Thanks to the growth of electric bikes (e-bikes), Ciclismo Classico is opening up tours that until now were accessible only to advanced cyclists.
The company that 30 years ago pioneered bicycle tours in Italy, this year is bringing e-bikes to it series of Epic Bike Tours, so designated because of the varied terrain and distances covered. And as an incentive to try them out, Ciclismo Classico is offering a 30 percent savings on Bianchi e-bike rentals during the 2019 season.
“Some of our guests have looked longingly at the itineraries of our Epic series. The introduction of e-bikes means that intermediate and even biking novices can enjoy these grand adventures,” said Lauren Hefferon, Ciclismo’s founder and director.
One example of a Ciclismo Classico Epic Tour is a 12-day Bike Across Southern Italy that explores interior and coastal regions from Italy’s heel to its toe. This region is new to many travelers. Departures in 2019 are Aug. 27-Sept. 7 and Sept. 24-Oct. 5. This sea-to-sea itinerary begins its east-west trajectory from the Adriatic, enroute encompassing several UNESCO World Heritage sites. The first embraces a region sprinkled with over 1,000 dwellings known as trulli. Think of ice cream cones, all painted white, and pointing to the sky. The next UNESCO World Heritage Site is Matera where long-ago people created dwellings and some 155 cave churches collectively known as sassi. Today these caves are elegant guest accommodations. This City of Stone was recently awarded the title of European Capital of Culture 2019 by the Commission of the European Union.
A World Wildlife Foundation-protected forest of pine and eucalyptus contrasts with steep, bare hills of calcareous (chalky) rock rising from a river valley and flanked by groves of ancient olive trees. This region known as Basilicata is the southern flank of the Apennines that forms Italy’s north-to-south spine. This predictably hilly course continues on to the Tyrrhenian Sea, with stops enroute for lunches prepared by agriturismo hosts and mountain-style hospitality offered up by one of Italy’s most important chefs who represents La Cucina Lucane. This is a style of cooking unique to this region that historically has relied on wits and luck to put food on its tables. While e-bikes and stamina make this terrain accessible to today’s bicycle enthusiasts, there are people still alive today who recall when Carlo Levi, a physician, came to live in their midst. He blew the whistle to the Italian government about the subsistence living sustained here. His book, Christ Stopped at Eboli, may still rankle a proud people whom he treated for diseases spread by nutritional deficiencies and living like primitives in caves.
As guests pedal along what’s known as “the other Amalfi Coast,” they are now south of Naples and beginning the climb to the base of the Cima Coppi, the most challenging climb of the tour. (The Italians themselves prefer the stretches of beach below to the more famous and tourist beaches farther north.) A steep climb out of Maratea, the “town with 44 churches,” leads to Pollino National Park in Calabria and a demonstration of how to make mozzarella. The maestro of an important school of hotel and restaurant management oversees a dinner prepared with all local and traditional ingredients and spiced with Calabrese song and dance. These hills were once settled by Albanians who fled from the Turks over 500 years ago. Many of these communities maintain their own language and traditional dress.
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