Self-guided cycling in Umbria – for all ages!
Spello, Trevi, Spoleto, Montefalco, Bevagna, Ripa and Assissi – the names roll over the tongue like the smooth dark wine of the region. These historic towns are the jewels in the necklace that encircles the heartland of Italy, each distinctively different in architecture and ambience, and each a worthy destination for a cycling holiday.
The time was late summer as two Kiwis and two Brits, all in our mid-sixties, relatively fit but also keen on creature comforts, gathered in magical Spello for our briefing prior to 8 days of exploration on bicycle and foot. Anticipation was high as the Headwater rep enthusiastically explained matters of cycle maintenance, local history and wine selection, as well as providing detailed itinerary notes and maps.
And so it was, with water bottles and snack bars safely stowed, we zoomed down the hill towards the broad valley floor, a tapestry of fields, vineyards and olive groves, the breeze blowing through our helmets, and an exhilarating feeling as if we were ten years old again. All so easy as we headed on to Trevi for lunch, barely noticing at first the increase in temperature and gradient. Then a twinge was felt in the left knee, the sweat started to flow and as we gazed upwards towards Trevi we felt 65 again, shamelessly dismounted and pushed our bikes for the next kilometre. Under tree shade at last we soaked up the magnificent views and devoured our self-packed lunch of bread rolls, prosciutto, aubergines in oil and local cheese. At the end of the hot afternoon which included an unscheduled puncture fix, we reached the outskirts of stunning unspoilt Spoleto and our accommodation, a haven of tranquility tucked up a country lane. A swim and cold beer sharpened the appetite, a pattern to be repeated each day of the journey, and we tucked into the “obligatory” 4 course dinner. Diary entry: “Wonderful food, slept soundly! “
Successive days brought new scenic delights, some that only cyclists can sample, as we zipped along back country lanes under blue skies, cheerfully saluting farm workers and wondering what delicious food and wine we would consume that night. Risotto flavoured with truffle, roasted pigeon breast, fresh pasta, bean soup, a bottle of 2004 Sagrantino ……. But first we had to earn it! So with head down and gearing down we climbed to the next town. Painted messages of exhortation (to the Giro tour riders) stared up at us from the tarmac. Park the bikes by the outer walls, stroll the cobbled streets, visit the extraordinary variety of castles, churches, museums, piazzas, galleries, and Roman ruins; coffee and a pastry in a shady corner, then on through narrow cobbled streets and down steep steps, each twist revealing new delights – a tiled sundial, a Roman arch, an elaborate door knocker, colourful flower pots, strains of a cello concerto from an open window, the smell of cooking with fresh herbs. All the senses were stimulated.
Cycling is for all ages (provided the seat is comfortable!) and self-guiding gives a heightened sense of freedom, even though all the accommodation is pre-arranged. The guide notes provided gave one the feeling of being on a treasure hunt (ten years old again), anticipation enhanced by reading out loud what lay just ahead of you. Cycling in a small group evokes a sense of camaraderie as you take in the moving landscape, whizz downhill in convoy, mend a puncture with ‘helpful’ advice at hand, and enthusiastically exchange greetings with other cyclists. And Umbria is perfect for a cycling holiday – timeless, laid back and welcoming in an understated way. As we say in New Zealand it sure is “sweet as!”
AUTHOR: John & Sue Cutfield. Dunedin, New Zealand.
GET THERE: Adventure World Travel offer a range of tailor-made tours to Italy. For more information contact us on AU: 1300 295 049 / NZ: 0800 238 368 or AU: CLICK HERE / NZ: CLICK HERE