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.
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.
Let Backroads be your guide on the Amalfi Coast, where the views are stunning, the seafood is fresh, and the fragrant aromas of lemon trees and wildflowers may send your senses into full alert. We’ll wind our way through the pastel-colored villages, along coastal trails, and on to the golden pebble beaches. The friendly faces, fresh seafood and legendary Italian cuisine, and enchanting activities make this hiking tour one for the memory books.
Cinque Terre is one of those rare places that leap from the pages of picture books simply because it seems too picturesque to be real. Do places like this really exist? A string of colorful centuries-old seaside villages perched on the rugged cliffs of the Italian Riviera, clinging to the rocks as if defying gravity. Small fishing boats ply the waters between the towns and happy locals enjoy lively conversations in the narrow winding streets that thread and climb steeply through these enchanting outposts overlooking the blue Mediterranean.
Put together everything you love about Italy: a warm climate, the rugged coastline, mountains, food, history, wine and rich cultural traditions. Lake Garda, at 31 miles long and touching three Italian provinces, manages to offer it all.
I have become an aficionado of Piedmont wines, which surprisingly are quite varied. Guests on the trips that I lead in Piedmont can expect to leave with a heavy dose of wine knowledge and encouragement to swirl, sniff and taste the different varietals. Although there are many to choose from, I like to encourage visitors to taste the three main reds: Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo.
If you’ve been a guest on a Backroads trip, you probably remember how bright, friendly, hard-working and extremely energetic your Trip Leaders were. Well, it’s safe to say that most Backroads employees, across the board, share similar traits. So what happens when 350 of us set aside our day-to-day work and embark on a trip of our own? A veritable explosion of epic biking, hiking, laughing, bonding, eating, toasting, costumes and dancing known as the Staff Ride!
The best known town in Tuscany is surely Florence, but have you been to Arezzo? The city center itself is gorgeous, the people are still genuine and the town looks so authentic that Roberto Benigni chose it as the setting for his Oscar-winning movie, Life is Beautiful. From bottom to top (it’s a hilltop town!), here is the perfect tour of Arezzo.
Montalcino, famous for its spectacular Brunello wine, is a lovely hilltop town we visit on many of our Tuscany Biking trips. The medieval town dates back to the beginning of the 10th century, famous mainly for its tanneries and as a stop for pilgrims on their way to Rome along the Via Francigena. Nowadays Montalcino is a popular tourist destination, with people coming from all over the world to taste its wines: authentic Brunello wine cannot be produced anywhere but within its city limits.
Designed by Piemonte native and veteran Trip Leader Federica Vergano, our route gives you the option to ride from hotel to hotel each day without ever getting a lift. But don’t worry – our trademark Backroads support, with two vans and three dedicated leaders, is always there if and when you want to take advantage of it.
We always think of traveling as a way to discover the world and to learn about different cultures. For me, travelling is also about returning to my roots and rediscovering who I am. Leading the Active Gourmet trip in Tuscany is a chance to see my homeland through the eyes of our guests and to learn new things about myself. After all, food and wine are just catalysts. In Italy it’s all about sharing. And talking. Very loudly!
You might think of coffee as just a hot beverage you drink from a paper cup in the car on the way to work. Here in Italy, coffee is not simply a drink, it’s a key aspect of the culture. It’s a social event and a tradition that Italians proudly preserve. If you find yourself looking for a pick-me-up in Italy, here are some helpful tips on what–and when–to order.