Dreaming of traveling in Italy, but not sure if you can navigate the land of pizza and pasta with a gluten allergy? Go ahead, book that trip—incredible gluten-free Italian dishes await!
My grandfather, a chef, often said that "cooking is an art, my friend." If so, the Italians are minimalists with the mind of Salvador Dali. How else do you explain prosciutto and melon? Biscotti dipped in vin santo? Or olive oil gelato? I marvel at their creativity, their ability to perfectly pair seemingly disparate food choices that result in the creation of something altogether new and often quite extraordinary. Combining contrasting flavors, common and uncommon, familiar and unfamiliar, leave a lasting impression that transforms the enjoyable but ordinary into an experience both memorable and sublime. In my experience, the pairing of travel destinations can have a similar effect. Italy's Piedmont and Portofino are two distinct destinations that perfectly complement each other.
Working as a Backroads Trip Leader in Tuscany certainly has its perks. Besides the great food and wine, there is a fabulous cycling culture supported by an excellent infrastructure of well-paved and well-marked roads. Over the years I've created a list of my favorite rides in the region, some featured on our Backroads trips and others a combination of local favorites. Here are my top five bike rides that showcase the best of the heart of Tuscany, the idyllic region between Florence, Arezzo and Siena.
From the mountains to the vineyards to the Mediterranean, Italy has everything a traveler could want. Home to one of history's greatest empires, birthplace of philosopher's musings and Renaissance art, and with a cuisine so intoxicating it's been adopted across the globe, there's just no place like Italy. To set foot here is to transport oneself to a world apart. While every Backroads hotel in Italy is easily worth a visit, these are six of our very favorites that exemplify the Italian experience - the charm, majesty, history and beauty of a country you'll be longing to return to even before you've left it behind.
Italy never ceases to amaze. Just when you think there's little more to discover, this place offers ancora di più (more and better). As the regional manager for Backroads' trips in Italy, I'm no stranger to the country's diverse regions. Nevertheless, as we sought to craft new itineraries in the heart of "the Boot," I was amazed when Italy revealed an endless array of quaint villages and stunning landscapes waiting to be explored. As you'll hopefully soon see for yourself, the addition of Monti Sibillini National Park and the neighboring village of Norcia to our Walking & Hiking Trip in Tuscany and Umbria is a true bonus.
It isn’t just cool that we’re a group of chicks on bikes, it’s phenomenal that we’re a team of women riding vintage bicycles in a historically male-dominated Tuscan race. We’re five Backroads Trip Leaders who have each led trips in Tuscany, and we’ve been planning to partake in the famed L’Eroica vintage bicycling race together for almost a year. This is my second experience racing L’Eroica in Tuscany, and this time I feel like I belong.
In May, my wife and I traveled to Tuscany & Umbria with Backroads. It was our 23rd trip with our favorite active travel company. A question often asked by fellow travelers is, what keeps you coming back? Simply put, Backroads is special. Backroads is family. Anyone can place you on a nice bike, take you to beautiful places and feed you good food. Backroads is an immersion experience in the sights, sounds, tastes, history and culture of a region. They do impeccable research for their cycling and hiking routes and their support is exceptional. Not only are Backroads leaders accomplished at their jobs, they are delightful, wonderful humans whom we have befriended on many occasions. Like minds are drawn to like experiences, so it’s not surprising that we have found some of our best friends on Backroads trips. Friends we still travel with, commune with, do life with.
From Parma to Verona, passion is everywhere. In the air. In the water. In the art. Food is prepared with it. Wine is produced with it. The culture is steeped in it. Even the people themselves are famously passionate—look at Romeo and Juliet. And when you experience this place for yourself, you'll be passionate too.
Lasagna, pizza, bolognese, tortellini, Chianti... the list goes on. It's safe to say the Italians have cracked some kind of food and wine code. With dining traditions nearly as rich as their Parmigiano-Reggiano, there's more to learn than the old "spaghetti fork spin" we all know and love. This post will talk about the lesser-known culinary traditions in this beautiful country and the golden rules you must know before your next Italian adventure. Let's dig in (pun intended).
Back in 1996, I was tasked with a dream research assignment at Backroads. The mission, which I gladly accepted, was to create an all-new luxury hiking itinerary in Italy’s prized Dolomite region. Stunning mountain peaks, fairy-tale valleys, an abundance of cozy accommodations and, best of all, the comfort of Italian cuisine made me an instant fan of this compact alpine playground.