At each destination I visit, I already have some activities, sites, and cultural characteristics in my head from various media, including TV to music, even children’s stories. Whether it means listening to The Girl from Ipanema on my headphones while staring down actual women on Ipanema beach in Brazil or venturing through a South American prison that was the setting of a book I read, there are always preconceived notions in my head that excite. Sometimes the experience matches or exceeds the hype. Many times, it doesn’t.
In Italy that meant trying the pizza and gelato, hitting on Italian women, driving an Italian racecar, and finally biking through the Italian countryside, all of which definitely exceeded expectations.
A few years ago, I saw a film called Life Is Beautiful, which is half about a man touring the Italian countryside on a bicycle, eventually wooing and marrying a beautiful woman on it. I knew at that point that biking through the Apennines mountains would hit my list of travel fantasies. (This is significantly less true of the other half of Life is Beautiful.)
The opportunity arose, and off I went with my Italian guide Marcello of Trekking Emilia Romagna and a Brazilian couple of CafeViagem to leisurely ride past small towns. Unlike Nortbert’s intense biking adventure the previous week, our ride was relaxed and soothing, almost therapeutic, as the rolling hills of the green Italian countryside swept past.
Marcello picked us up from the Blogville apartment in the center of Bologna where we rode a train to a nearby town, Montese, to take a detour at the Rocca di Montese castle that I previously wrote about.
Following our visit to the museum we downed a couple of powerful espressos and set off with bikes from to ride 12 miles to Zocca for lunch. The following nine photos represent the aforementioned Life is Beautiful Italian countryside experience. See for yourself.
Somewhat exhausted and suddenly realizing how out of shape I am, I was pleased to finally reach Zocca, home of the famous Italian musician, Vasco Rossi.
Once there, we set out for Esploraria, which boasts over 17 kilometers of mountain biking trails and an amazing suspended treehouse dining experience.
The restaurant is hanging from the treetops! For those not on two-wheel, Espoloria also features the purely Italian sport of “Albering.” Invented here at Esploria, Albering is like running through an obstacle course in mid-air. (These guys love putting stuff in trees.) Harnessed to a steel cable, you swing from tree to tree like Tarzan through walkways, rope bridges, nets, barrels, and pulleys. I elected to stay a little closer to the ground this time and only caught as much air as I could from doing jumps off of their bike trail fixtures. I won’t lie. It was not a lot of air.
The Italian countryside experience was fully completed with cured meats and local cheeses, a homemade pasta and wild mushroom appetizer , and stracciatella gellato.
Biking in the Italian countryside put me at peace for the first time in my frantic vacation. It exceeded my pre-conceived notions greatly, and I was able to stop and enjoy the natural landscape for being just that: Natural. When we have all these images of places we’ve never been, it’s always a shock to realize it’s a real-life experience, no matter how many times I’ve done it.
This is why we travel: To replace of fabricated notions with genuine memories, and this was a great one. I loved my time in Italy and am already looking forward to going back. Next stop Sirmione on the south shores of Lake Garda, which has to be seen to be believed!