An intrepid family’s cycling tale
Our first USA-based travelers since the pandemic began in early 2020 recount their recent 19-day family bicycle tour and culinary experience from Venice to Parma!
Already in the planning phase for a new Italy family bike tour later this year (probably in beautiful Umbria), customer John Bosetti shared this testimonial of their experience – they were among the very first US-American travelers coming into Italy in early June 2021. “Rare-birds”, John labels himself and his family, as Italians were marveled, and thrilled, to again see US-American travelers.
I am writing the day after my family of four finished a fabulous tour of Emilia-Romagna, organized by Cycle Europe (CE). After a year and a half of no vacation and no travel due to COVID, we were ready to return to beautiful Italia. When Italy opened to US travelers, the amazing crew at Cycle Europe flew into action. I worked closely with several CE team members on planning. They were all very responsive. No request was too large or small to be accommodated; no problem could stump them. The marvelous, multi-talented, indefatigable, and always cheerful Sara was our main contact, but major contributions were made to the plan by others, including Javier, and the co-owners Michele and Monica.
Our tour was self-guided, but was customized to fit us, and fit it did! The tour was extended and re-routed to allow us to visit towns with special restaurants, cooking schools, truffle hunts, and other points of interest that were particular to us. Advice was sought and given, new routes were created, and reservations were made.
Travel from California to Milan was easy, and comfortable on a “COVID-free” flight. A transfer had been arranged by CE, and before we knew it, we were on our bikes. And what great bikes they were—beautiful, new e-bikes, adjusted and custom fit by Michele and Andrea. The bikes were trouble-free throughout. The hotels and agriturismos arranged by Sara were great—well located, comfortable, and bike friendly. The Italian people were as always, warm, generous, and welcoming—perhaps even more so than usual as tourists have been rare birds for quite some time. Every town and city we visited was lively and full of locals enjoying friends and family, while eating the best food on earth. We felt as though we were special guests at the best party imaginable.
The cycling routes were well designed, and often spectacular. We started from the Adriatic and two small towns whose canals echoed the beauty of Venice (but without the normal tourist masses!). As we passed through wetland reserves, there were huge flocks of flamingos and other exotic waterfowl all around us. The hill rides were the most beautiful we have seen on five continents. Cycling along miles of rich farmland surrounding the Po whetted our appetite—fruit, vegetables, grain, and animals of all kinds grow robustly and are cared for with by people who understand that great food requires the very best ingredients.
I won’t belabor the culinary treats that await you. Rather, I will say that our experience could not have been nearly as good without the wonderful recommendations by Sara and the CE team. The gastronomic aspects of our trip exceeded expectations, and our expectations were very high. It seems difficult to have anything other than great food in Emilia-Romagna. It is what they do! But—Sara and the CE team made sure we sampled the incredible range of culinary delights of the region, including simple piadina, the freshest seafood, to the world-renowned pasta, salumi, and wine. We ate in simple neighborhood trattorias, lovely country locandas, convivial outdoor cafes for a relaxing apperitivo, and elegant Michelin starred restaurants. I won’t mention the gelato, as the thought of leaving it behind is nearly too much to bear.
The ER team did a great job in providing a guide to the local history, cultural background and “must-see’s” along the routes. They sometimes suggested more extended cultural visits to special museums, and arranged enhanced experiences such as guided city tours, visits to artisans, and artists. The Emilia-Romagna region has been very important in Italian and European history, trade, politics, music, and art for thousands of years dating back to the Etruscans. While our tour was a general one, touching on all aspects of life in the region, we felt that the CE team was particularly strong in helping us learn about Emilia–Romagna’s history in a fun and memorable way.
It is difficult to express the depth of our gratitude to the ER team. My family has been fortunate to have experienced some great vacations over the years, but we have unanimously voted the Emilia-Romagna bike tour, as created and directed by Cycle Europe, to be the best ever.
I am writing this on the plane as we return home—and I know I am forgetting to thank some team members. There were so many little things that made the trip special—Roberto bringing us the most beautiful cherries from his town when he made a luggage transfer, Andrea having the bikes all loaded and ready go very early on a day when we needed a ride to a far-away starting point, and being happy, and full of great stories, Sara meeting us for an apperitivo in her home town of Faenzas, and making us feel like famiglia. It all adds up to perfection.
If you are considering a European cycling tour—you would be very wise to put yourself in the hands of the CE team. They are honest, fair, hardworking, kind, and trustworthy. I am not an easy person to please, and I could not be more pleased. Grazie Mille, Cycle Europe, and Bravo!
If you too are dreaming of living your own European bike tour adventure this year, the Cycle Europe team is ready for you! If you are wondering what’s it like to travel to Europe this year, please read our updated travel advisories and flexible booking and cancellation terms (Covid-19 travel updates and FAQs); or get in touch with us through our contact form!