom in moving between places.But we had a packed schedule for that bank holiday – in five days, we were flying into Veneto, spending two days in Altamarca and then going to Tuscany – cycling from Florence towards gorgeous wineries in the Chianti region, before flying back to England from Pisa. Intense, but that’s how we roll.
The birthplace of Tiramisu. Treviso is such a lovely hidden gem of a town, only a short train ride from Venice. Much less touristy, but still close enough if you wish to nip to Venice for a day trip. It kept its authenticity and hasn’t succumbed to mass tourism. The food’s great, architecture, people are just so friendly. It’s a great place to base yourself and explore the region from there. It is very easy to get there from London, and quite cheap.
I fell in love with Veneto and the Dolomites the first time I went there, over Christmas in 2010 to visit a dear friend from uni. I went back loads of times, but never in spring. And never during Il Giro d’Italia. And it was a winning combo.
On the first day, after a brioche alla crema and a capuccino, we were on our way to Conegliano and the land of italian sparkling wine. Conegliano is a must-see. There is a castle on a hilltop (where else?) and it’s worth seeing. From there, the plan was to do a part of the historic Emilio De Marchi route:
Conegliano – Refrontolo – Pieve di Soligo – Valdobbiadene
Soon after reaching the valley, we were surrounded by vineyards. Stunning scenery. The pit-stops were the wineries along the way where you can taste real prosecco. Some wineries will offer tasting menus to go with your wine. Highly recommended. That morning, Il Giro was passing through Pieve di Soligo. Everything was covered in pink ribbons and ready for the cyclists… And on the same day, there was a festival of cherries (!) in the same town. We continued following the serpentines, hills and sun, all the way to Valdobbiadene for a well-deserved spritz. That was one of those moments that you know you’ll remember forever.
On the town square, sipping spritz, chatting away, and soaking up sun and impressions from the day, surrounded with many other cyclists that were probably doing the same. And then it was time to go back to Treviso, before the dark. We were in Treviso just around pizza o’clock. We discover a place that does incredible pizza, and it is one of the places where the locals eat – Pizzeria de Fausta. More than delicious carbing up for the next day.
The town of hundred horizons. The following day we ventured to the other side of the river Piave, after having focaccia topped with local cheeses. Asolo is a dreamy town, once you have reached it… There is a healthy climb to the hilltop where the town sits. But it justifies its name of a hundred horizons. It’s almost like time stopped there. The architecture is extremely well preserved, its cobbled streets lead you and invite you to explore the town. Chanted poets of all eras and countries, from Bembo to Browning – it really is magical. If you ever find yourself there… Have a glass of Colli Asolani.
That night, after returning to Treviso, it was time to head Tuscany bound, which I adore as much as Veneto. If not even more. We arrived at Santa Maria Novella in Florence, as we decided to base ourselves there. My mates hadn’t been there before and it was much easier to hire bikes in the city. And the city is just so beautiful, even when absolutely rammed with tourists.
After going to Piazzale Michelangelo for a mandatory photo of the Florence sunset, it was time for aperitivo. We discovered very cool bar/ restaurant on the Arno river, on its south bank. Again, it was a place for the locals; phenomenal pizza, great music and even better views of Florence.
Classic wine, modern architecture and olive groves. The owner of the place where we hired bikes kindly recommended us a route towards Chianti vineyards and the might be one of the best tips I have ever gotten. The route was breathtaking. Sometimes quite literally, as it was a really hot day. The further we got from Florence, the prettier the scenery was. The hills, the views, vineyards, olive groves… Everywhere. Roughly, the route was:
Firenze – Pozzolatico – Impruneta – Strada Chianti – Il Ferrone – Mercatale in Val di Peso – Bargino
After we had cycled through the last segment where the scenery is out of this world, we reached our destination. Antinori Chianti Classico winery. My friend Daniel, who is an architect, discovered it and it would have been worth just visiting that place, but arriving there after such a gorgeous day of cycling… It was a dream.
Apart from the wine that was a remedy for my palate, there is a restaurant on the hill top to enjoy exceptional food, renowned local dishes with a modern twist – just like the modern winery does with the classic Chianti. We returned that night to Florence very happy. And exhausted.
The following day we returned to London via Pisa.
We have discovered beautiful places, had beautiful wine and food (and a lot of ice cream), cycled and returned very inspired and full of beans. And we are definitely going back.