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.
My Backroads guests and I have just piled into the Sunnbüel cable car and we're ready to ascend over 3,800 feet to begin our hike across the Gimme Pass. It's day two of our Switzerland Walking & Hiking Trip and I'm about to tell my guests something that I know nobody will believe.
Backroads has long embraced the philosophy that, after a day spent biking or hiking in off-the-beaten-path corners of a new and beautiful region of the world, an outstanding meal is the perfect way to immerse ourselves even further in the local cuisine and culture. For this reason, our guests in Europe and the United States enjoy exquisite meals at over 30 Michelin-starred restaurants, including California's Madrona Manor, Italy's Ristorante Villa Crespi, Spain's Marqués de Riscal and France's Auberge de l'Ill.
Upon setting foot in Scotland you can’t help but feel its storied past around every corner. In a land where each vista has the power to still the heart, the remnants of a forgotten time persist. At any given moment you may discover the crumbling remains of a castle that speaks to the power of those long gone, or the decaying shell of a remote homestead that illustrates the harsh life its previous inhabitants experienced. It’s a land of shifting light across verdant glens and ancient mountains. Geographically as far north as parts of Scandinavia, this windswept and weather-beaten landscape has tested the resiliency of the Scottish people for eons.
Imagine icebergs illuminated by pale sunlight at midnight, the sunrise at 2 a.m. over a thundering waterfall, or a day of hiking that ends with an 11 p.m. soak in a natural hot spring. These things are a reality in Iceland where, for about two months every year, the sun never sets. This is the “midnight sun,” a legendary peculiarity of Iceland’s far north, where the sun might set a little—dipping below the horizon at, say, one in the morning, and rising again at two—but the sky remains light and night never falls.
In a country as magnificent as France, where class and style are as prevalent as the grapes in the endless vineyards, selecting our favorite Backroads hotels is a nearly impossible task. But we’ve done our best! Here are seven exceptional properties visited on Backroads trips in this remarkable country. To stay at any of these incredible accommodations is to immediately recognize that you’ve arrived somewhere truly special. Whether enjoying a Michelin-starred meal, vistas of imposing mountain peaks or the scent of immaculate gardens, each of these hotels promises a complete sensory tableau.
There are days when you might not appreciate your home as much as you once did. Waking up in the same place every day, you become so familiar with the light of the sunrise, the sunset, and what the sky looks like throughout the seasons. You even know for a fact when it will rain, or when birds will start to sing in the springtime. In our busy lives, it can be easy to take these things for granted.
When my kids were small, I poured over Backroads catalogs while they slept. I dreamed of exotic vacations where I’d bike through amazing scenery and eat better food than the boxed macaroni and cheese my children liked. But those were just pleasant daydreams.
What do you know about puffins? They're smaller than penguins, they live in Iceland, and they're cute. Great! Unfortunately, they're also elusive little creatures, with unique and specific migratory patterns and a habit of nesting in remote hundred-meter cliffs. Like the Northern Lights, puffins are unpredictable, but here are a few suggestions of where and when you're more likely to spot them.